Hey, everyone! Spring is on its way, and if you are interested in Persian culture or Iranian arts and crafts (which you probably are, because well, look what blog you’re readin’), then you’re surely aware that Nowruz –the celebration of Iranian New Year– is getting closer every day. It’s that time of the year when every Iranian starts designing their Haft Seen table in their mind and growing their lentil sprouts in their house. If you are a foreigner to Iran yet all that talk of Haft-Seen among your Iranian friends has made you curious about New Year celebration in Iran, then rest assured; because you are in a good place. I am gonna tell you all there is to know about the Persian new year, the Haft-Seen table, and also every meaning and symbol behind each element of Haft-Seen!
Hey there! It’s Valentine’s Day again, and most of us have got our presents ready and wrapped! But if you’ve end up here one day before Valentine’s Day, then you probably couldn’t find the time to go get something, or maybe you still have no idea what to get, and now you’re just looking hopelessly for an easy last minute gift with the last-minute characteristic not being that obvious. Well, I am here to rescue you from the deep dungeons of despair!
Relax now. Who says gifts have to be so pricey every single year!? In fact, nothing beats a gift uniquely built in your own hands, with your own time, effort, and love. And in this DIY’s case, you’ll be recycling too! You will give a useless jar a new life! So, remind yourself of these wise words from Eminem, and create something of your own this time!
“Why be a king, when I can be god?”
Come along with me, and let me teach you how to be a god.
Hey there! We’re here today to share a lovely idea we came up with! If you read our last post, you are probably familiar with Khatam & Khatamkari. We now want to make a DIY Khatam book cover! For those of you who haven’t read the last post (which btw you should! Isn’t there a rule about reading all posts of a blog when it’s this AWESOME?), I’m gonna explain a bit about Khatam art.
Khatam is an Iranian woodworking craft; It is made from the tiniest bits of wood and bone, assembled and glued together. These small pieces are primarily shaped as triangles, which form larger triangles, hexagons and stars when glued together. The whole work is then used to ornament decor pieces, rooms, doors and more. Here is a Khatam artwork:
Making a Khatamkari piece is quite hard, and it takes a really, really long time. Not the best entertainment if you have only a couple of hours. But who says you can’t make those gorgeous designs on Khatam with something OTHER than bones and wood?!
You can make them with the one material that is always there, cheapest one on the market, and the easiest to use. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: The good ol’ paper!
We want to make a book cover with Khatam design! You remember that ugly book you never read because its cover doesn’t make you feel like reading? Yeah, that’s the one we want to cover today! And yes, this is a drawing DIY. But a fun, easy, and practical one. Cause it’s the means to a greater goal: beautifying ugly things in the world. Think about it this way: You’ll be giving a poor, ugly book a reason to feel good about itself!
Did you feel bad about the book? Should I keep going about all that dust on the poor thing? Or how the only use it ever had was to be your clipboard when you write the shopping list? I hope you’re starting to feel guilty now! That’s the spirit! Let’s get started then!
Have you ever heard anything about “Khatam”? No? Well then, have you ever heard of Marquetry? Nah? Any bells ringin’? Well then, if you ever wondered “what is the meaning of two words I’ve never heard?” You are in the right place! I am here to answer all the questions you never had!
No, seriously. If you were asked to do a research about Region-specific arts in each country, the huge pile of data you could gather would devastate you! It is just unbelievable how humans could come up with so many different kinds of arts and crafts. How creative can a specie get?! And what’s more, these arts have mostly begun like a thousand years ago! Those naked stone-aged people were definitely not as dumb as we thought. I’m surprised they didn’t manage to go to Mars or something.
Anyway, so today I wanna introduce you to one of these region-specific arts! This one here is named “Khatam” or “Khatamkari”, and is a native Iranian art. It kinda resembles a collage; except instead of paper and cloth, you make it with bones, wood, wires and shells.
From 17th century until now, Khatams have been made with the tiniest triangles glued together in geometrical shapes, and assembled on the surface decor pieces. Before 17th century, the base units were square instead of triangles. Yet after the Mongol invasion, Iranians got introduced to the Chinese inlay method, which was done with simple black and white triangles. That inspired Iranian artists, and they mixed up all they already knew with the Chinese method, leading them to create even better artworks that were neither this nor that.
