The art of hand-printing by stamping on fabric lines, motifs, and designs is called Ghalamkar.
Products: bed sheets, table cloths, scarfs, shawls, clothes, and bags
Place of origin: Isfahan, Iran.
Materials: cotton, silk, linen, and canvas, natural dyes, set of patterned wooden stamps
The first step involved in the process of Ghalamkar is preparing the fabric. To do so, the artisan puts the fabric in a pool of cold water or in a riverbed, and leaves it there for up to five days in order to remove the fluff.
Once the fabric is prepared this way, the artisan starts working on the background color. For that, the fabric is dipped into chebulic myrobalan, a mixture of pomegranate peel and water; this dip gives the fabric a light yellow or cream color.
The next step is to stamp or print the design on the fabric by using a set of patterned wooden stamps. Each stamp has a unique motif or design, and the dyes used in the stamping procedure are all natural. Depending on its density and size, a piece of fabric can be stamped anywhere between hundreds and tens of thousands of times.
Immediately after printing, the color fixing procedure starts by first steaming the fabric and then dipping it into a pool of cold water or into a riverbed for about 2 to 3 hours in order to wash out the extra dye. The artwork is then dried up in the open air, after which the craftsman starts the last part of the process which involves tailoring and fixing the edges of the fabric.
The stamps used in Ghalamkar are made of pear or hawthorn wood that renders them more flexible and durable. The stamps are handmade by experienced artisans in a long and complex procedure which involves several steps. The most important steps are designing the pattern and carving it onto the stamps. Stamps are also greased with animal fat to prevent them from cracking or drying. An artisan needs four stamps for a single shape which has four different colors; therefore, a colorful Ghalamkar needs a few hundred stamps.
History and background:
This art is called Ghalamkar for the sole reason that in the past, artisans used to draw the design on the fabric with a pen (ghalam in Persian) and ink. However, using a pen was time-consuming and therefore not very efficient, and for this reason, stamps have replaced the pen.
Ghalamkar enjoys a long history dating back to the 10th century; however, evidence and discoveries indicate the existence of this art as far as the fourth century BC. One of the discoveries confirming this date is the Ghalamkar on the grave of the Scythian Seven Brothers. Ghalamkar’s glorious time was in The Safavid dynasty and since then it has become Persia’s most luminous artwork. In the Safavid Empire, Ghalamkar was the fabric of choice for Persian nobles clothing (delgah).