Fars province is one of the well-known provinces of Iran. There are only a few people who have heard Iran’s name but have not noticed Fars. Especially that the Persian language, and for a long time Iran’s international name (Persia) was originated from this province and the Pars tribe of the Aryans. The foundation of the world’s first civilization was built in Fars and spread worldwide. Fars has yet been able to support this reputation. From Persepolis to Nasir mosque, the visual and artistic effects of these works are so amazing that they are included in the list of the most visited places in the world every year, and where other than Fars could give such a huge variety to the world.
For several times, Fars has been capital to all Iran; therefore, it fully knows what cultivating art means. While going up and down with the bumps on the road of history, this center of cultivating art seldom failed, even when The Moguls attacked, they managed to stand like a strong fort, and became a haven for each artist. Being said so, Fars takes the lead on producing some special handicrafts and mastering it. Handicrafts are usually the type of crafts that are made by hand or simple tools and mostly, they are one of a kind. Each handicraft could be different and the person producing them masters the art. Handicrafts are cultural symbols of a country or a specific geographical region. These crafts were a part of whatever people normally used in life, not some antic they should put away or use only for design and decoration. Overall, some special handicrafts originate from Fars province itself. The reason for such a claim is that they are made and mastered by the touch of the nomads in Fars so these handicrafts do not depend on a specific place or city. These crafts are known as carpets, Kilims, and Gabbeh. From long ago, Persian carpets were famous and were ready for the world to know them, therefore it didn’t take very long to make a universal reputation. It is true that cities such as Yazd, Tabriz, and Kerman are well-known in the carpet business but also in Fars province due to some special colors and patterns, this handicraft has made a stage for itself. If not longer, the background of carpet weaving in Fars goes back to 12 centuries but there are documents that since the fourth century of Islamic calendar these carpets became popular. Such a background backs up any industry. These carpets are mostly weaved out of cotton, wool, and in some cases, silk and were not always to cover the floors. Some used them as a wall hanger as a part of a decorative reason. Kilims in Fars are also woven with a frame and some carpet tools. One of the reasons why Kilims in Fars are so different from others is that they are all woven with inspiration, no pre-design map is used and the patterns are usually made of textures.
Lur and Turk ethnic groups, as they are the most population of nomadic tribes in Fars, are the masters of Kilim and Gabbeh and you could find the finest of them in Vakil Bazar, Shiraz. Pottery is an art with a clear footstep on history. Any country with a golden age has once used pottery to tell its story from the ancient times. Iran has a famous figure in pottery. Fars province’s southern cities especially Lar and Gerash, due to the quality of their land and soil, made handicrafts through pottery and exported them to countries around the Persian Gulf. Many simple and glazed potteries are produced still in Fars. These days’ cause of the sense of nostalgia, the attraction of these pottery handicrafts has increased. Maybe one could argue whether stucco is a handicraft or not. Stucco is handmade and goes back to the Achaemenes era. The Sassanid dynasty, originated in Fars, mastered the art and no Persian house went without stucco. The traditional method with bergamot, flower and plant designs is a relic of Zandieh era. Master craftsmen, especially the younger ones, have made innovations in the field of stucco and have tried to transfer this art from mere decoration to the decoration of things, such as paintings, mirror margins, and sculptures. Stucco as a handicraft in Fars is gradually taking root. Fars province plays house to yet another legendary handicraft. Cities such as Meymand, Firoozabad, and even Shiraz have workshops for glassblowing. The history of this fine art could not be summarized in this blog. We’re talking about too many pages. From pre-historical ages the art has made its way into decoration and jewelry. Glass is an amorphous solid which could be shaped by heating. Masters of glassblowing would heat and blow the glass then color it with natural colors and make glassware, containers, decorative windows, jewelry, etc. Nowadays in any handicraft shop glassblowing, has a specific section for itself.
Marquetry is a noble fine art that has made its way to the contemporary era with traditional patterns on wood. Long before marquetry on wood became so common, the artists would gather around little pieces of mosaic and make a picture in the form of large boards. These boards were found in Kazerun in Bishapur from the Sassanid era where they were called the masters of this art. Marquetry as a handicraft is now focused on wood and it is more popular this way.
Shiraz was the capital city of Fars, and it still is. Therefore, when it comes to handicrafts, it’s the origin of one of the finest arts called Khatam, the Persian way of inlaying. Khatam is a combination of regular polygons with different numbers of sides that are formed using different raw materials in different colors. This art needs high care and attention, which is why it has become one of the most difficult and delicate handicrafts. For example, the inlay of the pulpit (Minbar) and the roof of the Jameh mosque of Atigh in Shiraz are the highest models of this art. Special equipment is required for khatam crafts, raw materials such as wood, bone or metal, and tools like hammer, saw, drill, and other types of razors. Khatam is a professional art that was used to decorate holy shrines and wealthy benefactors paid the masters to do their best for these places. Later on, the margin of the mirrors, windows, the base of vases, decorative and jewelry boxes, and chess boards were also products of khatam inlaying.
