We're just back from a whirlwind tour of small towns in Rajasthan, Indian's colourful desert state of ancient forts. We've been in search of Indian miniature paintings and beautiful textiles and also something that's fascinated me for years - ancient stepwells or baoris.
Stepwells are like huge inverted pyramids cut deep into the ground in search of the fluctuating water table. In the dry landscape of Rajasthan there are no rivers. Lined with stone with sometimes hundreds of steps down to the water they became refuges from the heat and a place to rest and socialise.
They were built between the 9th and 17th centuries often by Maharanis, women rulers, it being the job of women to collect water. It's only recently I've been able to find their location, most people in India don't seem to know of them, they've simply not attracted much attention and they're not on the tourist circuit.
I've recently discovered there are stepwells in places I've visited many times, hidden away in the old parts of town, even right in the centre of New Delhi. I also hoped to find the remains of an old Buddhist site between Delhi and Jaipur, not a place where I expected to find traces of Buddhism. In the event it took too long to find, we arrived at midday and another hour's walk was unrealistic. Next time we'll have a head start and set off early morning.
Mixed in with our travelling we've bought a wonderful collection of Indian miniature paintings and many types of vibrant textiles from the far corners of the Thar desert - and utterly beautiful kantha embroideries originally from Bengal. Kanthawork is upcycling at it's very best, old saris are sewn together in layers to make lightweight quilts of extraordinary vitality.
More on all of this in future blogs as we slowly get everything photographed and loaded on the website. And then there's the old wooden artefacts that will be coming by sea!