The Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory was founded in the Yildiz Palace garden with Abdülhamid II’s support. The founding goal of the factory was to provide for the needs of both the palace and the country through local means and also to make the factory a tool of diplomacy with the ornate items it manufactured. The factory operated in three main periods. The first period is the one that started in 1892 with the factory’s construction and lasted until the Second Constitutional Era when Abdülhamid II, the founder and supporter of the factory, was dethroned. During this period, which is the main operation period, the factory’s management was conducted through the Ministry for the Sultan’s Treasury. The required technical employees, machinery and raw materials were provided from France. The pieces that decorate museums and important collections under the name “Yıldız İşi (Yıldız Porcelain Works)” were made during this period. The factory suspended its operations after the Second Constitutional Era.
The second period of the factory began when the state re-opened it owing to the numerous petitions and applications from the workers whose workplaces were closed down after the Second Constitutional Era. During this period, the management of the factory was assigned to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education focused the factory on Ceramic manufacture, which had a long-established tradition, instead of being based on only the porcelain manufacture, which was open to European competition. The factory officially re-opened on July 14, 1911 under the name of Yıldız Ceramic Factory. However, bringing a new professional from France took more than a year; therefore, the inauguration of the second operation period of the factory was delayed until September, 1912. The factory operated until World War I; however, the items manufactured during this period were fewer in number and they were of poorer quality. The most important reason behind this was the fact that the factory lacked the support it previously got from high officials. The wars the country participated in, one after another, also made it impossible to develop the factory.
The third and last operational period of the factory during the Ottoman era was about a completely different kind of production than the ones determined in its original objectives. By taking part in the World War I, the Ottoman Empire could not import the isolators needed for telegraphic communication from Europe because of the war conditions. To fulfil this need, it was proposed to produce the isolators, which are made of porcelain, inside the country instead. The government allocated a budget of 4000 liras and the factory manager Mesrur İzzet Bey procured domestic raw materials and the needs of the country, which was under harsh war conditions, were met and communication continued. The factory suspended its activities once more in 1921 after Istanbul was invaded.
After the Proclamation of the Turkish Republic, the factory stayed inactive for many years. In 1957, attempts to re-open the factory began. There was no porcelain factory in the country, so the government wanted to revive this historical factory. The government took action for this by assigning the task of restoring the factory, equipping it with new tools and machinery, and operating it to Sumerbank (a state-owned bank). The machinery needed for production was manufactured by Dorst Keramiche Maschinen Fabrik and the electric furnaces were manufactured by Siemens in Germany. The factory, which was founded with French expertise, was thus renovated with German technology. The name of the factory was changed into “Sumerbank Yıldız Porcelain Industry Establishment”. The factory began its activities in the Republican era on January 1, 1962.
The factory, which started its activities during the republican era under Sumerbank’s control, went into a new era with the privatisation of Sumer Holding Company in 1994. The Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory was entirely handed over to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Department of National Palaces in 1994. Today, it is operated as a museum-factory that displays different periods of the significant work it did to develop the Turkish porcelain art and industry, and the works of previous artists and makes custom products accordingly.
There are three speculations regarding the establishment of the Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory. The first speculation is that the French ambassador of that period suggested it during a meeting with Abdülhamid II. The second speculation is about the fact that the important states at the time owned porcelain factories in connection with their palaces. In those factories, very special and ornate products were being produced for the people in the court and their inner circles. With this in mind, Abdülhamid II wanted to create a porcelain factory that was in connection with his palace and would produce special items. The third speculation on this subject is that the factory was founded directly upon the suggestion of the French ambassador. Abdülhamid II or the statesmen at the time did not initiate it. The ambassador wanted to create a business opportunity for a man he favoured. Therefore, in a meeting with the sultan, he proposed founding the factory and thus began the efforts to establish it.
There is no precise information about which one of these speculations were the ultimate influence. However, the factory’s main supporter Abdülhamid II was very much interested in art. He took interest in carpentry. In his personal atelier, he would make interior decoration items like tables and chairs. Though, not as much as carpentry, he was also interested in porcelain, ceramic and painting and whenever he had the chance, he enjoyed reviewing them. His quite interested attitude towards art and handicraft might have affected his approach to such a factory. In conclusion, regardless of an influence of a foreign ambassador, Abdülhamid II must have very much liked the idea of establishing the Yildiz Porcelain and Ceramic Factory.
