Excerpts from an article published in the
SUNDAY MAIL, June 13, 2004
C L A S S I C A L L Y
A R M E N I A N
In the quest for a perfect piece of pottery JILL CAMPBELL
MACKAY tracks down some talented Armenian brothers in
Armenian pottery could never be described as minimalist.
This is a culture which, despite having been regularly
purged and diminished as a nation, have given the world a
truly wonderful portfolio of painters, potters and classical
Armenian pottery was first created in the 11th century, it
was only during the 18th century that Armenian artists
really flourished. In Turkey their church quickly grew and
money started to flood in to renovate old and to build new
churches, everywhere there were Armenian craftsmen carving
doors, working as architects, stonemasons, sculptors, making
wonderful rugs, turning metal into magnificent ornamental
Jerusalem is now the only place in the world where genuine
Armenian pottery is still produced. Old, hand-painted
techniques have changed little over the centuries. The
Armenian artists came to Jerusalem because of their talents
as potters. They were brought in to help replace the
centuries-old glazed tiles decorating the Dome of the Rock.
In 1919, the first Armenian workshop was established in
Jerusalem, and soon the artisans were being commissioned to
decorate mansions, public buildings and churches. Now, there
are an estimated 2500 Armenian residents in Jerusalem.
One church that reflects the full range of Armenian skills
is the 12th century cathedral of St. James, situated in the
Armenian quarter. Here you are visually overwhelmed after
gazing upon a forest of blue and white square tiles with
floral and geometric designs that grace every wall,
reflecting the heavy influence gleaned from Persian,
Turkish, Palestinian and Armenia.
I first became interested in genuine Armenian pottery when a
friend gifted me a wonderfully decorated fruit bowl and I
fell in love with the design, the brilliance of the colors
and the sheer quality and finish of the piece. The problem
is I am now addicted and want more, specifically an eight
piece dining set, and the beauty is I don't have to fly to
Jerusalem to acquire my dishes.
The Sandrounis established
the Armenian Art Center where they display their own works.
George says his inspiration comes from old Armenian
manuscripts, murals, old tiles, carpets and some modern
graphics. But he obviously has a soft spot for mythical
designs from the Ottoman and Persian periods with lavish
floral and geometric patterns all aflame with the special
Armenian tomato red or the brilliant cobalt blue and white
combination, the latter being the combination sought after
by me for my future dinner plates.
Every piece in the Sandrouni shop is hand-made and
painstakingly so, with great care being given to not only
maintaining the great reputation of those craftsmen long
since departed, but also developing exciting and interesting
designs for a new generation of aficionados.