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The History of Ghalamkar


The name is derived from two Persian words: Ghalam (stylus/pen) kari (craftsmanship).
‏The history of Ghalamkar fabrics date back to the Sassanid period, the fourth Iranian dynasty and the second Persian Empire (224 - 651 CE).
The fabrics were all hand painted with brush and pen. They reached their height of popularity specially during the Safavid dynasty.( Esfahan was the capital of the kingdom at the time) To meet the high demand, the Ghalamkar artists began using wooden frames and stamps that were mostly made from old peach trees. This technique drastically expedited the printing process and enabled the artists to create homogeneous patterns.
‏In the past, Ghalamkar fabrics have served multiple purposes.The Safavid Kings, nobles, and the upper class, wore Ghalamkar silk and cotton clothes ornamented with gold and silver. Thefabrics were also used to decorate the interior, frequently utilized as curtains, bedspreads, and wall coverings.
‏The exalted art of Ghalamkari is a symbol of longevity, love, and resilience of an ancient tradition that through many peaks and troughs, has been passed to us generation after generation, and heart to heart but It seems that after the pinnacle of popularity, this tradition has entered a stagnant stage and if not for the artists, the legacy may not have survived.




Iranian ( Persian ) Block-Printing ( Qalamkar )

By Samira Jamali

“ If you want be a great painter , you must reach to backend of objects . As long as you’re captured in semblance , you are an impersonator and not a painter . You must get to know the menology . ” This was an advice of late master Abass Giyahi , calico painted artist in Isfahan . When Isfahan was chose as a capital in Safavid era , most of artist and industrial came to Isfahan from city of Iran . They start to produced a different handicraft .
Qalamkari is one of these art . In this art , artist curved different and beautiful craft in cloth with different frame that each one has a nice and unique sample . This art became popular in Safavid era . We can see this art on most of man and woman cloth . These kinds of cloth are very famous in that era . Qalamkari textile , painted textile of a type produced during the 17th century at various centers such as in India , notably at Golconda ( India was part of persian Emperor ) . The material was called qalamkari ( brushwork ) because of the technique employed in executing it and was chiefly made into prayer carpets , hangings , coverlets, and bedcovers . Ghalamkari art that is still one of the cities and towns are common, the artistic legacy of the twelfth century AD (Safavids) was the perfect way to end two decades of the nineteenth century and the other was one of the outstanding examples of the art of our country.

Concept of work The textile designs reflect the Persianized tastes of the wealthy ruling class and also the taste of foreign traders seeking the fanciful and exotic . The designs of fabrics intended for export were based on samples supplied by European traders . A striking feature of the painted fabrics was their unusual glowing red color . Rectangular cotton panels , block-printed and painted in polychrome . A narrow band turned over at the top , with loops attached for suspension . These main motifs makes me too much excited with sad feeling . These beauty why must abandoned or just be as example of our tradition for tourist , It was my basic question which actuate me to use this art in simple way and new way of usage . Qalamkari has heavy and lengthy process that takes years , so it isn’t cheap and touchable . But I decide to make it easier and accessible for anyone to make it personalize to keep alive persian motifs and symbols .

Iranian ( Persian ) Block-Printing ( Qalamkar )

Calico is one of the oldest crafts of ancient Iran which was in the peak of fame for centuries . Calico and fabric painting became popular in the Mongol era in Iran . Since the Mongol chiefs supported Chinese painted fabric , it had great market shares in Iran . Iranian also had tried to attend into this market by inventing new created painted fabric called Calico . Ghalamkar (Persian: قلمکار Qalamkaar , also qalamkar , kalamkar) fabric is a type of Textile printing , patterned Iranian Fabric . The fabric is printed using patterned wooden stamps . It is also known as Kalamkari in India which basically is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile. The word is derived from the Persian words ghalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship) , meaning drawing with a pen (Ghalamkar) . ČĪT or Chit cotton cloth decorated with block-printed or painted designs in multiple colors. The term čīt passed into English as “chintz”, now the common designation for any cotton or linen furnishing fabric printed with floral designs in fast colors.

This art flourished in Safavid period and declined in Qajar mid-age . Most of the Safavid clothes for men and women were made of Calico . These fabrics were highly popular in that period . A specific kind of Calico named Delg was manufactured for making men and women wears . The high demand for these pieces of Calico and their limited supply , forced the artists to decide upon a way to supply the commodity with the same quality . The only way to solve the problem seemed to make the intended casts and transfer them to the clothes applying the desired colors . First , One or more casts were used and the rest of the designs were painted by hands ; later designs were drawn on the paper and transferred to the casts. In this way they had more products with the same quality .

