Minakari

Enamel, brilliant art of fire

Minakarí refers to the art of adorning metals such as gold, silver and copper, sometimes also glass and ceramics, with opaque or transparent colored materials. In fact, it can be considered an experimental or workshop art that consists of a series of complex interactions whose final product is a very special item of its kind and hence its name. In Iran, minakarí is made mainly of copper. The colors used for enamels are classified into three groups: floral, mineral and metallic colors.

The elaboration of the work happens in several stages:

First, the desired shape is created using different types of hammers.

Second, the object is cleaned well and the enamel is prepared.

Third, the first coat of enamel is completely applied to the surface of the desired object and then placed in the oven at a temperature of 900ºC for two to three minutes.

Fourth, the enamel color turns white as it cools, thus creating the base of the paint.

Fifth, the main lines of the design are sketched and then the remaining parts are painted.

Sixth, after painting on the enamel, the object has to be fired again in the oven at a temperature between 600º C and 700º C.

Finally, the paint is covered with a transparent enamel, it is fired again and the object is ready.

Currently, in Iran, the main production center for enameled articles is in the city of Isfahan, and some important artisans are engaged in this field producing similar works based on the style of enameled painting. Enamel art is mostly applied to make glasses, flowerpots, vases, cups, trays, clocks, containers, boards, jewelry boxes, etc.

Mashhad Mekhraj Kari

Art of creating jewelry with turquoise and other stones

There are many gemstone mines in the Khorasan Razavi province and in the surrounding cities. Therefore, one of the most flourishing crafts in this province is the manufacture of jewelry with precious stones known as “Mekhraj Kari”. Some of the most important gemstones are: aquamarine, agate, types of quartz, turquoise, and zeolite, of which turquoise and agate are the most popular. Specialists believe that no two pieces of turquoise are the same and identical, just like fingerprints, turquoise is also unique. Today, the most important stone carving workshops in Iran are located in Mashhad, where tons of agate and turquoise are carved every year. Mashhad workshops use both traditional and modern methods.

In this craft, to maintain the natural beauty and grain of the gemstones, no glue is used. To fix the stones, the base is designed in such a way that the stones are not damaged. A little pressure can cause fractures and scratches. The Mekhraj Kari is applied to jewelry such as earrings, necklaces, rings, brooches, etc. In 2018, Mashhad was inscribed as a Gem City in the world.

The Iranian Kilim

The term kilim derives from the Persian word “Gilim.” Kilims are flat, hairless knits that are made by matching the warp and weft. A kilim is a cloth woven by hand from goat or sheep wool and is generally used as a rug. Each region of Iran has its own design, which in turn derives from local or nomadic culture and tradition. The kilim is actually a common fabric among nomads that can have other uses besides carpet: tribal salt bag or namakdan; the saddlebag of donkeys or horses called khorjin; tent strips, travel bale or Boqche. Kilims are dyed naturally, and this tradition is still practiced by traditional weavers to this day. The dyeing materials are generally obtained from plant and mineral sources.

Types of kilims and Kilim diversity

Qashqai

The kilims of the Qashqai nomads are one of the most famous in Iran, whose design strength is found nowhere else. Unique geometric patterns, the delicacy of wool and the brilliance of its colors go hand in hand to create unique designs. In fact, the type of processing does not allow for very sharp curved lines or patterns. Qashqai kilims use cotton and wool threads. They fall into two categories: the horizontally striped kilims and those with a central field within the edges. The designs are passed down from memory from generation to generation and generally follow the patterns of the surrounding nature and nomadic life.

Shahsavan

The nomads of Shahsavan are one of the largest tribes in northwestern Iran. The kilim is the most common weaving of the Shahsavan nomads and therefore a large number of kilims in Iran are woven by members of this tribe. Geometric patterns, flower and animal shapes, and a star-shaped pattern make up the nomadic kilims of Shahsavan. Each star, as a recurring shape, is made up of simple symbols in the shape of a triangle or octagon. Many of these kilims also have crab and diamond crochet motifs, examples that can be found in most Turkish crafts from Central Asia to Anatolia. Figures of animals and birds, flowers and stars are often found in the purses and purses of this tribe. Shahsavan kilims are almost small but have a fine and excellent texture. The tribal salt bag, namakdan, is also one of the Shahsavan weavings.

Harsin

Kurdistan is a mountainous region in western Iran. The region has been inhabited since ancient times by Kurdish nomads and semi-nomads who farm on the western border of Iran and produce some of the best wool in the country.

The town of Harsin in this region is a very active center for carpet and kilim weaving. Wonderful kilims are woven in Harsin with geometric motifs, diamonds, medallions, ornaments and the famous Herati motifs, which give their name to the kilim produced in the village. The background color of rugs and kilims is usually dark blue or deep red. The Hersin kilim is a special type of oriental flat weave without hair (which preceded the pile carpet) and is produced mainly by the nomads of Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and various regions of the Caucasus.

