To watch İznik tiles being made, visit the İznik Vafkı, or İznik Foundation, at Vakıf Sok 13, near Saray Kapisi (wiznik.com), which was established in 1993 to restart production using traditional methods. It sells tiles of extremely high quality, and correspondingly high price – around TL100 for a 20cm x 10cm border piece. However, numerous other local workshops (atölyes) offer bulk discounts, which bring the price down to a more affordable TL20 for a 10cm x 10cm tile. Be aware, however, that most workshops primarily take orders for domestic customers, and are likely to have only one or two items of each particular design – anyone showing up on spec hoping to decorate an entire kitchen or bathroom is apt to be disappointed.
The best, reasonably priced, one-stop shop is Adil Can Nursan Sanat Atölyesi, just inside the İstanbul Kapısı. Other quality (as opposed to kitsch) shops cluster along Demircan Sokağı and inside the Süleyman Paşa Medresesi, the oldest (1332) Ottoman medrese in Turkey and the first one with an open courtyard, surrounded by eleven chambers and nineteen domes.
The toughest, best, most waterproof – and most expensive – tiles are not ceramic-based but made primarily from locally quarried, finely ground quartz. Quartz-rich tiles are air-porous, have good acoustic qualities (hence their use in mosques), and make good insulators, as they contract slightly in winter and expand in summer.