Thai products - Yan li phao, pottery, Thai silk textile and Benjarong
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 Thai Products

Yan-Li-Phao  |  Pottery  |  Thai Silk Textile  |  Benjarong

Yan-Li-Phao

The specialized skills involved in weaving yan-li-phao products have been passed down from each generation to the next for hundreds of years. In order to preserve this ancient art of Thai weaving and to bring it to its rightful prestige, HM the Queen of Thailand has added yan-li-phao weaving to her list of Royal projects. Local artists in the Southern province of Narathiwat can now earn well from their trade as the Queen's involvement in the industry has seen a long awaited increase in the value of this delicate art.

The yan-li-phao fern, found readily in the Southern areas of Thailand, grows a long stem, tipped by just one dark green leaf. This strong fibrous stem is dried, skinned and trimmed to uniform length and diameter before vegetable dyes are used to stain the fern stem a black, brown or cream colour. The handicraftsmen then weave exquisite handbags and vanity cases in dainty forms. Adorned with delicate gold handles and pin locks, these feminine accessories are strong and eye-catching, yet graceful enough to add style to an outfit worn on a special occasion.

Pottery

More than two centuries ago, as peace settled over Thailand under the reign of King Rama I, thousands of up-routed villagers from Thailand's'phrathet peuan baan' or neighbouring countries of Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia found themselves freed from slavery but homeless. It was at this time that the Mon people drifted downstream from Ayuthaya and settled on Koh Kred, a small island in the Chao Phya River in what is now the small province of Nonthaburi, North-West of Bangkok.

Potters by trade, the Mon people found the clay deposits in the Chao Phya River to be rich, soft and pliable, making it perfect for their craft and have remained on the island producing attractive pottery and objets d'art ever since.

In preparing the clay, they apply great patience and invention. Once the clay has been excavated, it is left to stand against the elements of the weather, covered by a damp cloth to avoid hardening. When the clay has been mixed with sand, water buffaloes tramp on the mounds, slowly massaging the clay into a soft and supple texture.

The urns, vases, teacups and vessels moulded by the artists on Koh Kred are unglazed and feature elaborately detailed designs. Tiny pores in the pottery absorb condensation and keep the contents wonderfully chilled.

Thai Silk Textile

The mulberry feasting silkworms of Thailand grow primarily on the Korat Plateau in the North-East region of the country, although most of the silk production takes place around Chiang Mai. The silk thread of the Thai worms is a natural gold colour and often one cocoon can yield as much as 500 metres of silk.

There are four main steps to the production of this lustrous textile. The washing and bleaching of the fibres is required to remove a natural glutinous substance that holds the cocoon together. Extraction of this'glue' allows the colours to be uniformly and permanently absorbed during the dying process. Colour dyes come in varying levels of quality and price. Often the silk is coloured using vegetable dyes and so the chances of dying two batches of thread the same colour, are minimal. This gives each piece of silk a uniqueness that may be the delight of those in search of regular sized sheets or despair for designers who wants large amounts of one colour. High quality Thai silk absorbs and bonds with the colour in such a way that even exposure to sunshine and repeated washing cannot dull.

Machine-woven silk, which is dyed after weaving, tends to have a flat appearance. Thai silk is woven on handlooms; the warp and weft are not of the same colour and this is what gives Thai silk its natural sheen and lustre. If you hold a piece of good quality Thai silk to the light, the overall colour and tone will change depending on the angle of the light; a defining characteristic that inferior weaves do not posses.

The final step in the production of silk is a chemical soaking process. The purpose of this very important step is four-fold. The chemicals in the solution preserve the sheen of the fabric, add weight to it, render the silk soft and smooth and add to wrinkle-resistance.

The differences in approaches to these four techniques are what create the chasm between high and low grade silk textiles. They also explain why prices differ so widely. A gift of high calibre Thai silk is a lasting token of the grace of Thailand.

Benjarong

Benjarong, the royal porcelain of Thailand, wears the grace of Thai culture through each carefully placed brushstroke. In the early Rattanakosin period, Benjarong porcelain items were highly prized and used only in the Royal household and upper class Thai families.

Benjarong, meaning'five colours', was originally made in China, hand crafted from clay, fired in charcoal ovens and finished in fine gold plating. Each piece consists of hand-applied, real gold masks laid over the white ceramic, enabling the artist to produce a tactile, detailed Thai pattern around the gold, using at least five colours.

The rare beauty of Benjarong allows it to be displayed as a single piece or a set, to compliment interior design. Benjarong is a product of Thailand that is cherished by recipients and admired by all.

All of these products are available at the Shinawatra Home Mart, Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

 

 

- October Issue, 2002



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