Hilal Kazan was born in Kartal, Istanbul, the fourth of five children of the late Ahmet Bey, who moved to Istanbul from Drama after the Treaty of Lausanne, and the late Semiha Hanim, who was from the same region as her husband. She completed her high school education at the Erenkoy Girls High School. She became very interested in the writings on the dome of the Süleymaniye Mosque when on a school trip. She asked her teacher how the text had been written on the ceiling of the dome. Her teacher's incorrect answer led to her deep interest in calligraphy. Not knowing who Ahmet Karahisari was at the time, her teacher told Hilal that the calligrapher had written the most perfect text on the ceiling by dipping the pen in a bowl of ink and writing hastily and without any deliberation. She continued her education at the university at Istanbul University, Turkish Language and Literature Department, a department that she had very much wanted to attend. There she was introduced to Islamic arts. The late Dr. Ali Alparslan was her teacher. Her friends and family encouraged her to take up calligraphy, due to her beautiful Ottoman handwriting. With help from friends, she was included in the lessons of the late calligrapher and hafiz, Muserref Celebi. Muserref Hanim, who had given up calligraphy works for a long time, due to family reasons, started agian when working with Hilal. In the mean time, Hilal tried to continue calligraphy along with her university studies. After graduating from university, she worked in a private waqf in various positions.
In the spring of 1994, she visited the calligrapher Hasan Celebi to improve her writing technique and she was honoured by becoming his student. As she began learning the thulth-naskh style from scratch, with her teacher's encouragement she enrolled in post-graduate studies to research calligraphy academically. Her teacher awarded her the ijaza in the thulth-naskh style in 2000. She finished her doctoral dissertation in 2007, on the topic of The Ottoman Palace's Patronage of the Arts in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Originally Hilal Kazan had wanted to research the calligrapher Mehmed As'ad Yasari, with whom she shared many characteristics, but her teachers directed her to archival studies due of her good grasp of Ottoman, Arabic and Persian.
She gave calligraphy classes and conferences at California University as a guest artist in 2008. She gave a hands-on-workshop in Islamic calligraphy at the LACMA, which is one of the renowned art museums in Los Angeles. The same year she went to South Africa and organized daylong calligraphy exhibitions over three days, in three major cities to introduce the Ottoman Art of Calligraphy. She gave many speeches at both national and international conferences on this subject. Her articles and essays have been published in various magazines. She has participated in many group calligraphic exhibitions. She has also been involved with many organizations and is currently developing and working on various projects.
Hilal Kazan feels that all her abilities are a gift from God; she is fully aware that she has reached a point in her life which she had never dreamt that she could. There is one important characteristic that has guided her, which is her curiosity and desire to learn. When she was a child, her elders taught her that the key to knowledge was to ask questions. She says that she owes her success in calligraphy not to her natural talent, but to the encouragement of her first calligraphy teacher, the late Muserref Hanim, and to the unlimited patience and efforts of her teacher, Hasan Çelebi.
Figure 1: The cover page of Hilal Kazan's book.