Before defining what the arts and crafts of Thailand are, we must break down the meaning of each word in detail. Arts mean objects that humans have created out of creativity for the purpose of beauty and pleasantness. This also includes man-made products from imagination or inspiration to unfold the emotion of the artists’ minds. The Thai painting of Hanuman from Ramakien literature is a great example to show the artistic beauty of drawing while representing the cultural identity of Thailand.
Crafts are objects or products that created by hands, in order to use the objects for utility purpose. The unique part of Thai crafts is that master artisans have acquired expert skills from generations and pay great attention to details on each work. Hence, Thai crafts have exquisite looks and are useful for daily life usage.
Therefore, Arts and Crafts of Thailand are handmade products with dedicated designs and aesthetic art. They are created to be used in daily life in order to solve problems in livelihoods, according to environment conditions. Examples of local arts and crafts handmade by local Thai people are including the beautiful Thai silks, lacquerware, pottery (Benjarong), bronzeware cutlery, handmade mulberry paper, teak furniture, traditional musical instruments and Thai puppets, etc. Moreover, Thai arts and crafts are like a mirror that reflects the way of Thai people’s life in each era, history, economy, society, and culture.
The History of the Arts and Crafts of Thailand
The ancient arts and crafts of Thailand are an inherited treasure that has been passed down from the elder generations to the Rattanakosin period. The history has categorized into 3 eras.
Copper Era Within this era, it was popular to crate utensils, products, and household wares from copper, including jewellery, bracelets, and rings.
Alloy Era One of cultural finest items found in this era is a Large Bronze drum. Bronze is a yellowish-brown alloy of copper with up to one-third tin.
Iron Era Arts and crafts of this era, there were a creation of weapons, Buddha statues, and earthenware.
Types of Thai Arts and Crafts
There are six main types of traditional handicrafts, which are categorized according to materials and the production methods.
It is created for a domestic use including Earthenware and Ceramics. Earthenware was originally influenced by Mon people or Burmese made of red clay. It has unglazed surface and plain pattern. While, Ceramics was heavily influenced by Chineses, yet developed with unique pattern by Thai craftsmen. Thai ceramics have a glossy surface and more neat and delicate details.
2. Textiles and Embroidery
Thai fabric and Thai silks are hand-woven products that have unique patterns, even machinery cannot make. Each piece of silk is rich with local traditions and cultural heritage. Thai silks are a representation of local wisdom as they are made from the cocoons of silkworms. Traditional Thai silk is one of the most famous fabrics in the world.
3. Carving and Engraving
Teak wood carving is popular in Thailand, as it is the most long lasting type of wood. With incredible skills of woodcarvers, many exquisite wood carving pieces are decorated in Buddhist temples and palaces around the country. Carving and engraving can be used on various materials such as stone,horn, ivory, banana stalk, etc. Likewise, artistic carving can be seen in fruits, vegetables, and soaps as decorative arts.
4. Rattan and Bamboo Crafts
As Thailand is a tropical country, Thai craftsmen use local materials like rattan and bamboo to create handicraft products for household uses. Handmade products include bamboo basket, rattan lamp, rattan woven bag, tray, rattan chair and furniture.
5. Handmade Paper
The ancient ancestors collected barks, which naturally peeled from Mulberry trees or also known as SA in Thai for making paper without destroying the environment. This is a great sustainable handmade product of Thai craftsmanship.
The use of silverware was widely in demand during Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods. Silver was brought to Siam through trade and interaction with other countries. The silverware working techniques were originally influenced by China, India, Persia, and Portugal. While, silver items were limited for Royal uses and families of nobility. Nowadays, highly skilled Thai silversmiths have created sophisticated crafted unique Thai silverwares, known as exquisite craftsmanship of Southeast Asia.
In conclusion, arts and crafts of Thailand have great values within, especially they are handcrafted products presented with local unique styles. Each design of handmade products show creativity and inspiration of Thai master artisans. Likewise, the materials used for production are collected from local villages and nature. Thai pattern designs and art hand-painted on crafted items are incredibly intricate, neat, and delicate. Hence, Thai handicrafts are the glories of cultural heritage, blended with Siam lifestyles, traditions, wisdom, beliefs, and histories.
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