Chitralada Villa, located in Dusit Palace, in Bangkok, has been the official residence of His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen, and their children since 1962. Occupying a spacious, shady plot, the complex houses the King's residential building and royal household offices. His Majesty also makes use of other spaces as sites for his several experimental projects in agriculture and agro-industry, as well as Chitralada School, for his children and those of his officials and the general public. The palace therefore has an atmosphere distinctly different from any other palace in the world. On the southern side of the palace ground, passers-by will see a large herd of dairy cattle grazing about. On the eastern side is located the Royal Elephant kraal, while on the northern side are the Supplementary Occupation Program Division, being part of the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary, and the SUPPORT Center.

Inside the SUPPORT Foundation and Center building will be seen approximately five hundred of its members, hailing from rural areas in the regions and undergoing occupational training in various branches of craftsmanship under the program set up by Her Majesty. The goals of the courses are to enable the trainees to become fully capable of engaging in handicraft production and earning extra income from their supplementary occupations, as well as to help preserve and revive Thailand's ancient tradition of handicraft production, which is in danger of dying out with the passage of time, so that these crafts gain wider recognition and acceptance as everyday household items.

Her Majesty began with courses in silk weaving and bamboo basket weaving offered to the children of palace officials in Dusit Palace and courses offered to provincial members in other provincial palaces. On any of the trips to visit her subjects during a change of residence, she will take on poor and undereducated children who have no experience in any craft as SUPPORT trainees and seek out surviving qualified teachers and enlist their services in teaching the delicate arts. She inspects each and every article produced and gives encouragement to every member. She will use all types of the products herself to set an example to the people in general.

The Chitralada Center began operation in 1978 when Her Majesty picked members for the first class out of the families of palace officials, numbering 10 persons, for training in chok and bamboo weaving. At the time, a permanent building had yet to be built, so a temporary tent was erected beside the building housing Her Majesty the Queen's Personal Affairs Division. Meals plus weekly allowances were provided to all the trainees.

At present, the center offers training courses in 23 departments of crafts, which are gold and silver crafts, gold and silver nielloware, khram (gold and silver inlay), enamel ware, silk weaving, praewa weaving, chok weaving, brocade and khid weaving, woodcarving, soapstone carving, leather carving, yan lipao basketry, bamboo khid pattern basketry, carpentry and rattan ware, clay modeling, palace dolls, drawing and painting, beetle-wing decoration and collage, mother-of-pearl inlay, embroidery, artificial flowers, sewing and dressmaking, and packaging.

Each department has student-trainees of both sexes and is staffed by guest specialists from outside agencies and trainers who are talented SUPPORT members, providing joint support for current members. Every department gets on with the business of learning and the creation of finished crafts in large quantities each year, which the foundation distributes through its outlets SUPPORT showrooms and Chitralada stores, annual exhibitions, and trade fairsand the filling of orders placed by customers.



Gold and silver are precious metallic elements that man has made use of since time immemorial both as decorations and devices of many types. Gold and silver become malleable when heated, but gold retains its qualities better than silverits great resistance to tarnish and corrosion. Silver also exhibits prominent qualitiesits luster and the attractive tarnish that helps to offset the white luster of the beaten silver, thus highlighting the delicate designs.

Thai gold and silver crafts form part of the personal effects collection or private museum collection of the elite nobles and upper classes. Silverware is also popular among commoners; folk craftsmen had long been known as able silversmiths since the ancient times. For instance, the hill tribes possess the skillful techniques of beating out silver into decorative items for the human body, which differ from each other by the distinctive design preferences unique to each tribe.

When Her Majesty started the royal gold and silver section at the Chitralada Center, able hill tribe silversmiths who made only crude silver objects were invited to be trained in refined and elaborate arts at the center. This dual-purpose strategy originated at the time the Queen accompanied His Majesty to the North to establish the Royal Project to combat the problem of forest encroachment and opium growing in northern Thailand. She took the responsibility to improve the living conditions of the hill tribes and undertake silverware preservation as a supplementary occupation for the local people.

