Four. That’s the number of things that Nur Asik likes to be doing at one time to keep her creativity flowing.
Right now, that means she’s working as a restaurant server/events planner, a magazine creative director, a jewelry designer and a commercial interior designer.
“I love multitasking,” she says, sitting at the dining table of the spacious two-bedroom apartment/atelier she shares with her older sister.
The chair next to her is occupied by a Brother sewing machine. That, along with a Singer at a nearby desk, is what she uses to stitch draperies, pillows and cushions for Astoria establishments such as The Ditty, The Bonnie, Sweet Afton and The Letlove Inn.
When she’s sewing, which she does in the afternoons before she heads to Mar’s restaurant to wait on tables, the voluminous fabrics often flow from her balcony to her front door, causing her to do a little skip-jump dance to get from one place to another without stepping on them.
Sometimes, they remind her of the ball gowns she used to wistfully draw as a girl growing up in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.
Although Nur was born in Turkey, she spent her first three years in a gated community in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, where her father, an electrical engineer, had a long-term work contract.
“My mother was a stay-at-home artist who created and arranged flowers, and my father traveled for work all the time,” she says. “We went back to Turkey, and he continued traveling around the world for jobs. I spent several summers in England when he lived there.”
At a young age, Nur became fascinated with fashion; when she watched TV, she sketched the characters, outfitting them in clothing of her own creation. She also seriously studied piano and ballet.
When it came time for college, she applied to FIT because there were no fashion design colleges in Turkey. She moved in with her sister, who also had come to New York to go to school.
“I hated New York when I first came here,” Nur says. “Because of my dad, I had been to a lot of countries, and I just felt that New York was hectic, fast-paced as well as freeing. To my mind, it was a dark circus with bright colors.”
Eventually, though, she found that her act fit right in.
“I went to Florence, Italy for a year on a student exchange program and I had the opportunity to stay there, but I started to miss New York,” she says.
Nur, petite and perseverant, says the New York experience has made her who she is.
“The city can be rewarding if you know what you’re looking for and go after it,” she says. “It’s not what you know but who you meet because they walk with you and share your experiences.”
After she graduated from FIT with a bachelor’s degree in evening wear/couture, she had every intention of having a career as a fashion designer.
“I started freelancing for companies, some small, some large, and I noticed that it would take a long time to be a designer with my own business,” she says. “And my one-year work permit was expiring, so I decided to go back to school for a master’s degree.”
While she was in school deciding what she wanted to do and where she wanted to live, she got a lucky break: She won a residency lottery and got a green card that gave her a green light to set up shop in New York.
“That was such a big day for me,” she says, adding that she ultimately became a U.S. citizen. “I still remember opening that letter.”
When Nur got her degree in media management from Metropolitan College, she wanted to leverage it to get contacts in music and film so she could design clothing for entertainers in those industries.
“My portfolio was stolen,” she says, “so I put fashion on hold. It broke my heart because I enjoyed every aspect of fashion from drawing to pattern making.”
She decided to focus on textiles instead and began picking up design work at bars and restaurants in the neighborhood.
In 2014, she began doing graphic design for Idlewild, a magazine published three times a year that showcases artists, venues and neighborhoods in Queens.
You’ll also see Nur at Mar’s, where she’s a server and events planner.
“Mar’s is not a job, it’s an opportunity to make people smile in the two hours they spend there,” she says. “It’s also an opportunity to learn about food and drinks and how to run a business.”
Nur’s latest endeavor is jewelry making.
“I’m taking blacksmithing classes,” she says. “My aim is to get my pieces into shops.”
Nur calls her multiple jobs the “bright colors” of her life.
She loves pursuing all her passions and knows that she’s fortunate to have so many creative opportunities.
But there’s still a part of her that hasn’t completely given up on a career in fashion. She designs her own clothes and has them tailored in Turkey when she visits her parents.
What’s next for Nur? She’s thought about this a lot, but she doesn’t have an answer.
At least not yet.
“I can’t imagine not creating,” she says.
Astoria Characters Day: The 10th Anniversary is Sept. 15, 2019.
Sponsored by Bareburger, it’s a free, public event.
Copyright 2019 by Nancy A. Ruhling