Meet Our Artisans
Østerland provides a sustainable business model for social and economic inclusion of local and refugee artisans in the region. Afghanistan and Turkey are homes to thousands of talented artisans, who are in need of employment. By buying our products, you will make a significant difference in the lives of refugees and local artisans, who need livelihood opportunities to sustain themselves and flourish.
Mahmoud AryanShop Turkey
Mahmoud Aryan is a master artisan specialized in tailoring and sewing. He is from Aleppo, where he got married and raised four kids. In Aleppo, he worked as a tailor in an atelier for decades, working for customers in Armenia, France and Italy. In 2014, Mahmoud and his family made the decision to leave Syria for Turkey. They lived in a refugee camp for four years, before moving to Kilis in southeastern Turkey, where he now works as a tailor for a Turkish company and Østerland. Mahmoud says: “I love my work and when I create a jacket or a piece for a customer, and I see that piece on my customer, I always become so happy.”
Yusuf MekikciSHOP TURKEY
Yusuf Mekikci was born in 1971 in the Turkish province of Gaziantep. He is the fourth generation to take over craft at the family business. For Yusuf, working with kutnu is not only about preserving the art of weaving, but it's also about presenting a piece of history that has been brought to Turkey from Syria in the 16th century. Yusuf says “The last decade, we have seen an increasing interest in the kutnu textile from fashion designers around the world. It makes me so proud and happy to see the kutnu textile in different styles and designs on the international market.”
Arezo EsmailzadaSHOP AFGHANISTAN
Arezo Esmailzada is 24 years old and graduated from the faculty of Fine Arts, department of the miniature. She has been working as an artist with our partners in Herat, Afghanistan since 2020. She is a talented artist and is familiar with painting, calligraphy, miniature art, flower making, etc. She is actively involved in many local and national exhibitions producing hundreds of handmade arts and crafts. You can purchase her miniature painted glassware on our website to support her craft.
Fatema EbrahimiSHOP AFGHANISTAN
Fatema Ebrahimi graduated from the Wadan's livelihood course on embroidery in 2021. She is originally from Qazni province but was displaced to the Herat Province due to the civil war and lack of employment opportunities in Ghazni. Fatema is one of the masterminds behind our embroidered pillowcases.
Nehla SolakSHOP TURKEY
Nehla was born in the Turkish mediterranean city of Antakya right at the border to Syria. She has completed primary school and speaks Turkish and Arabic. Nehla’s interest in craft started at an early age. She has been embroidering and doing crochet for the last 30 years.
She has always taken steps to develop her craftsmanship by undertaking different courses related to her arts, she has also exhibited her work at several galleries across Turkey. Once upon a time, Nehla dreamt of having a small atelier. Today she is the happy owner of her own atelier in the dreamy Turkish bordertown Antakya, where she was born. Unfortunately her workshop got completely destroyed during the massive earthquakes that has impacted millions of lives in Turkey and Syria in 2023.
Benafsha AhmedSHOP AFGHANISTAN
Benafsha Ahmed is an artisan from the Ghor Province in Afghanistan. She graduated from Ustad Kamal-addin Behzad Fine Arts Institute in Herat, Afghanistan. Since she was a child, Benafsha dreamt of being an artist and expressed her creativity through islamic miniature painting. She has worked in a private art gallery under the supervision of an expert artist. Benafsha is now painting our herati glassware and helping keep this precious craft alive. She says: I am happy I got the opportunity to paint blue glassware, which is being imported to Denmark. I hope people will love them.
Rainhana Khair ul SadatSHOP AFGHANISTAN
Rainhana was born and raised in the Herat province of Afghanistan. She studied until 8th class and was not able to continue her studies due to financial difficulties. She then enrolled in a painting class for six months and became part of our partners Wadan in Herat, where she plays an active role. She is a successful miniature painter and has exhibited her art both nationally in Afghanistan and abroad. Rainhana is dreaming of continuing her studies in the future and becoming an art teacher for younger generations in Afghanistan.
Yilmaz BüyükaşıkSHOP TURKEY
Yılmaz Büyükaşık is the proud owner of an atelier that has been promoting hand-loom weaving since the early 1900s. The family learned the skills of silk and cotton weaving from the Armenians in Syria and has been producing silk and cotton since 1936 in Hatay, Turkey, right at the border to Syria. Yilmaz has participated in many exhibitions in Turkey to promote this age-old wisdom of craftsmanship.
Helin, 35, is originally from Syria but fled the war, seeking safety in Turkey. Helin has three kids, ages 8, 5 and 3 months. Artisanal work with Østerland, allows Helin to support her children's needs, despite being uprooted.
Mohammad Asghar Rahimi chose the path of jewelry making due to his deep passion for it. He began his journey in the craft in 1400 (2021 Gregorian calendar) at the Black Diamond company. Asghar predominantly works in a modern style and frequently utilizes silver and natural gemstones in his creations. Beyond his jewelry craft, Asghar has a keen interest in photography and often captures candid shots of the city and province. He has a strong affinity for modern jewelry designs and is highly skilled in this particular style.
Feriel, 34, is originally from Syria, but fled the war, seeking safety in Istanbul, Turkey. She has two kids both attending primary school. Artisanal work with Østerland and other national and international companies, allows Feriel to have an additional income and support her family.
Sadi AsfurogluSHOP TURKEY
Sadi Asfuroglu was born in the Levantine city Antakya in 1962. After finishing high school, he enrolled in the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts but chose to leave and pursue his dream of becoming a dentist. But in the early 1990s, he went back to fine arts with the encouragement of Turkey's Ministry of Culture. He felt the need to produce glass as this was also the heritage of his grandfather and his beloved city Antakya. He takes inspiration from the Roman, Byzantine and Phoenician periods. You can purchase his glass 'Daphne pendants' on our website.