The transferring of silver craft techniquesshaping, beating, hammering, welding, and blowpipe heating, as well as design carvingenables SUPPORT member trainees to produce decorations and utensils, and create new, exquisite designs. These highly refined techniques form the basis for producing original crafts and enhancing the elegance of each piece by adding other special materials, such as gemstones.

The royal gold and silver section therefore has the dual duties of gold work and silver work preservation and the creation of novel works, all by a new generation of artisans, who work hard at perfecting the techniques of their crafts and transferring the high-precision know-how to future generations.


Nielloware consist of utensils and decorative items made from the base elements of silver and gold with carved designs and inlaid with a metallic compound obtained by adding sulfur to a heated alloy of lead, copper, and silver, forming a consistent mass of a black compound that is then used to fill in the design grooves. The inlaying technique is called "thom," meaning "to fill up."
There are two types of nielloware: gold niello and silver and gold niello (the latter of which is also known as "thom ta thong").

The world's oldest niello originated with the Romans, as implied by the Italian term niello, which derives from the Latin nigellus, meaning "black." Thai nielloware, or khrueang thom in Thai, can be traced to the early Ayutthaya period, most of which comprised royal personal accessories, as well as gifts presented to other kings, such as the nielloed objects that King Narai the Great sent to King Louis the XIV of France, and the nielloed cross presented to the Pope in Rome.

The early nielloed objects came to Thailand via two channels, namely commerce with the Portuguese in southern ports of Thailand and later to the capital Ayutthaya itself, and contact with India, which sent trade missions to Nakhon Si Thammarat. In time, Nakhon Si Thammarat became Thailand's niello manufacturing center, and the niello technique spread from Nakhon Si Thammarat to other parts of the country, and the tradition has been passed on to this day. Even the renowned niello artisans at Ban Phan Thom in Bangkok hailed from Nakhon Si Thammarat, arriving in the reign of King Phra Phutthayotfa (Rama I).

When Her Majesty visited her subjects in the South, she expressed concern that the niello craft was threatened with decline and extinction because nielloed objects were fast being replaced by other articles, and with them the ancient, delicate technique of niello production would be forgotten or abandoned. She therefore requested that niello masters from Nakhon Si Thammarat be invited to teach the first class of SUPPORT trainees at Narathiwat. Later, they were brought to the Chitralada Center to begin producing the earliest generations of SUPPORT niello products.

The making of gold nielloware at the Chitralada Center follows the ancient technique of Nakhon Si Thammarat, known as the "khrueang thom nakhon" family and characterized by the graceful patterns on rings, bracelets, pins, pedestal trays, khantok tables, and trays. The products are additionally embellished with gems or diamonds, producing unusual creations that nevertheless retain the uniqueness of khrueang thom nakhon.

At present, nielloware constitutes a class of difficult handicrafts that demand artisans who have good eyesight, patience, and love for artistic endeavor. The ancient production technique has been revived thanks to the patronage of Her Majesty who, desiring to restore its time-honored reputation as high-class objets d’art, gives whole-hearted support to its preservation and promotion. Nielloware from the SUPPORT Foundation has earned praise and admiration in exhibitions in many countries.


Khram, or damascene, is the craft of decorating steel objects with silver and gold designs along patterned grooves. After it is decorated, the steel is left to oxidize because the resulting dark brown surface provides a good contrast to the designs, and the "cure" allows the precious metal to firmly blend with the steel. The damascene technique is applied mostly to weapons and associated objects, such as swords, lances, knives, and elephant goads, as well as other steel objects used in auspicious ceremonies.

It was believed that the damascene craft originated in Persia and later spread to other regions. There is no evidence to confirm when damascene came to be adopted in Thailand. However, the oldest extant evidence is a pistol used by King Naresuan the Great, whose grip was decorated with damascene designs, so the technique must date from at least the Ayutthaya period. In the reign of King Chulalongkorn, only a century ago, there was a damascene master called Khun Saraphatchang, who had learned the art from a Khmer master living in Thailand and who in turn passed on the craft to his only son, Nai Saman Chaisukuman, who later became one of Thailand's master craftsmen.

