Celadon is a Lanna (Northern Thai) style of pottery; coated in a natural, transparent, jade-colored glaze. The glaze has a striking, ‘cracked’ design, resembling natural jade, which is considered an auspicious material. The pottery is fired until its texture resembles real stone. This technique also creates the unique, light blue-green and jade-green patterns, for which Celadon is known.
The French word, Celadon, comes from a combination of the Sanskrit words ‘sila’, meaning rock, and ‘don’, meaning green. The rich, green color is produced by mixing hardwood ash with topsoil, and then glazing the pottery in an oxygen reducing kiln at temperatures of between 1260 to 1300 degrees Celsius. Celadon has been awarded the coveted GI (Geographical Indication) status, in recognition of its significant importance to Chiang Mai’s rich artistic and cultural heritage.
Celadon originated in Xinjiang, China. The pottery first arrived via Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, where it was known as chinaware. Celadon later arrived in Chiang Mai, brought by Chinese traders. Chiang Mai established a flourishing Celadon trade, which continued until Chiang Mai suffered a period of military defeats against Myanmar. Highly skilled, Celadon potters were persuaded to move to Myanmar. Some time later, Shan refugees came to settle in Chiang Mai, and established new Celadon kilns in Chiang Mai. These artists have passed down their skills, from one generation to the next, until the present day. Most Celadon is green. However, Chiang Mai artisans have also experimented to produce many other colors, including brown, gold, dark blue, grey, white, crimson and yellow. Celadon has a special charm, enhanced by its’ history, cultural value and hand-crafted production skills. Celadon pottery production does not rely on modern technology. These attributes have combined to earn Celadon a respected place as a high-end, fine art product. Today, Celadon is still produced using traditional methods, using predominantly natural materials. Designs reflect the color and creativity of Thai artistic wisdom; alongside new, creative, functional designs which broaden the uses of Celadon.
The stages of production are: i) Prepare the earth by washing and kneading it, until all of the air bubbles are removed. ii) Mold the shape of the Celadon object. This can be done in three ways: first, by hand-molding, secondly using a jigger, and finally by using a potter’s mold. iii) Place the object to dry in the shade. iv) Decorate the pottery with various designs. v) Fire the pottery for the first time, at ล temperature of 800 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. vi) Check the pottery carefully. Designs can be painted onto the objects during this stage. vii) Coat the object in natural, chemical-free glaze (this is made from mixing hardwood ash or ferric oxide / limestone / quartz and feldspar with topsoil). viii) Fire the pottery again at a temperature of approximately 1260 to 1300 degrees, for 10 to 12 hours. ix) The result will be the distinctive, jade-green stoneware, with an eye-catching, cracked design, which is Celadon.
The secret of making Celadon lies in preparing the earth. The earth must be dark, from Chiang Mai province. It should be left to settle for 3 years or more, so that organic compounds can biodegrade. The artisans pound the earth finely, and sieve it to remove iron ore, so that only pure earth is left. Baan Celadon, in Chiang Mai, places great emphasis on the importance of continuing the culture of handmade, Celadon earthenware; conserving traditional, Thai wisdom; and producing colorful designs which reflect Thai culture.
Baan Celadon is a combination of residence, factory, and a showroom to sell Celadon products. Their products include tableware, vases, decorations, lightshades, gifts and souvenirs, under the Baan Celadon brand. The company has a strong reputation for quality and craftsmanship, and excellent feedback from customers in Thailand and overseas. Moreover, Baan Celadon has created livelihoods, income and pride among local community members; contributing to an improved standard of living. Baan Celadon is also an education center, where the younger generation come to learn Celadon skills, and adapt designs to meet customers’ needs. To maintain the integrity of Celadon, adaptations are kept within 3 central styles: Standard Normal (no decoration); Carved Design (includes carving decorations in the earthenware, before it is fired); and Art Design (with painted designs to increase product value).
Celadon products are priced from 100 Baht to over a million Baht, depending on the intricacy of the design and decoration. Some artisans take over a year to decorate a single vase. For this reason, Baan Celadon has also crafted numerous artistic geniuses. These local village artists did not study art. They are simple people who learned and developed exquisite skills from experience. Perhaps, even beyond the delicate Celadon work, this human, cultural legacy is what makes the deepest impression on visitors.
Baan Celadon has been awarded numerous prizes and standards, including:
- One Tambon One Product (OTOP) 5 star;
- 2003 OTOP Product Champion;
- 2003 Thai Community Product standard;
- 2003 Chiang Mai Brand Award;
- 2004 Thai Dining Pottery Competition;
- 2009 Prime Minister’s Export Awards;
- Geographic Indication Label (Gl);
- 2012 Thailand Tourism standard.
Tourists who are interested to see a demonstration and to learn about Celadon production can contact Khun Kanda Kanchanakorn. Tel. +66 5333 8288. Baan Celadon is located at Celadon, Moo 3, Chiang Mai Sankamphaeng Road, Chiang Mai 50130. The website is www.chiangmaiceladon.com.
A visit to Baan Celadon can be combined with visiting other tourist attractions in the area, such as the Sankamphaeng hot springs (accommodation is available). Many visitors also enjoy visiting local Buddhist temples. Close to Sankamphaeng is Mae Rim district. Here, visitors can visit the Dara Pirom Palace Museum, of Royal Princess Jao Dara Rasamee, who was a famous patron of Northern Thai arts. Close to the museum, you can also visit Dara Pirom Forest Temple, where Phra Ajarn Mun Bhuridatta, a revered monk who is credited with establishing Thailand’s forest temple tradition once resided. Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden is also close by. This garden impresses visitors with a diverse collection of flowers and breath taking, 360 degree views from a 30 meter high, 400 meter long forest canopy walkway. Call +66 5384 1234 for more information, or visit www.qsbg.org.