Unglazed pottery, with muted earthy tones reminiscent of the Japanese style, lies scattered all over Baan Doi Din Daeng, creating the impression of an outdoor exhibition space. The fragments of broken, chipped, deformed, or unfinished pottery have been reassembled into new pieces of art. The soft sunlight shines through the leafy trees onto the pottery, neatly arranged on its shelves. The peaceful and quiet atmosphere of the dreamy space evokes a Zen garden.
Ajarn (Master) Somluk Pantiboon, a sculptor and artist and the owner of Baan Doi Din Daeng, showed us how, with his bare hands in little time, he turns dark-grey clay into a teacup small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. "These teacups are the hardest to do," said Ajarn Somluk.
"Making a teacup must be done as both work and play. You cannot be too tense." Sculpting a teacup in the style of Somluk is about how to make it not completely beautiful- meaning each cup must not be perfect. "They all need to be different so that each one is unique in itself."
Decades ago, the Chiang Rai artist went to live in Japan and learned sculpture techniques from Master Nakasato Taruemon in Karatsu, Kyushu Island, an area that has been famous for pottery art for over 400 years. Somluk likens the practice of pottery on the island to the inhabitants’ daily routines, which have been inherited for generations. When he returned to his hometown, he bought 1 ½ hectares of land as a place to create work and make a living. More than half of this land is shaded with trees.
"I met a Zen monk from Japan who helped widen my perspective of pottery in a way that I had never known before. Japanese people often have profound views of things, owing to the prevalence of the concept of Zen; paying attention to natural elements. Doi Din Daeng reflects this respect for nature."
The great artist of Baan Doi Din Daeng believes that nature makes him calm and creates a positive attitude for art. “Everything is connected; planting trees which offer shade, as well as fuel from their branches to fire the kiln. Some woods can be used in carpentry, which helps maintain this traditional skill. "This is the method that we can use to keep art and old traditions alive together."
Every day, Ajarn Somluk, who is now 63, wakes up and draws pictures by clay. He says "The colours from the earth are abstract and already beautiful. We can use them to create work ". He visits Baan Doi Din Daeng every day to sculpt and sometimes to teach, monitor work, do some gardening or plant trees.
He emphasized that the heart of art is that it must resonate with life. Doi Din Daeng's work is based on nature and focuses on crafting and creating utensils for daily necessities, as well as creating sculptures.
Doi Din Daeng, Soi 3, Ban Pa-O, Phahonyothin Road, Mueang District, Chiang Rai Province
8.30am – 4pm. Closed on Sundays. Tel. 053 705 2916
Thai Smile offers daily direct flights from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Chiang Rai Airport.