The arrival of utensils and containers manufactured by modern technology has unfortunately had the effect of driving the damascene craft to near extinction. Her Majesty is fully appreciative of the high value of damascene ware and duly concerned about the scarcity of damascene masters well versed in the ancient technique. With this in mind, she ordered that a damascene section be set up as a means for the preservation and revival of the art, and Nai Saman became its master teacher, entrusted with the job of transferring the know-how to modern apprentices at the Chitralada Center. The goal is the preservation of damascene as a national heritage.

At present, the SUPPORT members of the damascene section comprise prise a new generation of skilled artisans who have undergone training in the ancient art of damascene production, thereby restoring the technique to its prestigious position. Further, new techniques have been developed to add variety and new designs to traditional shapes and objects, such as the making of damascene ware from other metals like platinum, resulting in striking creations. Thus, the ancient tradition has been preserved and inherited by modern generations of artisans, leading in the process to an exciting blend of the old and the new.


Enameling forms one of the decorative alternatives for gold and silverware and is also part of the niello and damascene techniques, because the enamel enhances the colorful decoration of the works of art.

Enameling has long been popular, since ancient times, particularly for paintings. The technique reached its peak in France in the 15th century, when the design was drawn and carved out of the bas-relief surface of steel, gold, copper, or bronze. All kinds of materials were used for enameling.

In Thailand, the enamel technique was acquired during the Ayutthaya era (14th-18th centuries) and survived to the Rattanakosin era. There are two enamel techniques in use: opaque and translucent.

Enameling is a delicate technique that requires a very sophisticated touch, as the design material is very delicate and fragile. The technique therefore is often confined to small areas of a piece of work, so as to prevent over-expansion and contraction of the surface metal, which can cause it to crack. The most popular form of enamel is laying down silver or gold designs on the metal surface, which can be silver or gold foil or silver or gold wire. In addition, diamonds and gemstones may be added as special decorations.

The enamel ware section at the Chitralada Center not only provides support for the gold niello section and damascene section, as originally intended, but fresh and independent creations have also been developed along with the changing times and popular taste. In this way, the ancient technique of enamel has been brought up to date and innovations have developed, on top of the effort of antique preservation.


Silk is a fabric woven out of silk skeins. Silk worms are actually not "worms," but silk-producing caterpillars of the insect family known as Lepidoptera, of which the most important and widespread species is Bombyz mori and which feed on mulberry leaves. The skeins are taken from the cocoons that are spun by the insects as a protection for chrysalises. The skeins are treated by degumming (for serecin removal) and finally reeled into threads for subsequent dyeing and weaving.
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Although the evidence of Thai sericulture cannot be traced as far back as in China , Thai people in almost all the regions have been weaving their own textiles for generations. Moreover, their weaving traditions differ from one another, depending on the myriad influences they have been subjected to, regarding the weave, dyeing, and design creation that were inherited from their forebears over the ages. Silk textiles therefore form another important heritage of Thailand that deserves all the best efforts to preserve them.

Impressed by the unique, colorful patterns on the silk dresses worn by the people going about their daily routine in each part of the country, Her Majesty conceived the idea of raising the standard of living of these people by promoting the silk weaving industry in each locality. They were encouraged to switch from the previous practice of weaving only a few pieces in each household for use on festive or special occasions to full-scale silk weaving as a supplementary occupation that earns extra income for the family, just as was promoted in the reign of King Chulalongkorn, which, however, had met with little success and had to be abandoned.

Thanks to the compassionate patronage of Her Majesty, the weaving of silk by people in rural areas has been revived with a passion. She inaugurated the silk-weaving apprenticeship project at Chitralada Palace on 25 June 1977. The program was aimed at giving fully integrated silk-weaving training to a new generation, beginning with the cultivation of mulberry trees, the rearing of silkworms, reeling, dyeing, and then weaving into fabric, using a variety of weaving techniques. The resulting products include mudmee, yokdok (brocade), chok, praewa, plain, and squirrel-tail silks.

