Back to Origin: Chapter One Jaipur – Blue Pottery



As part of our travels back to Jaipur we spent some time wandering through the markets with our photographer, Naveli Choyal, and spoke to some of the local artisans about their craft. Here we spoke to Gopal Saini, a Jaipur Blue Pottery craftsman, all about his craft and the development of these designs throughout the years.



Can you tell us about the history of Blue Pottery?


In 1963 Padmshri Kripal Singh Shekhawat Sahib and Maharani Gaytri Devi, along with central minister Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay, bought this art form back to life. Today, all around the world Jaipur is famous for its Blue Pottery and for the craft that goes into making it.


Where did you learn your craft and start your own studio?


I used to go to Jaipur for my PhD research and saw this art being practiced when I visited, inspired by this I established my own studio in 1993.



Can you tell us a bit about the characters, plants, and flowers featured within the design and their meaning to the culture in Jaipur?


I have changed and experimented with designs and shapes, over the traditional art in Blue Pottery, that have not been used before. I’ve added cutting work, embossing work, and miniature work to my collection. In the past, geometrical and floral patterns weren’t very fine and were created in limited shapes. In my work, I have expanded the patterns and used new flowers and vines, as well as using miniature work.

Starting out we use those ornamental patterns and geometrical styles, and the arches and designs we see in various monuments, forts, and palaces. We use the arches as borders and then we decorate it from there with budding vines and flowers, created in a style similar to a serpent, where no one knows where it ends or begins – all of these new ways of working are what we have tried to incorporate into our Blue Pottery.



Can you talk through the natural materials used, and the dying/mixing process used to create Blue Pottery?


Jaipur’s Blue Pottery is the only one based on Silica or Quartz powder. Though it lacks elasticity, we are able to give it different shapes and forms, making different types of vases, plates, bowls, and big sets of tiles. This is the hallmark of the artist’s craft. When it comes to colours, we use metal oxides like cobalt oxide for dark blue and copper oxide for turquoise blue. The actual name ‘Blue Pottery’ is because of these two colours. Over time other colours also came into use, like green from chromium oxide, yellow from tin oxide, and brown from chrome oxide. Using these different metal oxides, we have tried and will continue to create different patterns.


Is there any recognisable architecture in Jaipur that features Blue Pottery tiles?


Minaret in ‘Gangauri Bazar’ near ‘Chhoti Chaupad’ features Blue Pottery, where the King used to sit and watch the fair. This whole building was decorated with Blue Pottery tiles, including the arches, pillars, and balconies. In Maharaja’s Palace, you will see utensils that feature Blue Pottery too.

In larger restaurants, hotels, big business houses, and in the homes of art lovers you will find interiors full of Blue Pottery.



How has the design changed over time?


Several students from various art schools come to visit us and show us their projects, and contemporary art designs; when they add their final touch to the pottery it is beautiful. Also, several customers have visited us with their own designs. After seeing all this we’ve realised that we can make a big change by combining these different styles. We started out by trying these new designs and showing them to our customers. If the customers like it, we include these new designs in our range. We keep the traditional ones too, because this art form is traditional, and we don’t want to lose that. That’s why through the ideas given by students, customers, and art lovers we can keep this traditional craft alive while including new designs too.



How has Blue Pottery started to get international recognition?


On an international level when I represented the government of India, I realised just how many people love Jaipur’s Blue Pottery. Not only in India but internationally, it’s appreciated for its colours and craft. With the help of the government, we registered a patent for Blue Pottery in 2009.

Tourists like this as a traditional art form whereas in India it is liked for its contemporary nature mainly for interiors. Now this pottery has an identity of its own all over the world.






Back to Origin: Chapter One Jaipur – Lac Bangles


As part of our travels back to Jaipur we spent some time wandering through the markets with our photographer, Naveli Choyal and spoke to some of the local artisans about their craft. Here we speak with Hansraj, owner of a Lac Bangle shop, about his craft, the process of creating these beautiful pieces, and the cultural relevance they have within Jaipur culture. 



Can you tell us about the history of the bangles? 


