Early Thais relied on nature to feed and clothe them, as well as provide home comforts such as mats to sleep on, baskets and containers for home items, hats to shade from the sun. Village communities used local materials - abundant bamboo, reeds, bulrushes, vines and leaves - to create simple, attractive and extremely functional wicker items.
Today these inherited skills and local knowledge are bringing extra incomes into these communities from hand-crafted wickerware products. Community Development organisations throughout the country assist in training in weaving techniques, marketing and designs that meet the market demand.
Abundant bamboo and rattan are transformed into exquisite chairs, tables, baskets and decorative items. Reeds (gog) and bulrushes (krajute) are grown abundantly in ponds to dry and weave into soft, durable mats to sit and sleep on. Chanthaburi province is renowned for its high quality mats. There is such market demand that northeastern communities are being taught reed weaving techniques using textile patterns like khid.
Water hyacinths proliferate so quickly, blocking waterways and requiring government budgets to clear them. However, enterprising villagers have solved the problem by utilizing this “weed” as a valuable raw material, producing strong durable strands when dried, to create a range of bags, baskets, trays, fans and other household items. Other under-utilised materials such as palm, banana and pandanus leaves are similarly being transformed into attractive marketable items.
In southern Thailand, lipao vines dry into very fine strands that are difficult to work with, yet with patience are crafted into superbly elegant handbag and purses, decorated with gold or silver clasps, that are long lasting and socially fashionable.