Turquoise Mountain – inspired by heritage, handmade by artisans
By Jennie Graham
If you’re looking for authentic, one-off luxury pieces, Turquoise Mountain – a non-profit founded by HRH The Prince of Wales – has launched a new range of heritage-inspired carpets, fabrics and furniture for luxury interiors and hotels. Interior designers and wholesale buyers can now choose from a catalogue of beautiful products developed with supported master artisans in Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Jordan – or work with them to create custom designs to suit. All products are handmade by skilled artisans using traditional techniques and local supply chains.
Turquoise Mountain was founded in Afghanistan in 2006 by HRH The Prince of Wales to restore the historic neighbourhood of Murad Khani in Kabul and to generate incomes through heritage and craftsmanship. Since then, Turquoise Mountain has gone on to restore over 150 historic buildings, train over 6,000 artisans, and bring handmade crafts to clients and museums all over the world. Today, Turquoise Mountain works with artisans across four countries – Afghanistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Artisans carve intricate architectural woodwork from Afghan walnut, hand-knot Afghan carpets using the finest Ghazni wool, and weave delicate fabrics inspired by heritage Burmese textiles. Their expertly crafted pieces can be found in private residences and international five-star hotels, from The Connaught Hotel in London, to Hotel George V in Paris, to The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh.
One of the talented weavers behind Turquoise Mountain’s bespoke carpets is Khairul, pictured above. Khairul grew up as a refugee in Pakistan and by the time she was 17, was teaching others her carpet-weaving skills. When her family returned to Afghanistan, she sold her jewellery to purchase materials and weave her own carpets, but couldn’t find buyers in the local market. She then learned about a local weaver group and decided to join. Through the group, Khairul has learned about her rights as a worker and how to negotiate her wages, and with Turquoise Mountain’s support, she is now able to sell her carpets to international buyers. Khairul is now a Weaver Representative, and in her new role she leads a group of 40 other weavers, creating carpets for international clients such as Christopher Farr and Matt Camron.
In Jordan, Syrian artisans Moataz and Ossama run a successful business in mother-of-pearl inlay woodwork. Since joining Turquoise Mountain’s network of artisans, they have worked on a number of major commissions, including a bespoke piece for the Buckingham Palace Summer Opening in 2018 to commemorate HRH The Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday, and more recently, a range of handcrafted pieces for Jo Malone London. Of their work, Moataz says, “Craftmanship is part of who we are. We like to be in touch with things happening around us and we are always trying to expand our practice to include new designs and contemporary techniques, but it is important to maintain skills which have existed for centuries. There’s nothing quite like handmade. Each piece contains a part of the soul of its makers; it’s what makes handmade products so special.”
Through artisan support programmes, and in partnership with Swiss NGO Label STEP in Afghanistan, Turquoise Mountain promotes good working conditions, fair wages, the prohibition of child labour, and environmentally sustainable production. In Afghanistan, the organisation also offers access to health services and early education for children. Their clinic in the Old City of Kabul has served over 136,000 patients to date, and over 200 children are taught in their primary schools each year, many of them the children of their supported weavers.
Turquoise Mountain is bringing the work of some of the finest artisans working today to an international audience, while creating jobs for thousands of people right across Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Middle East. Find out more about their heritage-inspired, handcrafted products at www.turquoisemountain.org.