The sericulture project in the silk-weaving section of the Chitralada Center not only preserves the ancient silk fabrics with their classical patterns, as well as fostering new creations; it also creates jobs for the local people, particularly in the Northeast. The project has now been turned into a vibrant silk-producing cottage industry that plays a big role in boosting family income and upgrading the living standard of the people and communities. The new source of income has done much to strengthen Thai society and national security since it became available.


The word "praewa" is derived from the language of the ethnic Phutai tribe in Kalasin Province. Praewa is a stole or scarf worn around the neck or shoulders, with a length of about 2 meters (1 wah in Thai measurement). The finely woven embroidered silk fabric is adorned with a striking blend of motifs and colors on a red surface, together creating its unique identity. The praewa weaving style has been handed down from the Phutai's ancestors. According to the custom, Phutai women will supposedly weave their own praewa, one piece for each woman. This rare, difficult art has found few willing weavers, however.

Praewa weaving combines weaving with embroidery, which gives a very sophisticated pattern. With the aid of the khid or chok technique, the little finger is used to pick the silk threads of various colors for multicolored weaving. The highly sophisticated technique can be mastered only after a lengthy period of practice, which explains why the technique is principally passed on in the family, from mother to daughter.

When Her Majesty saw the finished product and knew what it took to make one, she realized its enormous cultural value, fully deserving of preservation. She asked the Phutai people of Ban Phon village, Kalasin, the original home of praewa and the inheritors of the folk technique, to agree to be trainers at the praewa section of the Chitralada Center so that the praewa weave would be preserved in the skillful hands of new generations. Her Majesty has also promoted the technique as an occupation for the local people.

Praewa has thus become the truly popular and well-known treasure of Phutai people, one that has benefited from the patronage of Her Majesty. At present, praewa stoles have evolved into a variety of colors, apart from the traditional red. The silk for praewa has been used to make dresses and shirts for both men and women. Accordingly, praewa has turned into a highly profitable commodity for the villagers on account of its immense popularity.


Chok is a narrow piece of cloth one sok (cubit) wide, woven from cotton or silk or a mixture of cotton and silk.

The word "chok" is a word in the local dialect that refers to a supplementary weft method of weaving to give certain patterns. It is done with some pointed instruments such as a porcupine quill, to pick or raise or pull colored threads and alternate the picking with the warp threads. The chok weave tends to be rather short and is suitable for decorating other fabrics. It is often used to decorate the edge of a wrap-around skirt (pha-sin), in which case it is called "sin teen chok."

The most well-known and popular chok fabric comes from the Lao Phuan tribe in Tambon Hatsiao, Amphoe Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai. The Lao Phuans have practiced and passed on the art of chok weaving to their descendants for generations, since the time of King Phra Nangklao (Rama III). The original weave and ancient patterns and designs have been preserved as the Lao Phuans' own heritage to this day. The motifs are copied from nature and the environment, such as animals, flowers, and leaves. The chok weave demands full attention and is executed with utmost skill and imagination of the weaver, so much so that the chok weave represents the highest level of weaving. Anyone who can execute the weave well will be able to weave all other types of fabrics. In addition to their ancient motifs, the people of Hatsiao have developed new and unique motifs that are very popular. After the weaving section was set up, Her Majesty had the weavers at the Chitralada Center preserve the weaving of the ancient motifs as well, particularly with the use of silk threads. She regularly wears these dresses as part of the strategy to publicize chok among Thai people and foreigners, and has met with great success in popularizing the fabric.

In addition to their ancient motifs, the people of Hatsiao have developed new and unique motifs that are very popular. After the weaving section was set up, Her Majesty had the weavers at the Chitralada Center preserve the weaving of the ancient motifs as well, particularly with the use of silk threads. She regularly wears these dresses as part of the strategy to publicize chok among Thai people and foreigners, and has met with great success in popularizing the fabric.