The history of the bangles starts with the story of lac, the material they are made with. Produced by insects that feed on trees, it’s used widely in food, cosmetics, and more across the world. The craft of making lac bangles is as old as the city of Jaipur itself. 




How is the lac material sourced? 


It all begins by collecting the lac from the trees. India is one of the largest producers of lac in the world, the insects produce a scarlet-colour resin which forms small beads on the branches of the trees, which is then scraped off before being cleaned and made into a product called ‘shellac’. 

Shellac arrives in small flat discs or locally named ‘chapadi’ or ‘tikli’, for us to start working with. They come in two colours, burnt umber and ochre, and they form the main component of lac bangles. A resin called berja is added to the lac, for softness. Another component in this process is a fine stone powder called giya powder. To prepare the base mixture, we heat the chapadi and berja resin in a large kadhai. Water is added to the mixture. As the lac melts, the giya powder is added to the mix, which is allowed to blend till it forms a thick lump. This mixture is then taken off the fire, kneaded well, and rolled into coils. That’s how we make the bangles. 




We’ve noticed a lot of the lac bangle producers have different roles for men and women, can you talk a little about that?  


Lac bangle-making involves both men and women. The men make the bangles while working at small kilns and furnaces, while women work on the embellishment and manage the shops. We make the bangles in the storefront throughout the day, on average it takes 6-7 hours to make a dozen bangles, which we sell in the store as people pass by. When visiting Maniharon ka Rasta (the lane where these bangles are traditionally sold), look out for shops named ‘Maniharin’ which are run by the women of the community. 



Lac Bangles are typically sold in the lane called Maniharon ka Rasta, how did the artisans find this as their base?


Jaipur was planned in a way for different types of craftsmen, such as woodworkers, jewellery makers, and textile craftsmen, to live in separate mohallas or small neighbourhoods. When you visit the markets of Jaipur you can still see this, for example, Johari Bazaar, as the name suggests, is a market for jewellery and fine cloth. 




How are the bangles embellished?    


We normally embellish the bangles with pearls, semi-precious stones, mirrors, and beads. The stones are heated over a tin plate kept on a small burner and easily melt the lac surface on which they are placed, sticking once they cool. We then pick them up one at a time and stick them to the bangle. The process requires great precision, and the women of the artisan family normally work on the embellishments. 



The lac bangles in your shop are so vibrant in colour, how is the colour applied?

We use coloured lac blocks to apply colour. These blocks are used by mixing lac with colours we find in the market. The blocks are attached to wooden rods and heated over the coals before being applied over the lac. We can make many designs and patterns by applying different colours in varied styles.     

Then to make a bangle, the coloured coil is cut into small pieces and rolled out again. Using a wooden tool called Khali that has a groove in it, the coloured coil is pressed, and the coil takes the shape of a narrow groove. Using this, the long coil is joined into a loop and is then heated over the coal again. We then put the completed lac bangle into a wooden mandrel to perfect its size and refine its shape. Then finally polish it ready to be worn. After all these steps, a bright colourful bangle comes alive, ready to adorn the wrist of its wearer! 



When are the bangles here traditionally sold? 


The best time for selling lac bangles is during local festivals in the spring and the monsoon, such as Teej and Gangaur. We sell exclusive Lehriya, a local term used for tie-dye textiles, bangles during Teej in the city. 

Lac bangles are an important part of a bride’s ensemble, and an exclusive series of bangles are crafted for the occasion. The bangles are customised to match different outfits worn by the bride.










Back to Origin: Chapter One Jaipur – Flower Garlands


As part of our travels back to Jaipur, we spent some time wandering through the markets with Naveli Choyal our photographer and spoke to some of the local artisans about their craft. Here we speak with Vishal about the process of creating these beautiful flower garlands, to understand their history, and how they are adorned in Jaipur.



There are so many vibrant colours in this flower market. Can you tell us a little about the history of flower garlands?


