Handcrafted Heirloom Furniture
Udaipur, India, also known as the ‘white city’, is home to a magical tumble of temples and palaces, countless rooftop-dwelling monkeys and the workshop which produces our signature inlay furniture.
We have been commissioning inlay furniture since Jamie and his mum, G&G founder Antonia Graham, first visited the workshops of Udaipur in the 1990s. Today we still work with the same workshop, which employs more than 350 craftsmen, some of them third or fourth-generation master-craftsmen working from their own studios in the surrounding villages.
Each of these exquisite heirloom bone inlay and mother-of-pearl pieces take weeks of painstaking and highly skilled work. First, a wooden frame is crafted and the pattern design is drawn onto this frame to work out positioning. Then each detail of the inlay pattern – which can be minuscule – is individually carved from mother-of-pearl or bone and sanded into shape. This is the hardest part and requires expert attention-to-detail, particularly for mother of pearl, which is thin and prone to breaking.
Once all the inlay pieces are fixed to the frame, coloured resin is pasted around the pattern to form the background. Specially hand-mixed for each piece, the slightest variation in quantities (or even the weather!) can result in slight changes to the colour or texture of the resin, making every inlay item subtly different. Once the resin is dry, the furniture is sanded to make sure the levels and finish are even. The process is repeated… and repeated… until finally the inlay pattern begins to emerge in the resin.
The beauty of inlay for us is the flexibility to create completely different patterns on the same furniture designs. We work with talented artisans to create a variety of designs, from traditional inlay patterns found in Rajasthani palaces to more contemporary geometric designs inlaid into boldly coloured resin. Although all designs require the expertise of craftsman who have passed down techniques through generations, it is often the more contemporary geometric designs that are the most challenging to execute; expert precision is required for the sharp lines and methodical design.
The magic lies in the delightful contrast of polished inlay and colour. The polished bone has a gentle lustre without being in-your-face bling, while mother of pearl, originally from oyster shells, has a wonderfully varied iridescence. And depending on whether the resin used is a soft white or a vibrant green or yellow, the result can be one of joyous bohemian pattern or understated elegance. Beautiful, handmade and unique, few things say ‘India’ like inlay.