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Maybod Morvarid Iranian Porcelain
June is ceramics month here on Makezine, and I’m reminded of a trip I took to Iran a few years back to visit my extended family. We traveled to Yazd, one of the oldest cities in the world, with history dating back 3,000 years. Yazd is known for its high-quality handicrafts, porcelain being one of them. We had occasion to tour Maybod Morvarid, one of the oldest makers of porcelain in Iran, outside Yazd in the city of Maybod (“morvarid” means “pearl” in Farsi). Their workshop is located behind their storefront, pictured above. I offer you Maybod Morvarid as a photo essay.

Porcelain is “a ceramic material made by heating raw materials, generally including clay in the form of kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 °C (2,192 °F) and 1,400 °C (2,552 °F).” Here are the big mixing vats at Morvarid and one of their kilns:

Morvarid Mixing Vat and Kiln

The clay is mixed, then poured into molds before it’s fired in the kiln. Here are a couple of the different molds they use:

Morvarid Molds

The molds, of course, are in two parts, and when each piece is ready and the mold is pulled apart, it looks rough around the edges (like the picture at left below). The gentleman pictured at right then scrapes each piece by hand to make it smooth. Everything at Morvarid is done by hand.

Morvarid Out of the Mold

The most fascinating part for me was when each piece is then hand-painted. There was a room in the workshop where the painters all worked. They started with stacks of finished, unpainted, and unglazed porcelain:

Maybod Morvarid

The artisans would then lovingly paint each piece by hand. It was amazing how fast they would paint and how beautiful the end result was.

Maybod Morvarid

The dishes that had lines on the perimeter were painted by this artisan, who put the dish on a wheel, put down his brush in one spot, and then spun the wheel to get the perfect line:

Maybod Morvarid

With stacks of dishes now bearing perfect rim lines, this next artisan would paint on embellishments.

Maybod Morvarid

At another work station, the artisan on the left details a different plate design while the artisan at the right then dips each plate in glaze.

Maybod Morvarid

There was certainly no shortage of eye candy at the Maybod Morvarid, and it was amazing to see these old-world artisans at work!

Maybod Morvarid

Maybod Morvarid

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


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Comments

  1. Lurker says:

    Cool!
    Did the Artisans sign the piece in the last picture?

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      Not as far as I saw, Lurker. These were amazingly “production pieces” being churned out.

  2. Kerri says:

    I’ve toured porcelain factories in Ireland, England and Turkey…. and now through your photographs, one in Iran. I find the process fascinating and have much respect for the artisans who create these works of art. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      Thanks Kerri! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. bennyp says:

    Let’s add another Iranian craft made with centripetal force: weapons-grade enriched uranium! Congratulations! It’s 1941, and you’re running an article on traditional German woodcrafts! How are you going to explain that one to your grandchildren?

    1. hexmonkey says:

      I’m surprised it took so long for a troll to come out from under the bridge.

    2. bosteter says:

      Give it a rest! This is about ART not WAR.

    3. Lurker says:

      “Fear only two: God, and the man who has no fear of God.”

      Who are you to urge death and destruction upon others?

  4. hexmonkey says:

    Great article. What are those porcelain “cannonballs” in the photo of the kiln?

    1. Chef Felisha says:

      My guess is that they are weights to help keep things flat as the heat is applied. Kind of like pie weights in a crust. Just a guess though. :)

    2. Goli Mohammadi says:

      To be honest, hexmonkey, I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t remember (dug up these pics from 2007), but I do believe Chef Felisha’s guess might be right. If you look at the image below it with the molds, the ones on the right have the indentation that would perfectly fit the ball. I’ll try to dig up my notes and if I find out, I’ll be sure to post again. Thanks!

      1. michael says:

        Not sure what the balls are for, however those “indents” look more like pour holes to me, where you would pour the slip into the molds…

        1. Goli Mohammadi says:

          Now I *gotta* dig up my notes over the weekend! :)

  5. [...] that feature a new material. This month, it’s ceramics. The most recent article is a nice visit to an Iranian porcelain maker. Keep an eye on MAKE this month for more cool articles. They also ran a piece on 3D printing with [...]

  6. Goli,

    Awesome article. I’m fascinated by Iran and your craft photo essay is amazing. I’m going to share this with my 7th graders when we study the Middle East next year. Again, excellent work!

    Cheers!

    Rick

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      Thank you so much Rick! I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, and I hope your students will too! I have years of pictures from there, so we should chat about ancient architectural design too.