So Let’s get going! I’m gonna begin with the making process; but if you’re looking for something specific or you simply find another sections more interesting, feel free to use the table of contents below and navigate to any part you want!
Through the years, artists have made so many great Khatamkari artworks. Vases, picture frames, jewelry boxes, sugar bowls, wine pitchers and trays are still made and sold in and outside of Iran.
Look at this stunning khatam vase:
Some modern artists combined this traditional art with modern techniques and made Khatam jewelry:
Back in old days when it was customary to put a decorated chest next to the tombs of important people, many Imams got to have wood chests inlaid with fabulous Khatamkari works. Like this one here:
Here is a Minbar belonging to a mosque in Shiraz. Minbar is a special tribune you can see in any mosque, and it was quite an important part of it; that’s why the artists tried hard to decorate it in the best way they knew of. This Minbar has been here for a thousand years!
Some relentless masters even decorated a whole ceiling with Khatam!
How Do They Make Khatam?
Step 1: Cutting
Making a Khatam artwork begins with cutting wood and bone in long narrow pieces. These are the base materials of Khatamkari. And they are really slim! Grab a ruler and imagine a long line going up from between zero and the second tiny line that shows 2mm, That’s how slim each piece is! With 30 cm of length and 2 cm width, they are only 1-2.5 mm thick.
It’s not easy to saw such small measures of wood, but cutting bones must probably be even harder. The solution is to soak the bones in limewater for some time in order to get them soft and bendable. As long as the bones are wet, they can be cut without much problem.
A khatamkar (the Khatam maker) uses so many kinds of woods, particularly the precious ones. Ebony, betel, walnut, logwood, jujube, orange and aspen can all be used in Khatamkari. In case of Bones, they usually come from camels, horses, and elephants. Oh, and let us not forget ivory! Some of the most precious Khatams are made from ivory. I know it’s really not that animal-friendly, but put yourself in our ancestor’ place; Isn’t pulling out an elephant’s teeth much easier than desperately digging random holes in hopes of finding gold!? (I’m kidding. I know it’s bad, bad, bad. Shame on them ivory thieves!)
Our ancestors were simple people. They were probably just desperate to be artists. I mean, they cut thousands of narrow pieces from bones! Ok, maybe they were really, REALLY bored!
Step 2: Shaping
These branch-like wood pieces and bones now have to be shaped as triangular prisms. They are each placed in a mold-like board, which helps to get all pieces precisely sanded in the same size. Triangles are the smallest units in Khatamkari. Everything is made from triangles. Khatam is basically loads and loads of tiny triangles glued together. All our base materials should be shaped like this, and that’s what’s gonna happen to our third important material, wire.
Step 3: Designing a Pattern
After we have all and everything “triangularized”, now we’ve got to make a pattern. The pattern is a geometrical drawing of how the final piece should look like. It’s a guide to see what shapes we should be making.
So, to sum up, we’ve now got ourselves a bunch of triangular prisms made from wood, bone and wire. We also sketched our pattern. Let’s move on to the next step.
Step 4: Forming Geometrical Shapes
Now this is the part that makes me stand up and applaud these tireless, diligent guys. They put four triangular prisms together and glue them to each other to form a bigger triangle. Each pair of these bigger triangles are again glued together, this time to create a diamond. From now on, the diamonds become the pieces of our puzzle. Khatamkars make so many shapes with them.
From the five-pointed star above to hexagons, pentagons, octagons, decagons, and anything else with –agon at the end. Can you imagine how hard and laborious that can be!?
Step 5: Pressing
To prevent the shapes we meticulously assembled from getting separated, each diamond we make has to be pressed tightly for at least 24 hours. Pressing also helps to fill the tiny gaps that might exist between two triangles. Every new assembly from diamonds must also go through this process. And when we finish it all, even our complete work is destined to endure an amount of pressure, so that we can make sure that everything is fixed well in place.
Step 6: Making it Perfect
When we finally manage to grow our piece in the desired size and form a final rectangle, it’s time to add Astar. Astar is a thin layer of wood, usually poplar, which is glued to the final shape in order to make it even more durable. Not every Khatam has an Astar, but the best Khatams always do. As you’ll see, it is one of the main signs of a good Khatam.
