Jali screens and trays are named after the century-old technique, jali, which is used to make them. Jali screens were originally used to separate the private inside of houses - women and children - from the public outside life, while letting in light and ventilation. They are used in houses, mansions, and mosques across the Islamic world. In Afghanistan they are always made of wood, though they can also be made of metal or stone. Slivers of cedar or walnut wood are put together to create hundreds of intricate geometrical patterns.
A master Jali-maker at work at the Turquoise Mountain Institute
The jali tray was made as a series of products, created by the Turquoise Mountain Institute in Kabul, using the concept of the jali screen in more functional products. Each tray takes 17 hours to produce. Originally it took 19 hours, but when we last placed a large order of 500 trays Turquoise Mountain used this as an opportunity to made the process more efficient. They divided the various tasks involved in producing the trays - cutting the slivers, polishing them, assembling the trays, and finishing them with a thin layer of oil - between the artisans. 500 trays have now been sold and we are about to place another large order.
Jali trays, trivets, and coasters
To learn more about how Jali is made, and see more examples of incredible Afghan woodworking, watch this excellent video from the Turquoise Mountain Institute:
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