Historically garlands have been sought after for their fragrance and beauty; they are used to decorate houses, roads, streets and more. They were eventually related to Hindu deities and are an important and traditional role in every festival. Some of the flowers that are used include jasmine, champak, lotus, lily, Ashoka, Nerium/oleander, chrysanthemum, rose, hibiscus, and the pinwheel flower. With leaves including, maachi, paneer leaves, and lavancha also used in the garlands. One of the flower garlands women in India and Bangladesh wear in their hair during traditional festivals is called a gajra, and commonly made with jasmine.
They are also a big part of wedding ceremonies in India and on certain occasions given as a sign of respect.



Where did you learn how to make them?


Making garlands has been in my family for generations and I was taught by my father.

We source the flowers from the main market and then garland makers like myself usually make them in their shops which tend to be found in bustling markets or near temples, normally situated roadside which makes it easy for the public to shop.



Can you talk about some of the flowers used within the garlands?


Marigold and local rose variants are the most popular for us. Both are grown in nearby areas like Jamwa Ramgarh, Chomu, Kanota, Naila, etc.

Imported flowers like English rose, daisies, carnations, and orchids are also sold in this market but we don’t use them as much. They’re grown in places like Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh & routed via Delhi. However, we tend to only use seasonal flowers.

It’s not just flowers that are traded here, even leaves find their way in this bazaar and are used as decoration.



Do the different flowers have different meanings?

Garlands of marigold are hung for promising reasons and flowers are offered in rituals. Marigolds are a big part of festivals like Holi, Diwali, and wedding celebrations.

Rose garlands were sought after for their splendour as well as fragrance.

Lotus symbolises purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration, and rebirth.

Carnation is also known as flower of God. They are the flowers that live the longest when cut so we use them more often.



Where are garlands traditionally used and what do they symbolise?

Marigolds are the most common flower used for garlands, while the local rose is used for offerings to the deities in Hindu temples. Ashok leaves are used a lot along with marigold flowers.

Garlands hold special significance when it comes to day-to-day life, as they’re offered to deities and gods in the temples and used a lot in occasions such as wedding celebrations and Indian festivals like Holi and Diwali.


Half Term: Monsoon Children’s Journal


This half term we’ve put together a Monsoon Journal dedicated to kids, with activities to inspire their break from home to outdoors. Get them making their own tie-dye with natural products you can find at home with a link to our how-to or take them on an outdoor adventure with a list of the best places to walk in nature near you.


Create your own tie-dye



Creating your own tie-dye at home isn’t as hard as you might think, and you can do it with natural products. We have a guide to take you through just what you need and how to do it, keeping the children happy for hours on end with something fun for them to keep at the end of it too. See our dedicated blog post below and if you keep scrolling, you’ll find some fun woodblock and painting projects you can both enjoy doing together!


Read the story >



Take a trip into London, a day out in itself, and bring the kids to a museum with fun art challenges planned in as part of your day. Visit the V&A for activities from baby mindfulness to imagination stations running throughout the half-term week.


Visit the V&A >



Walks outdoors can be so full of adventure. Get them out and into nature with family-friendly walks near you. Day Out with The Kids have put together a handy guide so you can find locations nearby.


Find walks near you >



Allowing books to take them on their latest adventure is always so magical; a time where they can really use their imagination. Find the 100 best books recommended by Book Trust, all helpfully put into age range lists so you can find the perfect one for your children, whatever their age.


Find their next book >



Keep them creative at home with online classes at the University of Arts London, featuring Art and Design workshops and Future Creatives Art Schools, they also have in-person short courses if you live nearby too.


Book an art class > 


Back to Origin: Chapter One – Photographer Naveli Choyal


Welcome to Chapter One, India. In pursuit of spring reverie, we ventured to where it first began in Jaipur. We collaborated with renowned local photographer Naveli Choyal, to capture this season’s colourful block print pieces and embroidered treasures. The campaign was shot in the hotel Samode Haveli in Jaipur, a 225-year-old Indian mansion set in a verdant garden with apartments arranged around the central courtyard and gardens.


We spoke to Navali about her craft, her inspirations, and her experience of shooting our campaign in Jaipur.



What drew you to pursue your passion of photography as a career?


