I was very happy to see your Armenian Jerusalem website and a page devoted to Armenian ceramics. I am the granddaughter of David Ohannessian, who founded this tradition in Jerusalem in 1919. For the last 6-7 years, I have been researching his life and work, in archives and through travel, and am currently writing his biography. Here is a recent article I wrote on the subject of the establishment of Armenian ceramics in Jerusalem: Additionally, next year, I will have a chapter entitled "David Ohannessian and the Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem" published in a French volume on Armenian Jerusalem, edited by the Armenian art historians Dickran Kouymjian, Patrick Donabédian, and Claude Mutafian. Every serious art historical work credits David Ohannessian as the founder of the Jerusalem Armenian ceramics tradition. As you can read in greater detail in the Stambouline article, Ohannessian was one of a group of four Kutahya ceramists considered to be masters of the art, who operated their own ateliers but often worked in partnership on large commissions. The other artists were Harutyun and Garabed Minassian, who jointly operated their own atelier, and Mehmet Emin, whose workshop was called the “Fabrique de Faïence à Kutahia.” Ohannessian’s Kutahya workshop was called the “Société Ottoman de Faïence.” One of Ohannessian’s large commissions in the Kutahya years was to create a grand room for Sledmere House, Yorkshire, the family home of British diplomat and Member of Parliament, Mark Sykes. After this so-called “Turkish Room” was completed and installed, in early 1914, many other British officials and aristocrats in Sykes’ circles saw Ohannessian’s magnificent tile work (see illustration in Stambouline article), and remembered it a few years later, after the British entered Jerusalem in late 1917. In the early months of 1918, the newly established British Military Administration planned a restoration of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites, including the seventh-century Dome of the Rock, which had been covered in tiles in the sixteenth century. Several British officers connected with the new administration remembered Ohannessian’s ceramic artistry, and Mark Sykes, on his final Foreign Office mission to Aleppo in late 1918 (Sykes died of Spanish influenza three months later), re-encountered the Kutahya artist there, living as a refugee after surviving a 1916 deportation to the Syrian desert of Deir Zor. Ohannessian was invited to resettle in Jerusalem and traveled there with his family at the very end of 1918. Once in Jerusalem, Ohannessian met with Ernest Richmond, the consulting architect brought by the British to evaluate the condition of the Dome of the Rock. Ohannessian set out to find a way to create a painted ceramic industry in the Holy City. A nineteenth-century kiln, on the Haram es-Sharif, or Temple Mount, proved to be unworkable. The new Military Governor of Jerusalem, Ronald Storrs, found a suitable location on the Via Dolorosa for Ohannessian to establish an atelier. In July of 1919, Ohannessian asked the British Military Administration to obtain a letter of safe passage for him from Ottoman authorities so that he could return to Kutahya and bring materials, tools, and other Armenian artisans back to Jerusalem. The traditional techniques of tile manufacture required a number of workers in well-established divisions of skilled and semi-skilled labor: designers, quartz and flint grinders, clay mixers, slip makers, pattern tracers, tile cutters, painters, wood gatherers, and kiln stokers. Ohannessian briefly returned to Kutahya in August-September of 1919. It was still wartime in Anatolia; Greek-Turkish conflicts were escalating, and the state of the ceramic industry in Kutahya was severely affected. The Emin and Minassian workshops had continued functioning in a very limited way. Like Ohannessian, Harutyun Minassian had also been deported. (Harutyun eventually found his way to Athens, where he was joined by his brother Garabed. There, the brothers established a new ceramics workshop.) Among the group of 8-10 Armenians that Ohannessian brought back to Jerusalem were Mgrditch Karakashian and Nishan Balian. These two artists had been working in the Minassian atelier in Kutahya. Balian’s specialization was wheel-thrown pottery, and Karakashian excelled in black-brush and other painting. After arriving in Jerusalem, they worked in Ohannessian’s atelier from late 1919 until 1922, when they left, with two women workers, to found their own workshop outside the Old City. Throughout this entire period, Ohannessian also trained orphan genocide survivors, placed with him by the Near East Relief organization. Many of these artists stayed with him until 1948. For nearly thirty years, Ohannessian’s Jerusalem workshop, called “Dome of the Rock Tiles,” produced a wide variety of pottery and tile work, both for local commissions and for export. He won awards in European expositions in the 1920s and ‘30s, and established what has become a lasting and beloved craft in Jerusalem. The Armenian ceramics tradition of Jerusalem, founded in 1919 by David Ohannessian, is a noble art, to which many parties have made major contributions. Let's honor all of them by meticulous attention to the history of this now-iconic Armenian tradition, as the Sandrouni family and others have done. And we can celebrate the great work achieved by the Balian, Karakashian, Sandrouni, and other Armenian families, in carrying this art forward, today and into the future. July 10, 2016