Step 7: Cutting One More Time
If you were a good girl/boy and read up to here attentively, you probably noticed that we made triangular “prisms”, not triangles. It’s time we get to the actual triangles. All the prisms we glued together must now be cut in 1mm to 1.5 mm thickness. Each assembly that we cut makes 20 pieces. Basically we make our initial shapes with prisms, but when we cut them they turn into attached triangles.
Step 8: Assembling on the surface
It’s time to bring on the decor piece we want to decorate. This is the fun part, it’s like you’re solving a puzzle! As you’ll read later, This is where Khatam, Marquetry and Intarsia start to become similar.
Step 9: Sanding
The surface of our Khatam must now be gently sanded in order to remove even minor roughness. This is very important for achieving a fine, high quality Khatam.
Step 10: Oiling
We’ve reached the final step! The only thing left to do is to make the fabulous artwork look shiny and smooth! Oiling helps us achieve that, but it also seals Khatam, protects it from air, and increases its lifespan.
An average Khatam kari takes 400 stages to be finished. Working with all that teeny tiny pieces, I think the old Khatam makers must have been blind! Maybe it was even something to boast about. “I’m an old blind man, then I must be a better artist than you perfect-sighted young loser!”
Similar Arts around the World
We are all from the same origins, we Eurasians. We have similar languages, similar looks, and similar artistic tastes. That means that along with Khatamkari in Iran, there is also Marquetry, folk Lath art and Intarsia. I know for a fact that the Chinese have something similar, too. I’m sure no one copied from the other (it wasn’t that easy to travel back then, was it now?) and it’s amazing how a simple kind of woodwork managed to become this different in each country! Human mind is bizarrely creative, isn’t it?
Back to different kinds. Let’s start with Marquetry.
Marquetry or marqueterie is a picture or a geometric shape made with thin layers of wood (veneers). Veneers come in different kinds, which gives some variety of colors to choose from. First, you decide what kind of wood you want to use for each part of the picture, and then you cut that part from your veneer. After all the cutting is over, you can start the fun process of assembling all pieces together and gluing them. It’s really like a jigsaw puzzle at the end. It is also like a 2D drawing; which means sanding it is quite important for getting rid of rough surface and achieving a smooth look. The rest of the making process is the same as Khatam; adding backboard, polishing, sanding, and oiling.
Intarsia is very similar to marquetry. In fact, they probably have the same process. Well how can you tell them apart? Take a look at the teddy intarsia below; you’ll notice that it is made with thicker layers of wood comparing to Marquetry. These fat pieces add a 3rd dimension of “depth” to the work. What’s more, picture marquetry usually has a rectangle frame which is not necessarily needed in intarsia, given its 3d look.
Khatam, marquetry and intarsia, these arty jigsaw puzzles left to us from the ancient folk, are fairly similar but enormously different. They all begin with making a pattern or picture, which helps you create each part separately. You then montage the whole piece, and finally you go through sanding, polishing, and oiling. They also share the same main material which is wood. Marquetry and intarsia might also Include some bone, ivory, and shells. But khatam uses bones and even wires more sparingly; in fact they are its most important materials along with wood. Khatam also differs in the shape of its pieces; they aren’t just one layer of wood, but actually a combination of many smaller pieces. This makes khatamkari a longer and much harder process than marquetry or intarsia.
Where Do They Make Khatam?
In 16th-17th century (Safavid era), mostly the south cities of Iran were focused on Khatamkari, especially Esfahan, Shiraz and Kerman. After that, Khatam followed the kings wherever they went and basically got developed in capitals and important cities. That means Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran; where still the main Khatam workshops of the country are busy at work.
How to Tell Good Khatam from a Bad One?
A Khatam gets its beauty from its carefully built geometric shapes. That’s the thumb rule. An asymmetric Khatam is no Khatam at all!
The amount of work that was put into making a Khatam is also important. The more triangles you use the more precious work you create. The tinier the triangles are the more valuable a Khatam becomes.
Make sure to notice if all parts of the surface are polished flat and evenly, and that there is no empty and undone space.
Repairing shouldn’t be visible on the work.
The oil coating should be smooth and flawless.
A fine Khatam usually has Astar, which makes it more durable and If the Khatam is a quality one, it must have a wood Astar. Never buy a Khatam with a paper Astar! Ever!
This one is a bit obvious, but a fine Khatam should have a quality glue. The usual glue in fine Khatam is isinglass. Though I don’t know any way that you can distinguish that; so you might have to just trust what the shopkeeper says!
