Monday, August 20, 2007

Craft, For Every Sense

I love Thai craftsmanship. I love it even more because in Thailand, beautiful, hand-made objects are owned and valued not just by the rich. The fa├žade of the humblest rural wat is intricately carved in teak and other fine woods, hand painted, and overlaid with gold-leaf. Skillful wood and stone carvings – mostly of Buddha or dragons, for the tourist market – and hand-embroidered fabrics are sold by street vendors for a few baht. Phuang malai, delicately scented, threaded garlands of flowers, are everywhere: draped over ornate phra phum – spirit houses – or hung from rear vision mirrors of beat-up trucks and taxis.
I've been following the construction of an Polynesian-inspired catamaran (or sea-going double canoe, as its English designer calls it) via a blog titled
A Tiki In Thailand. With hulls hand-laid
with cedar strip-planking and epoxy by Thais at a yard run by an Italian master boat-builder in the jungle sout-east of Pattaya, the 39-foot vessel is capable of sailing round the world but it looks like an artwork to me. Large, sculptural and seemingly animate, I can almost smell the cedar, along with the aged rosewood trim and teak decks. On the stemheads of both hulls, carved in timber and overlaid with fiberglass, are stylised fish-hook shapes based on the hei matau, a traditional Maori symbol usually carved in greenstone or bone and worn around the neck, said to bring "prosperity, fertility and safe passage over water".

1 comment:

Daniel Sanger said...

It is certainly a beautiful and most interesting culture - and damn fine food too;) I can't wait to visit Thailand one day:)