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LIVING ART - Reviving Kilns Making Traditions

LIVING ART

   Siam Celadon factory is a famous company in Chiang Mai, producing elegant and stylish celadon ware for both domestic and overseas markets.

   Recently, they re-built a very old kiln to showcase their company’s heritage for future generations. This unique kiln can be seen in the gardens at Siam Celadon. It was built by four local artisans whose job (when they were younger) was to build all kinds of kilns. The demand for their artisan skills diminished with the arrival of new materials and methods of building skills and their careers took different paths. But their hearts always belonged to their traditional craft. When the owner at Siam Celadon asked them to build a traditional kiln, they jumped into the project with joy and pleasure. Traditionally, this kind of kiln is called a Dragon Kiln, and it is made of clay picked from surrounding canals. It has three parts: the front part is for fuel, the second part for storage and the third part is the chimney. For everyone involved, the architect, the builders, and the factory owner, making this kiln was a wonderful project to work on,. When the kiln was almost finished, Mr. Chankaew Supasri, chief artisan, could not help but cry saying it was certainly the last kiln he would build.

   The whole project, including the restoration of the factory, was supervised by award winning Ajarn Chulathat Kitibutr, (Thailand’s National Artist in Architecture 2004). He is a long-time friend of Siam Celadon’s family.


WHAT IS CELADON?

   Celadon is form of glazed stoneware which became famous at a very early date. The word “celadon” is derived from the Sanskrit language and means green-glazed stone. It is classifieds as high-fired stoneware, fired in wood-fired kilns. The green-colored glaze is achieved by a mixture of wood ash being fired into the clay, giving it its characteristic colour and cracked texture.

   In the old times, celadon ware was believed to change color when poisoned food touched it; it was highly prized and in great demand in Thailand. According to Thai history, King Ramkamhaeng visited China in the 13th century and brought Chinese pottery and potters back to Thailand. When they arrived in Chiang Mai they found a thriving ceramics industry. 83 kilns were firing at its height and soon celadon ware was being produced as well. Today, the northern region specializes in the making of green and blue celadon, but yellow and brown wares can also be found.

   At the Siam Celadon factory everything, from drum-shapped seats and table bases to complete dinner sets, is made by hand. The factory houses many rooms, each one being devoted to one of the many steps in the process of celadon-making. First, local ball clay is prepared and formed into slabs for the potter. It is shaped into plates by women at work at a motorized potter’s wheel, using a knife to control the shaping.

   The production is a relatively long and complicated process. The most essential aspects of it are the use of the proper earthenware clay raw materials, proper drying, the use of highly skilled artisans in molding and design application, then in the glazing and firing processes. A small, comparatively simplistic design, either hand-painted or in low relief, usually takes four to six weeks to make well. A larger piece can take as long as ten weeks, although six to eight weeks is the average.

   Before drying, the pieces that are to receive applied decorations like leaves and flowers go to a liquid-slip artist. Pieces that cannot be thrown, such as coffeepots and figurines, are cast in the jiggers shed. Here, clay is poured into a mold and allowed to set and dry. The clay for a half-inch-thick wall sets for one and a half hours before the excess is poured out. After two days of drying in the mold, it is ready for the low - or biscuit - firing at 1,472 degrees.

   Next comes glazing. The piece is dipped into a mixture of wood ash and another local clay, different from the ball clay. The proportion of ash and clay determines the color of a piece, whether classic green, greenish-brown or the attractive blue that was introduced a while ago. If the article has a design, the first coat is wiped with a sponge so that it fills in the design and makes it darker. A second dipping takes place when the first coat has dried, and then a third coat is brushed on to smooth over any imperfections before the high - or glaze - firing at 2,372 degrees. The 10-hour slow-cooling period gives Thai celadon its crackle. All these steps can be witnessed at their showroom.

   Nature is a true work of art and Siam Celadon reproduces this beauty in each of their tableware collections: lavender, lotus, bamboo, mountain reeds, leaves... Chiang Mai is in bloom and Siam Celadon showcases this beauty everywhere!


SIAM CELADON :
38 Moo10 Chiang Mai-San Kampaeng Rd. Chiang Mai.
Tel. 053-331 526
Facebook: SiamCeladon
www.siamceladon.com


May 2023.

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