Bakhtiari

Nomads are constantly on the move and never stay in the same geographic area for long. They weave handmade rugs and kilims on folding looms. This is why there can be so many variations between their designs and fabrics, that sometimes they also have irregular shapes and patterns. Nomadic designs are not based on a pattern on paper and the weaving is made from memory depending on the transmitted forms or the momentary inspiration of each craftsman. In this way, the drawings can tell us stories about their culture. In general, nomad kilims have a lot of charm and have once again become a basic decorative element of Persian houses.

Baluchi

Due to the climatic conditions, the Baluchis have always expressed their desire to have abundant water resources and grasslands in their fabric. In general, the set of Baluch kilims is formed by a striped fabric, in each row there are different patterns of designs with different colors such as; brown, dark red, camel, blue and light colors like green, yellow and red. Baluch kilims sometimes differ from other Iranian kilims because in addition to the warp and weft in Baluchistan they give it a special touch and the edge is decorated with embroidery.

Turkmenista

The Turkmen kilim is one of the handicrafts of the Turkmen people of the Sahara plain, in northeastern Iran. The weaving of carpets and kilims among Turkmen tribes, as among all Iranian tribes, is considered a distinctive feature and a form of artistic expression. In Turkmen kilims, the motifs are interrelated and are inspired above all by the surrounding nature. Turkmen kilims are not based on a pattern on paper and weaving is made from memory. Among the most frequent motifs are flowers, camel and elephant feet, cypresses and the so-called Bukhara motif. Turkmen kilims are of different types depending on the origin of the tribe and most weavers use a horizontal loom to weave the carpets and kilims. Both camel and sheep wool are used in Turkmen weaving.

Qazvin Kilim

Hand-woven products are one of the handicrafts that date back many years. They were originally created as a means of survival, but they are also symbols of the artistic taste of their creators. According to historical documents, the making of traditional textiles has long been one of the most common trades of the Qazvin inhabitants, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although textile production has declined considerably in recent decades, it has not entirely disappeared and is still practiced by many artists. That is to say, in autumn and winter, when the women of the small villages no longer work in agriculture, they set up their looms to contribute to the family economy by selling their products. Qazvin kilims are very special in terms of designs, colors, dyes and materials.

Sumak

The sumak is a relatively rare type of kilim. Sumak kilims are in a flat weave style and the threads that are typically embroidered are not cut on the reverse side. The weft threads – which have a decorative function rather than the structural function of knotted rugs – are passed through certain warp threads and then wound. All Sumaks have a geometric pattern with many tribal motifs around it. These patterns usually include small birds. Sumak kilims combine perfectly with contemporary, traditional and modern decorations. Sumak is a type of paint that has both the simplicity and lightness of a kilim and the elegance and beauty of a rug.

Khorjin from Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari

Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, despite being small in size, are home to two of the most important tribes in Iran: Bakhtiari and Qashqai that have influenced the crafts of other cities. In addition to its use in everyday life, the khorjin, a type of saddlebag, has other uses in the culture of nomadic society. Nomads use it, in different sizes, as a bag, luggage and chest.

The small khorjins called “Akbeh” are used to transport documents, valuables, personal belongings and jewelry. Some are used mainly by women who ride horses and hang them from the saddle to carry their belongings.

In addition to the khorjin, there are also pom-poms, known as Varaneh, which move when the animal trots and they avoid stings by bees or other insects and reduce the risk of the animal lowering its head to ward off flies. The large khorjins are used to transport food and common tools, also used to transport everyday objects by the inhabitants of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.

Sistan and Baluchistan Khameh Duzi

Traditional embroidery

Khameh Duzi is a subcategory of traditional Iranian embroidery. This work is common in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, especially in the city of Zabol. The word “Khameh”, which has its origin in the word “kham”, which means raw, refers to the fact that raw silk threads and without having been dyed are used to make embroidery on soft white fabrics. The silk thread, with its special luster, is used to create geometric patterns such as squares, diamonds on a white and matte background, creating not only a spectacular sight, but also adding to the durability and strength of the fine fabric. This type of embroidery is mainly applied to clothing, men’s headdresses, tablecloths, and many other fabrics.

The tools and materials needed for Khameh Duzi are satin or cotton cloth, needle, mirror, and white silk thread. In the case of clothing, Khameh Duzi is accompanied by the Siah Duzi, a type of embroidery with black thread. For example, the buttonhole is sewn with black thread and the collar and sleeves are decorated with black stitches.

Shiraz Kashi Haft Rang (Seven Color Tiles)

The tile industry, most used in the ornamentation of many structures and especially in mosques in Iran, has a very ancient history, as does ceramics. According to the objects found, the beginning of the manufacture of tiles dates back to the Achaemenid dynasty, which was common until the 14th century AD.

The term “Haft Rang”, meaning seven colors, was first used by a royal historian of the Ilkhani dynasty to describe the technique of enamel painting, and continues to be used to this day. The number seven, however, does not refer to the exact number of colors, since in this technique the composition and harmony of the colors are more important. Currently, Haft Rang tiles are manufactured in 15 × 15 cm in seven colors: blue, turquoise, red, yellow, fawn, black and white. This technique prevents the colors from mixing with each other because they are well separated by lines of a special type of ink with oil and magnesium components. Shiraz Haft Rang tiles stand out in terms of quality par excellence.

