Travel: Iznik ceramics in Istanbul

The feeling that there is soooo much time to prep for a holiday in a slightly strange land. That there will be all the time in the world to read up interesting places, things to do and culture and crafts to check out. And too soon, a travel date is looking up your nose and you have to just go, with only a smattering of information!

Pretty much how it happened with a trip to Turkey. In a way, this is ideal, you are surprised, and enchanted. I had only heard about the fabulous Iznik pottery. That it is traditionally Turkish and comes in whites and blues. So the first introduction to this art at the Topkapi Palace was a breathtaking moment.

Iznik wall tiles in Topkapi Palace

niches and Iznik tiles in Topkapi Palace

It is said that the Topkapi Palace, in Istanbul, is one of the few places today that contains a large sampling of the Iznik tiles. It is only post the holiday, after soaking in the real deal,  that I have spent some time getting to know these a little better. The name Iznik comes from a town in Anatolia, where the pottery was first and largely made between the 15th and 17th century. Initial examples of this art all seem to be pots, jugs and plates, with tiles coming in only at a later stage. By the end of the 17th century, there was a decline in the craftsmanship and quality, which is said to have also started the decline of the manufacture of these beautiful ceramics.

A white ceramic paste was used to craft the pottery, it was then decorated with designs painted on, mainly in cobalt blue, and then a colourless glaze applied on top. It was only in the 16th century that other colours were introduced. Designs originally combined Ottoman and Chinese elements.

The Topkapi Palace contains almost no Iznik pottery today (they are in museums and private collections outside), but it still has the most amazing tile collection, right in its walls. Inside the palace, the Harem section probably contains the most beautiful tiles.

Tiles and an enameled window, Topkapi Palace

The Harem, Topkapi Palace

Harem at Topkapi Palace

Orders for tiles placed by the Sultans for the palaces, mosques, and other monuments were designed by artists working in Iznik workshops and the installation executed by palace architects. Prized by the Sultans, exported for their brilliant craftsmanship to European countries, it is not surprising to see why.

Topkapi palace, detail near the ceiling. Painted art alongside tiles

outer wall courtyard Topkapi Palace

inner window Topkapi Palace

You cannot get too close to the tiles in many places, but the patterns and colours are so brilliant, even to a slightly distant eye.

Iznik tile detail

Iznik tiles in an inner courtyard, Topkapi Palace

The Blue Mosque is another awe inspiring structure, that leaves you craning your neck the full time you are in there to take in the beauty of the tiles high above, on the walls and in the domes. It is a worshipping mosque, so visiting hours are restricted and you are required to take off footwear, use a head cover.

blue mosque dome

The quietness inside leaves all the time and space in the mind to take in the amazing talent and effort that has gone into making this mosque the most beautiful one in Istanbul.

blue mosque

blue mosque detail


Store launch: My Sunny Balcony

When a good old friend Reena Changappa, and Sriram Aruvamudam, Shailesh Deshpande, & Athreya Chidambi started My Sunny Balcony, designing and creating balcony gardens in Bangalore a couple of years ago, little did we figure what colour and joy it would bring back to the city. Numerous balcony gardens, patios, terraces, and yards later, they launch their garden accessories store in Ulsoor, Bangalore.

Here are a few glimpses of the store. It is a sure fire booster, the energetic colours, the soothing water features, earthy terra cotta pots, and of course, so much green! Joy!

bottle pots

colourful pots

The pots and terra cotta planters start at Rs.250.

patio pots

little mosaic gems for garden walls

a tortoise planter for small plants

kettle planter

Kettle planters at Rs.1600.

planter caddy

colourful planters

pretty water features

railing planters

the store patio

The store is located at:

No.12 | Aga Abbas Ali Road | Next to Peaches Salon | Ulsoor | Bangalore 42

Exhibit, sale: The Ajanta Collection

For a brand new store, Indya kaleidoscope has reason to be very proud! The first exhibit and sale of some fine art, on pottery and wood. The Ajanta Collection. Amazing work, Preethi! Good luck!

In her own words: “The Ajanta Collection”, is a small collection of terracotta decorative and wooden wall panels that have reproductions of Ajanta frescoes. The eight day exhibit is a tribute to the historical pilgrim center and the artist who rediscovered the beauty.

Folk in Bangalore, do not miss this.

