IRAN ART EXHIBITION: THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF IRAN IN GLASS INDUSTRY
About 250 types of diverse hand-made products are created by proficient craftsmen in Iran.
Kilim, carpet, marquetry and woodcutting are among the Persian crafts, which have become very popular in the world.
However, very little is known about Persian art of glass blowing and its long history.
Iranians were among the first glass blowers in the world. They started to make things from glass about 3,000 years ago. In other words, Iran is the world’s third civilization in producing glasswares.
Although, Iranian glass blowers have played a significant role in the development of glass industry in the world, the popularity of glass-made products has been on the decline in recent decades in the domestic markets.
Such products are becoming less and less popular due to the lack of renovation as well as repetitive designs, experts have said.
They have called on artists to bring about some changes to their works to help business thrive and regain profitability.
To this effect, there is an interview with Farhad Fallah, an Iranian artist involved in the industry of glass blowing to acquire more information about the ancient art and its current status.
Touching upon the history of glass blowing in Iran, Fallah said Iranians have been engaged in glass blowing industry since 3,000 years ago. A lot of glass creations – dating back to different periods of history – have been unearthed across the country, which are evidence to the long history of glass blowing in Iran.
Samples of such creations, for instance, have been found in Ganj Hill in Lorestan province.
Persian glass blowing was once a thriving art but its popularity has been on the wane since the Pahlavi era because of the growing presence of foreign products in the domestic market – which lasted until a few years ago when Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization decided to revive the craft.
Glass has been a multifunctional material in Iran since ancient times. It has been used by artists and architects to produce containers of different shapes and to decorate buildings.
Stained windows are still found in ancient mansions and historical houses across the nation.
It must be mentioned that production of flat glasses for decorating buildings was complicated in ancient times since artists lacked the current technologies.
Ancient Iranian artists had to blow into molten glasses, which resulted in the production of curved glasses. Then the curved glasses were broken into intended sizes to be used as decorative materials on ceilings, walls and the facades of the buildings.
Pointing to the traditional method of producing glass, he reiterated that a glass blowing workshop has several furnaces including a main furnace, which is called ‘mother furnace’.
Raw materials are mixed with 25-30 percent cracked glass and melted together in the mother furnace to produce colorless glass.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: The reason for adding cracked glass is that the raw material requires high amount of energy to be melted, the amount of which reduces significantly by adding cracked glasses.
Distinct furnaces and pools of colors are used for producing colorful glasses. Azure blue, green, and turquoise blue are produced together in a single pool while yellow, red and reddish-brown colors are produced in another pool. Different colors are obtained at different temperatures.
Meanwhile, every glass blowing workshop is equipped with a greenhouse for reducing the temperature of hand-made products gradually.
After the glass is melted, the glass blower blows into it and shapes it with special tools. In this stage, the glass attains a high temperature, which could reach 1,200 degrees centigrade such that it becomes fragile when placed in the room temperature.
As a result, the formed glass is placed in a greenhouse for between 24 and 36 hours to get cold gradually, which helps the final products become tougher.
Referring to the products made from glass in Iran in ancient times, the Iranian artist said ‘Golab Pash’ – a traditional container for sprinkling rose water – Ashk-dan – a traditional container, wherein women used to collect their tears for their loved ones – jar and food containers were made of glass in ancient times.
Customer preference has changed in the last 50 years in view of urbanization, leading to the production of other types of containers such as mugs, plates and jars.
ICHHTO has recently called on artists to bring about changes in their designs to prevent the art from going into oblivion.
Unfortunately, a growing number of Iranians are showing interest in crystal wares from Italy. This is while, the world’s main producers of glasswares are keen to find access to Iranian products. Foreigners show interest in Iranian colorful glasswares.
Iran exports glass-wares in high quantities to several nations.
Touching upon the challenges facing Iranian glass blowers and the amount of the annual income of a workshop, he said in the year to March 2015, the most active glass blowing workshop earned about $400,000 from the sales of products.
Setting up and running a glass blowing workshop is very costly.
At least, an area of 1,000 meters is needed to establish a workshop. Energy and raw materials are also very expensive.
Glass blowing workshops faced many difficulties following the subsidy reform plan during the former administration which led to the closure of many workshops.
Despite attempts by ICHHTO to preserve the art, only two workshops in Tabriz, East Azarbaijan province, and a handful in Tehran produce glassware using traditional methods.
According to Article 142 of Tax Law, producers are exempt from paying tax, which is to the benefit of the producers.
However, Tax Organization has decided to levy value-added tax (VAT) on domestic goods, which could harm domestic producers.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: More glass blowing workshops will continue their activities if the government exempts glass blowing workshops from VAT, or reduces the amount.
As mentioned before, high amount of energy is consumed in glass blowing workshops. ICHHTO has planned to apply new technologies to produce furnaces with low-energy consumption.
Producers are also recommended to equip their workshops with special instruments to reduce energy use.
Imposition of sanctions against Iran had limited the country’s access to new technologies in the last decade. Thanks to the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and P5+1, Iranians can have a broader access to technologies that help reduce energy consumption.
The lifting of sanctions will also help boost glass blowing industry and introduce Iranian crafts to the world by enhancing economic ties between Iran and other nations.