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Silsal Ceramics was started in 1991 in the basement of two sisters, Reem and Rula Atallab, who wanted to do something that would benefit their country and make a difference. They also wanted to preserve the cultural tradition of ceramic art, create jobs for women artisans and utilize local resources, skills and talent.
Originally part of the Jordanian heritage, ceramic art was slowly dying out. One of the reasons why this traditional craftsmanship was starting to be lost was the forcing of the roadside potters off the roads by the government because of the pollution created by the use of kilns. Also contribution to this loss was that children of the potters were not being encouraged to take up pottery.
After 18 years, the business had earned Silsal a sterling reputation and had become the go-to-gift shop for individuals, families, foreign embassies and corporations, but the sisters wanted to retire. Reem offered the job of managing the studio to her daughter, Samar Habayeb, who at the time was completing an architecture degree. She quickly changed gears, enrolled in a ceramics program in the UK and then returned to Amman to run Silsal.
Each piece is still handmade in the workshop requiring 25 people to work in tandem during seven stages over two months. Samar has maintained the traditional motifs such was Kufi Arabic calligraphy and a circular design inspired by an 11th century Samarkand plate, but expanded the number of items available. On the rims of bowls, plates and trays she encouraged experimentation with block calligraphy, with the edge carved to correspond with the curves and notches of Arabic script. Many bowls, cups and vases also feature a retro floral pring, reminiscent of 1960s wallpaper patterns, and the modern influence is increasingly apparent.
Today Silsal Ceramics employs craftsmen from Amman, Zarqa and Salt, some for more than 10 years. The workshop has long since moved from the basement and is now housed, along with the gallery, in two 1950s villas between the fourth and fifth circles of Jordan's capital Amman.
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