Mosaic woodwork is one of the original Iranian arts.
A brief glance at the background and valuable works of this field in the past centuries indicates the richness of this art and the significant role of Iran in promoting the art worldwide.
Mosaic woodwork is the art of placing different forms and types of wood together to create beautiful patterns. However, in its artistic sense, it means putting human soul in wood and feeling life’s movement, as the artist moves the saw to cut wood.
Pieces of wood each with a different history are gathered by the artist in the workshop, which are placed dexterously to mould his experience into a work of art.
Mosaic woodwork is, in fact, the embodiment of an artist’s creativity through the use of woods of different colors that are put together to form beautiful patterns. The final product is a colorful collection of woods without using artificial colors.
Master Salaheddin Allamezadeh is an artist who has spent more than half a century working with wood and the saw.
Born in Babol in Mazandaran province in 1945, Allamezadeh has two BSc degrees in civil engineering and health engineering from Tehran University.
However, he mastered mosaic woodwork because of his personal interest. He had no tutor in this regard.
Master Allamezadeh has held several exhibitions at home and abroad and even in the United Nations Office at Geneva.
He has created systematic instruction plan for this art and trained students for years. He also trains the blind people for free.
Allamezadeh has trained more than 300 mosaic woodwork masters and has held several training courses in Tehran. He is recognized as one of the pioneers of this art in recent years.
In an interview with Iran Daily, Allamezadeh discussed mosaic woodwork and other related issues. Excerpt follows:
IRAN DAILY: Since when you became interested in this art and started working with wood?
SALAHEDDIN ALLAMEZADEH: In the northern parts of the country, including the city where I was born, Babol, there are many different types of trees. Thus, I always considered the forest and nature as sacred. I have always been in love with the nature. For me, wood itself has sanctity. Its color, scent and texture attract me. When I was only 13, we used to make handicrafts with plywood. When I became interested in working with wood, I also saw a number of mosaic woodworks by Indian artists that interested me.
What are the specific characteristics of working with wood that attracted you?
Scientifically, it has been proved that working with wood, particularly intricate works, is soothing. Even scientists have proved that those who suffer from anxiety and mental disorders can be calmed by working with wood. If you give these people some pieces of wood, the moment they start to cut it they feel happy and even begin to laugh. Working with wood helps cure depression.
There are lots of arts that deal with wood. However, due to its intricacy, I chose mosaic woodwork. Sometimes, you should carve the wood delicately to attract attention. Thus, the more I faced the delicacies of this art, the more I became interested in it.
How did you learn this art? Did you think of its income?
I learned mosaic woodwork only out of love and personal interest. My source of income was not related to it.
I never had a tutor to learn the art from. I learnt this art through my own experiences. I learned the intricacies of this art through trial and error. Therefore, about 39 years ago, I created an alphabet for learning and teaching this art to make it systematic. I made it possible to teach it academically.
An artist should know at least 20 letters of this alphabet to be able to start his or her work.
Did not 55 years of working in this field satisfy you in a way that you thought of leaving it and start to learn another art?
First, this art is very vast, attractive, intricate and by no means tiresome or boring. Those who leave it unfinished are, in fact, looking for excuses not to encounter the difficulties of learning it. You should be in love with an art to begin to learn it, otherwise, it would be a waste of time. When a person is in love with an art, his own field does not satisfy him. I am no exception. I love other arts, though never had the opportunity to learn them.
Could you please talk about the history of mosaic woodwork? It seems that Indians claim to have created it.
In their excavations in Burnt City near Zabol in 1998, archeologists found a wooden comb that was carved delicately and dated back to 5,000 years. This proves that mosaic woodwork is an Iranian art and has been exported from Iran to Asian and European countries.
What are the outstanding characteristics of Iranian mosaic woodwork, which distinguish it from its practice in other countries?
Currently, mosaic woodwork is practiced in many countries. However, their works are not as delicate as Iranian works.
Another factor, which prioritizes Iranian works to those of other countries, is the variety of woods used in creating them. More than 80 types of wood exist across Iran, which is unique in the world.
This variety of wood and colors has certainly been effective in lending beauty to Iranian works. In Europe and many other countries, instead of using woods of different natural colors, they use color coatings.
For instance, we use the woods of jujube, yew and cherry for their red color or bitter orange, berberis and boxwood for their yellow color.
Why there has always been a close interrelation among Iranian works of mosaic woodwork, the holy Quran’s verses, religious concepts and miniature art?
In Iran, religious concepts have entered all arts, including calligraphy and painting. Because of its characteristics, mosaic woodwork also applies religious concepts and the art of miniature. Mosaic woodwork is similar to painting.
You are the pioneer of teaching mosaic woodwork to blind people. Would you please elaborate on this?
To teach mosaic woodwork to blind people, we first turn our designs into Braille. Then, by touching the designs, blind people slowly begin to cut the wood. The blind cannot see colors, but by using their other senses we try to familiarize them with colors.
For instance, we tell them that red is warm like blood or blue is cold the same as sky and sea. This way they find out that for instance to illustrate a flower they should use red.
Blind people’s intelligence and comprehension are far better than those of most normal people. Not only do I teach the blind people, but I also train mentally and physically disabled people and those who suffer from multiple sclerosis.
Can blind people enjoy their work of art?
Yes, absolutely. I even dare say that they even enjoy their own works more than normal people. Once I was training a group of blind people and they completed their works, they touched them, pressed them to their chests and felt absolute happiness.
What is your point of view towards art and its training?
I have trained and introduced some 312 masters of mosaic woodwork who are currently teaching the art inside or outside the country.
It is very interesting that they also have their own talented students. I believe that masters of this art should teach what they have learnt to interested people. We should not be stingy in teaching what we know to other people.
And finally, what do you recommend for promoting this art?
I ask officials to buy the works of Iranian artists and display them outside the country or even in embassies so that the world becomes familiar with this Iranian art.
This will help our artists become more determined and motivated. To help trainees and those who are interested in this art, buying the required tools and instruments at lower prices and establishing cooperatives can also be a good choice.
Currently, due to different reasons, a large number of trees are cut in Tehran and transferred to Darabad.
We asked municipality officials to give a portion of these trees to us for free. However, we did not receive a serious response.
Worship of God
My cry of “O God, O God” reaches the heaven even,
What happened, O God, of my nightly pleadings to heaven?
Many things I had stored to tell her when I went to her,
But I remained silent fearing her ill nature.
A thousand complaints of your ill temper on our lips did hung
But a smile from your sealed lip among the throng.
If you don’t know the pain of thirsty souls who for you pant,
See how fish jump at the shore of desire and want;
Apart from your fair face, your lovers with wet eyes
Shed tears of stars till stars drop down from the skies.
O Hatef, who can keep his faith and heart whole, O say,
When in schools the naughty children are taught to play?
The youth is passing, O God in pursuit of youthful fire,
Who can make an old man fulfilled of youthful desire?
You try to kill me, fair maid, yet I wonder how fond is she!
What will you gain by slaying an old man like me?
I made all kindhearted souls unkind to me,
In the hope of making you kind, O cruel lady!
Why not give me shelter under your shade, O love?
I am a homeless blackbird and a nest-less dove;
Flay not Hatef’s frame who suffers, dearest,
For you can’t make a tired soul more tired, fairest
Curd, 150 grams
Milk, 5 tablespoons
Vegetable oil, 6 tablespoons
Sugar, 75 grams
Vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
Salt, a pinch
All-purpose flour, 300 grams
Baking powder, 1 tablespoon
Extra sugar, 50 grams
Raisins, a handful or more
Almond slivers, a handful or more
Preheat oven to 170°C (330°F). Mix curd, milk, egg yolk (save the white for later), oil, sugar, vanilla and salt. Slowly add flour and baking powder, one tablespoon at a time.
Roll out dough into a rectangular shape (less than 1cm/ half an inch thick).
With a fork, slightly beat egg white, then spread onto the dough. Evenly sprinkle sugar, raisins and almonds, then roll together lengthwise.
Cut into slices, about 1cm/half an inch thick and place onto a baking tray, press down a little. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Health Benefits of Almond
Almonds can be used for curing health problems like cough, constipation, anemia, diabetes, heart problems, impotency and many respiratory problems. Along with these benefits, the nut will provide good dental care, hair and skin.
When compared to many other nuts, almond is highly enriched with vitamins and nutrients like magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin E, copper, calcium, niacin, zinc, iron and selenium.
Some of the health benefits of almond are as follows:
Almond contains many nutrients that will help the development of brain cells. It increases intellectual ability and hence it is highly recommended for growing children.
Most mothers will give three almonds to their children every day early in the morning.
Some of the children will be very sensitive about the outer shell of the almond that will cause allergy. So, remove the outer layer of the almond and give it to the children early in the morning on an empty stomach after soaking it in warm water overnight.
In human body, there are two types of cholesterol: HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein). LDL is considered bad cholesterol, which will lead to health disorders.
Regular consumption of almond will reduce the LDL and increase the HDL content in the body.
Iranian Musician Invited
Leading traditional Iranian musician Hussein Alizadeh has been invited to the 2013 Beiteddine Art Festival in Lebanon to present a concert at the opening ceremony on June 21.