Pottery is one of the oldest handicrafts of Gilan. Many pottery artifacts that belong to Iron Age can be found in Marlik and Amlash which prove the prolonged use of this practice. Therefore Gilan has long been considered as a major center of pottery in Iran. According to local dialect of Gilan the word “Sofal” (pottery) refers to the clay that has been fired. Based on the discoveries in archaeological site of Marlik, Talesh and Deylaman, we are now certain that humans inhabited there from a very long time ago, and they made their necessary tools by the means of pottery, and also created beautiful and fascinating sculptures in glossy black. In ancient times, these pottery artifacts were created in black, red and grey. Instead of using black pigment, people of Gilan reduced the amount of oxygen upon heating the potteries in the kiln. This method of firing changed the mineral components and resulted in black clay body. One of characteristics of Gilan potteries, that distinguishes them from other regions, is their terracotta color that derives from the earth being rich of Iron components.
Another feature of the potteries of Gilan is that they were more created for practical uses and less for decoration. Gilan is one of few regions where you can find many pottery utensils. One of the most known is “Gemej”. Gemej is a spherical dish, with a cap in the shape of a cone, and a convex bottom. Gemej, that usually has a green glaze, was the most used cooking utensil. The decoration of the Gemej were very simple and basic, which emphasizes their practical use.
Most of the potters of Gilan are women. Men usually prepare the clay. Their pottery tools are simple and hand-made. Preparing the clay is very exhausting, and consists of multiple levels.
Today, the potteries of Gilan can be divided into two groups. First group, that are mass-produced, are used in daily life such as roof tiles, and utensils such as Gemej, vases, saltshakers and etc. The pottery dishes fall under this category, and can be divided into three classes themselves: the one used for drinks, the ones used for serving meals and the ones used for cooking. The second group is the potteries that are decorative, and hence more artistic, such as clay sculptures.