The Syrian potter preserving a centuries-old craft

Misak Antranik Petros, master craftsman, has passed his art on to the next generation.

In a dimly lit workshop on the banks of the Jaghjagh River in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province, Misak Antranik Petros throws his clay on an ancient potter’s wheel.

Misak Antranik Petros arranges pottery vases at his workshop in an old mud-brick house near the city of Qamishli. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]
Petros throws the classic shapes of his pottery on an ancient wheel in his workshop. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

Now 85, the Syrian potter of Armenian origin says his family has practised the craft for more than 450 years: “The profession was passed down from one generation to another like an inheritance.”

And, after practising it for more than half a century, it has become a part of him. “I don’t like to clean the clay off my hands because I like the texture,” he says.

Petros’s son carries vases off to dry at the workshop. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]
Petros and his son Anto drink tea during a break from work. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]
Petros watches Anto moulding a clay vase. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

A teenaged Petros had to take over from his sick father and become the main potter in the family. Today, he has become a master of the craft and is working to pass his skills on to his sons.

“I am happy when I see the door of the workshop open and my sons working inside,” he said. “This craft deserves to be preserved.”

Petros arranges pottery at his workshop. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]
Petros works with his sons Anto and Yerevan at his workshop. “I am happy when I see the door of the workshop open and my sons working inside,” he said. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

His workshop – in an old mud-brick house near the Kurdish-administered city of Qamishli – is wondrously cluttered with pots, tools and vases.

Petros and his two sons spend most of their time in the workshop, heated by an old wood-burning stove when the winter chill sets in.

AL JAZEERA

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