Our first Christmas in Chiangmai has come and gone. After living in Asia for the last seven years, it has become something of a non-issue. With daytime temperatures hovering in the 20s (Celsius) and locals carrying on as usual, it is just another day for the vast majority of the population. We bought each other a good bottle of booze and called it a day! But we did go out for a nice Christmas dinner at a great local restaurant, The Dukes, with friends who were visiting for a few days.
The day before Christmas, we headed out for a day of touring with friends who were here for the holidays. I tried to rent a car at the last minute without any luck but we were able to get a driver for the day, which was nice. Unlike my last experience with local drivers, this guy was great. He drove slowly and carefully throughout the day. Our main destination was the Chiangmai Celadon studios, followed by a visit to the other craft areas that we would pass on the way back to town.
I wrote a short posting about our first trip to the nearby Chiangmai Celadon showroom a few weeks ago. However, I have been meaning to get to the actual “factory” for awhile and this was a great chance to do so. Calling it a factory is an overstatement. It is actually a large pottery studio with many talented employees taking part in the creation of the wonderful Chiangmai Celadon ware. To get to this location, you head north-east out of Chiangmai along highway 118 to Doi Saket. Just after entering the small settlement of Doi Saket, you hang a right and head back towards Chiangmai along #1014. This is a two-lane road that winds its way through the picturesque countryside back to the city. You will pass the entrance to Chiangmai Celadon on the left side of the road about ten minutes south of Doi Saket.
As with most commercial pottery operations, it is a combination of throwing on the wheel, casting, press-molding and jiggering and jollying. The processes you see in action will be dependent on when you arrive at the studio. The production of ceramics is a cyclical process so there is no telling what part of the cycle they will be in when you visit. While we were there, several artists were in the process of overglaze painting, another was press-molding handles, and a couple were throwing some small items on pottery wheels.
It is especially interesting to me since I was a full-time potter for several years, and celadon glazes were part of my “repertoire”. The demeanor of everyone in the studio changed when they discovered that I actually used to make this stuff myself. The production manager gave me his business card with lots of hand-shaking and wais. They were very impressed that I used to make my own glazes and knew about all the pottery processes.
Walking around the large shop was an eye-opener. How these people can do such detailed work for hours on end boggles the mind. Painting intricate patterns on the surface of dry glaze is difficult at the best of times but the folks at Chiangmai Celadon made it look so easy and relaxing. The concentration alone that is required would wear me out. Looking at how much surface area I had to cover would do me in before I even started!
We ended our visit by checking out the showroom. It is beautifully put together with lush vegetation and pools of water complementing the large range of celadon pieces that are on display. The prices are very reasonable for the amount of work that goes into their production and there is no pushiness from the sales people to buy anything. You are free to browse at your leisure without having someone looking over your shoulder the whole time.
I would highly recommend this small side-trip to anyone that makes it to Chiangmai and is interested in seeing some local craftspeople at work without the typical tourist trappings.
Chiangmai Celadon is located outside of iDoi Saket. They are open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Be sure to call before you visit to check.
Doi Saket: 135/4, Moo 6, Papong, Doisaket, Chiangmai 50220
Tel: 66 5348 4693, 66 5348 4695