Baan Celadon was very close to our restaurant, so we stopped off after lunch. Here we were given a detailed tour in English of the process of producing handmade Celadon green, crackle glazed cereamics. I’ll copy some information from their website.
Celadon is one kind of three main types of ceramics in Thailand. Its production has continued to develop from its early beginnings 700 years ago until the present.
The name ‘celadon’ derived from two Sanskrit words: ‘sila’, meaning ‘stone’, and ‘dhara’, meaning ‘green’. Therefore, ‘Celadon’ means green stone. Celadon comes in many shades and styles, being found in tones of light and dark gray, honey yellow, green and green-yellow, olive green, blue-green and brown.
As celadon is a manmade product which depends upon the skills and experience of craftsmen, it is valuable. Because of its attractiveness, celadon is used both for home decoration and everyday use. Cooking and serving with celadon ware is recommended, even in a microwave oven, since no chemicals are used during production.
STEP 1: The first step is clay preparation. To produce stoneware, black clay know as “din dam”, mostly found in quarries in Chiang Mai, is needed. The clay is dried, pounded, grounded, and sieved in order to have really good quality clay.
STEP 2: The dried clay powder is mixed with water to clean it from impurities such as iron or any others, then passed through a plug mill to press the water from the clay and made into clay slabs.
STEP 3: After being compressed in the pug mill, the clay must be left exposed to open air for a while so that organic matters in the clay can congregate.
STEP 4: The clay is kneaded to remove air bubbles.
STEP 5: The clay is thrown on the wheel. This process is called “Forming on the wheel”, one of the three forming processes. The other forming processes are ‘cast molding’, and forming by ‘jigger’ (rotating the clay under a foaming knife).
STEP 6: After being thrown, the products are left to dry naturally in open air.
STEP 7: Then the products are hand carved, incised or embellished with elaborated decoration.
STEP 8: The next step is biscuit firing. The products are fired at the temperature of 800 degree C for 6-8 hours. The purpose is to harden the clay so that it can be exposed to water. After this biscit fire each piece must be inspected for defects or cracks.
STEP 9: After inspection, each piece is painted with more elaborated colors. Then the biscuit products are glazed by dipping into the glaze solution mixed with clay from paddy fields and wood ashes of Overcus belutina and Terminalia alata Heyne.
STEP 10: The products are fired at an initial temperature of 1250 degree C, which gradually increased to temperature of 1300 degree C. The total firing lasts 8-10 hours. After the products are taken out of the kilns, the cracking begins, giving celadon its distinctive appearance.
At Baan celadon finishing is the final step in manufacturing the products. All goods are inspected to ensure quality and design are according to our standards. Base ridges are scraped clean of glaze, small imperfections corrected, final touches are added, and goods are hand-polished before packing.
The finished products were all extremely beautiful. There were two main ranges of green or blue carved celadon crockery and ornaments, and a c0mprehensive range of the stunning hand-painted ceramics that were more decorative. We bought a coffee mug each, and each was very well packaged in bubble wrap for our trip home.
It wasn’t far to the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre, where umbrellas are handmade. We could observe the whole process of making these Sa Paper covered umbrellas, from making the bamboo struts, stringing them together so that the umbrella will open and close properly, and covering them with paper and waterproofing them. There was signage in English throughout that explained each step of the process.
Many of the umbrellas have beautiful freehand painted designs on them. As it turns out, the artists will also decorate other objects for a small tip. Mobile phone cases, sunglasses cases, folders, t-shirts, caps – or your arm if that is your preference!
Each of these beautifully detailed pieces only took around five minutes to do. These women are extremely well practiced and skilled! The paint was in tiny squeeze tubes, and was applied directly from them. Let’s hope that this decoration on Stella’s cap lasts!
And of course there was a shop selling umbrellas in all sizes, colours, patterns, and type of materials. We had actually just missed the annual umbrella festival on the weekend. Umbrellas are used in everyday life here; for sun protection pretty much year round, against rain in winter, and for decoration.
One last stop! This time we visited Silk Village. This was hardly a “village” – it was a massive showroom with an excellent display room and workroom attached. Once again we had English speaking guides who explained the steps of the silk production process. From their website: The production of silk begins with a tiny worm know as Bombyx mori: silk moth, the moth lays eggs, which develop into silk worms. The worms are fed on mulberry leaves until they are one month old, when they will build a cocoon from their spittle.
The cocoon is put into boiling water, and the silk thread is then extracted. The length of silk thread in a cocoon varies considerably, from 500 to 1,500 yards, depending on the kind of worm that produced it. In Thailand, most silk thread is hand-reeled by women, the filaments form several cocoons being reeled together on a wooden spindle into a uniform strand of raw silk.
This is a time-consuming process since it takes about 40 hours to reel one and a half kilograms of silk, but some sericulture families have simplified the job by using a reeling machine. The majority, however, still use the traditional method, which produces three grades of silk: two fine ones suitable for lightweight fabric and a thicker one used for heavier material.
The skeins of silk thread are then soaked in hot water to remove the remainder of the seracin. Since Thai silk yarn is yellow, it must be bleached before dyeing; this is done by immersing the skeins in large tubs containing hydrogen peroxide, after which they are washed and dried in the sun.
Thai Silk is then woven on a handloom, the threads (warps and wefts) that pass across and are inserted during the weaving process. Thai Silk is hand-woven fabric, which means that although if conforms to set standards of width, color, and quality it still retains a degree of individuality impossible to achieve by more advanced technology.
It immediately struck me how advanced these looms were in comparison to the ones we’d used at Ock Pop Tok in Luang Prabang. Other than being uniform in shape and size, with timber foot pedals instead of bamboo, they had automated shuttles that were sent back and forth with the pull of a rope instead of being passed from hand to hand. For plain coloured silks, this was very fast to watch!
Clare was able to tell me a fair bit about the Silk Road, as she’d learned about it at school in Humanities. I love it when the kids can connect the learning they get in the classroom with learning received elsewhere – and vice versa!
The showroom was IMMENSE. There were many bolts of handwoven silks, both in solid colours and in prints, then room after room of ready made garments in a broad variety of styles. Luckily for our bank account the shop was about to close, so I grabbed a bolt of fabric and bought two and a half metres. Remember, this fabric is only about a metre wide. Which fabric do you think I bought?
I still need to write a post about yesterday’s fabric shopping adventures with Gaye – but that will have to wait!