Making Ceramics in Northeast Thailand

While I was off doing research in Thailand, I was lucky enough to visit Jim Thompson’s silk farm and see a small demonstration of traditional pottery making.   The way this woman made pottery is the way archaeologists think people have been making pottery in Southeast Asia for thousands of years.

This woman learned to make pottery from her mom and she said it was a dying art; none of her children knew how to do this.
There’s more photos (and video!) after the jump.

Here is a photo of the different materials used to make the pottery.  There’s a (local) raw clay source, which is then tempered with broken up bits of fired clay and rice husks.

The yellow bucket in the lower right is the unfired clay with rice husks. The bucket on the left is the fired version, which would then be pulverized and added to the raw clay.

The pot is then shaped by hand and using these tools- a paddle and anvil.   The paddles have designs carved on them, and when she uses them to make the pots the leave an impression in the clay (see the example on the clay lump below).

These are examples of the finished but unfired pots.

Below are finished and fired versions that were for sale!

Below is a quick and dirty video I put together (shot with my digital camera) showing some of the different steps to make this pottery.

Interested in learning more about Southeast Asian Ceramics? Check out these links:

-This website from the Smithsonian is full of information and photos. Be sure to check out their videos which are even more informative and interesting than mine.

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Society

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum

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6 responses to “Making Ceramics in Northeast Thailand

  1. She really did make it look remarkably easy. Obviously, that comes from a lot of experience using this technique. I’m not sure what impressed me more, how steady her hands were as she circled the clay with the palm leaf, or the perfectly even strokes she employed with the paddle & anvil.

  2. Alison, this is unconnected with your post, but you might be interested. In Bangkok a few years ago I visited the home of a very wealthy Thai who collects antiquities. One of his prizes was a water pot (a ritual one, of bronze) with an inscription identifying it as belonging to Jayavarman 8 (or maybe 7). I don’t know whether this object’s existence is widely known.

  3. Pingback: Ceramics making in Northeast Thailand | SEAArch - The Southeast Asian Archaeology Newsblog

  4. Beautiful! The way she circled the pot while making the rim was like a dance. Were the lids on the finished, fired pots also made with paddle and anvil? Are her pots primarily collectors items or do local people use them at home? How much money can she make from a pot?

  5. I’m not sure about those lids as I didn’t get to see her make any- but I think they were made the same way. I don’t think the pots she had for sale were used by people on a day-to-day basis. I got the impression they were more like souvenirs. The ones for sale were I think 65-85 baht which is about $2-3.

  6. Pingback: Contemporary Cambodian ceramics: production and exchange « Alison in Cambodia