The Qalamkar Project

Persian woodblock printed textiles supporting women's welfare in Iran

 What is Qalamkar?

Qalamkar is a form of Persian woodblock printed textile that originates from Esfahan in central Iran over 400 years ago. Unlike lesser quality, machine-printed fabrics coming out of India, Pakistan and China recently, each work of Qalamkar is traditionally hand-printed by the few independent craftsmen still spread throughout Esfahan.

 

How are they made? 

The process of creating Qalamkar is long, arduous and incredibly hypnotising.

A full video of the process can be found below: vvv

What materials are they made from? 

The materials used to produce Qalamkar are 100% natural! From the cotton fabric to the pigments and dyes used for printing, every single ingredient of Qalamkar is natural and derived from local sources. As Qalamkar have been produced since the 1600's, they pre-date many technical and chemical processes and reached their level of being a refined art before many artificial additives were even invented. 
Also due to the natural ingredients there are no health risks associated with handling the pigments, and workers have no risk of inhaling or absorbing toxic chemicals in the production process.

What are the patterns? Where do they come from?

Traditionally patterns and motifs were derived from the Safavid architecture of the time. Currently, the most popular pattern in Iran is a lattice design originating on the roof of the famous Jameh Mosque in Esfahan.

The floral lattice pattern as seen in the popular 'Gonbadi' design and the original design on the Jameh Mosque, Esfahan.

The floral lattice pattern as seen in the popular 'Gonbadi' design and the original design on the Jameh Mosque, Esfahan.

What are they used for?

The uses of Qalamkar are many and incredibly varied. Today they are mainly displayed for their intricate beauty around the home as tablecloths, wall hangings, table runners, light rugs and bed spreads. Traditionally they have also been known to be used as prayer mats and in clothing.

The variety of patterns and colours mean Qalamakar are flexible to most designs and settings you might have in mind. Moreover, their handmade and delicate quality brings a warmth and character to any room in which they are displayed.