Spirograph Cartel

It was my first 24 hours in Istanbul. With a generous Turkish breakfast still warming my soul, I set out to find the ancient church x mosque = Hagia Sophia. My mind is racing with anticipation when my mental tires squeal to a HALT.

Could it be? —A street-smart Spirograph Salesman?

It’s official. I have died and gone to Heaven.

My original set.

My favorite toy as a child was none other than Kenner’s NEWSpirograph a super duper version of mathematical loopage that has hooked me, forever more, into the land of mandalas, geometry hating, and repetitive pattern as a preferred art form.

I eagerly asked the Salesman to show me his wares, and watched raptly as Erran (his name) created masterful combinations with his pared-down version of The ‘Graph. With Leonardo-like flair, he deftly employed the 7-pen set of ballpoints, that, for only 5 TL more, could also be mine.

He knew just when to stop circum-navigating the cycle, change pens, then begin again.  *Sigh*

I complimented his stylish shirt and let the negotiations begin.  After a brief volley that concluded with the coveted 7-pen set thrown in as a bonus, I pulled out my crisp New Turkish Liras and paid Erran, happily photographing him and his artform.

Dig the cosmic shirt. Bonus.

Now this IS civilized—a place where exotic, handsome men peddle slices of Infinity—no, not cheap plastic sunglasses.

It’s food for the mind, not knock-offs!

But wait.

As the days progressed, I saw many, many more Spirograph Salesmen. They appeared on every corner. Surly, chubby, trucker-hat wearing, indifferent guys on the edge of boredom. Their little street stands set up exactly like Erran’s, though none so charming— or talented.

It appears that Istanbul plays host to a Spirograph Cartel !

Perhaps somewhere in a dark warehouse on the Bosphorus, there is a Godfather of Geometry— a Sultan of the Hypotrochoid if you will  – doling out boxes of imported plastic rings, filling his minions with fear as they work out percentages and hunker over sheets and sheets of cosmic diagrams.

Alas, the toil of geometry for the masses.

Erran’s sampler of advanced spiro art, signed and gifted to me.

12 Responses to “Spirograph Cartel”
  1. Fantastic article! What a delight to read…thank you!

  2. Wenia says:

    that used to be my favorite thing to do as a kid. but of course, mine were never that pretty!

  3. mikeysg says:

    wow! your story made me remember my fun childhood. thanks for the story. i think not many people knows what the spirographs are. excellent!

  4. offmotorway says:

    Wow, I used to love spirograph! Didn’t know it was still out there. great photos of this man and his art!

  5. Henry says:

    Now I have to dig through the garage and see if my old Spirograph is still in there somewhere!

    • sfmosaic says:

      LOL! Glad you’re inspired! let me know if you find it Henry.Spirographs are making a come back. I saw a small set in an art supply store, but they are called hypotrochoids….somehow, that term is not nearly as fun!

      • Betty Marvos says:

        I have been looking for a Spirograph for my grandkids, at least that’s what I tell myself, truthfully they might have a hard timne getting me to share.But the closest thing I could find was a Spiral Draw. It doesn’t even compare! If anyone knows where I might be able to get my hands on one please let me know,
        Desperate for a Spirograph

      • sfmosaic says:

        hello Betty thanks for visiting! Spirographs are the best, no need to share, get one for the grand kids and one for you! there are plenty for sale on E-bay!
        check it out!

  6. peiterry says:

    Hi! I am currently in Istanbul and happy to report the Spirograph Cartel is alive and well in 2013. In an attempt to try to understand this phenomenon I googled “Istanbul spirograph” and your blog was the first to come up. Your post is funny and well written. I don’t think I need a spirograph set, but tomorrow I am going to buy one of their samples, have him sign it as a piece of artwork and snap a photo of the artist. Bless them, it can’t be an easy existence.

    • sfmosaic says:

      Hi Terry thanks for the update to the report! glad you liked my post. and as you can tell, I too, was very taken with the spirograph sellers. I had my vendor sign his sample board and he gave it to me. He was super talented, and obviously enjoyed making the forms. I def. saw more surly vendors, and as you say, can’t be an easy existence. Hope you enjoy Turkey, and eat some stretchy ice cream.

  7. Lillian,

    What a charming post! My husband and I just returned from a short visit to Istanbul, where we bought—yes—a Spirograph. I’ll blog about it shortly, and would like to borrow one of your pictures, if I may. The weather was a little too inclement to catch the vendor demonstrating the toy on the street.

    Naturally, I’ll comply with the conditions regarding acknowledgement and linkage you’ve been kind enough to provide on your site. Please let me know with a comment below.


Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] may remember my post  Spirograph Cartel about Istanbul’s spinning street vendors?  Or perhaps you enjoyed Really BIG […]

did you enjoy the post? Tell me something...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: