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Ban Mon Pottery Museum  
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Museum of Ban Mon Pottery
By: (1127) | Date: December 13, 2016

          “Story has it that while a Mon group was traveling up north along the waterways, they took a break to cook some food at a spot about 200 meters from the River Ping. They saw that the land there had very good clay. So some decided to stay back. These were the ancestors of the early 4 families here – the Rueangbuns, the Kaeosutthis, the Changpuns and the Liangsuks. Now we’ve hundreds of families living here.
          “… Our main products at the beginning were water jars and clay rice pots, rice clay basins, containers for burning charcoal (to be put out), containers for steaming sticky rice.  Then came aluminum pots and pans. Clay pots were no more seen. And rice pots were replaced by electric cookers – much more convenient.
          “So now instead we make plant pots, and jars as decorative things, no longer for storing water.”
          Headman Rungroj Liangsuk was entrusted with the museum curator’s job because he was one of the museum’s co-founders. His brief account on the development work done at this Ban Mon village showed the cultural linkage the people have with the Mon groups in Nonthaburi and Nakhon Sawan.  It is true that nowadays no one speaks the Mon language, but the awareness of their being Mon is still manifested through the local craftsmen’s artistic pottery production which has been passed down to the present generation.
          “I myself used to be a pottery maker. My career started from here.  Around 1984, it was the transition time. Before that, pottery makers needed to use carts to transport clay and water pails. Buffaloes were needed to trample on the clay to make if soft and consistent …  We only made water jars because they sold well.  Later some Pakkred folks commissioned us to make plant pots with holes for draining water.  That was the time when bon wan (an auspicious herb) was popular, so plant pots were in demand too.  Good business we had. Later the trend shifted to be bougainvillea. So we totally shifted too – to make pots for these plants. No more household things.
          The old way was that the pottery makers did everything – from preparing clay, crafting pots and pans, and finally selling them. The current situation is that the craftsmen do the production, the sellers sell the products or transport them to shops.  Those who do not own a factory buy the products and send them to the shops. Coming back from the shops, they usually bring back dry wood, which the makers need as fuel for their kilns. These days most of our fuel is thrown away wood chips from sawmills, used wooden construction poles, and used coriander trellises. Our kilns are called tao chang.”   
          His story was brief, yet it did give a clear picture of the production process that changed following some social changes that took place overtime. Interestingly electricity was a phenomenon that brought with it the clay kneading machine. So human and animal labor was no more necessary.  And then came the road connecting the village to other parts of the country.  So the trade route became a land one, no longer the waterborne commerce that their forefathers were accustomed to.  Asked about the pottery museum, the headman explained,
          “We had our co-operative here before.  But then the land was deserted and remained so for a long time. We wished to revive the co-op and began the construction around 2005. To start with, we tried to collect and accumulate our pottery products, also to form the craftsmen’s group. We had Headman Chat at that time.  I myself was a member of the District Administration Office. We got some support from the Provincial Development Office too.
          “As the pottery group was formed, the Province proposed that we set up a museum too, and they gave us money for the project – a completely new building plus landscaping.  So what we did with the old building here (where we were conversing with the headman) was to have it lifted up, by 50-60 men, and moved further in.”
          During our visit, on display were pottery products, which included water jars, small jars for storing water for washing one’s feet, containers for extinguishing hot charcoal, containers for steaming sticky rice.  The production processes were explained with emphasis on their Ban Mon characteristics.  Unfortunately, what we saw was different from what Headman Rungroj had told us earlier on.
          “We had big floods in 2010-2011. Before the floods, we did have some boards that explained about the different ages of the pottery items.  The Province, the District and the teachers helped us with that. But after 2 successive damaging floods, very unfortunately as a result, our museum things were swept afloat and scattered all over the place. Since then, we have yet to do the full recovery work. We need to do a new exhibition. But what we’ve done so far is only to have the redeemed things piled up in proper spots.”  So that was the explanation for what happened to the things in the aftermath of the floods.
          The museum comprises 4 display zones.  To the front, visitors will see the museum emblem, which actually is a large number of small flower pots, one on top of the other, forming an arch.  Further in to the right is an open structure with a display of large-size pottery things. Guests are first welcome here. The open yard in the middle is used for storing production materials and the artisan groups’ pottery products before they are transported to some other places.
          The third zone in front of the museum building is the pottery factory.  The building itself, once a proper one, has become a place where molded products are left to dry properly before they are put in the kilns at the back of the building.
          In the second zone so many things piled up there somewhat help visitors to conjure a picture of what the exhibition was like before. Given the present state of the things, they definitely cannot be put yet in a display. On the floor there are some tens of new products that will be put next in the kiln.
          The kiln is in the last zone.  A lot of pottery pieces below standard lied scattered about.  They are not good ones because the clay was not evenly roasted so they “burst.”  But there are a lot of the good ones too that are to be transported to the market.  The Ban Mon Museum, as it is now, cannot boast any proper or beautiful exhibition. However, a chance to see the skilled craftsmen’s group gathering here and doing their job helps visitor to see and learn about their very interesting “live” production process.
          In the museum vicinity there are shops and pottery makers’ houses where many types of pottery are sold. One does not need permission to walk into these factory houses in order to have a look at the things for sale. In my opinion, anyone interested in pottery will find the Ban Mon village itself a living museum.  It is also a nice place for children to learn about this age-old craft, which has been passed down through many generations of these Ban Mon folks in Tambon Ban Kang of Nakhon Sawan’s Mueang District.

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  Ban Mon Pottery Museum  
: Moo1, Ban Mon, Ban Kaeng, Mueang, Nakhonsawan 60000
: 093 221 5522
ติดต่อนายรุ่งโรจน์ เลี้ยงสุข
ผู้ใหญ่บ้านหมู่ที่ 1
: -
: please contact in advance
: admission free
: https://goo.gl/SMIfc4
: -
: 2003
: Ban Mon pottery, pottery production process
Management : community
Story : pottery
Status : Open
Update Oct 11, 2018
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