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A Profitable Business Project for Foreign Investors: Redesigning, Packaging & Online Marketing of Persian Handicrafts

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Given its rich culture, ancient civilization and geographical location, Iran plays a key role in the world of arts and handicrafts.

Every corner of the vast country is specialized in certain craftworks. Handicrafts are in fact one of Iran’s tourist attractions. Tourists visiting Iran face a wide variety of options to choose from and take with them to their homelands as souvenirs. In major tourist cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd and Tabriz, foreign tourists are attracted to the appealing artistic works.

Iran earned $281 million from the export of handicrafts – excluding carpets _ in the last Iranian calendar year of 1396 (21 March 2017 – 20 March 2018), according to Ali Asghar Mounesan, Iran’s Vice President and the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO).

That doesn’t include handicrafts bought by foreign tourists visiting Iran _ known as the suitcase trade _ nor does it include domestic sales.

“Iran hosted some 5 million tourists last year. If each of them purchased $50 worth of handicrafts, it means Iran has also earned about $250 million in addition to direct exports,” he told his organization’s website (ichto.ir) on 5 August 2018. Domestic sales of handicrafts also generated over 14 trillion rials ($1.7 billion).

The value of handicraft exports registered at the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) reached just $112 million in the year ending 20 March 2014. It amounted to $174 million in the year ending 20 March 2016. And it was around $200 million in the year ending 20 March 2017, showing a steady increase year on year.

Handicrafts have become increasingly popular in the global market. Iranian government officials have estimated that foreign currency revenues from IRICA-registered exports will annually surpass $1 billion by 2025 ($2 billion if handicrafts purchased by tourists visiting Iran are to be included)

  

Major export destinations for Iranian handicraft items are Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Arab countries and Iran’s immediate neighbors.

There are over 295 types of handicrafts produced in Iran, each having its own customers and usage. That places Iran third in the world in terms of producing handicrafts. China and India stand first and second respectively.

Persian handicrafts are many but the best known and most popular artistic works in Iran include engraving, weaving, enameling, pottery, ceramics, tiles and mosaic, metalworking of dazzling colors, woodworking, mat weaving, miniature painting, calligraphy, glassware and specifically glass candlesticks, hand-printed textiles and scarves, traditional musical instruments and jewelry.

The handicrafts sector is emerging as an important platform for generating self-employment opportunities. The segment employs more than two million people directly and indirectly.

“The handicrafts sector is significant for the Iranian economy as it is one of the largest employment generators and accounts for a sizable share in the country’s exports. Regional clusters contribute significantly to handicraft export,” handicrafts producer and exporter Mohammad Elmieh told Iran Europe Business Digest (IEBD).

The Iranian handicrafts industry is fragmented, with over two million rural and urban artisans and thousands of production houses promoting regional art and craftsmanship in the domestic and global markets.

Government authorities are pursuing plans to launch handicraft chain stores across the country and the globe as part of efforts to create jobs and reduce unemployment.

While an average of 4 billion rials ($50,000) is needed to create a single job in Iran, one can create a job in the handicraft sector by just 400 million rials ($5,000). That’s one-tenth.

Publicity & Marketing Are

Big Challenges for Iran Handicrafts

Experts believe that one important way of increasing the sale of handicrafts is promotion of tourism and hosting more tourists in Iran.

“Handicrafts of every country are the first representation of that country’s culture for tourists. Therefore, they are very important,” veteran handicrafts producer Mohammad Reza Mirian told the IEBD.

Another method is organizing exhibitions in major cities around the globe in order to make the world familiar with Iranian handicrafts, as well as opening showrooms and even warehouses in target countries on the basis of their market size. He said it does worth the investment since the handicrafts sector can bring in hard currency and create jobs.

“Establishment of websites creates a permanent place to display the works of craftsmen and facilitate their export. And boosting exports encourages craftsmen and craftswomen to expand their business and produce more artifacts. That means creation of more jobs,” he said. “Increasing inflow of tourists, expansion of retail business, increased use of Internet and e-commerce promise well for the handicrafts sector.”

Mirian, 48, has a workshop in the historical city of Isfahan in central Iran (mirianhandicrafts.ir) producing a wide range of artworks but concentrates on engraving work, khatam work (marquetry) and turquoise tattoo.

The businessman said foreign visitors are not only customers of handicrafts but can work as ambassadors by introducing Iranian art overseas when they take Persian crafts back home.

