Thai potters work to keep ancient tradition alive

Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:58am EDT
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand (Reuters) - Pimpan Pleurngnoi puts the finishing touches to a brightly colored statue of a curly-haired fairy, painting the fairy's eyes a sparkling blue. Nearby, her elderly mother carefully brushes thick brown paint on a small dog made of clay.

"They're very popular with hairdressing shops," Pimpan said. "Hairdressers like to have a fairy standing in front of their shop, welcoming customers."

Their village of Nong Sanoe, part of Nakhon Ratchasima and some 260 km (155 miles) northeast of the Thai capital of Bangkok, is centre to a thriving pottery industry that maintains the traditions of centuries -- and the beneficiary of a program established by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The One Tambon One Product (OTOP) scheme, which began in 2001, promotes local handicrafts at grassroots level and co-operates with villagers to help promote and sell their goods at national and international levels.

It has proved a boon for Nong Sanoe, a village in the rice-growing province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Five years ago there were only a handful of shops in Nong Sanoe village. Today, over two hundred families in the village make their living from clay, many of them people who worked as farm laborers or factory workers before starting their own businesses.

Pimpan was studying to be a teacher when a friend recommended she move to Nong Sanoe. Her extended family of seven now lives and works in a small house.

"Mostly, we wholesale to businesses here in Thailand. Other times Thai clients have something very specific in mind so we make statues according to what they want," Pimpan said.   Continued...

A worker moves clay statues out of a furnace in Dan Kwian village in Nakhon Ratchasima province, northeast of Bangkok March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang