By Ali Asghar Pahlavan
TEHRAN, Sept. 11 (Mehr News Agency) -- The city of Lalejin in Hamedan Province, with a population of 55,000, lies 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial city of Hamedan and is considered one of the leading ceramic centers of Iran.
According to archaeologists and historians, this ceramic producing city has a
long historical record dating back 7500 years to ancient Persia, as revealed by
excavations in recent years at Ecbatana Hill, Gyan in Nahavand and Nushijan in
Malayer in Hamedan Province.
During the invasion of Mongols, only seven craftsmen survived the barbaric onslaught and these artisans managed to revive the ceramics industry once again.
As you stroll through the ancient city, you see how people from all walks of life are heavily involved in their ancestors' tradition of creating works of art.
The majority of local residents earn their bread and butter from this craft ranging from utensils to decorative items.
The Khoshuei Brothers are among the outstanding artisans of Lalejin who have created the most significant works of art over the last half a century.
These craftsmen not only have preserved the traditional Persian arts but also have introduced a number of innovations themselves.
Most foreign and domestic tourists are enthusiastic to purchase local handicrafts such as ceramics, leather products, traditional Iranian glasses, kilims, wooden crafts and a variety of other traditional items.
Deputy Director of the Hamedan Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization, Behjat Abbasi said, "With 900 workshops and 3900 employees, Lalejin is the capital city of ceramics in Iran."
According to the official, pottery production in recent years has undergone a process of major change, including changes in coloring compounds both in traditional and industrial paintings, and the introduction of modern furnaces to replace the traditional ones."
"Due to the abundance of raw materials and skilled Lalejini craftsmen, it would seem that in the future, we will witness significant positive developments in the craft, in terms of both quality and quantity," she pointed out.
She expressed regret that innovations in pottery production has not taken place and workshops continue to produce using traditional techniques and styles, with the exception of a few workshops that have introduced new methods while continuing the traditional, which has actually created a unique mastery of ceramics that is unparalleled.
She expressed optimism that in recent years, ceramics exported to the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Oman, Iraq, Britain and the United States have shown a 500 percent increase. The guild of Lalejini exporters has been formed and UNIDO has supported it.
To preserve this national cultural heritage, training courses have been established every year in various fields in all cities and hamlets of the province to upgrade the quality of the pottery produced by the industry.
According to Abbasi, both long and short term higher education for those students of the arts interested in acquiring a B.A. or associate of arts have been established.
Mrs. Abbasi said that we have participated in foreign exhibitions in China, Kuwait, Japan and Georgia in order to familiarize our craftsmen in diverse areas including, ceramics, graphics, architecture, product line of ceramics, advertising and marketing, leather production and other related crafts.
Foreign and domestic tourists are enthusiastically inclined toward Lalejini ceramic products and most of them show interest in purchasing pottery.
She said upgrading the handicrafts industry has a direct correlation with overall economic development in terms of permanent employment, trade progress, the expansion of non-oil products, and the preservation of our cultural heritage plus the added benefit of introducing the true identity of Iranian civilization to the world.
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