Serdar Arslan is the sole stained glass master in Mugla, working with equal parts enthusiasm and patience. He would like to teach the next generation how it’s done.

Stained glass artwork, a tradition that is centuries old in Turkey, is on the edge of a precipice. Serdar Arslan, however, is trying to keep the art alive. 

In Turkey's Mugla province, Arslan, 56, has embarked on a journey to transfer his skills to future generations. He learned the craft from his father and has built upon it with further education.

In central Mugla, in Mentese municipality’s Seyh neighbourhood, Arslan started learning his craft as a child and has been performing it with the same enthusiasm for 38 years. His colourful glass creations attract a lot of attention.

Every day with the first rays of light, he enters his store, a world of glimmering hope, and transfers his figures of imagination onto glass.

While Arslan tries to make a living with the works he produces, he also tries to keep alive the art of stained glass passed on from his elders.

Serdar Arslan at the entrance of his shop in Mugla province, Turkey.
Serdar Arslan at the entrance of his shop in Mugla province, Turkey. (Osman Akca / AA)

Arslan tells Turkish wire service, Anadolu Agency,  that his work, as colourful as it is arduous, requires a lot of patience. While studying at Trakya University Fine Arts Faculty Department of Painting –in Edirne–, he says he frequently visited Istanbul, about a three hour drive away, to improve his skills alongside stained glass masters there.

After returning to his hometown, Arslan continued with his father’s profession, stained glass making. “Mosques, historical buildings and new hotels in touristic municipalities ask me for decorative works. I also work on the entrances to homes, decorations on jewelers’ showcases and wall panels,” he says.

Serdar Arslan working on a stained glass piece.
Serdar Arslan working on a stained glass piece. (Osman Akca / AA)

“This is hard work, it requires patience”

Arslan says stained glass, rooted in history, is created with enthusiasm, and points out that it is a traditional art from the time when large size glass production was unavailable.

Regretting that none of his 63 apprentices he taught during his professional life are involved in the craft anymore, he says there are no new candidates showing up at his door. “Our youth is focused on the computer age. They don’t show an interest in handicrafts.”

Arslan adds that “[young people] are curious [about stained glass making], but they don’t think they can make a living out of it. This is a job that requires patience, it requires waiting.” He says working on a glass may take three-four days. “You may not have money until you finish the job, and you need to be willing to endure that.”

A flower pattern of stained glass.
A flower pattern of stained glass. (Osman Akca / AA)

Arslan notes that there used to be 87 stained glass masters registered with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, but that number has dropped regularly and now there are only 67 of them.

According to Arslan, he is the sole stained glass master in Mugla. “I will try to keep this art alive for as long as I can,” he says. “I will try to train those who are interested in this art and want to learn it as a profession. That is my only hope.”

The entrance to Serdar Arslan’s stained glass shop.
The entrance to Serdar Arslan’s stained glass shop. (Osman Akca / AA)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies