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Friday, 12 September 2014

Craftsmen of Bangkok

I have always been interested in art and craft. Actually its my passion. There are many carving tool that I possess and the little time I get I like to create something or the other.

I love to learn the art and craft of the country I visit and I have even tried my hand on it. But handicraft is time consuming and requires lots of concentration. It is like meditation, really. You get so engrossed in it that you might forget to eat too.

During my recent visit to Bangkok, I met some craftsmen in Bangkok.

 In Thailand people use the term ‘Chang sip mu’ (ten categories of craftsmen) to call different kinds of arts and crafts. But the names were not specified until the reign of King Rama (1868-1910). They were painting, lacquering, carving on hard and soft objects, modeling, padding, casting, sculpting, plastering, etc.

With industrialization, the handicraft activity is become just a hobby for people who have ample time. But still machine cannot produce the quality of work that is done by these craftsman.

Like this woman who kept thrashing the wood pulp till it reached the right consistency to mold it to a perfect shape.

Or this woman who selected differently shaped tools for carving out the wood at different points.

Or this craftsman who chiseled the wood with finer tools to carve out the wood of right precision

Or this craftsman, who attached every piece at just the right position to give it a proper posture

 Such care cannot be taken with machines. Hundreds of statues may be made by machine but handcrafted items always stand apart.

In Bangkok, handicraft is encouraged. In fact, her Majesty, Queen Sirikit, was kind enough to have her order to open the school of crafts Jitlada in 1979, aiming to be the center to train students, who were handicap or those who were unable to get regular jobs. For past 35years, Jitlada has trained to its highest level of craftsmanship that can be compared to the Royal crafts or ‘The craftsmen of Rhatanagosin’

I was fascinated with all the products that were on display. I specially liked the cravings on the golden teak. The ‘Mother-of-Pearl Inlaying’ is the technique used for these carvings that is as difficult as any other art because each piece of shell must be delicately cut and polished into a very tiny size to fit in each part of the pattern.

It is time consuming activity but the satisfaction of looking at our own end product is exhilarating. 

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