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Newspaper articles about Jerusalem Pottery

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Over the years many articles have been written about our workshop and history in various major newspapers and guidebooks. Below are a few paragraphs of what they wrote about us.

 

--- The New York Times, August 11, 1985

"An Armenian art in Jerusalem, by Susan Daar

Among the favorite souvenir-shop items in Israel are ceramic plates and tiles decorated with fanciful plants and indolent beasts, all arranged in a lulling, rhythmical symmetry. Most of them are copies of copies that have their origin in a modest shop in the Old City of Jerusalem, and few if any, can compare with the originals. Those may be found only at Jerusalem Pottery.

For a shop with an international clientele, Jerusalem Pottery, the enterprise of brothers Stepan and Berge Karakashian, seems unduly modest. Beside a simple "Jerusalem Pottery" sign at 15 Via Dolorosa, a low door opens into a narrow passage that leads to two small back rooms. Here, against brilliantly white walls, are displayed the products of generations of traditional Armenian craftsmanship.

Against a cobalt blue background, a mandala-like phoenix in rust brown, pale blue, yellow, green and cream, flexes its wings until the tips nearly touch. Grazing amid long stemmed flowers, a gazelle looks up, perhaps to sniff the air. On one side of an enormous, muted-green and yellow "Tree of Life", a lion falls on a frightened gazelle: on the other, two other gazelles continue to feed serenely. However modest in size, each scene is complete, and thanks to precise design and understated color, meditatively alive...

Even the glazes are hand mixed. Some, such as the striking but understated cobalt blue that appears in so many of the pieces, are based on formulas handed down by the Karakashian's father."

 

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--- Armenian Weekly On-Line September 27-October 3, 2003

The Armenian Pottery of Jerusalem
By Congressman Frank Pallone Jr.

“[Editor’s note: Last month, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) visited Israel. During his visit, he met with the Armenian community and visited some of the Armenian pottery shops. The Congressman wrote the following column on his tour of six such stores.]

Last month, I visited the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem to meet with the Patriarch and community leaders, but I could not help spending some time touring the historic sites, and also looking for one of my favorite crafts—the Armenian pottery of Jerusalem.

While many Armenian-Americans possess some pieces of Jerusalem pottery, I find it less popular than Armenian rugs, woodwork, and needlework, primarily because it’s not produced in Armenia. In fact, most of the pieces I acquired before my trip to Jerusalem came from online purchases.

Even in Jerusalem, I had a difficult time getting information on the various Armenian potters. Fortunately, I finally discovered six shops, and they did not disappoint. Each had wonderful handmade pottery made exclusively by Armenian families. They produce some of the finest and most unique ceramics that I’ve ever seen, and I wanted to relate my experience.

First, I must point out that much of the pottery sold in Jerusalem, particularly the Old City, is made to resemble Armenian pottery. I was surprised to find hundreds of shops in Jerusalem that sell imitation items, known as Hebron pottery, which is often factory made. Unless the shop is owned and operated by Armenians, it is unlikely to be Armenian pottery.

The Armenian pottery of Jerusalem differs from ceramics made in the Republic of Armenia in that the former is generally executed in bright under glaze colors of cobalt blue, turquoise, yellow, green, black, and red on a white background. It is contrasted with the ceramics of Armenia that tend to be on rough brown earthenware, but also with lively colors painted on top.

It’s also important to know that the Armenian pottery of Jerusalem can remind the untrained eye of Turkish pottery because it originated with potters who fled the Ottoman Empire at the time of the Genocide. These potters lived in the town of Kutahya, where Turkish and Armenian influences often converged. However, to my knowledge, there are no longer any Armenian potters in Turkey. I did not see any Turkish pottery for sale in Jerusalem, and it is unlikely that a shopkeeper would try to pass off Turkish pottery as Armenian because both are high priced and equally prized.

The father of Armenian pottery in Jerusalem was David Ohannessian, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1919. By 1922, two craftsmen who had come with Ohannessian from Kutahya—the potter N. Balian and the painter M. Karakashian—left Ohannessian’s workshop and established their own shop on Nablus Road. The partnership between Balian and Karakashian lasted 40 years, but with their passing in the 1960s their sons established two separate workshops, still in operation today—the Karakashian Brothers, 15 Via Delorosa in the Old City, and Balian Armenian Ceramics, 14 Nablus Road, located opposite the American Consulate.

I visited the Karakashian Brothers workshop. Getting there was part of the fun because they are located not in the Armenian Quarter, but near the central market place of the Old City, which is culturally Arab, both Muslim and Christian. I had to wind through the narrow streets and inquire about its location on the Via Dolorosa. For Christians, this is the path of Jesus and many of the Stations of the Cross.

Hagop Karakashian, grandson of the workshop’s founder, finally greeted me at the entrance of a small facade that led to a bigger sales shop, and ultimately to an upstairs open-air courtyard and work area. A sense of history overwhelms the Karakashian store. The styles are the traditional Armenian flowers, birds, and animals. Larger pieces are harder to find, but the quality is unmistakable.

M. Karakashian, the founder, was the painter of the original group from Kutahya, and the painting of his descendants’ work still excels. I purchased a yellow vase with deer prancing and a blue plate with two peacocks entwined. There is nothing that compares to the various shades of blue in the Armenian ceramics of Jerusalem.

