Iran is home to one of the richest art heritages and handicrafts in world history and distinguished in many disciplines, including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stone masonry. The high plateau of Iran has seen the development of many cultures, all of which have added distinctive features to the many styles of Persian art and architecture. Although earlier civilizations are known, the first archaeological finds of artistic importance are the superb ceramics from Susa and Persepolis (c.3500 B.C.)
Tourists visiting Iran from different countries, find a variety of Iranian handicraft goods, which are interesting and pleasant to them in the traditional bazaars of Iran, especially in larger cities. Yet the kind of goods offered in the traditional bazaars at the present time does not introduce the real collection of Iranian handicrafts. Some of these products are either obsolete or like hand-woven silk cloths are very rare. Silk cloth is produced only in one or two special workshops so that the amount of production is only sufficient for museums and international exhibitions. Nevertheless it can be said that, Iranian handicrafts reach out to interested people and here we intend to review the manner in which contemporary artists produce some of these goods.
Here is a brief list of Iranian art and handicraft:
- Calico (Ghalamkar)
- Engraving (Ghalamzani)
- Inlaid work
- Making National Musical Instruments of Iran (Tar & Setar)
- Miniature (Negargari; the Iranian drowning)
- Persian Carpet
- Writing and calligraphy
- Tile work
Ghalamkar (Persian Tapestry Tablecloth) fabric is a type of Textile printing, patterned Iranian Fabric. The fabric is printed using patterned wooden stamps made of pear wood which has better flexibility and density for carving and long-standing utility. A tapestry may be stamped depending on its density and size, between hundreds and tens of thousands of times. For instance, 2 meters by 1.4 meters should be stamped about 580 times up to 4000 times in an elegant work.
Metal Engraving (Ghalamzani)
Engraving (Ghalam Zani) is the art of carving superb designs on various metals such as copper, brass, silver and gold. Isfahan is the main center for engraving. The artistic work of this course made by the artists are the glorious and undeniable indication of Previous metal work of Iran and Isfahan. Persian Metalwork Engraving is perhaps the most continuous and best-documented artistic medium from Iran in the Islamic period. Each hand engraved item may take up to one week to be finished depending on its size.
Gerehchini is an art to create beauty with wood and glass. This art beautifys surfaces with use of geometrical figures, colored glasses, wooden pieces of Mo-arragh art, inlaid mirrors shaped with glass cutters which in the end will create a symmetrical and balanced structure.
Enamel (Meenakari) Handicrafts
Meenakari is the art of coloring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colors that are decorated in an intricate design. Enamel working and decorating metals with colorful and baked coats is one of the distinguished courses of art in Isfahan. Mina is defined as some sort of glass-like colored coat which can be stabilized by heat on different metals particularly copper. Persian Enamel handicrafts can be used as wall hanging plates, home decor and candy dishes.
Turquoise Inlaying on Copper (Firoozeh Koobi)
Turquoise Inlaying on containers includes a copper object on parts of the surface of which small pieces of turquoise are set in mosaic fashion thus giving the object a special glamour. The production of Turquoise Inlaying includes two general stages: Goldsmith includes the making and preparation of the object intended for Turquoise Inlaying using one of the metals indicated above. Then Turquoise Inlaying where the artist buys waste turquoise chips & use them in making each Turquoise Inlaying object in proportion to the surface area.
Wood Inlaying (Khatam Kari)
Khatam Kari consists in the production of incrustation patterns (generally star-shaped), with thin sticks of wood (ebony, teak, ziziphus, orange, rose), brass (for golden parts), camel bones (white parts). Ivory, gold or silver can also be used for collection objects. Sticks are assembled in triangular beams, themselves assembled and glued in a strict order to create a cylinder, 70 cm in diameter, whose cross-section is the main motif: a six-branch star included in a hexagon and then plated and glued on the object to be decorated, before lacquer finishing.
Hand Painting Miniature (Miniator)
Persian Miniature is a small handmade oil painting on paper or more importantly on a piece of camel bone. The techniques are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts. The bright and pure coloring of the Persian miniature is one of its most striking features. The workshop tradition and division of labor within both an individual miniature complicates the attribution of paintings. Some are inscribed with the name of the artist, sometimes as part of the picture itself.
Persian Carpet, the art of carpet weaving in Iran dates backs to 2,500 years and is rooted in the culture and customs of its people and their instinctive feelings. Weavers mix elegant patterns with a myriad of colors. The Iranian carpet is similar to the Persian garden: full of floras, birds and beasts. The colors are usually extracted from wild flowers, and are rich in colors such as burgundy, navy blue and accents of ivory. The proto-fabric is often washed in tea to soften the texture, giving it a unique quality. Depending on where the rug is made, patterns and designs vary. Some rugs such as Gabbeh, and Kilim have variations in their textures and number of knots as well. Out of about 2 million Iranians involved in the trade, 1.2 million are weavers who produce the largest amount of hand-woven carpets in the world.
Writing and calligraphy
Persian calligraphy has several styles. The style initiated by Darvish was emulated by his contemporaries–Mirza Hassan Isfahani, Mirza Kouchek Isfahani and Mohammad Ali Shirazi. After his death, the Shekasteh style fell into stagnation until it was revived in the 1970s. Says writer Will Durant: “Ancient Iranians, with an alphabet of 36 letters, used skins and pen to write instead of earthen tablets.” –
Such was the creativity spent on the art of writing. The significance of the art of calligraphy in works of pottery, metalwork and historical buildings is such that they are considered deficient without the calligraphic adorning. Illuminations, especially in the Qur’an and works such as Shahnameh, Divan-e Hafez, Golestan and Boustan, are recognized as highly invaluable because of their delicate calligraphy alone. Vast quantities of these are scattered and preserved in museums and private collections worldwide such as the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and Washington’s Freer Gallery of Art among many others.
Tile work is a unique feature of the blue mosques of Isfahan. In the old days, Kashan (kash + an literally means “land of tiles”) and Tabriz were famous centers of Iranian mosaic and tile industry in the past. Since centuries, Iranian art has developed particular patterns to decorate Iranian crafts. These motifs can be: – Inspired by ancestral nomad tribes (such as geometrical motifs used in kilims or gabbehs). – Islam influenced, with an advanced geometrical research. – Oriental based, also found in India or Pakistan.
Iran’s National Museum consisting of the Archaeological Museum, along with the magnificent collection of the Islamic Museum offers a breathtaking collection of Persian art dating back to some 7 thousand years ago!! The Abguineh museum offers a wonderful exhibition of delicate glass and ceramics housed in an elegant early 20th century building. The Carpet Museum also justifies the worldwide fame of Persian carpet weaving with its display of beautiful new and old carpets created in the workshops of Kerman, Qom, Tabriz, Isfahan and Kashan, etc.At the same time Persian miniatures and calligraphy – two more artistic traditions in which the Iranians excel – can be seen at the Reza Abbasi Museum. The named museums are just a small selection from the fabulous collections to be visited in Tehran.