Stone Carving

Here is a memorial completed, after two years work, by the stone-carving ustad shown in the other photographs. It is simply gorgeous, but normally languishes under a grubby green baize cloth in a small, dark and locked shrine. However, my ustad friend proudly took me on a trip to let me admire it. [C.S.5]

Stone Carving

This photograph shows exactly how the ustad grips his chisel (screwdriver blade) and hammer. This requires strong and flexible fingers – I got tired and stiff, when I tried for a few hours. [C.S.4]

Stone Carving

These are the most important tools of the stonemason restorer: the paper design copied or derived from motifs left on the memorial; adhesive tape and carbon paper to help transfer patterns; various hammers; and screwdriver blades for use as chisels. The design has been traced onto the ‘artificial stone’ on the top of the memorial, …

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Stone Carving

Here, the ustad (master craftsman) is adding more small pieces of the ‘artificial stone’ to smaller defects in the memorial. Unusually, this ustad is a young man – most are much older, and the limited interest from younger apprentices means that many traditional skills are at risk of being lost. [C.S.2]

Stone Carving

This damaged stone memorial, in Ardabil, is being restored by one of only seven appropriately skilled stone-carvers in Iran. He first makes ‘artificial stone’ (top and corner), using ground up stone similar to the original, plus various stabilisers. [C.S.1]

Iranian crafts and craftsmen

As I started to visit Iran, I started to meet Iranian craftsmen – often high up on rudimentary scaffolding. I also started to realise how little is understood about their impressive skills and knowledge. With many master craftmen (ustads) relatively old, and relatively few young men now wanting to undergo the lengthy, often dirty, and …

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Polo in Isfahan

Polo in Isfahan used to be a big thing. The maydan at the centre of today’s city was originally an out-of-town garden. Then when Shah Abbas visited in 1590, he ordered it levelled and spread with river sand, to convert it into a polo field. In 1595, a French steward called Pinçon saw how: “The King of Persia …

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Food and feasting in a Persian tree house

It seems only to be the King who gets to feast up in the tree-house in this gorgeous folio from a Khamsa of Amir Khusrau in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Wouldn’t that make conversation difficult, even there is a great view of the dancing? Maybe the courtiers down below are struggling with the ta’arof: …

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