Tribal Trappings – Asian Ethnic Art, Artifacts, Textiles and Folk Art Tribal Trappings – Thoughts about Thailand, Chiang Mai, things tribal including textiles, ethnographica and folk art <data:blog.pageTitle/>

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Antidote to the White Temple... Upcountry!

Our tour upcountry ended with a truly grand finale: Thawan Duchanee's home and museum called 'Baan Dam'/Black House. Its contrast to the White Temple, a famous artist-built attraction south of Chiang Rai, could not be more striking: personal and eccentric, 'Baan Dam' has an aura of mystery compounded by its links to the natural, earthly realm, rather than the didactic, other-worldly quality of the glistening, blindingly pure White Temple. One senses the march of time for all living things, as well as a respect for the inherent beauty of Nature's creations.

Thawan Duchanee is a Thai National Artist and is famous for his dynamic, gestural paintings of animals and mythical beasts in strong colors, usually red, black, white and gold. Two galleries adjacent to the visitor's parking lot display his work, as well as that of artist friends. Unfortunately all we could do was peer through the glass, as the galleries were closed.

'Baan Dam' is really a collection of structures, accented by sculptures and the iconic buffalo horns which are constructed into sculpture and functional objects, such as chairs and tables, and used to decorate buildings.

Ajan Duchanee's home (above) is centrally located in the compound, with surrounding buildings devoted to guest accommodations, eating and entertaining spaces, and his collections. The collections consist of traditional baskets with sculptural forms (many are for fish-trapping),

unusual natural wood and rock formations,

several fine Buddhas, animal bones and skeletons, old tools, and exceptional examples of wood carving.

Most of the buildings are wood and are painted black, tho there are three dome-like concrete structures in white. A very strange black concrete building on the edge of the area is an idealized Great Hornbill head and serves as a guest room.

Probably the largest of the buildings is the Banquet Hall (below),

a Thai version of a hypostyle hall with large columns made of individual tree trunks and a central parade of long, meter-wide tables made from single planks of teak. Python skins form runners down the centers of the tables. One wonders what the banquet menus consist of...

A basilica for feasting, it includes side aisles with additional tables, each commandeered by elaborate chairs made of horns, antlers and skulls.

Ajan Duchanee also designed the beautiful carved doors,

some wooden 'dtung' (banners traditionally hung in temples)

and groups of totem-like poles (detail below).

Even the loos were worth checking out!

Website: Thawan Duchanee and Baandam Museum -

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Isaan Silk... Upcountry!

What a surprise! On our recent getaway upcountry (southeast of Chiang Rai) we were taken to a weaving group- "little old ladies who raise silkworms" we were told. As we entered, past a few half-hearted displays of cloth for sale, there was a lady working at a loom; she was weaving 'mutmee'/ikat silk! This is not at all what I expected: I thought that since we were in Tai Lue country these ladies would be Tai Lue. But the patterning on the silk on the loom was clearly not Tai Lue. I asked the lady if she were from Isaan and she grinned and said "Khon Kaen". Then she volunteered that the other ladies were also from Isaan- Udon Thani and elsewhere. I assume they were around 70-80 or so years old- this was their work and their social club, allowing them to keep alive skills they learned decades ago, and to have a reason to get up in the morning. Their modest sign reads "Group Weaving Silk Cloth".

Weaver from Khon Kaen

Her 'mutmee' cloth on the loom. The loops of silk weft are used to adjust the pattern when weaving. They will be clipped later.

This lady is counting and grouping the threads for later tying of the pattern, before dyeing. These are the weft threads; the warps will be of a solid color.

In the foreground is the rack for tying the pattern onto the grouped threads; at least one dip into the dye (green) has been done, showing better the final pattern.

This lady is cutting off the plastic bindings and will then tie on new ones to define areas to be dyed another color. It is very time-consuming work and requires practiced skills.

Below are some tied and dyed threads drying in the sun.

These are one type of basket used for the silkworms. I want some for wall sculpture!

Here a rack holds trays of silk worms in varying stages of growth, including the completed cocoons which will be unwound into raw silk yarns.

Another lady shows off some baby silk worms and their meal of mulberry leaves. The ladies have several mulberry trees growing around the building. Below are more mature worms- big and fat.

Below, friend Nuna shows off the mature cocoons in all their golden glory.The yellow color denotes the type of worm, and reminds me of the cocoons I saw in Cambodia last year- brilliantly golden, they appear to be dyed, but are completely natural.

I was even able to purchase a skein of the gorgeous golden silk for a weaver friend. It was such a treat to find these lovely ladies still practicing their skills and making fine silk cloth using the traditional methods of their origins.
Wonders never cease in the Land of Smiles!

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