The major pottery centers in Lebanon are well known: Beit Chabeb, Rachaya el-Fukhar, and Jisr el-Qadi. Some, like Beit Chabeb, have ceased to operate following the passing of the last potter. Alongside these centers and their classic manufacturing techniques lies Assia, a village in the Batroun caza of northern Lebanon, where pottery skills have been passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, since time immemorial.

The preparation of the pottery paste begins with the extraction of the clay and quartz crystals used in production. This raw material is found in the surrounding mountains. The clay is then filtered with water to remove the pebbles that, if not removed, threaten to make the objects crack during baking. Once purified, the clay is mixed with ground quartz crystals. In the past, the powder was obtained using a manual grinder, but today an electric grinder facilitates the process. The resulting paste is then covered to prevent it from drying and solidifying. When covered with nylon, it can last a year or more. The manufacturing process takes about a month. The clay is worked directly by hand, without turning on a potter’s wheel. The resulting objects, characterized by their red color, are left to dry in the open air for one or two weeks.

Once dry, the pieces are sanded with pebbles collected from Batroun’s beaches to acquire a glossy glazed finish. The absence of chemical paints means that they can be used for healthy cooking or hot dishes. The objects are then fired in a wood firing kiln at 400 degrees Celsius. Firing at high temperatures removes all the water from the clay, triggering reactions that result in permanent changes, such as increased durability, hardening, and shape fixation. In the final stage, many pieces are irremediably damaged due to mishandling or minor manufacturing defects, making the entire process quite tedious.

This traditional know-how is facing the threat of extinction. Out of Assia’s three potters, only two are still active, doing their best to sell their wares on the Lebanese market. To preserve her craft, one of the two potters, who learned the art of pottery-making from her mother, has modified the tradition by passing on her know-how to her husband and two sons.