Iranian (Persian) Block-Printing (Qalamkar)



ČĪT or Chit cotton cloth decorated with block-printed or painted designs in multiple colors. The term čīt passed into English as “chintz,” now the common designation for any cotton or linen furnishing fabric printed with floral designs in fast colors.


Kalamkar, Qalamkar or Ghalamkar (the old term ČĪT) the craft of woodblock-printing on cotton tablecloths, bedspreads, and curtains has been a specialty of Isfahan for the last two centuries. The origin of the word Qalamkari refers to Qalam or pen and Kar or work.


In the 1870s the guild of the qalamkār makers had four connecting bazaars and between the bazaars there were five caravanserais and timche with 284 shops and offices, but not even half of their number have remained, because trade had declined sharply due to foreign competition and lack of demand at home. The reason was that the Isfahan output of qalamkār was not comparable in quality and price with British and later Russian imports. Production could initially only survive by importing unbleached fabrics from Great Britain and India that were then printed in Iran. This delayed the inevitable decline of the craft for some time, but lack of innovation, continued inferior quality, and the use of chemical dyes meant that by the beginning of the 20th century the craft had all but disappeared. In 1920 there were only 46 čitsāz left in Isfahan, where once there had been hundreds. The craft of qalamkārwas revived again after World War II thanks to the US Aid program and demand from the international marketThe craft of qalamkārwas revived again after World War II thanks to the US Aid program and demand from the international market (Gluck et al., p. 192). In the 1950s in Isfahan and Najafābād there were about thirty qalamkār workshops with an annual production of 40,000 pairs of drapery, and 10,000 tablecloth pieces (ʿĀbedi, p. 139). Supported by the Handicrafts Organization, the number of workshops and guild masters multiplied in the bazaar in the next twenty years and new products and techniques were put into practice (Gluck et al., p. 192). The implementation of anti-pollution laws in the 1970s led to another slowdown of the qalamkar industry, but as a result better dyes were developed and production was standardized. Limitation on imports after the 1979 Revolution resuscitated the industry, and qalamkār resurfaced as perennial favorites in the bazaar of Isfahan.


Santoori is the representative of many quality Qalamkar manufacturers who have their own manufacturing unit in Isfahan. All items offered by Santoori are picked up and reveal the export suited quality.



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