Published on July 18, 2007
Locals in Dan Kwian, Nakhon Ratchasima, love their earth, but it's hard to fully fathom their fascination with it until you visit the village. The wholesale earthenware district is a prime place to pick up pots, vases, jars and garden accessories for less than Bt100 apiece. Strolling along its pathways, visitors can get a close look at potters making their wares.
Inside a low-rise shack in what looks like a set for a country music video, a father and his young daughter sit near a long line of huge clay jars. The kid is spinning a potter's wheel while the father is trimming and giving final shape to the mouth of the jar that she's spinning. Patiently and painstakingly, it takes them four days to complete such clay crafts before they are sent to the kiln for firing.
"Dan Kwian pottery has been handed down, from one generation to another, for more than 100 years," says the local tour guide who is showing us around the village. "It was the Kha, a local tribe which lived along the Mool River, who taught us about pottery making."
"In those days we made basic earthenware, like chilli grinders, mortars and small containers for kitchen work," says one potter in his 60s. "We didn't know how to sell them then. My old man used to travel out of the village with an ox-cart full of jars and mortars for trading or bartering for rice, grain and whatever we needed in Korat."
Today, Dan Kwian pottery, with its stylish designs and various forms, is sold at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, and as far away as North America and Europe. The large amount of iron ore in the soil of Dan Kwian lends the clay an attractive reddish hue after it is heated in a kiln.
One of the popular pieces created here is the hai pla daek, a jar for holding fermented fish.
"When you knock on Dan Kwian pottery, you will hear a resonating sound," says the guide.
Dan Kwian pottery comes in various shapes and sizes, from small bantams to huge peacocks, from sculptures of children to buffalo.
Potters here still follow traditional methods for making their wares. Passing from stall to stall, we see hands and feet working together to create fine earthenware.
"The local potters shape their clay with their hands, while their feet spin the pottery wheel. This is exactly what they did in the very early days," says the guide. "Some decorative patterns like flowers and vines are simply made by pressing a piece of wood on the soft clay."
Hundreds of pieces of pottery are baking inside old-style kilns. From the fires comes a thick smoke that lends the air a sharp burning smell, bringing tears to your eyes.
We horse around for an hour or so, enjoying the game of bargaining. Beads, small bantams, peacocks, jars and pottery in various forms are piled outside the small pottery stalls. These pieces of pottery are waiting for a journey to retail merchants, chic spas and resorts in Thailand. Others will get loaded onto ships for American and European gardeners and home decorators. But here, at their place of origin, prices are much lower.
Phoowadon Duangmee The Nation --------------------------------------------- If you go
If you goDan Kwian Pottery Village is a short drive from Nakhon Ratchasima on Highway 224 (Nakhon Ratchasima-Chokchai). Pottery shops are found on both sides of the highway, open Monday to Saturday.
For more information, call (044) 338 105-6.