These decorative , block-printed clothes known as Qalam-Kari are colored-fast to protect them against running and fading , available in various sizes and designs , these clothes make the perfect accent for tables , if you prefer , use them as wall hangings for a unique complimentary of your décor . They could also be used for Sajadeh ( prayer mat ), table cloth, mat, bath clothes, bedspread, pillowcase, quilt, curtains, drapes, throw pillow and so on.Ghalam-kari(16) Qalamkari , textile printing or block printing, is a technique for printing patterns, applying color to fabric and that color is bonded with the fiber so as to resist washing and friction. In printing, wooden blocks, stencils, engraved plates, rollers, or silkscreens can be used to place colors on the fabric. Isfahan is the home to this art since some hundred years back and the work are luxurious handicrafts. This industry was expanded more in Safavid period and the magnificence age of this industry has been since Safavid to Qajar and little by little its splendor was reduced during the kingdom of Shah Abas, this industry gained significant splendor and many clothes were made by printed calico. In the 1870s the guild of the qalamkar makers had four connecting bazaars and between the bazaars there were five caravanserais and timche with 284 shops and offices, but not even half of their number have remained, because trade had declined sharply due to foreign competition and lack of demand at home. The reason was that the Isfahan output of qalamkar was not comparable in quality and price with British and later Russian imports. Production could initially only survive by importing unbleached fabrics from Great Britain and India that were then printed in Iran. This delayed the inevitable decline of the craft for some time, but lack of innovation, continued inferior quality, and the use of chemical dyes meant that by the beginning of the 20th century the craft had all but disappeared.

In 1920 there were only 46 čitsāz left in Isfahan, where once there had been hundreds. The craft of qalamkar was revived again after World War II thanks to the US Aid program and demand from the international marketThe craft of qalamkar was revived again after World War II thanks to the US Aid program and demand from the international market (Gluck et al., p. 192). In the 1950s in Isfahan and Najafabad there were about thirty qalamkar workshops with an annual production of 40,000 pairs of drapery, and 10,000 tablecloth pieces .Supported by the Handicrafts Organization, the number of workshops and guild masters multiplied in the bazaar in the next twenty years and new products and techniques were put into practice.

The implementation of anti-pollution laws in the 1970s led to another slowdown of the qalamkar industry, but as a result better dyes were developed and production was standardized. Limitation on imports after the 1979 Revolution resuscitated the industry, and qalamkar resurfaced as perennial favorites in the bazaar of Isfahan. Tenth to the thirteenth century as interval can be the pinnacle of evolution is part of the fabric in the majority of these fabrics, which are known to be used by melting. The curtains and tablecloths for the production of garments and so on and especially to decorate the houses of mourning and prayer and was used to boost its exports.The fabric of the arabesque and floral motifs more and bush and hunting scenes and epic stories of the Quran and some mold and some have been painted on the fabric.75901719782106956238 By the late Qajar more curtain and bath mat and door shelves and fixtures and bundle all these were painted by hand. With the passage of time and the need for more abundant and cheaper product, working with the pen fell from popularity and was replaced by using wooden molds. In Iran, Tabriz, Isfahan, Rasht, Mashhad, Kashan and fabric images and found the man was made famous artists of the Safavid period. From the late eleventh century due to economic difficulties, the fabrics were woven in Kashan cheap like Calico specifically turned over qalamkar of the common types of fabrics . Caesarea market after the Mongol invasion was a hive of artists and Repair Chitsazan income. The use of the framework for the handling of textiles were common. Calico fabrics have many applications in the past ; More spacious and sumptuous fabrics and rich beautiful calico robes worn occasionally receive their gold and silver also went to work. Horse’s saddles harnesses and were paid the same melting. Workshops make tent and made of fabric pattern. Sometimes a wall across from Calico cloth cover or used as curtains. Calico full role in religious ceremonies and journalist, triumphal arch built and then the bus covered with calico fabric.Melting mats are laid on prayer and the prayers of woven seat seal was engraved. Curtains, and a bundle of new brides staff are often made of calico, which is still more or less in many homes can be found in this beautiful woven. Qalamkar craft are one of the beautiful handicrafts of Isfahan as main centre of this artwork in Iran .

Materials and Methods Used colors in Qalam-Kari : Red and Black are two basic colors used to paint the Qalam-Kari fabrics. In making black color some materials such as: Gum tragacanth, Iron Oxide, Black alum, Castor oil and for Red color materials such as Rose, Sesame oil, Alum, and Gum tragacanth are used. Sometimes mixed colors such as cobalt blue, green, yellow and brown colors are appropriately used.

Used materials :Calico makers use a wide range of materials, but the mostly used materials are as follows ; Unbleached Calico, Long Cloth, Pomegranate peel, Gum tragacanth, herbal dyes such as , white alum, Indigo blue and Glycerine .

Steps of production :
  • Soaking: The selected fabrics are soaked in the water.
  • To dentate the selected fabrics.
  • Casting : In this step the intended designs are casted by red and black colors.
  • Bleaching: In this step, the background of some produced fabrics is bleached and some of them are dyed again if extra colors are needed.
  • Finally, intended patterns are copied on the prepared fabrics.


Often to built seals or template for Ghalamkari , they used pear wood or kavij for high strength of the wood. After purchasing the woods they cut them into pieces ten centimeters and exposed to the sun for three years ,until completely dry. Also for each template they used three pieces of wood , this is because over time template does not twist. Then they transfer design on the wood and engraved it by especial tools .

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