Kutahya is one of the places which first comes to mind when speaking of tiles and pottery. Ceramics production has been central to the city's economy since the 14th century and possibly earlier, due to the abundance of fine quality clay in the area, although Kutahya's ceramics only gained widespread fame from the 18th century onwards. As well as tiles the potteries here produced bowls, cups, plates, rosewater sprinklers, hanging ornaments, jugs, lemon squeezers, bottles, ewers, flasks, vases and figurines. Early examples of Kutahya tiles dating from the late 14th century were made of red paste and had designs very similar to those of Iznik, but painted in a darker palette of cobalt blue, manganese purple, turquoise and black closely resembling the colour scheme of Seljuk tiles. In the mid-15th century blue and white tile designs became common and the quality improved, although they were still overshadowed by the magnificent Iznik tiles.
Rivalry between the two cities dates from this period, when the Iznik potteries were patronised by the palace in Istanbul and devoted almost all its production capacity to orders from the court and court circles. Kutahya, on the other hand, continued to produce cheaper ware for ordinary people. Towards the end of the 16th century the Iznik potteries began to decline, and the Kutahya potteries gradually began to supersede them in the 17th century. The falling quality of Iznik tiles undoubtedly played a part in this development. In the 18th century production in Iznik stopped entirely and, freed from the influence of their old rivals, the Kutahya potters began to produce ware in a distinctive style of their own. Now their tiles and pottery ware were characterised by vigorous designs in free brush strokes. The tiles of this golden age have never been surpassed in terms of design or quality. They were made of white or cream coloured paste, with designs painted over white slip and covered by transparent glaze.
Green, yellow, turquoise, cobalt blue, brick red and manganese purple were the predominant colours used not only for traditional designs such as tulips and other flower motifs, but the figures of women in local costume, birds and horsemen which characterise this period. In 1709 Sultan Ahmed III ordered 9500 tiles for the palace being built for his daughter Fatma Sultan in Istanbul, and many other orders for Kutahya tiles were placed, for mosques and churches in Istanbul and other cities as far afield as Jerusalem. Tiles fell out of fashion towards the end of the 18th century, only to be revived again in the latter part of the 19th century by the architects of the First National Architecture Movement. The most famous tile painter of this late period was Canakci Haci Hafiz Mehmed Emin Efendi (1872-1922), who learnt the art of tile painting from Mehmed Hilmi Efendi, an Istanbul artist who had been exiled to Kutahya. During the same period more durable tiles made of clay with a higher silica content began to be p
The designs of these tiles, painted in dark blue, turquoise, dark green, yellow and brick red, feature peonies, large curving leaves, spring blossom, naturalistic carnations, tulips and hyacinths, and vases of flowers. One of the most famous early 20th century Kutahya potters was Haci Minas. However, the revival was shortlived, and demand for Kutahya tiles slumped between 1920 and 1960. The efforts of Faik Kirimli played a major role in the section recovery. Using ferrous sulphate, Kirimli succeeded in producing the coral red which had been the most distinctive colour of 16th century Iznik tiles. One of the most celebrated modern Kutahya potters is Sitki Olcar , best known both in Turkey and abroad for his blue and white tiles in Iznik style designs. He uses a granulated glaze, and has revived the colour turquoise of the Ottoman period and the earlier Seljuk yellow.
Today Kutahya not only has hundreds of small and large potteries producing tiles and ceramic ware, but large porcelain factories producing primarily dinner services, and has grown into a thriving industrial city. Kutahya Tile Museum, which opened in 1999, contains examples of Kutahya tiles produced over the centuries.
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