Ages ago, the best Khatam makers used natural colors to dye their base materials. Nowadays the chemical colors have found their way to Khatam workshops. Given that they’ve found their way to well, practically everywhere, using them in a Khatam doesn’t give it a bad name anymore. However, if you ever find a naturally dyed Khatam somewhere, make sure to get your hands on it before anyone else does!
And finally, you need to know what materials were used to make this Khatam. Once again, you probably can’t make sure about this one! But if you encounter a reliable shopkeeper and he says his Khatams are made with Ebony, betel, walnut, logwood, jujube, orange, or aspen woods, you might feel more confident buying from him! Oh, and let’s not forget the wires. They’d better be of either brass, aluminum or silver.
That’s all I had about khatam! I hope you enjoyed it and more importantly, I hope you found it useful. Now tell me, What do you think about Khatamkari? Do you like how it looks? How do you feel about the backbreaking process of making it? Do you think it’s worth it, or not? And while we’re on the subject, If Khatam has drawn your interest you might wanna take a look at some lovely khatam decor pieces we have on our website! Go check ’em out!
P.S. By the way, we’re preparing a lovely DIY post for next week, but I’m not gonna tell you what it is (the mischievous girl that I am). Just a tiny hint though, it is inspired from Khatamkari! Make sure to take a peek at the blog and you might get surprised by what’s waiting fer ye! 😛
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Alipourian, Z. (n.d.). راه اندازي كارگاه خاتم سازي و خاتم كاري (فرايند توليد و مراحل آن). Retrieved from زندگی: http://moafaghiat89.blogfa.com/post-139.aspx
Ebnabbasi, E., & Moqtadayi, A. (2014). Handicrafts and Their Evolution in Iran. Tehran, Iran: Jamale Honar.
How to Create Marquetry. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wheat Hills: http://www.wheathills.com/pages/how-to-create-marquetry.aspx
Intarsia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intarsia
Lessons & Techniques. (n.d.). Retrieved from Marquetry Society: http://www.marquetry.org/hows_it_done.htm
Marquetry. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquetry
Marquetry Lesson. (n.d.). Retrieved from Collectable Woods: http://collectablewoods.com/marquetry_lesson.htm
Schürch, P. (n.d.). Review – Marquetry, the Italian Way. Retrieved from Fine Woodworking: http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/marquetry-the-italian-way.aspx
تاریخچه هنر خاتم کاری. (n.d.). Retrieved from صنایع دستی: http://blog.sanayedasty.com/تاریخچه-هنر-خاتم-کاری
خاتم. (n.d.). Retrieved from هزار دستان: http://www.hd-handicraft.com/Details/1495/خاتم
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خاتمکاری. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://fa.wikipedia.org/wiki/خاتمکاری
ساخت خاتم به روایت تصویر. (n.d.). Retrieved from صنایع دستی: http://blog.sanayedasty.com/ساخت-خاتم-به-روایت-تصویر/
Hey There! It’s that time of the year, and I’ve started my annual digging for the creative minds of the people in web. Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas here in Iran, every year I am amazed about how many creative and genius ideas come to existence in this last month! People just go nuts around the web, everyone seems so jolly and happy, and every Instagram account is posting Christmas trees and presents. It’s so magical! And I love to people-watch, even if I only get to see the magic that goes on in internet.
So, I’ve gathered some lovely ideas about things to do Christmas, mostly about gifts and how to give gifts and how to surprise while giving the gifts (In one word, gifts)! I wanna share them with you guys, and I will also include some of my own ideas that came to my mind while searching the web!
Weaving a carpet is hard. Everyone knows that. Not many people (including me) happen to just “try it out”. But who says you can’t use the process to do some other creative thing? (And an easy peasy on, preferably!) So Fatemeh has just come up with the idea of making a DIY necklaceout of carpet knots! Isn’t that just brilliant?
If you’ve ever woven friendship bracelet, you might find this a bit similar. If you haven’t, don’t be afraid! It’s not that hard! I’ll try to explain as much as I can, but you might have to check each picture twice until you get it straight. No pain, no gain, huh?
Let’s do it!
What You’ll Need
DMC cotton embroidery floss. we used black, green and brown. Feel free to use any colors you like! Luckily, embroidery floss come with a wiiiiide range of colors! Just watching them in the market makes me feel in peace.