Another notable difference from the Shiraz tiles is the drawing of “Gol o Morq” (flowers and birds). Colors such as light green, pink, yellow, and white are most common in Shiraz, with pink being the most widely used among them. The Nasir ol-Molk Mosque is the exemplary work in use of the seven-color tiles, better known as the Pink Mosque. Other Shiraz landmarks that have benefited from the seven-color tiles include the Vakil Mosque, the Narenjestan Garden, and the Eram Garden.

Hasirbafi of Bushehr

Carpet weaving

This handicraft has its roots thousands of years ago in Iran, and it is a type of handicraft that is created in a variety of ways in each region depending on what nature offers. In the areas of Iran where there are palm trees, palm leaves are used, and in others wicker. However, it is a work whose technique is likely to appear for the production of different objects. In fact, there are many resources in the Khuzestan region of southern Iran, particularly in Bushehr and the Persian Gulf countries.

In many regions, stalks of wheat, rye, rice and palm leaves are also used to weave the products. To weave a mat, the first stems corresponding in size and diameter are collected and soaked in water. Then three or five of them will be tied by another stem.

These packages are woven to produce items such as baskets, bags and rugs with geometric and diamond patterns.

Gereh Chini

Tehran windows, shutters, drawers and stained glass

One of Iran’s traditional decorative crafts is Gereh Chini, which literally means knotting, or the art of placing finely cut pieces of wood on a surface according to a specific pattern. Geometric knots, with rhythmic repetition, are considered an essential part of the Gereh Chini. The art of Gereh Chini art reached its peak during the Safavid dynasty as a type of decorative art for court objects. In the Gereh Chini, the wooden pieces are used in their raw color and no varnish is added. According to the artists who practice this art, the banana is the best wood for this work.

However, wood from other trees such as walnut, beech, almond, blueberry, pear, and jujube, is used to make structures such as shrine doors, chairs, doors and windows, picture frames, tables, dividers, and many other decorative items. There are seven types of knots and each of them has its own background and design. This method is also usable to make the Persian Orsi sash window, a kind of window made with a mixture of knots and stained glass. Those beautiful windows were mainly used during the Zand and Kayar dynasty. The finer the pieces of wood, the more valuable the product will be. The use of male and female unions makes Gereh Chini pieces resistant to the different climates of Iran. Therefore, the works of this art have a great variety, such as windows, drawers, chests and doors.

Chehel Sotun and the historical mansions of Isfahan, the houses of the Tabatabai, Abbasi and Borudjerdi in Kashan and the Golestan Palace in Tehran are the prototypes of this art.

Gabbeh of Shiraz and Bushehr

Typical floor covering from southern Iran

The gabbeh is one of the most popular handicrafts in Iran, especially in cities like Shiraz and Bushehr, very similar to the carpet, but different in pattern, size, color and number of its long and thick fabrics. The patterns on the gabbeh are not the same as those on the carpet and the knotting is less elaborate. The gabbeh may not have an edge or be symmetrical. Many of its patterns resemble simple and primitive children’s paintings, inspired by nature and its environment.

The biggest difference between gabbeh and carpet is the color of the material used to make them. An important part of the gabbeh is woven, using wool in its ecru color. The Bushehr gabbeh has simple backgrounds in white, cream, brown, red, and other similar colors. The weavers are mostly women and girls who have a specific type of pattern in mind. The materials used in the gabbeh weaving process are made from the wool of sheep raised in the area. Some of the most famous motifs are Langar (anchor), Khesht (brick), Chang (harp), geometric figures, birds and animals. Nowadays, the gabbeh in Iran has become a decorative item in the living room and the entrance of the houses, in fact the use of the gabbeh, neglected for a time, is once again appreciated for the casual and sporty decoration of the houses. The gabbeh, despite being a floor covering, is also applied to make other objects such as backpacks, bags, purses, cushions and even pictures to hang on the walls.

Firuzeh Kubi (Turquoise Inlay) from Isfahan

One of the most popular crafts in Iran is the turquoise inlay. The Firuzeh Kubi consists of small pieces of turquoise stone that are embedded, like a mosaic, in a copper, silver, brass or bronze base, covering the entire base or parts of it. Firuzeh Kubi is a fairly recent profession, barely started seventy years ago. It was first invented to decorate jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, brooches, etc. Today, the Firuzeh Kubi is one of the most famous souvenirs in Isfahan. The turquoise gems used in this craft come from stone workshops and from stones not usable for other purposes.

To fill the gaps between the inlays, the base is heated to 40°C, rubber powder is poured in, and the gaps are filled with smaller pieces. The remaining spaces will be filled with blue wax. In the next step, the surface is smoothed and finally the product is polished to a smooth, shiny surface. Firuzeh Kubi amphoras and vases are among the most coveted items in Isfahan.