The brocade and khid pattern weaving section has been recently set up, following further development of the weaving section and the gold and silver crafts section. The section is essentially concerned with silk weaving interlaced with silver and gold threads, with a view to reproducing ancient brocade patterns that Her Majesty had discovered in damaged vintage clothes. The fabrics had gone through a very long lifetime but still retained their classic beauty in their ancient brocade motifs.

Brocade and khid pattern weaving requires considerable patience and ingenuity if the ancient motifs are to be reproduced, approximating the original model in pattern and beauty. To achieve this, the patterns have to be sketched first on paper, and then, with the highest skill demanded of the weaver, they are painstakingly reproduced in the weave. In addition, in order to come as close as possible to the original model, Her Majesty gave the instruction that only organic natural dyes be used, as in the bygone days, and the traditional method of dyeing followed.

So far, more than 40 motifs that imitate the old originals, which were more than a hundred years old, have been reproduced, in fulfillment of the royal wishes. New patterns and combinations of ancient patterns and imaginative novelties have also been developed through the same laborious process to produce new brocades.


The art of woodcarving is another invaluable cultural heritage of Thailand . Woodcarving flourishes primarily in the North, where the use of woodcarvings as temple and home decorations has been widespread since days gone by and still remains so today.

Many kinds of wood are used, such as chingchan (Dalbergia bariensis), moakman (Wrightia tomentosa), and chamcha (Kleinhovia hospita), but the most popular one is teakwood, on account of its flexible, tough, fine-textured, handsomely grained wood suitable for carving to give clear, sharp patterns. Teakwood is also easily worked and can absorb dyes or rak lacquer well; it therefore is used in all manner of carvingsbas-relief, high relief, and sculpture in the round. Most prevalent are door or window carvings of the prayer chapel (ubosot) or the sermon and study hall (vihara) of a monastery. The most prevalent form of sculpture is Buddha images. These artistic creations take a long time and require meticulous care to carve before an accomplished piece is finished. One of Bangkok's most famous carvings is the door carving of the main chapel of Wat Suthatthepwararam, which was the handiwork of King Phra Phutthaloetla (Rama II).

Present-day woodcarvings are often lacking in the meticulous attention to detail it takes to produce a beautiful piece, because craftsmen have to work against time. Intricate woodcarvings of superior beauty are becoming more and more scarce. The situation is compounded by dwindling forests, resulting in a shortage of wood suitable for carving. Craftsmen of the ancient school are therefore extremely rare.

Aware of the obvious shortage of artistic excellence today, Her Majesty earnestly wishes to correct the situation and keep alive the national heritage of woodcarving by seeking out a master craftsman who is willing to train apprentices in the woodcarving section at the Chitralada Center. Popular carved wood products at the SUPPORT Center attest to the success of its preservation program, in which traditional woodcarving creates value-added goods while making the best use of the resources.


Marble and soapstone are among the natural materials found in abundance in this region. Soapstone is easily worked because of its relative softness, which makes it ideal for carving into various figures. When burnished, it gives off a brilliant shine.

Soapstone carving in Thailand was influenced by the Khmers, who were past masters at making the stone sculptures that adorn sanctuary buildings and depict tales related to religious themes and classical literature. Soapstone carvings predominantly take the form of motifs used in decorating buildings. Some clear samples that still stand today are the front and side gates in the glass walls at Amarin Vinitchai Hall in the Grand Palace, built in the reign of King Phra Phutthayotfa (Rama I).

The soapstone carving section at the Chitralada Center gives basic training in penciling and drawing the motifs, clay modeling to get the desired shape, and using the carving tools, as well as giving the finishing touches. Diverse types of products are made, such as animal figurines, traditional children at play (such as a child on a buffalo), and boxes of various sizes. The artisan has to learn the minute details of the anatomy and shape of the human body or animals or plants in nature by closely observing them in real life in order to be able to create an accurate and graceful soapstone carving of the natural form. Often these figures are so lifelike and finely executed that one can hardly believe they are made from stone.

