Window to Chiang Mai Thailand
Lacquerware was originally used to provide a silky weather-proof finish that would preserve the life of an artifact. As lacquer provided a base for gilding and glass or pearl inlay, it was widely used for decoration in temples.
Its most common use was to illumine wood panels on doors and windows, and especially cabinets that were used to keep palm leaf manuscripts. The lacquer came from a tree (Melanorrhea usitata Anacardiaceae) found in Northern Thailand and Myanmar.
The main design was in black and gold, a style known as lai rot nam. The designs themselves were two dimensional (no perspective was used) and was a fine balance of gold and black. This was achieved with numerous flower designs round the main motifs.
The technique used to do this has been applied to modern production. A pattern in a yellow water soluble gum is painted on the piece and covered with a thin layer of lacquer. Gold foil is put onto to the sticky lacquer. When the piece is washed, the yellow paint and foil above it dissolve to reveal the black of the pattern underneath.
Lacquer was also used to seal baskets and Chiang Mai used to be the center of a style of Khoen ware that was red and black. This was used on household objects, but the style went out of fashion and is no longer widely produced. Modern designs using colored lacquer on lines etched into a black base are Burmese in style.
Where to see lacquerware:
Lacquerware production as a cottage industry is very dispersed; most visible production is at the handicraft emporiums. Real lacquer from the tree is also increasingly scarce, and some modern work may use petroleum base mixes.
419-419/1 Mahidol Road, Chiang Mai 50000
Traditional-style shop sells lacquerware as well as wooden furniture.
Tel: 053309154-5 Fax: 053309156
140/1-2 Moo 3, San Kamphaeng Road, Chiang Mai 50130 (H1006 KM.6)
Emporium on the San Kamphaeng Road with a reputation for its lacquerware.
Tel: 053338237-8 Fax: 053338236
21-25 Ratchamankha Road, Chiang Mai 50200
Hrs. 09:30-12:30, 14:00-21:00.
High quality pieces made locally and in Myanmar.
Tel: 053278494 Fax: 053208432
Prathuang Khruang Khoen
101 Nantaram Road
The small workshop at the back of this shop offers one of the last opportunities to see a more traditional style of lacquerware manufacture. This area was once the center for this industry in Chiang Mai.
108 Nantaram Road
Small emporium offers a conveniently located demonstration of lacquerware.
Tel: 053282995 Fax: 053273356
Chiang Mai Handicraft
73/3 Moo 7, Chiang Mai- San Kamphaeng Road, A. San Kamphaeng
Chiang Mai Lai Thong
80/1 Moo 3, Chiang Mai-San Kamphaeng Road, A. San Kamphaeng
101 Nantaram Road, T. Haiya
185/3 Wualai Road
All Handicrafts of Chiang Mai