Pakistan-based artistic collective Lél was founded by Farhana Asad after she become fascinated by the technique of inlaid stonework known as parchin kari or pietra dura when she came across an exquisite box in a bazaar in northern Pakistan 25 years ago.
After eventually tracking down its maker, an Afghani craftsman who was living nearby, and who agreed to give her lessons in the technique in her garage at home, Asad opened the doors to artisans escaping the war across the border, and currently employs 20 artisans, including Afghan refugees living in Pakistan alongside local Pakistani craftspeople who collaborate with wood and metalworkers to create intricate stone works. Asad’s daughter Meherunnisa, an architect and graduate of New York’s Pratt Institute, now works alongside her mother as the studio’s creative director.
Dedicated to preserving and evolving the 16th century Florentine and Mughal art of hand-crafted stone inlay, Lél artisans create furniture, wall panels, and jewellery, which fuses modern shapes with Mughal-inspired patterns or geometric designs, in turquoise or jade.
In 2020, the collective launched an online shop and homeware collection that features furniture pieces – including nesting tables, dinettes and cabinets – as well as objects adorned in scenes inspired by exotic flowers and birds, a tribute to the region and Lél’s Peshawar base. The studio is currently presenting a parchin kari marble floor for the Pakistan Pavilion at the London Design Biennale and continues to work to preserve the craft’s knowledge and skills for future generations, as well as exploring the creative possibilities of the technique.
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