While on our way to a serious shopping day at the infamous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, a large, ceramic, intricately-painted fish in the window of a gallery caught my eye. I drew my two travel companions inside for a quick look.
And thus we entered into one of those unexpected experiences you have in the import-export craft business. It’s a world full of interaction and surprise. You enjoy the hunt for the right products, haggling to get the right price, and the income from selling back in the U.S., online…or wherever you offload your goods.
I have used import-export to fund my travels to Latin America and Africa throughout my working life. Now that I’m retired, I’m getting into it more deeply. This was my first trip to Turkey, and I was looking forward to purchasing a wealth of good quality crafts and antique items.
Very quickly the owner of the gallery in Istanbul, Savas Oz, understood we were more than just curious tourists. We gave him our business cards while showing interest in unusual pieces. My companions—long-time importers on their sixth visit to Istanbul—carry with them pictures of previous purchases so they can demonstrate the kinds of things they are interested in seeing.
This is an excellent tactic, especially when language is an issue. It’s also important to make a good connection with craft sellers by falling in with their traditions. Trade is carried out more slowly in other countries than it might be in the U.S. Savas served us tea in the little glasses along with sugar cubes and a tiny spoon.
Two hours later, with our selections of brides’ vests elaborately covered with metal pieces, seashells, and tassels…wedding hats similarly decorated…several antique textile pieces…and a camel saddle bag, we were ready to negotiate price.
We left Savas, to head for the Grand Bazaar, where I bought tent decorations…long valances with fabrics woven and embroidered and tassels hanging down…decorative hangings…yarn…and beads. They will sell to designers for several hundred dollars each.
There were other good items too. Some of these tribal textiles are quite different than the new woven textiles, beaded jewelry, baskets, and copper I’ve been successfully selling thus far from countries such as Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, and Tanzania. These textiles are one-of-a-kind antiques. Their prices will be significantly higher—four or five times their cost—and will be purchased by people who know and appreciate their value.
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