Art, Emerging Artist

Rabia Gencer finds inspiration in a dogmatic world

Today as part of our weekly emerging artist talks series we meet with the co-founder of Gi Design Store, and Artist Rabia Gencer. Rabia Gençer is a young designer and entrepreneur based in Istanbul, Turkey. Gi Design store, which she built with her partner, is her current venture, an online concept store offering design prints, and other products such as backpacks, keyrings, hats and hoodies. The store has a wide follower base within Turkey, and today we get the chance to sit down with the young artist-entrepreneur to discuss all things arts and design. So let’s get into it 🙂

‘’Gi is a metaphorical playground… which emerged from our struggle for existence and our ideals, integrated with art’’.

Rabia Gencer

As far as we know you studied Fine Arts in Turkey, when did you decide you were passionate about the arts? 

Starting from a young age, I was consumed by feelings that overwhelmed me, and I have been trying to put a finger on these feelings ever since. For a long time, I was interested in sports –  it provided a way to occupy my mind, tire myself out physically and disconnect me from the outside world. Over time, I focused on a way of understanding and expressing these emotions, examples of which stood before my eyes and fascinated me. The slow shifting of the clouds in the sky, the following which sentence I came across: “The big fish could have missed the little fish, but you chose to tell a story where it chose to devour it whole”, the song that I would wait hours for to hear it again on TV, the wonderful paintings that I would watch Bob Ross complete in half an hour…

In your TEDx Talk, you discuss wider societal issues such as women’s rights, sexism, patriarchal systems in Turkey (and around the world), justice and world peace. You speak very passionately, and we watched you speak on the topics you cared about, with admiration. Is there a particular cause which you would like to draw attention to, more than others?

Thank you so much. In all the life experiences I’ve had so far, the general way the wheel turned, and the rules that were expected from me consisted of: not questioning, and not stepping out of line. Although I touch on different problems in my speech, in fact, all of these problems stem from someone’s desire to own this wheel and steer it the way they want. I think I want to emphasize this the most.

Rabia Gencer

‘’There is a story I tell in almost every product, or piece of art I produce. My goal is for these stories to make me, and the people they reach, feel good’’.

Rabia Gencer

As we learned, Gi Design Store has been involved in a number of small-scale social responsibility projects. To what extent do you believe that art/design can make a positive impact in society?

I believe that art does not consist of a single purpose, and itself is not definable. Although it spills from the mind of the performer, it can be the fastest and most effective way to convey a social message that has the power to guide society. I would like to answer this question with an example. One day, as the weather got colder and life became more difficult for stray animals, we announced that we would give berets to everyone who brought food for stray animals from our close circle, and in the next 3 days, approximately 200 kg of food reached our region through various food-shopping apps. We would have never imagined this was possible, and thought that people would come to our shop to bring food and receive gifts. We reached this wonderful audience with the products we produce, but since we have combined these products with art since the first day, we actually reached them with art. I think this is one of the best examples of how art and people who embrace it can make the world a better place.

Congratulations on your store, it seems to have a large and loyal following on social media! We really enjoyed discovering your page. Please tell us more about your Gi Design Store. What does it represent, or stand for? 

Thank you very much. I can say that Gi is a metaphorical playground that my partner Ilker and I have built, millimeter by millimeter, and has emerged from our struggle for existence and our ideals, integrated with art. Gi is where we can freely put all our experiences and competencies we have acquired in life on the table and transfer them to our products; a world that belongs to us, our loved ones and what we observe, with its main focus on diversity; that people who exist in all their shapes and sizes should know that they are not alone. Our goal is to take this playground to an international arena and touch as many people as possible.

Gi Design store

‘’Gi is a metaphorical playground… which emerged from our struggle for existence and our ideals, integrated with art’’.

Rabia Gencer

We understand that your store is based in Istanbul. Is there anything in particular which inspires you about this city? 

Istanbul is a city that has been blessed with works of art from a diversity of cultures and communities since long before modernity. It is a city that we watch with admiration, though occasionally we want to escape from its chaos. With its historic diversity, blending different cultures, ethnicities, religions and languages together ​​today, It is a great city that has absorbed a plethora of civilizations which have passed through the filter of time in its thousands of years of history. Beyoğlu is one of the best places to observe the past and current of this city. You can observe the contrasts of Istanbul where our store is located in Beyoğlu – with its two side-by-side streets which inspire us every morning.

”I’ll walk away and draw my boundaries whenever I want” by Rabia Gencer

Where do you get inspiration for your designs? And is there anything you want to communicate through your artworks; in other words, what response do you want to evoke in your viewers?

All my work emerges as a cross-section of my own complex feelings and observations. Sometimes it’s the music I listen to, sometimes a sentence in the book I’m reading, sometimes an event my friend has experienced, and all those wonderful visual details that I can perceive. There is a story I tell in almost every product, or piece of art I produce. My goal is for these stories to make me, and the people they reach, feel good.

Does the figure we see in your illustrations represent someone in your life? Or is it an arbitrary imaginary character? 

I wanted this figure to represent all of us, without a gender or any label affixed to it, hoping that everyone could find a piece of themselves within it.

Talk us through the process – how exactly did the store come about? Where did you get the idea?

The Gi store is a world that my partner İlker has built – by integrating the desire to emphasize the complex unity of east and west and to adapt our past values ​​to the present. After I met him and listened to these ideas, I fell in love with it, and wanted to be a part of it. Felt (referring to the textile material) dates back to a very deep-rooted history: In the Göktürks, there was a tradition of raising the emperor on a felt by his subordinates during the enthronement ceremonies, before turning it around the tent nine times in the direction of the sun. It was used in headdresses during the Ottoman Period and was usually a guide showing the class or rank of the person wearing it. When shamans lost their loved ones, they buried the various embroideries, sculptures they made from felt with them to show their love and respect. After hearing these from an old felt maker on a trip with his mother, Ilker decided to position his dream brand around felt, though he of course did this with felts produced without using animal materials. We combine felt, which is highly suitable for textile and printing techniques, with art, by blending it with the present, by placing it at the centre of all our products, and we want to remind people how valuable it is, reflecting its historical purpose and use.

What have been the store’s biggest challenges? 

For people to see and understand the story of a passion that you believe in and that you are fully committed to, apart from its commercial function, is a process which requires effort. Facing challenges along the way requires stability and the ability to face these problems head-on. The same challenges continue to evolve and emerge in different areas every day.

And on the other hand, what have been the biggest joys? 

All of our customers, who are able to observe the subtleties of the products we make, look at these products as we do, i.e that they are not produced just to meet a physical need, become a source of joy for us every day.

How did it feel to watch your artwork transform into design products? 

When your work is hung as a painting in someone’s home, or someone chooses to wear it, it comes to mean that you have the ability to touch that person and share the same feelings. This in particular is a feeling of satisfaction that I can’t describe.

If you had to describe your illustrations in three words, what would they be? And finally, what do you find is the most exciting part of the creative process?

I would say experimental, emotional and reactive. This helps with my final question: the answer would be that the most exciting part for me is that I don’t know exactly what I’m going to be faced with when the work is complete.

If you enjoyed reading our interview with Rabia Gencer you can find more about our emerging artists in our Magazine!

You can follow Rabia's work closely on her @instagram

If you'd like to purchase any of Rabia's work feel free to visit their amazing shop!

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