Like other countries, Thailand’s arts and crafts reflect the life, culture, history, and economy of Thailand. Arts and crafts from Thailand are rightfully famous all over the world. Hill-tribe artifacts, from silver jewelry to bright dresses; lacquerware and ceramics; traditional musical instruments and puppets: all are beautiful examples of the mastery of Thai artisans, trying to keep alive the old traditions.
Check out our article below to learn more about arts and crafts in Thailand.
The History of Thailand’s Arts and Crafts
Like its history and culture, Thailand’s arts are influenced by Buddhist culture. Most traditional Thai sculptures depict images of the Buddha. The Thai traditional art style was formed during the Sukhothai (1238–1438) and Ayutthaya (1531–1767) periods. It was influenced greatly by other Asian countries, especially Chinese art, and crafts. The ancient history of Thai arts and crafts can be divided into three periods.
The Copper Period (2,500 years ago): During this period, many artworks and handicrafts were made from copper, including household wears, jewelry necklaces, rings, and bracelets.
The Alloy Period (2,000 years ago): During the alloy period, artworks and crafts were made from a mixture of copper and tin (alloy). One of them is the world-famous large bronze drum, which was unearthed in an apple field by a farmer in 1988.
The Iron Period (1,700 years ago): Iron products, Buddha statues, and pottery were created in this period, such as the famous statue of a monk made from gilt copper alloy exhibited in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
6 Types of Arts and Crafts in Thailand
There are many types of arts and crafts in Thailand. Here we are going to introduce the main six types of Thai arts and crafts.
1. Carving and Sculpture in Thailand
In Thailand, carved artworks are mainly used to decorate Buddhist temples and royal palaces around the country. Many materials are carved and engraved as part of statues, including teak, bamboo, rattan, stone, horn, ivory, banana stalk, and mango. The most popular wood for carving in Thailand is teak.
Thai carving artists are so smart that they can carve not only hard materials, but also soft fruit, even vegetables, and soaps. You can always see the products of many artisans engraving and carving watermelons into special works of art in restaurants in Thailand.
2. Thai Traditional Silk
Silk originated in China and was introduced to Thailand over 3,000 years ago. Traditional Thai silk is produced from the cocoons of Thai silkworms. Eri silk and glossy mulberry silk are the main two silk types, which are produced by two kinds of silkworms.
Traditional Thai silk is handwoven, which means it is unique and can’t be made by machine, although artificial silk fabrics can have the same color and pattern. The luster of Thai silk is unique and has two blends. The color of Thai silk changes as the angles of light varies. Traditional Thai silk is almost 10 times more expensive than artificial silk.
Embroidery on each piece of silk fabric has local Thai cultural elements. Thai silk fabric is one of the most popular exported products in the world.
3. Thai Bamboo and Rattan Crafts
Bamboo and rattan play an important role in household craft products. Much furniture is made from bamboo and rattan, such as chairs, baskets, beds, trays, lamps, and even bags. Thai craftsmen are so smart that they can make most furniture from bamboo and rattan. Many craftsmen make their bamboo furniture in a small shop or a family-based factory. The skills of bamboo crafting are handed down from generation to generation in a family.
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4. Thai Silverware
Thai silverware working skills were influenced by Chinese and other Asian skills. During the Ayutthaya (1531–1767) and Rattanakosin (1782–1932) periods, silver skills and products were greatly developed and improved. In ancient times, silver and nielloware (silverware with a dark background element) was only allowed to be used by royal families or noble families. Thai craftsmen have created their own techniques and exported their silver and niello wares to many other countries.
5. Thai Pottery
Thai pottery and lacquer wares have their own Thai patterns, although the skills of making them are influenced by Chinese and Burmese techniques. The shapes, colors, and decorative motifs of Thai ceramics are different from Chinese ceramics.
Thai pottery has a smooth surface and delicate details. Many Thai designs include animal decorations and have a dark brown glaze finish, which makes the Thai ceramics special and unique among Asian pottery wares.
Many Thai pottery and lacquer wares are exported to other countries nowadays. Sukhothai Ware is the most popular Thai ceramics type.
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6. Thai Paper
In ancient Thailand, people used mulberry bark to make paper, which can be used and stored longer than other paper. The fasting growing mulberry tree is a common tree in south Asian countries, which provides a cheap fiber to make paper.
Thai handmade paper has a thick and heavy texture. Some of them have large “inclusions” randomly scattered across the sheet. Papermaking has become a popular craft in all tourist markets in Thailand. Handmade paper can be used to print, paint, dye, and emboss. It is one of the most popular souvenirs of Thailand.
Places to Buy Souvenir Artworks and Handicrafts in Thailand
Many tourists in Thailand like to buy handicrafts as souvenirs. These are some of the recommended places where you can buy traditional Thai silk and artworks:
Baan Baht (Bangkok) is an ancient artisans’ village in Bangkok, where you can buy household ware, such as bowls, ceramics, earthenware and so on.
Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok) is a good place for bargain hunters in Bangkok with more than 8,000 market stalls. There are all kinds of tourist souvenirs on sale in the markets. More than 200,000 visitors a year come to search for their favorite items.
Silom Village (Bangkok) is a compound of 17 well-preserved antique houses dating back to the glorious era of King Rama V. It is the best place to buy fine antiques, handicrafts, lacquer-finished products, jewelry, Thai silk, and furniture.
Keta Handicraft and Souvenirs (Chiangmai) is the most popular night market outlet in Chiangmai, selling Thai silk, Northern Thai clothing, hand-carved soaps, bamboo rice boxes, silverware, and Thai umbrellas.
Handicraft Shopping Tips for Tourists
If you are going to buy some souvenirs on your trip to Thailand, the following tips will be useful for you.
- Bargaining is common in the handicrafts markets. The first price on the piece is not the real price, especially in the tourist markets. Remember to bargain for a lower price in the souvenir markets.
- Choose souvenirs that can be easily packed and taken away, including Thai silk, handmade paper, Thai spices and herbs, silverware, and small Thai handicrafts. Don’t buy a large artwork that takes up lots of space, which will make your trip encumbered and will require shipping or excess luggage charges.
- Only buy expensive jewelry or artwork in a reputable store. Try to check or ask local people about the shop before you make your decision to pay. Unexpected discounts or low prices typically indicate fake items or scams.
- Beware of touts. Don’t follow some driver or tour guide to certain shops or souvenir places, where they will get a commission from your deal. Go to reputable markets or shops directly and choose what you want to buy.
Explore Thai Crafts with Asia Highlights
When you visit Thailand, you will have to bring back dozens of souvenirs! We know it is hard to resist the strong temptation to buy such beautiful objects and bring home some unforgettable memories of the country.
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