Business experts believe both producers and exporters need to invest in research and development in order to learn about foreign markets, upgrade their capabilities and produce a variety of products in order to respond to all tastes and sell good. Additionally, they need to showcase their work around the globe.

“Promotion methods such as building brand image, holding craft festivals in target countries, organizing exclusive exhibition of Iranian handicrafts in select cities across the world, publicity through attractive display and employment of marketing tools, and innovative packaging are the response to boosting exports of handicrafts,” Mirian said.

The artisan, who has 28 years of experience behind him, believes that Iran needs to increase its market development efforts with the adoption of appropriate strategies to tap into new markets for its art works beyond its traditional customers.

In July 2018, an Iranian firm for the first time exported mat weaving products to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. The shipment, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency, contained more than 800 mat products, traditional handicrafts native to southern Iran. The products were mostly made of leaves of palm trees.

That’s an improvement but much more is needed to be done.

Most producers lack the financial means to advertise their products or go around the world looking for new markets and showcase their crafts.

“As producers, we are equipped with the knowhow of production but don’t have the necessary marketing skills nor do we have the financial ability to advertise our beloved products. This is where the government must step in. We need state support to open the way for promotion of our business abroad,” Mirian said. “Commercial and cultural attaches in Iranian embassies abroad are expected to promote Iranian handicrafts and assist us in finding markets. Publicity and marketing are the top two challenges for producers. Finding news markets will inject new blood to the veins of the handicrafts industry.”

Zhaleh Salehi, a handicraft producer that runs Zhaleh Art Gallery in Isfahan, says handicraft reflects the culture and heritage of a country and Iran has been weak in presenting and promoting this rich heritage. She argues that producers of artifacts need ICHTO’s help to find new markets and this is where the organization can step in and help uplift the industry.

Salehi is an expert in Minakari, or Enamelling, and she has found her own way of marketing to get handicrafts to art lovers across the globe.

She has identified Iranian expatriates living in various countries, specifically students studying in foreign universities, to sell her artifacts and earn hard currency.

“I have contacts in different countries. They are Iranian expatriates. They take our artifacts to the country they live and sell it to make money. We share the profit. It’s profitable for both of us. I’ve been unable to market my handiworks independently and this is the solution I’ve found,” Salehi told the IEBD. “I can’t simply limit my sales to foreign tourists visiting Iran. I’m in touch with my contacts, specifically Iranian expatriates living in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, through social media networks such as Instagram or Telegram. The handicrafts my contacts take abroad are not registered with the IRICA and are considered suitcase trade.”

BRICS Member States,

An Emerging Market for Persian Handicrafts

Research carried out by international experts on the global handicrafts market show a 12 percent growth between 2015 and 2019. The minimum initial investment required for creation of job, low-pay labor and abundant raw materials are the primary drivers for the growth of this market.

High global demand for home accessories, jewelry, glasswork and other fashion accessories such as handbags and belts are contributing to market growth. Growth in international tourism is seen as another reason behind the growth of the handicraft market.

These telling findings show what Iranian artisans and exporters need to do. Craftsmen and craftswomen across Iran are in dire need of market opportunities. Holding expos in the world’s five major emerging economies _ Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) _ is seen by experts as an important initiative aimed at tapping into new markets for Iranian handicrafts.

“While the European Union (EU) countries, Japan, Arab states and Iran’s neighbors have been major destinations for Iranian handiworks, BRICS member states are among new markets that appear to be keen on Iranian handicrafts,” Hossein Bakhtiari, Secretary of Iranian Handicraft Exporter Association told the IEBD. “There is an appetite for handcrafted Iranian products there. Our yet limited but increasing exports show that BRICS countries are waking up to the Iranian handicrafts since Persian artifacts offer uniqueness in craftsmanship, quality and display. The opportunities are endless there. We need to send our marketing people there to study and pave the way for expansion of market openings.”

Bakhtiari said the wide variety of Iranian handicrafts means Iran has the capacity to export its artistic works to all countries in the planet, including African states.

“Persian handicrafts have a history of several thousand years but we are young in marketing and have been unable to capture markets adequately. We need to draw up defined plans for each region and each country. That’s still missing. This is one reason why we have not been able to capture too many markets. Both the government and the private sector have failed to address this key issue appropriately. We need to learn about foreign markets and educate our artisans to produce artifacts to meet market requirements,” he said.

That may partly explain why, for instance, the Omani market reportedly has been inundated with Chinese and Indian handicrafts while Persian artifacts have a minimum share.

“A veteran artisan that produces a masterpiece is not necessarily a good businessman. Business experts are needed to do the marketing. That’s what we need to concentrate on more than before. An artisan produces artwork on the basis of his or her own taste or preference but we need to produce handicrafts to meet the taste of customers,” he said. “You can’t sell the same handicrafts Chinese buy to Brazilians. If we are after success, we are required to carry out field studies and learn about customer preferences in different countries and then produce works on the basis of our findings.”

Going forward, Bakhtiari suggested, Iran should seek to make further inroads into global markets and focus on Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Increasing handicraft exports and creating new market opportunities for Iranian artisans are also in line with the state policy of developing an “economy of resistance”, a strategic goal aimed at diversifying exports, boosting domestic production, reducing dependence on crude oil revenues and sales of other raw materials, and promoting knowledge-based high-tech industries.

Revenues earned from the export of handicrafts are among smart solutions to reduce Iran’s reliance on oil revenues and achieve those goals. Some experts call handicrafts a “hidden treasure” that can save Iran’s faltering economy.

Creating an export terminal specifically devoted to handicrafts in order to facilitate and speed up the process of exporting artifacts and a national showroom in Tehran to display handiworks to foreign tourists and trade delegations visiting Iran are among measures already being addressed by the ICHTO.

A sharp decline in the value of rial, Iran’s national currency, against the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies in recent months has even encouraged Iranian artists to utilize the abundantly available domestically-produced raw materials and double their efforts to increase their exports. They can gain more profits by selling their products in foreign currencies and then change it back into rials.

Exporter Elmieh looks beyond traditional customers of Iranian artifacts.

 

He names Argentina as a potential new market for Iranian handicrafts. However, he admits that entering new markets is a high-cost procedure which can be facilitated by e-commerce and government support.

Elmieh, CEO of the private Handicraft Global Research (HGR), began his business in the handicraft sector in 2014. His HGR, he said, has created 1,200 jobs with some 300 skilled artists producing pottery works and more than 200 artisans involved in miniature and small paintings alone.

He underscored a dire need for proper marketing and promotion in a bid to improve exports.

“In many countries, Iranian handicrafts are not known to the public. That’s why there is a serious need to attend exhibitions in various countries, organize showrooms and even set up retail shops in major cities across continents to make the world familiar with Iranian handicrafts,” Elmieh insisted.

A Profitable Business Plan for Foreign Investors

Business developer Mostafa Salehirad says Persian handicrafts are suffering from lack of adequate designing, packaging and online marketing and this is exactly where foreign investors, particularly Europeans, can jump into the market.

“Most Iranian handicraft artists still maintain a traditional mindset, which is a big challenge for development of the sector. Some 90 percent of handiworks they produce are decorative, not practical, items because they produce works without studying the target countries. That’s why we have failed to capture a big size of the global handicraft market,” he said.

Salehi, manager of artoneat.eu handicrafts, is in the process of launching his online handicraft business in Berlin on the basis of a deal with Iran Europe Business Center (IEBC). His artoneat.eu will be launched in December 2018 with four major goals:

1.It is intent on turning its Berlin space into a retail handicraft marketplace with online sales across Europe. That would be Business to Customer (B2C) sale.

  1. It is planning Business to Business (B2B) sale. That would be wholesale business. It means artoneat.eu will sell previously-ordered handiworks to chain stores, commercial and professional business users or to other wholesalers.
  2. It is working to develop concepts, seeking to revolutionize Persian handicrafts through redesigning to meet the taste of customers in target countries.
  3. It is planning to enter Europe’s auction market. He says Iranians have neglected the potentially significant auction markets outside Iran and that his artoneat.eu is determined to offer only luxurious and splendid artworks at auctions twice a year in Europe.

“Our plan is to turn Persian handicrafts into practical items based on the demand of customers rather than selling them as decorative items. Our goal is to match artworks with modern design and capture the global markets. That’s why we have been conducting market research before launching our new business,” he said.

Salehi, a veteran in handicraft business, argues that the export of Persian handicrafts will get a boost should they be redesigned and marketed online.

He says employing Iranian students abroad to sell handicrafts is neither professional nor sustainable in the long term. Instead, he believes, an IT-based infrastructure together with professional marketing and online sale is the way to help boost the export of handicrafts.

“At least 57 percent of Europeans favor online shopping since electronic commerce allows consumers to directly buy goods over the Internet by using a web browser. This’s what we are planning to activate to promote Iranian handicrafts. And that’s why we are opening a marketplace in the heart of Europe, Berlin, and are going to engage in online sale,” he said.

The business developer wants artoneat.eu to be a pioneer in online sale of Persian handicrafts and is already in talks with digital marketing firms in Europe to sign partnership agreements.

“We need partners in Europe who are experts in digital marketing and online sales. We are also ready to raise funds jointly with European firms to promote Iranian handiworks,” he said.

Salehi argues that Iranians are strong artists but are weak in marketing. This is where Europeans can jump into the business and make use of their expertise in the field of redesigning and packaging as well as online marketing and reap the financial benefits.

Handicrafts Sell Good Domestically

Sale of $1.7 billion worth of handicrafts in the domestic market last year shows that the industry is selling relatively good at home with a population of 80 million people.

But there is still a lot of room for improvement. Traditional artists in rural areas or small towns have little access to high-speed Internet or online sale. Many of them even don’t use Internet at all. That partly explains why they want permanent showrooms in the capital Tehran to sell their works.

“We need a permanent location to sell in Tehran,” one potter from Lalejin said at the annual handicrafts exhibition in Tehran this summer. “Holding an exhibition is good but it is only for a few short days.”

UNESCO Seal of Excellence for

Iranian Handicrafts

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) annually awards Seal of Excellence to select handicraft products submitted by producers around the world.

Handicraft products are considered unique expressions of a community or culture. Submitted products are judged by an international panel of experts selected by UNESCO, the specialized agency of the United Nations based in Paris.

Awarding Seal of Excellence to selected products are aimed at promoting the handicraft sector and encouraging artisans to produce artistic works using traditional skills, designs and ideas while employing innovative methods.

In 2010, a total of 65 selected Iranian handicrafts including enamel, tile, metalwork, leatherwork and wood carving received the UNESCO Seal of Excellence.

In 2016, a total of 10 high-quality works by Iranian artisans, ranging from potteries to hand-woven products, were granted the prestigious award.

Isfahan, the cradle of Iranian handicrafts, has won over 100 UNESCO awards so far alone. In total, Iranian handicrafts have so far received 273 UNESCO Seals of Excellence, the highest number of awards accorded to any country.

Here are some of the most popular Iranian handicrafts to name a few:

Khatam

Khatam, described by many artisans as the most popular Iranian handicraft, is an ancient Persian technique of inlaying. In other words, it’s the Persian art of marquetry wherein the surface of wooden articles is decorated with delicate pieces of wood, bone, and metal, which are already cut precisely in a variety of shapes and designs. The pieces are laid side by side, glued together in stages, smoothed, oiled and polished.

Designing of inlaid articles is a highly elaborate, labor-intensive and delicate process. In just one square inch, there are more than 400 pieces in a Khatam work of average quality. That alone speaks of its precision. And that’s why inlaid work requires a great deal of proficiency, precision and patience.

Khatam work, also known as incrustation work, is mostly used to coat boxes, cases and frames. Khatam work is also used in doors and windows, mirror frames, holy book boxes, jewelry boxes, pen and penholders, inlaid boxes, home accessories, dinner tables and even large chandeliers.

The ornamentation of the doors of holy places predominantly consists of inlaid motifs. Samples of Khatam work can be observed in the cities of Mashhad, Qom, Shiraz, and Tehran. The inlaid-ornamented rooms at the Sa’dabad Palace and the Marble Palace in Tehran are among masterpieces of this art.

The typical items utilized in the construction of inlaid articles are gold, silver, brass, aluminum and twisted wire. Khatam art flourished in the Safavid era (1501 to 1722) as artists created precious artworks.

Moarragh or Wood Carving

Moarragh or wood carving _ also referred to it as marquetry _ is another type of inlaying on wood. It’s actually the craft of applying pieces of veneer into a context to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures.

This type of art is the making of designs and motifs by edge cutting and combining colorful pieces of wood on wood base dyed with polyester color.

Monabat or Fretwork

Monabbat is ornamental design in wood. It’s an interlaced decorative design that is either carved in low relief on a solid background, or cut out with a fretsaw.

The art is another type of wood carving. It’s one of the most delicate Iranian handicrafts that use a combination of art and the pleasure of artisans to create valuable products.

Artists engaging in Monabat hammer on the wood, engraving their minds with beautiful lines, motifs and flowers.

Based on the existing evidence, the history of this artwork reaches more than 1500 years in Iran.

Painting and decorative work to make the painting more beautiful is the final stage of the work. Painting and finishing decorative work not only adds to the beauty of the artwork but also keeps the wood from moisture, heat and erosion.

Abadeh and the historical city of Shiraz in south Iran are the main centers of Monabat work.

Monabat is widely used for decorating furniture or as an artwork in the form of tableaux.

Qalamzani or Engraving

Qalamzani or engraving, also known as toreutics, is one of the traditional handicrafts of Iran dating back to 5,000 to 7,000 years. It’s artistic metalworking by hammering gold, silver, copper or brass.

In other words, engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat, surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin or carving into it by chisel. Burin is a steel rod with a square or lozenge-shaped section and a slightly bent shank and chisel is a tool with a shaped cutting edge of blade on its end.

To engrave, the artisan first covers the back side of the work by tar. That’s done to prevent loud noise while doing engraving and avoid the metal from getting punctured as a result of hammering.

Then, the craftsman begins to engrave the chosen designs or patterns on the work, using hammer and different types of chisels. The deeper it penetrates into the metal, the wider the line.

Once the engraving is done, tar is removed from the back of the work and the chiseled areas are covered with charcoal powder and black lubricating oil. Finally, the work is cleaned off and the black lines of the engraved designs appear on the surface of the work. The engraved lines are so sharp and clean that assert themselves brilliantly on the surface. The result is a decorated engraved work.

It takes years and years of practice and hard work to fully learn engraving techniques and produce a masterpiece. It also requires a degree of expertise to distinguish hand-made engravings from machine-made works. Copper-plate engraving is the most common craftwork in Iran.

Some hand engraving artists nowadays employ a combination of hand push, pneumatic, rotary and chisel methods at work.

Minakari or Enamelling

The art of Minakari, or Enamelling, is the decoration of metal and tile with mina glaze. It is the art of painting, coloring and ornamenting the surface of metals and ceramics (porcelains) by fusing a thin layer of powdered glass to the object with a combination of brilliant colors.

That layer of glass is called Mina or Vitreous Enamel. It’s a durable coating made of melted and fused glass powder.

In this technique of decorative art _ which is also called Porcelain Enamelling and Vitreous Enamelling, enamel in the form of a powder or paste is applied to a metal or ceramic surface and then subjected to intense heat. The fire (usually between 750 and 850 degrees Celsius) melts the enamel turning it into a brilliant glass-like substance. That’s why some call the work “the Miniature on Fire.” After cooling, it gives the metal, glass or ceramic a hardened, long-lasting surface.

The art of decorating metal or ceramic surface with glowing color was known in Iran from early times. The discovery of a knife handle decorated with enamel belonging to the first millennium BC point to the ancient origin of this art in Persia.

Iranian craftsmen during the Sassanid era (224 to 651 AD) extensively employed this art. Later, Mongol invaders spread this magnificent art to Central and East Asia.

The paintings or patterns used for enamel works in Iran are traditional designs depending on the taste and preferences of the artist or orders from customers. In the Iranian version of enameling, copper and silver are the most dominant metals used while ceramic enameling has also flourished.

There are special tools used in this ancient artistic endeavor such as kiln or furnace, pliers, clamp and brush. Isfahan is the center of enameled work in Iran.

There are a wide variety of Enamelled works available in Iranian bazaars from bowls, plates, pitchers, tea and beverage serving sets to decorative pieces such as flowerpots, home accessories, candle holders, jewelry boxes and wall decors or items such as photo frames, photo albums, ashtrays, and pipes. One can also find cute Minakari earrings, necklace sets and rings. Should artisans want to overdo themselves, they combine Minakari with Khatam works to make it more appealing to buyers.

Velvet Weaving

Velvet is a kind of piled silk fabric in which cut threads are evenly distributed, giving it a distinguished, unique soft feel.

Due to delicacy in its design, form, and softness in its texture, velvet is regarded as the climax of textile art having a variety of categories, the most beautiful of which is the embossed velvet.

Velvet was initially used to make clothes for the aristocrats, curtains and upholstery in palaces, and to make coverings for the Holy Koran, and praying mats. It’s based on historical facts that historians suggest velvet weaving dates back to the early Islamic period.

Although historical record of velvet weaving in Iran is not precisely known, weaving various silk types of fabric has been popular in different parts of Persia since the Sassanid period.

The art of velvet weaving reached its peak during the Safavid Dynasty, thanks to the flourishing textile industry. In the Safavid era, velvet was widely used to decorate the imperial court. The artwork was mostly viewed as Iran’s primary souvenir at the time.

Yazd and Kashan are major velvet weaving centers in Iran.

Persian Silk Brocade

Brocaded silk weaving is one of the Iranian national arts dating back to the Achaemenian era (550 and 330 BC). Weaving curtains and brocaded silk woven fabrics flourished during the Sassanid period and were mostly used to decorate royal palaces.

Brocade fabric is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics. It is considered a supplementary weft technique. The work mainly consists of solid or multi-colored silk threads, usually combined with gold or silver metallic threads.

This traditional fabric is composed of two groups of warp and weft threads. In traditional brocaded silk weaving, both the thread of warp and the thread of weft are of pure silk. Once the fabric is woven, it enjoys special sheerness and softness.

Brocaded silk creates the illusion that the weave has been embossed into the fabric, or embroidered on top of it.

Iranian colored silken fabrics have long enjoyed special fame in Asia and Europe.

Pottery

Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions. It’s basically clay that artisans turn into pottery wares. It’s actually fired ceramic wares containing clay.

In other words, pottery is made by forming clay into objects of various shapes through a variety of techniques and heating them in a kiln to remove the moisture from the body of the clay. The clay body can be decorated before or after being fired.

Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization around Susa, in southwestern modern Iran, dates back to 5,000 BC.

The village of Kalporegan in Sistan and Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran is home to the ancient art of Persian pottery. The village is known as an open pottery museum.

According to local elders, manufacturing practices dating back between 4 and 6 thousand years ago still remain intact.

But Lalejin, a small town in Hamedan Province in western Iran, is an expanding pottery hub in Iran. It hosts numerous pottery workshops and is celebrated as the World Pottery Capital. The town has a global reputation for its potteries. Pottery handicraft has made Lalejin a center of tourism in the province and tourists _ both Iranian and foreign _ buy pottery as souvenirs to adorn their homes.

Meibod, a town in Yazd Province in central Iran, is another center of pottery and porcelain.

Pottery products are available both in glazed and unglazed forms of various sizes and shapes. Ceramic glaze is the most common form of pottery decoration. Pottery products in both cities feature delicate flowers, birds and more complex geometric patterns, derived from Persian traditions and culture.

Pottery work is one of the top five popular Iranian handicrafts. There are a wide variety of them from earthenware vessels suitable for holding liquids, bowls, plates, flower vases to candle holders and many more.

Mat Weaving

Mat weaving is the art of weaving strips of organic fibers into mats. Actually, a mat is a piece of fabric material made of lengthy dried leaves of trees, specifically palm trees, that normally is placed on a floor or other flat surface.

Mat weaving in Iran is done manually, mostly by women in rural or tribal regions. The art is a source of income for many families in rural areas.

There are a wide variety of products from door mats to baskets used to store and transport light materials while shopping, as well as housewares, shoes, handbags, and even hats generally used as protection against scorching sunlight.

The main materials used by mat-weavers across Iran vary on the basis of geographical diversity. These materials generally include palm tree leaves, straws found in marshlands in tropical zones, wheat straw and many more. Mats made of organic fibers are cool and suitable to the hot tropical climate.

These products have to be kept away from fire, pressure and strike by sharp or cutting objects. They can be washed using tepid water and ordinary detergents.

Gilan Province in north Iran and Homozgan Province in south Iran are the main centers of mat weaving in the vast country.

Mat products have gained global attention in recent years as many countries and businesses ban plastic straws since most end up in landfills or floating out in the ocean.

Environmentalists say using organic materials and letting go of a single piece of plastic could be a first step to change behaviors in the world and get people to start thinking about the global plastic pollution problem.

Iran-Europe Business Digest (IEBD) magazine has been launched to facilitate and promote business between Iran and Europe. 

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