The Palestinian Pottery has been producing exclusive hand painted ceramic tiles and pottery since 1922. This makes us one of the oldest-if not the oldest- business in existence in Palestine.
The studio is currently being run by the Armenian family of the Balians, who's grandfather Neshan Balian was brought to Palestine-by the British and an Armenian businessman named Ohanessian during the the British Mandate of Palestine- from Kutahya(1917) to renovate the ceramic tiles of The Dome of The Rock.
Before the arrival of Neshan Balian to Palestine, the production of decorative ceramic tiles and pottery in this region did not exist at all.
It was Neshan Balian with his partners the Karakashians, who established this unique form of art known presently as the Palestinian pottery of Jerusalem.
|1965 saw the amicable end of partnership between the Balian and the Karakashian families with the Balian family remaining on the present premises and continuing the tradition of this unique form of pottery.
The history of the Palestinian Pottery is full of ups and downs, suffering and joy. I remember my late father telling me of stories from the late 40s where the situation was so desperate that they used to burn the wooden frame of the factory windows just to get a kiln firing. The factory was destroyed totally in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war except for the huge dome kiln with a full load of fired ceramics which was sold and helped in the reconstruction. Lack of raw materials in the early 30s and 40s was also a problem with homemade solutions of breaking bottle glass and crushing it as ways to prepare badly needed glazes. But eventually my grandfather and later my father overcame these problems and the factory started to prosper.
My father, Setrak Balian, studied ceramics in England under Bernard Leach and then came back to Jerusalem in the early 50's and later established a ceramic brick and roof tile factory in Amman,Jordan. He took over the factory in 1965 after the death of my grandfather. My grandfather and father were both master potters in their own right. I just wish I had some more free time to be able to practice more the art of throwing on the wheel which they were so good at.
My mother,Marie Balian, who is of French Armenian heritage, is a world renowned ceramic tile artist. Her ceramic tile murals have been exhibited all over the world including a solo one in 1992 at The Smithsonian Museum , Washington D.C which lasted for six months. She has had a huge influence in creating and giving the Palestinian Pottery its unique identity.
I , Neshan Balian Jr, have been managing the factory since the passing away of my father in 1996. I have both a mechanical engineering and ceramic engineering degrees from The Ohio University and Hocking College in Ohio.
In the begining of the 70's people in Hebron,a city close to Jerusalem, started imitating the works and style of The Palestinian Pottery and the Balian family. This imitation style of pottery is presently known as Hebron Pottery with extensive use of printing and mass production techniques. This results in an artistically inferior product with poor copies of designs originating at the Palestinian Pottery. Hebron pottery is freely available in most of the souvenir shops in the old city of Jerusalem, the rest of Palestine and Israel. It caters for the tourist market where the desire is for cheap ceramic items.
Original and authentic Palestinian Pottery is sold only at our factory and retail outlet on 14 Nablus Rd. East Jerusalem( and now on our web site). The present location of our factory is where the true form of art known as Palestinian Pottery was born. We are the only studio in Jerusalem producing our own ceramic ware and tiles by methods handed over to us by our grandparents and parents.
The tiles and pottery of The Palestinian Pottery have been exhibited all over the world in various museums and institutions. The zenith being the solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum of Washington D.C in 1992. Our pottery has also been the subject of numerous articles in magazines and newspapers worldwide. These include The New York Times , The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune.Some copies of these articles can be seen on this web site at the What they write about us pages.
Be nice to people, enjoy life and stay healthy.
Neshan Balian Jr.
|CLICK ON PHOTO FOR MORE HISTORICAL PICTURES AND DOCUMENTS|
|THE HISTORY OF OUR POTTERY|
|1927 clipping from The National Geographic Magazine|