The architect of the Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory is Raimando d’Aranco. The factory building is situated on a small plain on the eastern hillsides of the outer garden of the Yıldız Palace. The building, built by the palace’s famous architect in 1892, does not resemble a factory with its external appearance. It looks more like a school building that combines Oriental/Islamic and Western architectures, and which brings together the stunning interpretations and images of terra-cota. The French Louis Dat was the technical equipment contractor of the factory.
The most important need of a factory is the raw material, without which the factory cannot operate. The raw materials of the Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory were imported from abroad for most of the time it was active. The primary resource of raw materials was France from where the technology was also imported. Even though there were some activities before, production using domestic raw materials was achieved with the shortages World War I caused. When there was no way of importing materials from other countries, the domestic resources were searched and the need during that period was thus met.
The second most important need after raw materials is workforce. According to the available sources, 73 people were employed in the factory in total from the date the factory was founded until the Republican era; and 14 of those employees were foreigners while 59 were locals. Most of the foreign employees of the factory were brought from France’s Limoges and Sèvres cities, both of which are famous for their porcelains. Five kinds of professionals were procured from abroad for producing porcelain: production manager, moulder, baker, floor expert and artist-decorator. The most important of them is the production manager. A production manager supervises every stage of the production process and is responsible for everything from preparing the porcelain paste to pouring the paste into moulds, from firing of the moulded material to adorning the product that comes out of the kiln as white porcelain in order for it to become an end product. Three French people worked in this position. The first production manager Blanche resigned after working at the factory for almost one year. Pierre Tharet, who became the production manager after Blanche, stayed in this position until the Second Constitutional Era. Because no local professionals could be trained for the position, another French person named Monsieur Naret was appointed to the production manager position of the factory when it re-opened after the Second Constitutional Era. Local professionals could be trained in other fields, though. Two people were brought from France as floor expert and baker. Both of them went back to their countries after September 1897. There was no more need for a foreign professional in these two fields because it was possible to train staff who could take over the job from among the local employees. For the fourth field of profession, moulding, two foreign professionals were brought. Monsieur Tarakor quit his job at the factory in June 1897, and the second moulder Monsieur Cluzelout continued his job until the end of World War I as long as the factory was open. In the artist-decorator field of profession, which is the fifth and broadest of them all, 7 foreign and 19 local employees worked together with the assistants. Most of the local artists graduated from Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (School of Fine Arts).
The Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory had three main production goals. The first was to cater for the porcelain needs of the palace, the second was to use the spectacular items produced here in diplomatic gift-giving. The third goal was to sell the products that fell outside the context of the first two goals to the common public. The Yildiz Porcelain and Ceramic Factory produced its first products in 1894. The factory initially operated as a palace factory. The first products produced here were not aimed for daily use. They were mostly works of art, which were produced in order to be used in the decoration of halls or to be given as presents to the high state officials and to European countries. Today, some of the works of the factory are at Topkapı Palace, and some of them are at the palaces, mansions and pavilions that are under the management of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Department of National Palaces.
The main production goal of the Yıldız Porcelain and Ceramic Factory was to cater for the porcelain needs of the palaces’, the Yildiz Palace being among the first of such palaces. Significant amounts of products were given to the state on various dates to be used by the palaces. Some statistical information can be given regarding this subject. 4237 porcelain items in 1902, 3888 porcelain items in 1903, 5702 in 1904, 5699 in 1905 and 1432 in 1906 were delivered to the state. The second production goal of the factory was to give the spectacular items produced there as presents to foreign statesmen and ambassadors. With this practice, which constituted some kind of an excuse for the political goals of the era, many gifts were presented to various offices and people including English ambassadors, the German Emperor, the Russian Tsar and the American museum. The third intended purpose for the factory products was to sell the surplus products to the common public. In the fair, which was opened in the courtyard of the Bayezid II Mosque during the Ramadan month, the products of the factory would be sold to the public along with the products of the Hereke Woven Factory. The second place where the products of the factory would be sold to the common public other than this fair was the company store of Hereke Factory, which was located at the Sultanhamam district of Istanbul.
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