Rattan is one of the natural material found in forests across Thailand, especially in the Southern part of the country. Local artisan has long use rattan as weaving and binding material and masterfully crafted out household object and furniture from this natural vine. The plant plays a significant role in the development of Thai artisanal creation and has seamlessly integrated itself into Thai culture. Additionally, this useful plant also has some other interesting usage. Here are some that we find very intriguing.
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Sepak Takraw or kick volleyball is a traditional sport played in many countries in South East Asia. Players are allowed to use any part of the body accept hands and arms to get the ball over the net. Before the introduction of plastic, a rattan ball was used in the game. The sport is so widely played in Thailand that there is a professional craftsman who specialized in creating this woven ball.
Pho Hak community in Ratchaburi province has a very unique engagement ritual, which involves the groom weaving baskets and household objects for his perspective bride, as well as assisting her on her family farm work. Upon parental approval, the yearlong engagement period starts with the man weaving a rattan basket for his future wife as promise of his love and affection. These baskets were elaborately crafted and often richly decorated with unique weaving pattern.
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In Pho Hak culture a basket is a metaphor for devotion and union; each vine symbolized the string of love and attachment that the couple had for each other while the act of weaving signify marriage. The association between basketry and love in Pho Hak culture is further emphasized by a local poem, which stated that “the basket is a reminder of a man’s love to his maiden, and she in return accepted it with an affectionate heart.” Throughout the engagement period, the man will continuously weaved series of household objects for the woman including, trays, baskets, hat, and carrying pole. These items serve the purpose of an engagement ring and the woman will use them on her daily routine to show that she is engaged.
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Locally known as “Kaeng Wai” (แกงหวาย) or rattan soup, the shoot of the vine is harvested and eaten in north eastern part of Thailand. The thorn was first remove from the shoot and it needs to be wash multiple times to eliminate the bitter taste; it is described to have similar texture to a bamboo shoot. The soup is usually cooked with desired meat e.g. pork or chicken, and pack with herbs and spices for extra flavors.
Rattan is typically weaved into domestic object and furniture. However, VT Thai see the beauty of this natural vine and want to push the boundary of its function. Under the cooperation with our partner at Mango Mojito and Maison SDL, Lena and Laila Wicker Handbag were crafted with the intention to take local artisan work to another level.