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   
Armenian Jerusalem
Photo Sato Moughalian
Dome of the Rock
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian