Gol chini: 'Fragile flowers' from Iran take root in Mississippi

June 3, 2011 1:19:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


When Tamineh Borazjani came to America 11 years ago, she knew little English and was unfamiliar with Western customs. But the new bride of Mississippi State University Forest Products Professor Hamid Borazjani brought with her an inherent gift that translates readily in any country -- an artist''s vision. 


"I loved many kinds of art," the attractive dark-haired Starkville resident said Wednesday at the family''s home at the end of a secluded tree-lined drive. The dwelling''s distinctive angular architecture is accented by multiple windows, many of unusual proportion. 


"In Iran, houses are more open and have many windows," she explained at the dining table, carefully setting out her gol chini -- "gol" meaning flowers, and "chini" meaning fragile in her native Persian, or Farsi, language. 


Borazjani is a talented painter and has done some beautiful beadwork, as well, but her "paste flowers" are most unique.  




Indigenous art 


Tamineh learned the art of gol chini in her home city of Tehran. 


"In Iran in summer, I was taking art classes; many people take classes," she explains. "It is such a big city, there are classes in every kind of music, language, arts. Many times I see something, I try to create something new."  


Making a paste of 1 cup wood glue, 1 cup corn starch and 1 to 2 spoonfuls of water, she "massages" the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency. It''s best, she says, to store it in the refrigerator for about an hour before making forms. 


Using a set of white acrylic tools she brought with her from Iran, Borazjani has perfected techniques for making a botanical hot house -- tiny daisies, complicated hyacinths, perfectly formed tulips, graceful calla lilies and more. Simpler projects include grapes and sunflowers. 


"The sunflowers are easy," she promises, applying a piece of netting to a dollop of paste she extracted from an airtight ziplock bag. The result is a uniformly textured button that will become the center of a bright yellow sunflower. She used the same net procedure to produce kernels on a miniature ear of corn. 


Oil paints from Iran are used to tint the paste for one-color blossoms. For more subtle colorations, she uses a brush. 


The work requires a very steady hand and, for some blooms, extraordinary patience.  


"It is relaxing, but some of them, no ... more difficult," she expresses, her smile constant. "But always practice makes perfect." 


New life 


Coming from the Iranian capital of Tehran, teeming with its population topping eight million people, Tamineh naturally found moving to a small Mississippi town a huge adjustment.  


"I was shocked," she recalls, with a lilting laugh. "Like on TV, you see Boston and big cities ... " Those images contributed to her preconceptions of the United States. 


She found an anchor at the Friendship House, a Crossroads International ministry on MSU''s campus focused on the needs of international families. It helped acclimate the newcomer to the area and its resources. 


Borazjani''s English vocabulary developed, but "age has a lot to do with it," she remarks, her eyes twinkling. "Younger people absorb language so quickly." 


But, it was the people of her new hometown that had the biggest impact on Tamineh. She soon learned why her husband loved Mississippi and MSU, where he earned his advanced degrees. 


"Here has very nice people. I have many nice friends here -- always ready to listen to me, to help me," she shares. Her artwork was a conduit into the arts community. She was featured in a one-woman show, and eventually served on the Starkville Area Arts Council board of directors. Somewhere along the way, her new city had begun to feel like home. 


As the sun dropped behind the trees Wednesday, the Borazjani''s two daughters, 8-year-old Nadia and 10-year-old Kimia, came into the dining room, gravitating to the gol chini flowers. Born in Mississippi, their speech is decidedly American, although they have learned Farsi, which the family speaks at home. They giggle, intermittently "correcting" their mother''s pronunciation of an English word.  


She laughs with them, hugging the girls and taking no offense. Nadia picks up a calla lily in progress and tries fitting its components together. 


"That is very good!" Tamineh praises, lavishing broad smiles and planting a happy kiss on her daughter''s cheek. 


"When I create something, it is very enjoyable," she says, explaining her hope that her daughters will find that same satisfaction for themselves in life. "Here, there is much opportunity if someone has ability."

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.