This type of art production which is highly popular today is in fact an old activity which was born on Anatolian soil. Its basic material is clay, which becomes easily malleable when mixed with water. Handmade forms are baked in an oven at a temperature of about 1000 degrees as a result of which the material hardens. In this way product are made. The first ceramic objects consisted of earthenware jars which were being produced in Anatolia since about 6000 BC. The refined nature of the jars dating from this period indicate that making earthenware objects has been a well-established tradition in Anatolia. These jars were used to store various food items as well as liquids. The local populations also produced statues of gods, decorative items, lamps and clay tablets containing cuneiform inscriptions.

Later on these earthenware jars were glazed making them waterproof. In order to be able to achieve this process, the products need to be fired for a second time. This second firing exceeds a thousand degrees. The half-finished jars were decorated by means of various shapes and designs as well as painted. The Turks who moved into Anatolia became the heirs of this tradition. First the Seljuks and then the Ottomans continued this tradition. In particular, they developed the production of tile-work used in architectural decoration, which was a technique that showed great strides in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The two centres of tiles production during the Ottoman era were İznik and Kütahya. Ceramics were being produced here long before the arrival of the Turks. The first ceramic productions made here in the middle of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries used red clay as its main ingredient. The colours employed in these ceramic productions were cobalt blue, light blue, purple, green and black. The ceramics produced at İznik and Kütahya during the initial stage were all produced in the underglaze technique.

The end of the 15th, and the beginning of the 16th centuries mark the onset of the second important stage in the production of ceramics and tiles in white and blue. The most beautiful examples of Turkish tile-work were made in this period, with hard and unblemished clay, clean workmanship and virtuoso designs. Cobalt blue in all of its gradations was the main colour employed in Chinese porcelain, and the imported samples, either by means of trade or as girfts, in Ottoman palaces served as a model to be followed. The red clay used in the early days of ceramic production was abandoned, whereas the white clay also used previously as a coating ground became the materials used to produce blue and white ceramics. In spite of its Chinese origins, blue and white ceramics and tiles became the main expression of the Ottoman artistic aesthetic. Turquoise and green colours were added to the colour palette of Ottoman blue and white ceramics over time.

Iznik became the main production centre of tiles in the Ottoman dominions, but its popularity and production started waning towards the end of the 16th century, so that by the end of the 17th century its tile workshops were finally closed. Following the 18th century the production centres at Kütahya and Çanakkale became the most important source of tile-work locally. Subsequently, Kütahya took over as the main production centre of ceramics and tile-work, a position the place has safeguarded till today. Avanos, Kınık, Menemen and Karacasu also emerged as important production centres for ceramic bowls and other earthenware.


How are tiles and ceramics produced?

The Mill:The main materials used to produce tiles (clay, Kaolin, quartz, …) are finely ground mixed with water. Its interior is completely covered with silicates. In order for the process to run smoothly, ¼ should be dry material, ¼ water and ¼  small silex strones (the smallest the size of a walnut, the largest two fists) and the remaining ¼ is left empty. The mill needs to be turned at a slow pace in order for the process of grinding to be effective. Normally this procedure takes up to eight hours.

Filter Press:This is used to separate the ground material from the water. Before the material is loaded into the filter press, it rests for about one and half to two days, which leaves enough time for all the water to dissipate. After the material is passed through the filter press it assumes the shape of malleable clay ready to use in the production of ceramics.

Vacuum Press:After the material has lost 80% of its volume due to the disappearance of the water, small pockets of air remain. In the vacuum press these air pockets are obliterated. In the vacuum press all of the air is removed and for the clay not to dry it is placed in small bags. In this way, the clay can be stored for a long time.

The Process of Preparation:In order for the clay to be in the right size for it to be used in the production of ceramics, the clay is being separated in accordance to the size of the object that it to be made and for it to be easily applicable it needs to be kneaded. This is the process of preparation. This is important for the preparation of the clay into the right sizes. This is a very delicate process as the sizes of the products to be made are not necessarily standadised. In the course of this process care needs to be taken not to allow air pockets to form in the clay, as this could to deformed or broken products in the oven.





Template and Turntable:This is a stage in the production of plates and jars. The clay that has been prepared is being placed in plaster cast shapes and given form in the hands of the potter. For each product, a new shape is used. Because as the product dries, it remains attached to the template. This type of work requires years and years of experience. The craftsman also shapes the various parts of the product with the help of a special knife. The drying process is very time-consuming, and the product needs to be protected from averse climatic conditions. Best results are achieved when the drying process is completed in two days time.





Shaping by means of a round turntable:This is a technique used for the production of vertical wares, like vases, jars. Glasses. pitchers etc. In this method the products are shaped on top of a turntable by a craftsman. As a result this is a very delicate operation which requires a lot of skill. The experience and facility of the craftsman ensures that the products resemble one another closely. Products made in this way vary in size from 5 cm to 90-100 cm. The larger the object the more difficult the creation process becomes. 

Undercoating:In order to make the objects more shiny and white as well as to avoid blemishes a kind of clay is applied to the object by way of undercoat. This process is carried out by means of a brush, and the evenly distribution of the coating needs to be taken care of. Otherwise, the products will have a wavy surface and the product will be wasted.

Baking the biscuit:Following all these operations the production if finally ready to be baked at a 1000 degrees. Ovens in various shapes and sizes are used, either wood-fired of gas-heated and the product is thus called biscuit. The baking of the biscuit takes 24 hours and the cooling process another 14 following which the product is ready to be decorated. During the baking process the product is prone to be either damaged or misshapen, which is why products are checked for blemishes after the baking process, by means of taking the piece in hand and running a piece of stone over it. If the product is broken or blemished it produces a hollow sound.

Decoration (line and paint):The decoration process if usually done by female members of the staff. For this reason, a lot of women can be found in Kütahya, contributing to the economy and production process.

 Line Decoration:The first stage of the decorating process if the application of line patterns. The design to be applied to the product is first done on paper. The designs used can be traditional (Ottoman) or modern. The designs are executed by means of a fine needle on a fine piece of paper, which is subsequently placed on top of the object and covered in dust which makes the design visible. Then the line artists applies these linear designs to the object by means of a fine brush and design paint. The designs can be either vegetal, floral or purely abstract.

Painting: The painters colour the designs applied b the line artist, again using a variety of brushes. This might look simple but is in reality a tough job. In the colouring process cobalt blue, light blue, red, purple and green tones are used.

Glazing:The decorated objects are bathes in a substance known as glaze. The glaze gives the object its shine and ensures the survival of the decoration. It looks like milk, but becomes like glass once it is fired. Glazing is an important procedure in the production of tiles.

Glaze Baking:The objects covered in glaze are fired for a second time, but this time at a temperature of 900 degrees. In this baking process, fire-proof shelves or stands are used, as the objects should be separated from one another so as to avoid sticking. This process takes a total of 21 hours: 9 in the oven and 12 for cooling. Care needs to be taken that the heat is divided evenly.


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