Ceramic Art in Thailand

General background of Ancient Ceramics

Types of Ancient Ceramics

Different types of ceramics represent the creative ideas of the makers and reflect variety of functions. Ceramics are also produced in response to the needs of customers. They will be divided into seven main types on the basis of surface coatings:

1. Monochrome Ware

1.1 Celadon or Green-Glazed Ware. This type is divided into two subtypes due to different sources of glazes.

1.1.1 Ware coated with ash glaze. Ware of this type include Lan Na, Sukhothai, Khmer, Vietnamese and Burmese ceramics. Most of the ware are decorated with carved, incised, graffito and impressed designs before glazing. Glaze slips vary in color and the amount applied.
1.1.2 Ware coated with copper glaze. Ware of this type of glaze are called “opaque green-glazed ware” as illustrated by Burmese ceramics.

1.2 Opaque White-Glazed Ware. Chinese, Burmese and Sukhothai ware represent this group. It can be noted that Burmese ceramics are commonly glazed with a white slip and tin, while Chinese and Lan Na ceramics are coated only with a white glaze because they were made of fine clay, whereas Sukhothai ware were surfaced with a white slip before glazing.

1.3 Brown-Glazed Ware. The most commonly found are:

1.3.1 Opaque brown-glazed ware. Only Burmese ceramics represent this type.
1.3.2 Transparent brown-glazed ware. Many Burmese, Chinese, Lan Na, Vietnamese and Sukhothai ceramics represent this type. Some of them are adorned with incised and appliqué motifs.

2. Two-color Glazed Ware. The most common types are:

2.1 White and Brown-Glazed Ware, as found on Sukhothai ware from the Si Satchanalai kilns. The ware were first formed, then incised with a pointed tool, and the patterns accordingly coated with white and brown glazes.
2.2 Opaque Green and White-Glazed Ware, as illustrated by Burmese ceramics.
2.3 Transparent Green and Brown-Glazed Ware, as seen from Khmer and a number of Lan Na ware such as those produced from the San Kamphaeng, San Sai, and Wiang Ka Long kiln sites.

3. Underglaze Black Decorated Ware.

This type of decoration is found on Lan Na, Vietnamese, Chinese and Sukhothai ware. Those found on Thai and Vietnamese ceramics show imitation of Chinese ceramics; that is, once formed, the potter drew and painted the designs with a pigment derived from iron oxide, and then dipped the ceramics into the glaze. It is interesting to note that Sukhothai ware from the Sukhothai-city kilns were painted after the white thick slip had been applied on the surface of the vessels, to smooth the coarse-textured surface.

4. Inglaze Green Decorated Ware.

Only Burmese ceramics represent this surface finishing. Regarding the finishing method, the ware, once glazed with opaque white slip, were painted with a glaze derived from a combination of white and green slip before firing.

5. Blue and White Ware.

Chinese and Vietnamese ceramics predominantly represent this type of decoration. The ware were fired twice: first, once formed, the ware were fired biscuit; then the secondary firing was made after the ware had been painted with pigment derived from cobalt, and glazed.

6. Overglaze Enameled Ware.

This is one of the most commonly found decoration patterns on Chinese and Vietnamese ceramics. The vessels were painted in underglaze before they were repainted overglaze in red, yellow, sky blue or green. After the vessels were fired under low temperature so that the colors could be attached permanently to the surface of the vessels. However, we note that green, yellow and blue decorations on overglaze enameled ware found in Thailand are more durable than the red ones. This may be due to the fact that the green, yellow and blue have more glazes in them.

7. Unglazed Ware.

This group is represented by a large number of Sukhothai, Dvaravati, Srivijaya, Haripunjaya, Bang Rachan, Bang Pun and Khmer ceramics as well as pottery locally made for daily life. The vessels were decorated with a wide range of techniques such as incising, appliqué and slipping or engobe (a covering which consist of slip).


Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, December 2007