When I returned home to the US with my Jerusalem pottery, I was surprised to find how much nicer it looked in the house than in the shops in Jerusalem. I believe this is because there are so many items in the shops that they overwhelm you, and when you get a chance to display the individual pieces at home, they really shine!”

 

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--- The Flint Journal, Associated Press., January 6, 2004, Tuesday, BC cycle

"Collector sets table with well-traveled dishes, By HELEN S. BAS

GRAND BLANC, Mich.—Fifteen years ago, while traveling in Israel, Diane Lindholm walked into a tiny pottery shop in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter.

She bought a few pieces and took them home.

Since then, she’s been back to that city about 25 times and has collected a stunning array of dinnerware. Almost every trip, Lindholm has brought back something for the Grand Blanc home she shares with her husband, John, or something for friends or family.

Armenian ceramic pottery is centuries old, and in 1919, several Armenian potters came to Jerusalem to repair tiles on the Dome of the Rock. Although the repairs never took place, the potters settled in Jerusalem and practiced their craft.

Stepan Karakashian, the son of one of those potters, makes the dinnerware that Lindholm collects. According to his Web site, Jerusalem is the only place in the world where traditional Armenian
pottery still is being made.

”I discovered (Karakashian) the first time when I was with a group,” Lindholm said. “His studio is almost cavelike, dug out of the wall. It’s small with whitewashed plaster walls, a tiny little place.

”They used to live above the studio. Now when you go up the stairs, there’s a workroom. We saw how they mix the clay and glazes. It’s incredible and beautiful.”

Lindholm bought some pieces on that first trip, including a wall hanging of tiles, which she displays on a table, and some of the larger plates.

Since then, she has brought back service for 12, including large plates, bowls, bread-and-butter plates, small oval dishes, mugs and serving pieces. She has several decorative pieces, including the four-tile work. Although the Lindholms reserve most of the pottery to use for Passover seder dinners, two sets of sugar bowls and creamers are used on a regular basis.

The pottery is made using a traditional Armenian clay mixture and is painted with traditional glazes, many of which derive their colors from metallic compounds (although the fired pottery does not have a metallic finish).

Because they are hand-painted, each piece is slightly different. Karakashian creates a variety of designs, many of which are based on Biblical or traditional themes. Colors help indicate how recent a design is.

”Pink and yellow are newer colors, and purple is pretty rare,” Lindholm said.

She chose pieces partly by color and partly by design.

Many of Lindholm’s pieces are decorated with fish, birds, trees and flowers. Vines or branches are used in the bird or flower designs. Some pieces have figures outlined in black, but that color is not evident otherwise.

Some newer pieces have designs resembling a checkerboard pattern.

”The recent ones are more geometric. You can look at two pieces and usually tell which is newer,” Lindholm said.

A few mugs are painted with cherries. Lindholm said the flowering cherry tree is an ancient design that is used by Armenian and Turkish potters.

Some of the artist’s most popular designs are based on the Tree of Life mosaic in the Hisham Palace in Jericho, the 6th century “Madaba Map” mosaic depicting the streets of Jerusalem and the phoenix bird,
peacock, fish and floral designs.

Lindholm’s mother, Sylvia Levenson of Grand Blanc, has brought back dinnerware service for eight. Some of it was acquired on trips with her daughter. Since Karakashian does not ship, every piece has been carried back by the women.

”(Karakashian) wraps everything really well,” Lindholm said. “He uses brown paper and old-fashioned, thin twine. He puts cardboard pieces between plates, wraps them tightly, and you can slip your finger
under the twine.”

An extra, foldable suitcase often accompanies Lindholm so she can stow her treasures for the trip home. Once, she and Levenson carried pieces from Jerusalem to Egypt and back to Israel before bringing them home.

”My mom wrapped hers in sweaters and put them in her suitcase,” Lindholm said. “We had no problems - not a scratch or a chip.”

When the dishes are not in use, the Lindholms store them in the kitchen, in cabinets that have glass fronts and backs. They are visible from both sides.

”We can see them every day,” she said. “They’re so fanciful, so beautiful. I know right when I got each piece. I smile when I remember each trip.”

Most recently, on a trip in November, Lindholm brought back mugs, some in bright yellow, to augment the ones she had. She’s pretty sure she’ll continue to add to her collection.

”I just love these dishes,” she said. “I don’t mind the extra work bringing them back.

”If you cherish something, you just do it. Every time, I can’t wait to get them home, unpack and see them. It’s a labor of love.”

 

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--- Frommer's Israel Guidebook

"Jerusalem Pottery [STAR] [FIND]This shop, run by the renowned Karakashian family, is notable for individual plates and tiles decorated with lovely traditional bird, animal, and floral designs, as well as for its interpretations of ancient Jewish and Christian motifs, many taken from ancient manuscripts or the mosaic floor designs of archeological sites.

Standards of craftsmanship are the highest, with the most careful hand painting (tile designs are incised) and the richest colors. I've seen this shop's magnificent and varied tiles used to face a colonial fireplace in Massachusetts and also to ornament a poolside garden wall in South Florida. The designs were equally at home in each environment. There's also an array of mugs, ceramic mezzuzot, and other items."

Read Frommer's short online review of Jerusalem Pottery

 

 

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--- Berlitz Jerusalem Pocket Guide

"A world famous Armenian ceramic workshop that has become a Jerusalem tradition. These skilled artisans were originally brought to Jerusalem to maintain the ceramic tiles on the Dome of the Rock."

 

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