A short drive from Nakhon Ratchasima town, the pottery village of Dan Kwian and the silk creations of Japoh are well worth a visit
THE IDEAL base from which to explore Thailand’s lower northeast region, Nakhon Ratchasima is the kick off point for a wide range of excursions ranging from National Parks to farm tours and much more in between. Take Dan Kwian, for example. A mere 30-minute drive from the city, this village is famed for its durable pottery and earthenware, a labour of love that’s been passed down through the generations for the best part of 300 years.
Dan Kwian is famous for the long-lasting and lovely earthenware produced there, perfect to adorn outdoor gardens.
Located on the banks of the Mun River, this hamlet has long been considered an excellent source of top-quality, smooth-textured clay perfect for shaping such functional items as water jars and kitchenware. The range of products has since expanded to include garden furnishings and in 2014, a pottery leaning centre, which is our destination for today.
The centre’s exhibition area is divided into three zones boasting rare and beautifully crafted crockery in different designs. The first room is dedicated to early editions of earthen jars and mortars, the iron content evident in their greenish hue. The potters later developed new techniques to produce vases, basins, lanterns and more complex water jars boasting flower, leaf and animal motifs. Next door, a replica of the village portrays the rural way of life of both farmers and craftsmen while the third and final zone is home to a thoroughly modern video set up screening a 10-minute video that explains how villagers borrowed Japanese techniques to control temperatures and create new kilns.
“We used to have more than 200 kilns. Our clay is light red, durable and rich in iron and bronze. We started producing earthen jars for sale during the government of Chomphon Por (Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram) after World War II,” says villager Kultida Choomuenwai, who then leads us to the local market where we admire and shop for lamps, jars, mortars and flower pots, many of them bearing auspicious Chinese symbols.
Our next stop is Japoh village in Pak Thong Chai district, home to a Lao Vieng community known for its top-quality mud mee silk. Visitors can explore its history at the House of Antiques, which looks back at the ancestors of the current inhabitants and records their journey from Vientiane to this remote part of the Nakhon Ratchasima countryside.
Housed in a replica of a traditional Korat-style house, the museum is home to a collection of more than handwoven mud mee silk more than 100 years olds and the antique wooden looms on which much of it was woven.
Baan Japoh is considered the best source of silk, with its enhanced design techniques and designs boasting contemporary twists.
Another highlight is the house of Supang Tangklang, the owner of Mai Thong Suranaree (Golden Silk Suranaree), part of which has been turned into a boutique offering her latest collections and a demonstration on how to dye silk using local plants and flowers.
“I use ebony to get black, mangosteen peels, neem and pradu for gold, mahogany for orose and lac for red,” she explains, adding that she combines traditional Isaan pattern with modern graphic to give her silk a contemporary twist.
“I’ve been working with local villagers in developing designs and techniques to make silk more modern. I used to export obi belts for yukata to Japan, which were very popular with Japanese shoppers," says Supang.
>>The writer’s trip was sponsored by Kantary Hotel, Korat
>> Dan Kwian Pottery Village Learning Centre is at 222, Dan Kwian district, Nakhon Ratchasima. Call (044) 338 105-6.
>> For more about Mai Thong Suranaree at Pha Mai Pak Thong Chai at Mai, visit the Thong Suranaree page (in Thai) on Facebook.