About a 4 hour car ride from Istanbul headed South towards Bursa and Eskişehir is Kütahya, a city famous for its ceramic tiles and porcelain production. This area has an abundance of clay, making it the main reason why this Turkish city has been making ceramics since the 14th century.
We visited Kütahya Porselen, established in 1974 and is Turkey’s oldest living porcelain brand and one of the largest producers in the world. When it comes to tableware, everyone in Turkey knows their name, and are familiar with their products as being known as one of the best. Even as a visitor you might be able to spot their iconic blue or red, gold patterned tea dishes – those are Kütahya. Without even realizing it, our plates at home are Kütahya!
First stop, the Porselen Müzesi (Porcelain Museum), an impressive and extensive collection of ceramics, tiles and history throughout the years – with all displays in Turkish and English. Cases upon cases of ceramics of different shapes, colors and styles include examples of Kütahya pottery and tiles that can be seen in Topkapı Palace and the Pera Museum in Istanbul.
In addition the history of Kütahya and the Kütahya Porselen company itself was featured. Below, a replica of Kütahya Porselen’s founder Nafi Güral’s parents in his childhood home. Let’s just say impeccable detail!
Along with a display showing the history of Turkish coffee ceramics and traditions.
INSIDE THE CERAMIC TEXTILE FACTORY
Beginning in 1989, NG Kütahya Seramik began producing floor and wall ceramics, a product not as popular as their porcelain but the process is just as extensive and carefully curated. To be honest I forgot the length of this factory, but as you can imagine based on the photo below, it’s enormous! It’s equipped with the latest and greatest technology, with robots doing the heavy lifting and an oven that takes 45 minutes for the tiles to reach “Hell” (the end of the oven where it reaches 1200 degrees celsius).
INSIDE THE PORCELAIN FACTORY
For work we were provided special access into the factory, so below is only a snippet of the extensive process that goes into Turkey’s famous Kütahya porcelain products.
This room is called “the sucuk room”, nicknamed after the Turkish breakfast sausage, sucuk. After the clay is mixed together, it’s portioned into “sucuk links” and is kept here to remain cool until it’s ready to be used.
Plates have just been pressed and can be seen being cleaned (the edges are being smoothed) before heading to the oven.
A set of ceramics entering the oven.
A set of cups, trays and plates before they’re glazed by a machine or decorated by hand with paints or stickers.
This group of men are responsible for getting a handle on things. Yes, bad joke, I know. Coffee mugs are carefully and securely transported along the conveyor belt. Before being cooked items like these are similar in consistency to a biscuit and can easily crack and fall apart. To the left, men are cutting handles (like with a cookie cutter) where the men pictured above are carefully attaching them to the mugs.
Pictured above are tea pots and their molds. The molds are first filled by a machine, and then are carefully taken apart and cleaned (edges smoothed) by hand.
This breathtakingly beautiful Turkish coffee set was gifted to me – and I’m still in awe by it’s beauty. This is an example of one of their most iconic styles and designs.
NOTE: Tours of the facilities typically don’t occur, however we were provided special access for work.
If you ever catch yourself driving through or near Kütahya, be sure to visit the showrooms, museum and restaurant. And if you’re looking for a bargain, past the factories about 2km towards the center of town is an outlet store on the left-hand side. The upstairs is filled with cheap Kütahya porcelain, carefully look at the products, some have little imperfections in their painted and printed designs.