Khatamkari

Khatamkari is one of the Persian arts of marquetry wherein the surface of wooden or metallic articles is decorated with pieces of wood, bone and metal cut in a variety of shapes and designs.

Materials used in this craft can be gold, silver, brass, aluminum and twisted wire. Various types of inlaid articles and their quality are known by the size and geometrical designs. Smaller pieces result in a higher value of the artwork.

Marquetry designing is highly elaborate. In each cubic centimeter of space, up to approximately 250 pieces of metal, bone, ivory and wood are laid side by side.

History

This art, to some extent, has existed in Iran from long ago. Inlaid articles in the Safavid era took on a special significance, as artists used this art on doors, windows, mirror frames, Qur’an boxes, pen and penholders, lanterns and tombs.

The ornamentation of the doors of holy places predominantly consists of inlaid motifs.


In Safavid era, khatamkari was so popular in the court that princes learned this technique alongside the art of music or painting. In the 18th and 19th centuries, khatamkari declined, before being stimulated under the reign of Reza Shah, with the creation of art schools in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz.

Incorporating techniques from China and improving it with Persian know-how, this craft existed for more than 700 years and is still practiced in Shiraz and Isfahan.

Current Status

Currently, this art is being practiced in Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran. Inlay masters, preserving the nobility of their art, have brought forth great innovations in this fine art.

Khatamkari is part of Iran’s artistic heritage. Official support can help preserve this heritage for future generations.

Fabrication process

This craft consists in the production of incrustation patterns (generally star-shaped), with thin sticks of wood (ebony, teak, ziziphus, orange, rose), brass (for golden parts), camel bones (white parts). Ivory, gold or silver can also be used for collection objects.

These sticks are assembled in triangular beams, assembled and glued in a strict order to create a geometrical motif such as a six-branch star included in a hexagon.

At times, cylinders are cut into shorter cylinders and then compressed and dried between two wooden plates, before being sliced for the last time, in 1 mm wide tranches. These sections are ready to be plated and glued on the object to be decorated, before lacquer finishing.

The tranche can also be softened through heating in order to wrap around objects. Many objects can be decorated in this fashion, including jewelry boxes, chessboards, pipes, desks, frames or musical instruments.

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