Giang Le

Iran’s ceramics feature beautiful and distinctive patterns

The first time I visited Iran was during its pleasantly cool spring. The air was fresh and flowers adorned every street. Visiting mosques and churches I was struck by their vibrant mosaics. This decorative style has influenced the country’s ceramics. Using just a few basic colours such as blue and yellow and some specks of white, artisans adorned their mosques with very elegant and distinctive decorative patterns.

The second time I visited Iran was in the winter. Snow was falling as I made my way from Tehran to the ceramic village of Lalejin. This time, I came to this isolated country with a greater desire to understand its rich culture and illustrious history, and to learn more about the country’s beautiful ceramic arts.

While Turkish ceramics are flamboyant and Japanese ceramics simple and solemn, Iranian ceramics have an elaborate and sophisticated beauty. Thanks to its highly developed ancient culture and an abundance of natural materials, Iran’s ceramics industry dates back to the 2nd century AD. Archeological digs have unearthed ceramic workshops in many regions including Chogha Zanbil and Susa. The ancient ceramics produced here were very sophisticated in terms of their coloured enamels, which were made from crushed minerals and plants.

Iranian ceramics have retained their ancient magic. The craftsmen are highly skilled and many products are still made by hand. With new advances in technology, such as cleaner and better furnaces that use gas instead of coal, ceramic artisans can achieve more consistent quality.

The best-known ceramics in Iran hail from Lalejin in Hemadan Province, which lies five or six hours by car from Tehran. Lalejin is home to a kind of fine, durable and elastic clay that is free of impurities.

Lalejin’s enamel is also famous for its lustre. Inspired by the sculpture in palaces, mausoleums and mosques, artisans have created elaborate and meticulously designed patterns. While these wares are beautiful, few are exported. With the recent lifting of international economic sanctions against Iran, the country’s talented artisans look forward to introducing their unique ceramics to new overseas markets.