In a world obsessed with celebrity, with the tits and bums and abs of the so-called Pretty People the truly beautiful are usually passed over for the sensational. Within my immediate circle of family and close friends I am fortunate to be surrounded by some truly beautiful people. This is a glimpse into the life of one of these – Gülay Çolak.

Gülay, like each of us, is many things. Gülay is an artist, a mother, a this, and a that! She is also a world class exponent of the art of having a positive mental attitude. An appalling accident about 17 years ago left her paralysed from the chest down, fighting for her life and mentally in a very dark place. She had a choice to make. Either her glass was half-empty or half-full. She decided that her glass was almost brimming over!

J and I met her through our dear friend and ‘blue-sky thinker’ Ahmet and she joined our team painting murals on Okçular school. We fell in love with her and she with us.

a small part of Gülay’s contribution at Okçular school

Confucius he say ‘Every journey begins with the first step.’ Although he would have said it like this, of course ‘每個旅程開始的第一步. And so it was with Gülay. To encourage the school children to paint and be creative she showed them how to paint creatures on stones and an idea was born. She desperately needed to contribute towards her family finances and it wasn’t just about money – it was about self-respect and being useful.


bird houses

wall plaques

From stones to tins to you-name-it. Other people’s rubbish became prized knick-knacks in her hands. People loved her stuff and as word spread so did the admiration of strangers and not just for her skill but for her attitude. One businessman admirer regularly sends her cargo boxes of stuff that she would otherwise have to pay a lot of money for. She’s been commissioned to paint portraits of the powerful on marble for the marble and granite industry. She’s appeared on national TV and been featured often in the print media.


clucking good


Fads change like the weather and there is need to come up with new ideas. With help from friends Co and Maria Jonker she now turns gourds into the most desirable of keep sakes. And its not just gourds and stones and bird boxes. You can commission portraits of your pet or your mum on gourd, box or canvas.

Gülay’s first ever portrait from 10 years ago

So, there you have it – a brief sketch about a truly ‘gourdgeous’ and inspirational lady and when she describes J and me as her ‘other mum and dad’ we feel so proud to call her daughter.

If you want to learn more about Gülay’s work you can contact her on Facebook,or, if you need help explaining your commission then contact me via comments or on Facebook.

Alan Fenn.

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