The identity of each country can be found in different layers of culture and history of that ancient civilization. This identity tells part of an ancient story of connections between the art and civilization of the people of that region. Iran, with its glorious and deep civilization, is one of the founders of cultural and historical civilization among all countries of the world.
This manifestation of Iranian civilization can be found in the art remained by the ancestors of Iranians in historical monuments such as tombs, mosques, palaces, and many other such works, although these historical works of artworks play a major role. By playing a role in various structures of society, works of art have played their role in conveying the mission, as a part of Iran's cultural identity by creating different indigenous and national layers in cultural works from the past to the present.
But among the artworks, despite the different cultures throughout Iran, we face different works, one of the most magnificent of which is the art of handicrafts, which brings a manifestation of ethnic and national culture to the fore.
Iranians have always admired noble life. While holding to simplicity, they would also want to live in a beautiful environment and to be in touch with beautiful objects. This mindset has contributed to the creation of various handi-crafts for use in every-day life. Iran’s traditional arts have survived the passage of time to the present day. At times, Iranians have inspired artists from different nations. Next time when you present a perfume bottle to a friend or loved one, remember that the history of your gift goes back to Iranian artists who would create elaborated perfume bottles for nobles. There are approximately 320 Iranian handicrafts, some of them have 9000 thousand years of historical background. These include various textile arts, metalwork, pottery, woodwork, and leatherwork, among others.
In this article, we want to get acquainted with a selection of the best Iranian handicrafts that are world-famous.
Pottery or ‘Sofālgarī’ is one the most acclaimed and renowned, traditional handicrafts of Iran which that refer to the art of making different kinds of pottery and crockery of baked clay such as bowls and jars. The kind of pottery without glaze is called “biscuit pottery (Sofāl)”. Iranian ‘Sofāl’ or earthenware is made of ‘secondary soils’ ( secondary soils are those not fixed in one place but moving all the time. therefore, have less purity and stickiness and are baked in the heat of 950 to 1000 degrees centigrade. The most important secondary soil is clay, whose natural color varies from buff to red. One of the main centers of pottery in Iran is, however, Kolpurgān in Sīstān Va Balūchestān Province that is well-known for its distinctive making-technique that is briefly dealt with here; In Kolpūrgān the crockery is made by string method rather than the traditional pottery-machine. In the string method, the clay is kneaded and shaped into thin strings. Then the clay strings are put together to reach the desired size. Subsequently, the potters make a lot of vertical or diagonal lines to fade the lines of the string clays and make the surface appear smooth. After that, they draw the desired shapes and designs on crockery, and finally, put them into kilns. Kolpūrgān’s earthenware is not enameled which resembles the earthenware of primitive men.
Embossed wooden work is one of the fabulous and traditional handicrafts of Iran that affects the art of embossing and engraving the wood based on a preferred design. The oldest embossed wooden work, belonging to the first half of the third century of the Arabic calendar, is a wooden door that is the property of ‘Jame-Atīq’ mosque in ‘Shiraz’. The ingredients of embossed wooden works are various types of wood. It is needless to say that the high-quality woods produce much better results-like walnut, pear, and boxwood. In the embossing process, the desired designs-mostly arabesque and traditional Khatāyī designs are engraved on the wood, which makes the designs look embossed on them. Embossed wooden works are used in furniture, boxes and cases, picture and mirror frames, and Quran lectern.
It’s one of the Iranian handicrafts that refers to all the products that are made of ‘primary soils’ and have been kilned and glazed. (Primary soils are those that have greater purity and less stickiness owing to the fact that they have not been transformed ever since their coming into existence and have remained fixed. They also need 1200 degrees centigrade of heat to be baked. White soils and stoneware soils are cases in point.)
‘Varni’ is the name of one of the Iranian mats and hand-weavings that according to its weaving technique is placed between Gilim and carpet; it has the same loom as in carpets and Kilims, and has a thin weft of cotton strand and thick warp of colored wool or silk strands. A similar hand-weaving handicraft with the name of Shirikipich is woven in Kermān with almost the same technique, but their differences in terms of their designs. In Varnī Bāfī the designs of simple and stylized animals are employed and it is very popular in Azarbaijan and Ardabil provinces.
One of the branches of decorative handicrafts of Iran is called Negārgarī or ‘Miniature’ which means a microcosmic nature. In the Iranian art of miniature, nature is not depicted as in photos or pictures, but rather is drawn according to the artist’s will and taste. Nowadays the art of Negārgarī has evolved and become more modern; the schools of Shiraz and Harāt have contributed to this transformation with their outstanding and distinctive features. One of the most distinguished artists of Iranian miniature is Mahmūd Farshchīān, whose artistic, inventive, and characteristic methods and masterpieces are well-known all over the world.
It’s one of the traditional handicrafts of Iran that its origin goes back to the Sogdians period that lived in the Caucasus around 5000 to 7000 years ago and had Aryan origins. Engraving is done on different metals such as copper, brass, silver, gold, and also some alloys. After the engraving is done, tar is removed from the work, and the chiseled area is covered with charcoal powder and black lubricating oil. Finally, the work is wiped clean and the black lines of the engraved designs appear on the surface of the work.
‘Khātam’ is one of the graceful Iranian handicrafts that is utilized to coat boxes, cases, and frames. As an acclaimed expert in Persian archeology has put it a sample of Khātam is: “a pair of doorposts belonging to the year 1591, with a background of walnut, tiled with bones and various pieces of wood, and is called ‘Khātambandī’.” precision and patience. Tiny triangles of wood, bones (camel’s and ivory), metal (gold, silver, copper, and brass), glue, and tools such as thin saws and files are among the typical items utilized in the making of “Khātam’.
Gilim is one of the traditional and enchantingly beautiful handicrafts of Iran whose oldest sample dates back to the Parthian era. Although more than thirty different types of Gīlīm have been discovered, it is possible to classify Iranian carpets into three categories:1- The category of plain, two-sided and flat Gīlīms that are woven by ‘Pudgozari’ (weft-placing) method. 2-The group of one-sided or ‘Sumak’ Gilims that are woven by means of the ‘Pudpicheshi’ (weft-twisting) method. 3-And finally the third group of Iranian Gilims is ‘Golbarjasteh’ (flower-embossed) Gīlīms that are one of the fascinating and most significant.
‘Mina’ is one of the most traditional handicrafts of Iran whose origin dates back to around 2000 B.C. As professor Pope has put it in his book ‘The Survey of Iranian Art’: Enameled working is done through two different methods; the first method is to turn the colors into soft powder and mix them with water and glycerin, and then solve them on a glass surface and finally drawing the desired design on the object, just like an ordinary watercolor painting. In the second method, the colors are mixed with pine tree ink and the objects are painted using the oil color technique.
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