Article 2

Excerpts from an article by Aimee Cary-Webb, published in "The Jerusalem Times", May 26, 1995.

Up the winding Armenian Patriarchate Road in the walled Old City of Jerusalem, just beyond the Patriarchate and across the street from the convent, is the Armenian Art Centre. Inside, the work of the Sandrouni family surrounds visitors. Tiles, plates, placards, cups and vases with intricate floral and animal designs lay seige to the eyes of the beholder. George Sandrouni took "The Jerusalem Times" behind the scenes to tell the story of his family's involvement in the pottery business.

The Sandrouni brothers began the Armenian Art Centre in 1983 to display the works of Armenian artists, potters and craftsmen. Gradually they began to produce pottery themselves and the centre has become a gallery for the Sandrouni art work. Harout Sandrouni, a civil engineer by profession, spent two years in Australia working in ceramics and learning the technical aspects of pottery. He then returned to Jerusalem to share his knowledge with his brothers. George has taken on the task of designing. His inspiration comes from many sources: "Everything from murals, carpets, old tiles and modern graphics and designs inspire me. Basically anything I can get my hands on." These range from old Armenian manuscripts with mythical designs to Ottoman and Persian influences. Much of the floral and geometric patterns that George produces are influenced by Ottoman works while the figurative designs are influenced by Persian and Armenian art. The process of producing a design begins with an inspiration. George said, "The idea itself may take month. I have an inspiration, I research it, think about it; I call this the fermentation period. Once I have decided exactly what I want the design to look like, it takes approximately two weeks to produce." George explained the birth of one design. The inspiration was the Picasso's neo-classical "Lovers." George put the lovers in a Persian context, redesigning their apparel and background. After George produces the design, he makes several copies on tracing paper, then he perforates the design so that it is a stencil. The stencil is placed on a piece of pottery and dusted with charcoal. After the design is roughly in place, it is painted. Each piece has its own style. Some of the designs are done entirely freehand, while others are partially or completely traced. The paints are oxides suspended in water that are mixed in the shop. After the painting is complete, the piece is glazed. The glaze is also in a water suspension. It is stirred to disperse the glaze and the pottery is dipped for a few seconds. When the piece dries, a white powder film remains on the pottery. After firing in the kiln, the powder turns into glass, giving the pottery a shiny coating. The firing process also heightens the colors on the pottery giving them a deeper and more brilliant sheen. Because everything is hand produced, and they have a small work force, the Sandrounis feel that mass production is not for them. Quality control is very important and the workshop has a certain steady pace.