Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, is about 600 miles north of Bangkok, and the stepping-off point for hilltribe trekking. It is also the center for Thai handicrafts, which are many, varied, and (like artists everywhere) massively underpaid.
You can read more about my adventures in Chiang Mai in the Thailand section of my travel blog.
A woman in the market selling animals. The wicker baskets contain small finches, the yellow bucket contains small 6" turtles, and the aluminum bowl contains soft-shelled turtle hatchlings with curiously beaked heads--snapping turtles? sea turtles?
A typical Thai highway. Photo taken while hanging off the back of a crowded songtao (pickup-taxi). Note the Esso station in the left; I think that's Exxon in Thailand (tiger mascot, even!).
A terrible photo of a beautiful piece of woodcarving. If you look closely at the bottom (where the glare is) you can see an entire log carved into exquisitely detailed forest scenes. Good thing I don't have a house-- I might have bought it...
I spent some time in a repoussé workshop, where they work silver blanks into intricately patterned bowls, etc. Here is a repoussé bowl before and after the final patterning.
Man hammering out a basic platter shape.. The plate is blackened as if by fire, and he is beating on a fireproof anvil, so I think it is heated and then hammered.
Woman shaping a repoussé bowl with a very small hammer. Here she is shaping a smooth curve with a series of delicate taps; each hammer-blow leaves a mark maybe 1/8" across. At this point the bowl is almost completely smooth, with almost no visible hammer-marks.
Woman patterning an almost-finished repoussé bowl. She is using a small hammer with variously shaped stamps (shown next photo) to imprint the patterns.
Left to right: bowl filled with tar to provide a malleable backing for patterning; unfinished bowl; finished piece; pan with repoussé stamping tools.
First step in the repousse process, a silver disk about 4" across. This is hammered, shaped, hammered, and shaped again to produce...
...step two, a low bowl, hammered to the "finished" bowl on right. At this point the silver is quite thin; the 6" bowl here weighs maybe three ounces.
Steps four and five involve roughing out the repoussé shapes (not sure how), then filling the bowl with tar and stamping in patterns.
Finished repoussé piece.
Closeup of finished repoussé. Notice the intricate detail--every bit of it is stamped on by hand, with tools 1/8"-1/4" across.
Celadon painting is done with a glaze made from wood ash, which produces a lovely translucent green, reminiscent of jade. In fact celadon was an early form of faux jade. Detailed additional painting is put on top of the celadon, and some of the bowls are hand-carved. (The basic bowl is cast or thrown, the clay dried until it has the consistency of leather, and then carved with special tools.)
Here is a photo of a half-finished dragon vase. Notice how the image is roughed in with charcoal, then the other details are painted in.
The painting workshop. Unfortunately I didn't get good photos of the clay-carving, it was really neat.
Oddly enough, there was a bobbin lace shop in Chiang Mai! Bobbin lace is actually native to Europe, but apparently it got imported to Thailand. This is some of the nicest bobbin lace I've ever seen.
Here are photos of a work in progress.
Elephant, the work of a master lacemaker in Chiang Mai (Sawasdee Lace). The head is maybe 1.5" across.
Detail of bookmark.
Lace doll. This is all silk bobbin lace.
An *incredible* piece of lace border. You must see the closeup to really appreciate itl
A closeup of the same lace. The "big" circle under the rose is the size of a dime...
The fan she's working on as her masterwork.
I also saw some exquisite embroidery in Chiang Mai, though not all of it is from Thailand. Here is a baby carrier from Yunan Province, China...
...and a closeup of the same baby carrier.
Reverse of the same baby carrier. Believe it or not, asking price on this piece was under $90! (I didn't buy it, but I really really wanted to...)
Closeup of the reverse.