Iran has an ancient history and is the origin of one of the most important human civilizations. Archaeological findings, some dating back to eight thousand years ago, clearly indicate that the country had been the cradle of culture and art since long ago. Handicrafts are the best manifestations of this fact. Iranian handicrafts include fourteen major branches and more than 300 products; this fact proves that the art-industry of handicrafts has a long history in Iran. Handicrafts embody various aspects of history, nature and cultural continuity and identity of different Iranian tribes.
The main branches of handicrafts in Iran are: traditional textile, woven handicrafts made on looms, traditional clothes, traditional embroideries, traditional prints, architectural manual arts, pottery and ceramic, leather handicrafts, metal handicrafts, sea handicrafts, wooden handicrafts, traditional paper-based handicrafts, stone handicrafts and glass works.
1) Traditional Textiles
refer to the process of making traditional fabrics. This art includes 26 main branches: silk weaving, blanket weaving, fabric weaving, rug weaving, camel-wool weaving, cloak weaving and Termeh weaving. Termeh is one of the most salient handicrafts which is mainly used as souvenir, it is a very delicate hand-made fabric which is made of wool and silk with traditional designs like Paisley, Toranj and Arabesque.
2) Woven Handicrafts Made on Looms
these works need a wooden framework or loom to be woven. The looms are either vertical or horizontal. This art includes different majors such as weaving of carpets, rugs and mats. Iranian carpet which is known all over the world is a piece of fluffy mat which is made of silk, cotton, wool and etc. According to the rituals and customs of each region and depending on the raw materials, the design, pattern and weaving style will be different including “Gabbeh”, “Relief Floral Designs” and “Khersak”. It is interesting to know that the skill of carpet weaving in Fars and Kashan was registered as spiritual heritage by UNSECO World Heritage Convention in 2010, also kilim of Shiraki Pich of Sirjan City in Kerman Province has been globally registered by World Crafts Council in 2017 and Tabriz is known as the world city of handmade carpets (2015).
3) Traditional Clothing
the products which cover different parts of body including headbands, footwear, shawls, hats and others; each of them is made according to the traditions and symbols of a region. Traditional footwear is used by nomads and villagers and is made up of cotton, silk or leather depending on weather conditions. Different kinds of footwear include Giveh, Charough and Chamoush. Giveh is a traditional footwear and Giveh of Marivan which is called Kalash in Kurdish (a small town in Kurdistan) was globally registered in 2017.
4) Traditional Embroideries
it is the art of decorating simple fabrics with shapes and colourful threads using needles and hooks. There are more than 100 different kinds of embroidery and it is the broadest branch of handicrafts spread across Iran and in each region there are different styles of embroidery. Needlework, patchwork, coin work and brocade works are some of the examples of this art.
5) Traditional Print
it is the art of printing different shapes and designs on cotton, silk and woollen fabrics using a stamp. The two main kinds of traditional print are called “Batik” and “Kalamkari”. The latter is one of the famous souvenirs of Iran.
6) Architectural Manual Arts
this is the art of shaping lime, plaster and making muqarnas which can be seen as decorations of the buildings and houses using traditional architectural techniques.
7) Traditional Pottery, Ceramic and Tile
these products are made of clay and then are baked and formed in a furnace. Different kinds of bowls, jugs and vases which are the oldest handmade potteries of human being with the antiquity of 8000 years can be classified in this group. Tiles are mostly used in architecture and decoration of the buildings. Making “Kharmohre” (a kind of ceramic artwork with bright turquoise blue color), pottery and ceramic, perforated tiles, Zarrin Fam (golden) tiles, mosaic tiles, Banna’i tiles, Minai tiles, rainbow tiles, clay mosaic and painting on pottery. The city of Lalejin in Hamedan province as Iran’s capital of pottery and Kalporagan village in Saravan city of Sistan and Baluchistan province as the only living museum of pottery in the world with the antiquity of 7000 years have been registered in the list of world heritage in 2016.
8) Handmade Leather Handicrafts
it is a kind of art in which products made up of animal skin that have been processed and designed with traditional patterns using different techniques. The art includes cover making, traditional leather manufacturing, leather burning and saddle making.
9) Metal Handicrafts
the artist carves different traditional shapes on pieces of metal such as iron, copper, brass, gold and silver. This art consists of 23 majors. Toreutics, the art of engraving patterns on metal surfaces by the use of various hammers, is considered as another famous souvenir of Iran.
10) Sea Handicrafts
this art is common in Iran’s coastal cities, especially along the Persian Gulf. The artists use sea creatures, sea shells scallop, starfish and fish bones to decorate different picture frames or make jewelleries like necklace and bracelet.
11) Wooden Handicrafts
the wooden stuff on which shapes and patterns are carved using different tools and equipment. This category also includes works covered with wooden pieces, metal chips and bones. This branch of art is composed of 21 sections such as bamboo weaving, woodturning, embroidering, mosaic, wood carving, Khatam and decorating surfaces with small pieces of geometrical shapes.
12) Traditional Paper-based Handicrafts
it is a collection of artistic works on paper. It is divided into fourteen branches; namely, illuminated manuscript, concrete poetry, plastic painting and miniature. Miniature is a kind of painting patent to Iran and its main characteristic is the lack of dimension and perspective. The artists create depth and dimension using brushes or pencils in a special ways.
13) Stone Handicrafts
different kinds of gems or semi-precious stones such as turquoise, marble, jasper, black and white stones are used in this art. The craftsmen use different tools to carve and shape the stones. Different types of this art include engraving gemstones, carving on stone, turquoise carving and inlay jewelry. The city of Mashhad in east of Iran as the world city of gemstones was globally registered in 2016.
14) Glass works
it is the art of creating shapes by melting silica, mineral oxides and glass pieces. Artists create a cream of this material and then shape it by different methods such as blowing and molding to make decorative or consumable dishes. Aina-Kari (a kind of interior decoration by putting small pieces of mirror together in geometric forms), carving glasses, stained glasses and vitrail are different kinds of this art.
It is worth knowing that from more than 600 instances of handicrafts registered in UNESCO world heritage, 366 of them belong to Iran out of which 196 items are from Isfahan. Hence, due to the variety of historical works in Isfahan (which is among the first 8 cities of the world), its architecture, long history of trading, production continuity, supply and sales of traditional arts and handicrafts, it was registered as the creative city of handicrafts in 2015.