Woodwork Now

Woodwork Now

The geometric patterns, often featuring the Islamic star, are still an intrinsic aspect of Arabic art. Muted shades of orange, ochre, brown and black combine with the luster of mother-of-pearl to make for exquisite artistry.
Mosaic wood products now cover a whole range, from charming pencil boxes, penholders and CD boxes to furniture and fabulous chess or backgammon boards.

The olive wood from Bethlehem or "Bethlehem olive wood" is a local raw material from which mainly religious, historical, and artistic articles are made, using the prunes of young olive trees, and the sprouts from the trunks of the old, unproductive trees. This is an essential process for a healthier growth for the trees and to generate environmental stability. No olive tree has been damaged or destroyed during the process of harvesting the olive wood.


During the World Wars, Palestine was brought under British regime wherein a small industrial revolution stormed through the quiet cottage industry of olive wood carvings. Electric saws replaced hand saws. General purpose lathes and motorized drills replaced simple manual gadgets. Revolutionary copying machines were deployed to produce multiple designs from the master pattern operated by single workmen within a short time. This resulted in enormous increase in volume of production at a faster rate with high degree of accuracy. New products such as chandeliers, beads were also added to the array of sculptural works. In essence the market was flooded with articles at affordable prices beckoning tourists from all over the world. Owners of business houses made high profits due to reduced cost of mass production. The high volume of production enabled export of artworks to countries all over the world.
This woodwork industry was passed from generation to generation until it was perfected and mastered, continuing an ancient tradition of beautiful olive wood carvings in the Holy Land. Today, artisans are producing memorable, meaningful and inspiring gifts and souvenirs.

In Damascus Hassan Sami Sanadiki in Hariqa has a family business which has been in existence since 1885. According to die owner, it is the only firm which has continued this craft without interruption even during the period of total disruption of this craft tradi¬tion between the two world wars. The present owner runs the firm as both craftsman and businessman. He knows his trade well and calls himself a master. The firm employs forty- two workers, who work six days a week, ten hours a day. Their training takes around six months.
The firm restores old pieces of furniture and makes new ones from the catalogue or after consultation with the client. Here again the models are from the catalogue of the Paris World Exhibition of 1897, which is kept under lock and key and is guarded as a trade secret.