"In Palestine there are still a lot of factories that make leather objects, but there has been a huge loss in quality. The craftsmen don’t get the good materials, new tools are very hard to come by and there are hardly any opportunity to further develop one’s skills, due to the lack of training facilities and educational opportunities. Even a project as DDFP can’t help us with this. It is neither their objective.
I remember well when suddenly two foreign designers, Moniek Driesse (NL) and David Juan Ortiz (ES) were standing in my studio. They told me that they were participating in a design workshop and that they were looking for a partner to make a wallet. That was a totally new experience to me.
Because of the occupation, it is a real problem for us to export our products. Everything is stopped at the border. But even when I would manage to send my products abroad, I wouldn’t be able to get paid. Israeli laws make it impossible to pay me with Visa or to allow me to receive foreign money transfers. The DDFP platform has helped me to overcome these problems, as they don’t experience the same restrictions for export. They can also collect the money and make payments to me. Unfortunately, for the moment I only have two products in their collection. So the financial impact is yet not very big. I can only hope that DDFP becomes a big company so they can sell and buy a lot of our products. They are quite unique and we need them. To my knowledge there are no other organisations that can support us in selling our products outside Palestine.
I was very happy when I saw my name on the brochure of Disarming Design, together with the products I made. That was a real boost of confidence for me. It strengthened my self-esteem, knowing that I was given the opportunity to let the people know who I am and what I am capable of." (From Kurt Vanbelleghem interview, Can one really benefit from a social design project, or is it just another spin at the wheel?)
The tradition of glassblowing continues today in three factories just north of the city, a short distance between the town of Halhul and Hebron. Two of the factories are owned by the Natsheh family. They produce primarily souvenirs, most of which are also used as household items. A large hall close to each of the factories displays wine glasses, dishes, bowls, flower pots, and other products. Although most objects are not decorated, some have artistically applied glass strings. Metallic decoration is a recent innovation of the industry.
Glass beads for jewellery have traditionally been made in Hebron. Blue beads and glass beads with 'eyes' (owayneh) were made and used as amulets since they were considered particularly effective against the evil-eye.
In the old city’s Al-Kazazin quarter (Kazazin meaning ‘people who make glass’), three families operated 14 glass factories. Today, there are only two of them left, run by the Natsheh family. The first Intifada, combined with the affluence of cheap goods from China and the rise in oil prices forced the majority of glass shop owners out of business. Both remaining factories have relocated to the entrance of the city, because tourists are sometimes fearful to go too deep into the old city.
Mr. Hamdi - who runs the Hebron Glass & Ceramics Factory together with his brother -started working when he was 17, in 1967. Nowadays, he exclusively deals with administrative aspects, but he is still capable to tell which one of his workers did which piece just by looking at it. The savoir-faire is passed down from father to son, but some are more talented than others and each glass-blower insufflates his own personal touch into his work. The job is hard, sitting seven hours a day next to an over 1000°C hot oven. Workers learn from early childhood and continuously refine the skill.
Hebron Glass is the leading product of those companies. The name originally applied to the national hand-crafted, mouth-blown glass named in Arabic Zujaj Nafakh. Because the color blue is a cultural favorite in the Arab world, Hebron Glass came to describe the blue glass products, both the light turqoise blue (copper blue) and the deep royal blue (cobalt blue). The factories also specialize in a Middle Eastern favorite, Imzakhraf, which is a dot-painted, Arabesque design technique on traditional blown glass.
Fakhoury Pottery and Karakashian Pottery in Hebron and Jerusalem respectively supply our beautiful handpainted Palestinian ceramics. The Fakhoury’s come from a long line of potters and, in fact, the name Fakhoury even means “potter” in Arabic. Their shop is located in the old city of Hebron where Israeli soldiers and settlers routinely physically and verbally harass Palestinians. Despite the difficulties, the family is determined to keep their store open and their craft alive. The Karakashian studio in Jerusalem continues the family tradition that began in 1922 when Megerditch Karakashian came to Jerusalem to help renovate the Dome of the Rock. All the motifs are traditional designs - birds, peacocks, gazelles, fish and various floral patterns. Each piece is hand painted with a hand made brush.
The Open Studio is a center in Khan Younis where knowledge and know-how are exchanged. Khan Younis is a small town in Gaza with a large refugee camp that has existed for over 60 years and is still growing. It is an Islamic Arab culture that has been cut-off from the outside world; the largest prison on earth. If the political situation allows, artists from abroad visit the Open Studio to participate and teach.
Abu Ameed is a shoemaker and the owner of Rahala Shoes in the center Ramallah. The shop is crammed with samples and one-offs that Abu Ameed dreamed up. He wants customers to come and see their shoes being made, feel the leather, drink coffee and get creative with their footwear.