Article 3

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 Jerusalem.

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 metal workers.

Although 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 gates.
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.