The Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory whose origins go back to the Ottoman times is still in production, creating delicate, hand-made goods that are exquisitely Turkish.

The Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory is located in the midst of a heavenly woods called Yildiz Parki, in Istanbul’s Besiktas district. The historical establishment goes back to the late 19th century. It was set up by Sultan Abdulhamid II as part of an industrialisation initiative as ‘Yıldız Çini Fabrika-i Hümayunu’ in 1891.

The lid of a Turkish delight bowl dipped in water.
The lid of a Turkish delight bowl dipped in water. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

The reason for it being set up was to have a factory in the same vein as those supplying European courts and to have the output to promote Ottoman identity around the world. The factory, manager Serife Tuba Uzun tells TRT World, was damaged in the earthquake of 1894, and was rebuilt by Italian architect Raimondo d’Aronco and continued its production.

The porcelain and tile output of the factory, Uzun says, was offered as gifts to foreign dynasties as well as used in the decoration of Ottoman palaces, pavilions and summer palaces. The same beautiful vases and plates and tiles that were once fit for kings and princes are now available for the general public, being sold in stores of locales under the Directorate of National Palaces.

Porcelain goods out of molds waiting to be fired.
Porcelain goods out of molds waiting to be fired. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

While there is a 130-year history to the factory, it didn’t operate throughout all this time uninterrupted. In 1909, production stopped when Sultan Abdulhamid II was removed from power. The factory was attached to Müze-i Hümâyûn Müdürlüğü afterwards, with museum director Osman Hamdi Bey working to get the factory working again. After Osman Hamdi Bey’s death in 1910 his brother Halil Edhem Bey was appointed as the museum director. Following repairs at the factory, production began again in 1912.

Veteran porcelain master Sultan Koktas at work.
Veteran porcelain master Sultan Koktas at work. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

The Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory was active during the Republican era, producing goods while under the roof of Sümerbank (a Turkish bank established after the Ottoman Empire gave way to the Republic of Turkey). It was assigned to the Turkish Parliament Directorate of National Palaces in 1994, and after Turkey became a Presidency, to the Presidency of the Republic, the Directorate of National Palaces.

Tugba Aksu attaches the bottom of a bowl at Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory.
Tugba Aksu attaches the bottom of a bowl at Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

The clay prepared in Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory’s raw materials workshop later gains its form in lathe and casting workshops. It is baked in biscuit firing and glaze firing ovens. Baked porcelain that has a shiny exterior is then decorated with multiple techniques in the decoration workshop and baked again. All products bear the emblem of the factory of hegira calendar 1312 (Muslim calendar that begins with the prophet Muhammad’s travel from Mecca to Medina), as well as the year the product was made, and the name of the artist who produced it.

Ufuk Topcubasi at the lathe working at the Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory.
Ufuk Topcubasi at the lathe working at the Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

Director of Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory Serife Tuba Uzun says the factory specialises in two kinds of porcelain: functional and decorative. The output developed during the Ottoman period and Sumerbank period after the establishment of the Turkish Republic consists of various sized plates (both for dining and for decorative purposes), sahan (shallow frying pan with two handles), decorative bases, pitchers, aşure (an Islamic dessert believed to be first made by prophet Noah) bowls, cups of various sizes, bowls for dried nuts and fruits, and sugar bowls.

The mold for a pitcher design at Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory.
The mold for a pitcher design at Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

Yildiz Porcelain goods can be found on sale at gift shops at the factory, as well as Dolmabahce Palace, Beykoz Glass and Crystal Museum, the Istanbul Painting Museum and Beylerbeyi Palace, among books and other gift items. Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory is open to visitors in a limited manner: visitors can see the decoration workshop where artisans paint over the fired clay for final touches before the products are fired one last time.

Zubeyde Toraman is new at the Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory, but she comes with 25 years of experience.
Zubeyde Toraman is new at the Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory, but she comes with 25 years of experience. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

Yildiz Porcelain and Tile Factory is open to visitors in a partial manner: they can visit the workshop where the final decoration takes place. Other production facilities are open to visit with special permission. Student tickets are 5 TL (less than a dollar), Turkish citizens are 15 TL ($2) and foreigners 30 TL ($4). Müzekart, a museum pass available for Turkish citizens and legal residents, is also valid at the factory.

Canan Sukas decorates the lid of a candy bowl with colourful flowers.
Canan Sukas decorates the lid of a candy bowl with colourful flowers. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)
Source: TRT World