Shiraz has a special handicraft that at its own time had a special art school for its students who later became the masters and kept the school alive. Miniature and its special techniques in Shiraz can be a worthy handicraft and a fine gift to give someone you respect. Painting a special rose flower with a bird called nightingale (Gul-o-Bulbul) is also another style in painting and could be sold as handicrafts originated from Shiraz.
Metalworking could also be one of Shiraz’s handicrafts. This branch of delicate production has two sub-branches like toreutics and silversmith. Toreutics is the fine art of making patterns and shapes on a piece of metal which is usually copper and could be nearly anything, a vase, a dish, the margin of mirrors, and even pens. Silversmith is close to making jewelry and from how people have welcomed it, silversmith became widely available and most of the handicrafts are crafts made out or produced from silver or somehow have silver in it.
One of the oldest, most delicate, and beautiful pieces of art in Iran is tiling. This exclusive way of decoration, has carried on most of Iran’s aspect of architecture. There are two main techniques in tilling. One is marquetry tiling and the other is seven color tiles. In the later, first the master and designer draw the pattern with several colors (red, pink, blue, turquoise, yellow, black, and purple) on the tile and then by firing it in a kiln make their master piece ready to be used on buildings. Shiraz has made a name for itself in this type of tiling. The most famous scenery decorated and designed by these seven color tiling is Nasir mosque. Seven color tile workshops in Shiraz are ready to sell tiles in form of frames and boards. This colorful handicraft is a very fair gift to give to someone special or to keep as a reminder of your trip to Shiraz.
Iran’s decorative art in architecture, as any other country, has many categories. One which is originated from Iran existed during the Sassanid era. Aina-kari or mirroring is a glamorous art and later turned into a glamorous handicraft. Shiraz always had an air about it that made the city loveable. Many kings of different dynasties whether Shiraz was their capital or not, gave the city special attentions. This is the main reason for so many styles in decorative art that exist in Shiraz. Qavam House and Zinat-ol-Molk’s house are examples of Aina-kari and many Persian houses have a room with this decoration.
Mirrors in Persian culture are symbols of brightness, joy and positive energy. Producing different shapes of mirrors and combining mirroring with other handicrafts like silversmith or metalworking has made this category of Shiraz handicrafts welcomed with open arms.
Other cities in Fars province have their specialty. Like handicrafts of the ethnic groups, you could find them in Shiraz too. But knowing where they originally come from gives credit to these handicrafts. In Fars province, specially Abadeh, wood carving goes way back and some of the most beautiful pieces of works are made in this city in forms of boxes, chess boards, furniture, tables, etc.
Wood carving means carving patterns of flower and plants on wood so that it may seem alive. Nowadays the patterns and shapes are not limited to just plants and green life but usually, they are inspired by nature. This delicate art goes back to 1500 years ago and pieces of it were found as archeology evidences in Fars province. With owning most of the wood carving workshops and the fact that wood carving professional masters are originally from Abadeh, this city has become the world’s capital of wood carving.
There is a special footwear, made also in Abadeh, known as Giweh (some shoes like espadrille). Giweh is handmade and the exclusive technique used in Abadeh for this type of shoe is called Maleki. These shoes are made of carpet yarn or silk, cloth ,and a piece of leather. Handcrafters from Abadeh create protrusions on the bottom of the leather part so that its surface would not be slippery. Today, with projects such as Iranian traditional clothing, wearing Giweh has increased and the Malekis from Abadeh are out of their obsolescence.
One of Fars’s ancient and yet nearly forgotten handicrafts is bulrush mat making. This type of handicraft is specific to towns like Zarghan. Bulrush mat making is some sort of mat made out of bulrushes which grew quite fairly near riversides. We could easily say it is even older than weaving. Handcrafters cut the bulrushes with a sickle, then pour water on it and pluck it to use them as textures. In some places people use bulrush as thatches. Mats made out like this were so popular and giving it the time it needed to become an art, the way of weaving it turned into a special technique which made the object not only a antiquity but a very delicate handicraft. Kazerun nomads, who live almost in the west of Shiraz, are also good artists in the bulrush weaving and making all kinds of wicker baskets. Bulrush weaving in Kazerun is done with swamp straw or palm tree fibre, and apart from women, men also have a special skill in this art.
Estahban of Fars province, a city 175 km away from Shiraz, has succeeded in producing various types of pottery ceramics. This art was registered in the list of spiritual heritage of Iran. The market for pottery ceramics has boomed since the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization supported the art. The technique used to make these special ceramic containers or decorations is from Estahban and has been distinguished throughout the country. At one time, these handicrafts were pretty much unknown, but today they are very popular in handicrafts, especially when they are produced with high quality.
Handicrafts are usually everywhere, apart from the concept of souvenirs; they are the particles of a country’s culture. As a guiding line, before any trip, we should have the necessary information about our destination. This information also includes handicrafts. In this article, we have tried to introduce you to the most prestigious handicrafts in Fars province and the most artistic ones, although the discussion does not end here. Crafts such as dyeing and djadjim weaving are also handicrafts that would be disguised latter. In general, paying attention to the handicrafts of each city, especially Fars province, with its background, enriches the journey ahead.