When I was studying architecture at London's AA, I came across Gisela Richter's 1926 book on Ancient Furniture which included a number of conjectural measured drawings including one, below right, of a Klismos, based on the one carved on the 430BC Stela of Hegeso in Athens. In 1997 I sent my version of the drawing to my friend, jeweller Munnu Kasliwal in Jaipur, asking if he knew anyone who could make it for me. "They're all thieves", he said. "You'll see copies in high street stores next month. I've got some carpenters upstairs at Gem Palace, I'll give it to them to do." I flew out and spent a month with these men, all from old woodworking villages in Shekhawati, making the first chairs. I was intrigued that their tools, like the saws, below, which they made themselves, looked exactly like the ones used by ancient Greek carpenters, and fantasised that maybe some of Alexander the Great's men, left behind at the Indus, might have brought the first ones with them. Nonsense, but rather romantic nonsense.
The workshop was a couple of whitewashed, marble-floored rooms above Gem Palace (the finest of Jaipur's many jewellery stores) while the polishing was done up on the roof, under the ornate Chattri with its smiling sun-face, below. This ridiculously picturesque workplace was matched by the grace and elegance of the men who would hold wood parts between their feet to work on them, and their toolboxes, draped with flower garlands and images of deities that they would pray to. Every so often there would be a holiday on which they would not work, but all day pray to their tools. In the end, I had to find a slightly more modern set-up to make the chairs, but I treasure the memory of that magical first month in Jaipur.