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Necessity is the Mother of Invention

The people of Thailand, especially in the ancient, northern Kingdom of Lanna-Thai, have long been noted for their crafting skills whether it be in woodcarving, weaving, potting and sculpting. Visitors have long admired the results of these skills so have bought, and exported, to just about every corner of the world. But what of the traditional crafting skills which produce products for everyday use in Thai homes? Products which may not be of great souvenir interest to the visitor but, nevertheless, find a place of ready usefulness in Thai households. Items such as baskets, fish traps, water pots and brooms. Of course, many traditional items have been superceded by the cheapness of their modern, plastic counterparts but plastic remains plastic while the inventions of yesteryear remain beautiful as well as functional. Let's take a look at four such pieces which someone visiting a Thai home or farm will certainly see.

BroomBROOM : Local grasses are woven and plaited to a bamboo shank. At the point of binding to the bamboo handle, many handles are "sculpted" in the shape of a swan's neck and give the impression of a crest atop a bird's head. As the floors of most Thai houses are wooden or ceramic tiled (rather than carpeted) this traditional broom is as efficient as a modern vacuum cleaner. It sweeps well and doesn't scrape or damage the floor.

Cow bellCOW BELL : Crafted, in a cylindrical shape, from wood or bamboo with two, opposite external clappers hinged, or tied, to the main body, such bells are slotted across the mouth and this slotting, plus the size of the hollow core, gives each bell a distinctive, different sound. A very rustically crafted, traditional "tool" which helps farmers locate and identify their livestock.

Ladle or drinking cupLADLE OR DRINKING CUP : This is made from a coconut shell with the top portion sliced off. The slim handle, usually made from shaped wood (maybe also ornamented) is about 38cms long and pierces the lip of the coconut shell and is held in place by a wooden dowel. This utensil may be used for ladling curries or soups but is, more especially, used as a drinking cup. Outside many northern Thai homes, one will see a lidded, earthenware pot of drinking water for the use of weary travellers the earthenware keeps the water cool and, alongside the pot, will be the drinking ladle.

Cooking griddleCOOKING GRIDDLE : Potted from clay, the body is cone shaped atop a short cylinder, perhaps 30 cms diameter, which houses glowing charcoal. Across the top of the body is a clay griddle, with a series of cupped recesses (rather like an egg poacher) into which is poured the batter for Khanom Krok a small pancake made from rice and coconut. This may be seen at many street markets and roadside stalls plus Thai homes when the lady of the house makes this delicious Thai sweet treat.

These four items are still in regular use in Thai houses and farms. By taking what was locally available to them, in the way of what nature provided, Thai people "invented" utensils and items which were necessities to their everyday living. Many such items have a simple, rustic beauty which, although not a souvenir for the tourist circle, have withstood the test of time and continue to be crafted generation after generation.

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