October 25 - 31, 2015: Issue 237


Carving designs into chairs


by George Repin

Chiang Mai, the second largest city of Thailand, is 710 Kms north of Bangkok in a valley 305 metres above sea level, making it a pleasant dry-season escape from the humidity of the capital.

Chiang Mai, often referred to as the Flower of the North offers historical temples, impressive mountain scenery, a wide array of handicrafts and is the gateway to areas inhabited by colourful minority populations sometimes referred to as “hill tribes”.

In 1298 King Mangrai founded, in Chiang Mai, the capital of his Thai Kingdom. However, in less than a century, relations with Ayuthaya became strained and for 400 years its southern borders were unsafe. Although Ayuthaya was crushed in the 16th Century Chiang Mai’s power began to wane and the Burmese invaded in the early 18th Century.  They were defeated but the population had had enough and deserted the city.  The city was re-established after 1796 when it came under the sway of Siam.

The city is famous for the wide variety of handicrafts which are produced in areas of the city specifically identified with individual crafts. The workshops welcome visitors and invite them to watch the items being produced. Needless to say most items are available, there and then, for purchase.

The umbrella-making area is east of the city.  A cane stem is carefully cut and trimmed by a young man. Young girls cut bamboo strips which are then attached. Translucent paper, made locally from a special tree is meticulously pasted on and painted with two-toned brushes. The freshly dyed or painted umbrellas are left to dry in the sun.

Making the frame of an umbrella

Girls cutting bamboo strips for umbrellas

Painted umbrellas drying in the sun

In another area silk is extracted from silkworms.  Breeding silkworms for the production of silk started in China at least 5000 years ago. Eggs take about 14 days to hatch and larvae emerge. After moulting four times they encase themselves in cocoons made of silk secreted by their salivary glands. The cocoons are then boiled to kill the silkworms. Each cocoon is made of a thread of raw silk from 300 to 900 metres in length. About 2000 to 3000 cocoons are needed to produce 1lb.  (0.41 Kg.) of silk. The silk is spun into spools for weaving into the textile Thai silk.

Boiling silkworm cocoons

Spinning silk thread

Weaving Thai Silk cloth

Near the south gate is the silversmith’s street where silver objects and jewellery are crafted.

Silversmith at work

Woman imprinting the design into a silver bowl

Decorated teak furniture, decorative panels, salad bowls and trays are crafted on Rat Chiang Saen Street using well-seasoned teak. Items hawked in the street often are made of green teak which cracks within a few months.

Girl carving a detailed design into an item of furniture

In other areas Thai Celadon and Thai Cotton is available.

A few hours around the various handicraft workshops in Chiang Mai is rewarding and time well spent. 

Pictures taken by George Repin in 1987.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants  Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre  Around Angkor - 1963  Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross The Oceaographic  Museum in Monaco  The Island of Elba Russian Fairy Tale Plates Meteora Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska Cloisonné Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories Not A Chagall! Did You Listen? Did You Ask? Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells Murano  University of Padua Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi  Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park  Aphrodisias  The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre  Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island  ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997 Hotere Garden Oputae Children of the Trobriand Islands Page Park Market - Rabaul Rabual  Kotor, Montenegro  Galleries of Photographs I  Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II  The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor  Delphi  Gallery of Photographs III  

Copyright George Repin 2015. All Rights Reserved.