Also, known as “Kalemkârî”, kalem işi art is the ornaments made with colored paints and sometimes made with gold paints to flat or concave surfaces like walls, vaults, domes, arches, pendants, in the interiors of the architectural structures; on materials such as wood, stone, marble, gypsum plaster, leather. While the art is performed by “kalemkârs” with thin, long hairbrushes called “kalem”, the patterns are prepared by “nakkaş”.
The history of kalemişi goes back to the era of Uyghurs, and it is possible to see it in each and every period in Anatolia. In Ottoman Era, it has become common as painting on dry ground between 14th and 17th centuries. The contours of the patterns on a thin paper drawn by “Nakkaş” are needled, and then put to the surface on which the ornament will be made with coal dust. Among the colors used are navy blue, blue, red, white, yellow, while “tahrirs” is black. From time to time, gilding and embossing are also made. Geometric and plantal shifts, hatayi group “tezyinat”, palmette, rumi and curly branches are frequently used in ornament decorations. Other than religious and public architectural structures such as the mosques and shrines, hand-carving ornaments are preferred in civil structures as palaces, mansions and halls as well. The features that distinguish this technique from fresco is that it is spatial and mostly applied to the dry surface.
Another type of hand-carving used with plasterwork is called “malakârî”. As trowel is used in this technique, it has sub-branches like müzeyyen (adorned) malakârî, hendese (geometry) malakârî, kabarık (emboss) malakârî. On the surface where the ornament will be made, the inner plaster is removed from the pattern when it is wet, the nails are hit on the surface of the pattern and the plaster is applied with a trowel to cover it. After the plaster is dry, it is polished in such a way as to reveal the pattern and the plasters in the area outside of the pattern are removed. Finally, required places are painted.
In our day, kalem işi can be applied to modern building groups, as well as in the restoration of old works by “kalemkârs”.