Armenian ceramics and the Karakashian family
From the Dome of the Rock project, to the making of the street name tiles of Jerusalem - a rich family tradition continues to prosper
"Hand painting tile murals is a passion of mine. I enjoy paying attention to the small details, which in turn lead me to create a beautiful whole."
- Hagop Karakashian, 3rd generation, chief artist at Jerusalem Pottery
Hand painting a custom wall tile mural
The Karakashian family is one of the three founding families of the art of Armenian ceramics in Jerusalem. The amazing journey started in 1919, as the 3 families were invited to Jerusalem by the British, to renovate the tiles of the Dome of the Rock on the temple mount.
In Jerusalem today, Armenian pottery or Armenian ceramics has become a household phrase. When someone mentions Armenian pottery, it immediately conjures up mental images of finely hand painted floral ceramic plates, tiles and pottery, painted with cobalt blues, deep turquoises, and bright reds. But few people know the real story behind this craft, and the individuals who introduced and established this ceramic art form to the holy city, and the rest of the holy land.
In 1966, the Jordanian government commissioned my father Stepan Karakashian, and my uncle Berge Karakashian, to make the street name tiles of the Old City of Jerusalem in Arabic and English. After 1967, the Israelis commissioned my father to add the Hebrew on top. Read the story here...
A word on mass produced copies, and other Armenian families
who started producing Armenian pottery
If you visit Jerusalem today, the Old City markets and alleys are full of souvenir shops that sell "Armenian pottery". This kind of Armenian pottery is mass produced in Hebron, and these wares are copies of what we make. You can easily recognize these ceramic wares, because they look the same from one shop to another.
As for other Armenian families making Armenian pottery, there are a few studios who started emulating our work and making their style of Armenian pottery. These studios are relatively new, around 30 years old, and have nothing to do with the original families who came and introduced this art to Jerusalem. Of the original families who came from Turkey, only the Karakashians and the Balians continue the true tradition.