The most important aspect of Lél’s vision, is its view towards the future. How does one take an ancient craft and carry it through the ages so that it remains relevant to the contemporary? An interesting aspect of Lél’s process of production points to exactly this: the point of meeting between the old and the new. Farhana and Meherunnisa live between Islamabad and Peshawar; their workshop is located in Peshawar. As the lengthy process of each handmade product takes place, they often exchange images over Whatsapp, when they are not in the same city – a head-on collision of the contemporary technology with the art of an ancient time, creating through this encounter a solution for the times in which one exists. This encounter is also visible in the contemporary pieces, whether in furniture or accessories, that mother and daughter carefully and thoughtfully design, with the range of their influences diverse and thoroughy researched. Where one can see the exquisite floral patterns that evoke Mughal miniatures and the decorative within Islamic architecture, the vibrant blue of lapis combined with the ethereality of gold emerge from the ancient Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, which views the reparative process as contributing to the beauty of the object.
It is in the existence of this lens, this vision of the future that collides with the past, that Lél’s true power lies. This is where the space that Lél creates is able to become truly collaborative, when learning extends both ways, between artisan and designer, and between tradition and contemporary culture. Lél then is not simply involved in an act of preservation, but also simultaneously one of progression, through which the ancient art of pietra dura is not only disallowed from being forgotten, but is also pushed forward into its contemporary evolution. With each new piece that is created, a step is taken towards the future, not just by the initiative begun by Farhana and Meherunnisa, but also for those who work with them, and in the lives of whom their pieces come to occupy space, bringing the history of thousands of years along with them.
A mother-daughter’s passion
An autodidact, Farhana Asad, has dedicated nearly half her life to the study and revival of the traditional arts through a host of mediums. Lél is the collaborative artistic space where Farhana’s creative expression meets a contemporary audience’s desire for original and timeless works of art.
Her interests in the arts of stone were sparked by a chance encounter with a small jeweled stone box, displaying an eagle. With her curiosity piqued, and learning that the medium was mostly a man’s field of art, Farahana undertook the challenge by learning to seek the mystique inherent in discovering the locked hues and patterns of stones she worked with.
From one point of view, Lél was the natural progression of a journey undertaken by Farhana many years ago when she embarked to explore the medium of stone. When asked, whether she has created her perfect piece, she responds, suggesting the journey is far from over, “I’ve yet to create my perfect piece.”
After graduating with a bachelors in Architectural Design from the National College of Arts, Meherunnisa Asad studied at the Pratt Institute Graduate School of Digital Arts and received an MFA in 2007. With her return to Pakistan, she went on to practice as senior conservation architect on the Conservation of the Lahore Walled City at the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program.
But in 2010, having been inspired with working in conservation Meherunnisa realized the importance of preserving the traditional arts, and began training with her mother Farhana to learn the art of handcrafted pietra dura or inlay, an art form Farhana had been working to conserve for over two decades in her hometown Peshawar.
At this juncture in her career, Meherunnisa is now exploring the convergence of her passion for the preservation of historic architecture with that of preserving classical traditions of the decorative arts. Through this convergence, she continues to experiment and seeks to build bridges between modern creative modes and traditional crafting techniques, all in an effort to showcase the wonders of natural stone.
Our palette is a wide array of wonders, which includes a range of semi-precious stones (Onyx, Jasper, Agate, Jade, Serpentine, Sandstone), and colored marble (Mardan pink and Ziarat white) sourced from the mountains of Pakistan. Whereas, Lapis Lazuli is sourced directly from the Badakhshan province in Afghanistan, Malachite from South Africa and Turquoise from Iran, our pallette is itself a discovery of the natural wonders, which we artistically shape and customize for you.
From conception to creation, every Lél piece is a labor of love–a gradually and meticulously handcrafted by master artisans, as they bring their subtle touches to reveal the essence of that stone for cutting, carving and placing the intricate designs to create the masterpiece that awaits your home.
Finally, on a deeper level, Lél is a collaborative effort between the earth, and imagination and soul of the artisans. Nature as molded and impressed for thousands, and in some cases millions of years its handiwork into these stones, and now it is the artisans at Lél to discover its essence. There are no blank canvases in art of stone, only that which is awaiting to be discovered.