Ajanta frescoes exhibit

Date –    13th April 2012 – 20th April 2012
Venue:   IndyaKaleidoscope, 194/B, 12th A Main, 4th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore – 34
Time:    11.30 AM – 7.30 PM

Indya Kaleidoscope Store

Meet Preethi Prabhu, an engineer-MBA grad, ex-IT pro, design blogger, who has found her calling. A venture which will work with crafts people who need the income the most and help them earn a livelihood. Meet, the Indya Kaleidoscope store.

Indya Kaleidoscope store entrance

front room

I have followed her blog for a while now, and was delighted to see the passion for crafts find an avenue through this store. This post is best written in her own words (if you see me, I’ll be in italics). 

Preethi: I researched Indian handicrafts for about two years and decided this is the space in which I wanted to do something. There are so many crafts people who need an income and are hard pressed for it. They just need someone to work with them, either give them product ideas and design, or source their products and take them to market.  So I source mainly from artisans, NGOs, self help groups and other organizations working to preserve arts and crafts.

Photo frames from craftspersons in Banaras. They used to be ivory carvers by tradition, but now they have moved to carving wood. They are in dire economic circumstances so I have sourced a number of small and large frames from them.

frames from Orissa

Each little animal or figurine around the perimeter of the frame is first carved in wood, painted and then fixed. (Pic credit: Preethi Prabhu)

frame close up

The Rajashthani pottery technique in jewel or masala boxes. The colourful boxes below are made of wood and painted by an artist who can paint on anything!

rajasthani ceramic jewel boxes

The black pottery is sourced from Manipur. I used to travel quite a bit in my pervious job. I still do, to meet the craftspeople and it gives me a sense of involvement when I meet and talk to them and see where they need assistance.

black pottery from Assam

The painted belans are my favourite :).


When I buy vintage pieces, or old heirlooms, I try to get as much background info as possible about them. When we restore and resell we would like these to be in the homes of people who understand the history and know what they are worth. This room in the store is dedicated to used things. We will have old, used products here, antiques and some vintage pieces…

mats and old furniture

This medallion (in the center) was issued in 1918 to soldiers who fought in the first world war. I was so excited when I found it, but was also left wondering who may have given a family artifact like this away.


Wood bangles from Channapatna, ceramics from Rajasthan and vintage wood furniture.

wood bangles

Pottery from Pondicherry, just unpacked!

pondicherry pottery

This moda (seat) is made of cotton and cotton fabric for a cover. (It is so colourful and doesn’t get crushed when you sit on it!)


If you look at the prices, many of the products are priced lower than what you will find in curio shops and most antique stores. I price them this way to make handicrafts affordable, and so that people become aware of pricing. One does not need huge profit margins to keep a venture like this sustainable.


I have been asked by folk who think the prices are quite low, why I don’t increase them. If I did, it would be like any other business venture, driven by profits and little else. I might as well have continued with my corporate job in that case. I want to create a meaningful model for myself and the people IK will work with. A beautiful stand with a mirror.

mirror stand

After paying a fair price for the products, if there is money left over between my budget and the marginal profit, then I plan to accumulate those savings and put it back into the community, for community projects, training, etc.

corner stand

To complete the picture of a beautiful home, we have lots of green too, in the mini nursery.


I am hoping to start a few community projects as well. These kambhas from Daily Dump are meant to source waste from the houses on this street where IK is. Once the composting is done, one bag of compost will go back to each house where the waste comes from. They just have to use the kambhas regularly here at the store and we all get rich compost. Some of them are open to the idea, which is great!

Here is Preethi, in her lovely office. Someone who, at the end of an hour and half, inspired me so much! She works with RAPID (Rehabilitative Assistance for People in Distress) and the people who help at the store come from this org. 


 As I prepare to leave, there is a surprise guest. No wonder, for this house (it is more than a store) is everything warm and friendly :).

surprise guest

She was quite upset about something and refused to leave, looking kinda irritated, from left to right. I was near the staircase leading up to the terrace and tarried there awhile (!) to give the bovine creature some time to contemplate leaving. Gave me time to observe the lovely flowering tree just outside IK <grin>!tree

Product prices range from as low as Rs.50 to a few thousand for the larger pieces of furniture. So do visit, and make a difference. IK is located at:

12th A Main, 4th Cross, Koramangala 4th Block, Bangalore, India 560034.
Web store (you can order products online):