After a century of artistic evolution in the Middle East, the famous ceramic art of the Jerusalem Armenians may soon be produced in Armenia for the first time.

Armenian survivors of the Turkish massacres established two separate workshops in Jerusalem in 1922, specializing in tiles and pottery. They gradually developed their own artistic style without the restrictions they faced under Ottoman rule. The fame of Armenian artists spread beyond Jerusalem’s borders. 

Today, the unique works of these workshops are presented as gifts to royal families, high-ranking delegations and presidents, and exported worldwide. In 1992, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington also organized a special month-long exhibition, “Armenian Ceramics from Jerusalem”. Several other world-renowned museums, including the British Victoria and Albert Museum, also hold examples of Armenian pottery from Jerusalem.

“This type of art has become a symbol of Jerusalem,” Setrag Balyan told RFE/RL at his family’s Balian Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem factory, which his great-grandfather founded after the Armenian genocide. The wood factory is one of the oldest continuously operating businesses in Jerusalem. The blue and white tiles manufactured in Jerusalem are often used to decorate luxury swimming pools in California.

Now, the Balian family is preparing to become the first of Jerusalem’s Armenian potters to “return” to Armenia. Balian declines to specify specific dates, but says the family is planning a “factory, museum and café all in one”.