My interest in photography was developed sometime during my early teens. At that time, I was taking photographs of objects and landscapes around me. Although I was thoroughly enjoying the process, I never took my interest seriously. Like a very typical Indian family, any creative or artistic career stream was never made a part of ‘career discussion’ at home, so for me, the idea of becoming a photographer felt very strange and unrealistic.

Later, when I switched between my career and moved to a new college to study fashion design, my love and interest in photography grew stronger. 

After working as a fashion designer for 4-5 years in the industry, I quit my job and took the leap of faith to finally pursue photography professionally.  It was something that felt true to me and the process of creating came naturally to me.

I’m drawn to capturing the moment of the colours, the light and the overall mood of a place or setting.  There is such a rawness in beauty and places.



We shot the campaign in Jaipur, what is your relationship with the city?


Although my maternal family is based in Jaipur, I haven’t ever lived there, however most of my summers growing up were spent at my maternal grandmother’s home in Jaipur where my aunts and I would play games, enjoy Nani’s kitchen bliss, and sleep. For me, I resonate Jaipur with old warm lazy summer days and my family.

The old-world charm of Jaipur is not new for me. My maternal family has lived and worked in the old city for several years. In the recent past, I have come across many stories about my family members leading different professions such as toy making, photography, jewellery making, etc., and these personal stories associated with Jaipur are helping me change my perspective, feel closer to the city, and inspire me in little ways.

It was a bright sunny day when I was shooting for Monsoon. It was nostalgic for me to walk around the city where I spent my childhood summer days, and to be able to see the new places still maintaining the charm and beauty of the city fills me up with joy.

We shot at Samode Haveli, what drew you to this magical place for the campaign?


Samode Haveli is a very intimate place and reflects the old-world charm of the city with the beautiful walls and overall space. As the garments were occasion pieces, the setting worked perfectly for the shoot and for the story of the brand. I found the place to be a fine bridge between the cultural and modern aesthetic.




How did you prepare for the shoot to get yourself into the frame of mind?


I try to make my shoot mornings completely stress-free; I generally start my mornings with chai, a wholesome breakfast, and some silence. This exercise helps me to streamline my day and the shoot. When I am working my entire mind and body is focused on the work.

What are some of your favourite moments to capture?


I love to document my culture, everyday stories & objects, fashion, landscape, textiles, and cultural communities! I feel connected to the raw beauty of the city which has age-old stories to tell. The everyday life of the city and how it is executed with such flawless ease never ceases to amaze me, and it is this phenomenon that I love to capture.

February: Monsoon’s Journal


As we firmly find ourselves in 2022, February is the month of Valentine’s Day, half term, and library appreciation. Embrace it all and more with our top tips for things to do this February, think self-care, Chinese New Year celebrations, and rediscovering your love for the theatre to get you started this month.



This Valentine’s Day we are focusing on self-care with brands we love. Taking time out for yourself with Moonchild and Yogi Bare to practise yoga, or having a low soak in the bath with bath salts from Palm of Feronia, you can discover all the me-time products you need. Valentine’s Day isn’t the only one this month where you can show yourself some kindness, with Random Act of Kindness Day being 17th February – find a gift for yourself or a loved in our wellbeing and beauty edit.


Shop brands we love >




Make the post-Christmas break just as fun with a little help from the Southbank Centre. Take a trip into London for the Imagine Children’s Festival with 160 events to choose from including free ones, to keep them entertained! Have them dressed for the adventure too with our new in collection.


Visit the Southbank Centre >

Shop new in >




February the 1st was Chinese New Year and welcomes in the Year of the Tiger. A symbol of power and lordliness in Chinese culture, tigers are often associated with bravery. With ways to celebrate happening throughout the UK, find ones near you with the help of Country & Town House.


Find out more >




Visiting the theatre is now back on our agenda. With so many shows to choose from, we know it can be hard to narrow it down. Find the top picks for this month from Wuthering Heights to To Kill a Mockingbird, with a little help from Time Out.


Choose your next show >




This month is National Library Lover’s Month, so this February we encourage you to show some love to your local library and at the same time tick off some of the books on your to-read list. Find your local one with a little help from the website.


Join your local library >