55-year-old Abdul Wakil, the owner of Istalefi Pottery Shop, is a third-generation Afghan artisan. Having inherited pottery making from his father and grandfather at age 10, Wakil has spent several decades perfecting his handcrafted brand. Located in Istalif-a village just northwest of Kabul, Istalefi Pottery, known for its fantastic turquoise ceramics, was established in 1971. Wakil hopes to preserve the richness of the Afghan pottery tradition for many future generations.
Currently, Istalefi Pottery employs eight artisans in different production sectors, such as preparing clay, shaping, painting, heating, and even selling final products; these include plates, cups, bowls, vases, and pots. Wakil’s process begins with designing ceramic pieces focusing on tradition, functionality, and aesthetics, making his work popular with locals and internationally. He has traveled to Uzbekistan, Japan, and Pakistan to display Istalefi Pottery’s ceramics in art galleries.
However, before partnering with Aseel, Istalefi Pottery only distributed handmade ceramics in Afghanistan plus a few other nations, including the US, France, and a limited number of Asian countries. Wakil first aims to preserve the pottery industry in Afghanistan to honor his ancestors’ legacy. Second, he hopes to create local jobs in Istalif-a village. Wakil recounted that there were dozens of nearby handmade ceramic shops decades ago. Due to insufficient access to a sustainable customer base and regional imports of lower quality products, the demand for handmade ceramics is eclipsed by cheaply made goods. Wakil believes Aseel’s global platform will help reinvigorate the waning customer base helping sustain his business and preserve longstanding Afghan ceramic traditions.