Paisley patterns rock! Back in 18th century when neither you nor me were alive (except maybe if you’re the overly passionate-craft maniac grand grandma who broke the Guinness record by being 150), these cute designs ruled the fashion world. They’re originated from Iran and India – found their way to the west world back when India got important for Britain. These lovely droplet shapes are called all sorts of stuff over the time! Teardrops, Persian “Pickles”, Welsh “pears” (Seriously, I need to check what pears look like in England). Nowadays, they’re back in the game in fashion shows and stores. (Yesss!) I even saw some cute swimsuits with these printed on. Adorable!
Anyway, I figured as we all love Paisley so much, why not make some jewelry out of it? So, I played with clay a little, tried this and that, And this is what happened:
As this is fairly easy, you’ll see, and fun! Here is how it goes:
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
– Karl Marx
What’s Our Story?
It was 3 months ago when I received a job offer from an online market specialized for Persian arts and crafts, handmade home accessories and Iranian artworks. Six months even before that, a carpet company asked me to help with their website design and social networking, and that was the first of many times I thought of ideas to introduce Persian arts and crafts to the rest of the world; Something that filled me thrill and excitement. Now that a way had opened to do something real about everything I imagined all this time, I was in. I accepted the offer.
To reach our goal, there were and still are many challenges to face. But why do we care so much to take it all in and face them? Why is it so important for us to get the world to know Persian arts and crafts? In fact, not even two members of our team will give the same answer. Each of us are interested to working in this field for a completely different reason, and based on that, each of us has a different idea on how to make progress toward our goals.
Some of us want to redesign and modernize the handicrafts; some rather preserve the tradition but fit it in the modern lives. But what keeps us all together is the value we give to art, the love we have for the handmade vs. machine made and the respect we believe the craftsmen and artists deserve.
Who Are We?
Rizo is a trading company for Persian arts and crafts. Various teams work on Rizo, each concentrated on a different field. We have already introduced Rizo on our website, so maybe it would be better if we answered another question: Who are the social networking and blogging admins?
My name is Navid Kakoli, and my specialty in Rizo is marketing strategy. As my field is somehow related to all the other fields, I try to be in touch with all the teams. In the case of content production, I analyze the statistics, SEO, and develop the content production calendar.
Our main blogger is Fatemeh Azimi. I knew Fatemeh as a creative girl who knows how to make awesome crafts. That was why I asked her to write posts on DIYs in the first place. But soon I found out that she also has a vast knowledge about pottery, woodcarving and carpet weaving and can therefore cover a wide range of our favorite topics.
I knew Maryam Moghaddas, our other blogger from years ago. I was already aware of her proficiency in English, French and Turkish. Given the quality of her writing and translation along with an interest in craftiness, she seemed an ideal choice for translating our posts and content production of social networks. With Fatemeh and Maryam joining Rizo, the core of content production team was now complete.
What’s the Schedule?
Every Sunday, we publish a new post. You will also see one or two additional posts every month, which you can be notified for if you follow our facebook page. The topics will involve home décor, fashion and modern lifestyle, along with Persian arts and crafts and introducing Iranian artists and craftsmen. We will also dedicate one or two weeks each month to creative DIYs.
What’s Our Goal?
Last week, I traveled to Neyshabur for a business trip. I got to know a carpet weaver and seller with lovely rugs and kilims. He knew so much about each rug, its weaving techniques, and the story behind it. Among many stories he told me that day, the strangest one was the story of an exquisite kilim with 480 thousand knots in each square meters. Not one of its colors was industrial; each and every color was extracted from a mountain plant. The old woman who had woven this kilim 20 years ago, hadn’t use any pattern; it was all in her mind. For 15 months that it took her to finish the rug, she imagined the pattern day and night, never drawing it on paper. With the old woman passing away, there is no one else today who can weave a similar carpet, and with the industrialization going on, it is unlikely that anyone will ever spend 15 months to weave a rug.
This blog will be written for a modern world, but introducing these cultures, traditions, arts, and bringing them to the modern life, this is what we will not miss!
How to Be In Touch?
If you have any particular suggestion, are interested in temporal or permanent cooperation with our team, or would like to get in touch for any other reason, please visit the contact us page.