Today, I want to tell you the story of a fantastic niche brand from Lebanon, called Blatt Chaya.
If you’ve been following the story of Pomegranate for a while, you’ll know that I'm always looking to find brands that make great handmade products with quality craftsmanship. What I particularly like though, is when they also help preserve and revive age-old crafts and techniques, giving them a new and contemporary lease of life in today's crazy mass-market world.
Whilst doing a little research for another blog post about our brand Images d’Orient, I came across the charming Lebanese brand that is Blatt Chaya, and because I loved its story and the principles it stands for, I just had to tell you about it.
Blatt is the Arabic word for tiles and the company belongs to the Chaya family. The driving and creative force behind the business is Edgard Chaya who, having thought he had retired after a long career in finance, re-discovered an old family business that was first started in 1881 but had lain dormant since the 1940s, and that he decided to revive.
After a relative left him a box of old metal moulds which he researched, he realised that his ancestors were in the cement tile business. This doesn’t perhaps sound so amazing or romantic, but we are talking about the entirely handmade, wonderfully patterned and colourful tiles that can be found in some of the old houses in Beirut and in other areas of the Mediterranean.
They were very popular at the turn of the last century but lost a little of their popularity during the 1950s (and are the same tiles that have inspired so many of the designs in the Images d'Orient collection!).
He spent years rediscovering, studying and refining the craft until he was able to reproduce tiles in the same way his great-grandfather did. By designing and creating each mould by hand, using nothing but traditional materials and natural colours and an entirely craft-based production, this long forgotten art form gradually experienced a bit of a renaissance.
This video tells the story of Blatt Chaya beautifully:
As you saw in the video, as the news spread throughout the creative community in Beirut and Lebanon, demand from architects, interior designers started to increase and his tiles were being used in restoration projects of old houses and in more contemporary new homes as well.
BLATT CHAYA TILES IN SITU
— The Blatt Chaya workshop is a busy, happening place!
I love the story of Blatt Chaya don’t you? An old art is literally revived from the ashes and thanks to a sensitive and persistent retiree, Blatt Chaya tiles are now back in production and certified to be used not only in Lebanon but in various countries across the world including the UK. Bravo!
I remember seeing tiles like these during a buying trip to Beirut a few years ago and being completely mesmerized by them. I was meeting a lady about some hand-blown glass and couldn’t keep my eyes off the floors in her studio - they were gorgeous!
As I write this, I realise that the coaster on my desk is a cement tile with a red and white pattern on the top which I bought on a trip to Spain. And that the Pomegranate branding includes patterns not too dissimilar to some of those in these pictures. Must be those Lebanese origins coming through…
'till next time...
Photo credits: All images courtesy of Blatt Chaya