Her Majesty's compassion and ingenuity have played an immense role in reviving this branch of craftsmanship by setting up the soapstone section. SUPPORT members now can receive training in the craft and in turn teach the skill to neighbors and other people in their village. The craft has become another good source of income for their families.


The carving of nang talung, or shadow puppets, is another traditional art, dating back to the early 19th century. The leather that is used has to be either cowhide or buffalo hide, and neither too thick nor too thin. The translucent hide is intricately carved with the figure of some character or a scene from a theatrical play or folk tale. Black paint and paints of various colors are applied to the leather. The finished puppet is mounted on a slender stick for manipulating before a strong light, which throws the shadow onto a screen.

There are two kinds of leather carvings: nang yai and nang talung. Nang talung is particularly popular in southern Thailand and originated in Phatthalung Province. Nang yai is now rarely seen anywhere, as skilled carvers of nang yai are few in number and because the shadow play is rarely staged nowadays. In contrast, nang talung is still performed at festivals in the South.

Most nang talung pieces are carved out of buffalo hides that have been carefully cured and dried to give the puppet figures a permanent shape. The artisans who do the carving have to be highly experienced in preparing suitable hides, working the scroll saw, drawing delicate figures, and picking the right colors that suit the character carved in the leather, which can variously be the male principal, heroine, yaksa (giant), clown, or almost any legendary being.

The highly demanding task of carving leather, which requires the knowledge and skill of a master, as well as the decline in popularity of the entertainment form, threatens this piece of Thailand's natio-nal heritage with extinction. In character with Her Majesty's unbounded concern for the preservation of folk arts, she thought it fit to revive the traditional craft of nang talung leather carving. Accordingly, she added the nang talung leather carving section to the existing wood carving and soapstone carving sections and invited experts to teach the skill to new generations of apprentices. The traditional art of nang talung leather carving is taught along with the fresh developmentsfrom smaller-scale puppets to the carving of large leather puppets that record more recent lifestyles and customson top of the standard episodes from classical literature.

The leather carving section at the Chitralada Center has redesigned the carvings to better respond to modern tastes, and they are marketed as home decorations, particularly in the form of decorative wall hangings and gifts aimed at foreigners and those appreciating creative design features.


Yan lipao is a plant in the fern family. A climber vine, its stem is very tough, strong and durable, yet pliable at the same time, which makes it suitable for bending or weaving.

The stitching of yan lipao stems produces another famous handicraft of Nakhon Si Thammarat, a good source of natural yan lipao. Most probably, yan lipao stitching began in the early Rattanakosin era and the basketry appealed to the aristocrats, noblemen, and the elite in Bangkok. During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, courtiers favored the use of areca nut trays, pedestal trays, and clutch bags that were made from yan lipao. Later, metal pieces and other adornments were added to enhance its appeal, using gold, nak (gold bronze), silver, and ivory. These age-old objects still retain their original shape and condition, even after a lengthy time span.

The popularity of yan lipao basketry, however, waned in later times, and it is increasingly difficult to find skilled craftsmen, as the production process is complicated and very tedious. It takes a very long time for each stage of the process, from selecting the yan lipao, to preparing the fibers, and stitching the very fine strands. Although yan lipao is a local vine plentiful in the South, the general neglect meant that the delicate basketry work found ever fewer users, and this craft form was left unattended for a very long time.

Not until Her Majesty changed her annual residence to Thaksin Ratchaniwet Palace and chanced upon the yan lipao vine, would the once-famed style of basketry begin to find a new life. Her Majesty set up the first yan lipao weaving club in Narathiwat Province. Later, she considered yan lipao basketry to be another part of the national heritage that must not be allowed to disappear. The yan lipao section therefore was set up at the Chitralada Center with a view to preserving and passing on the technology and knowledge to new generations, who will be entrusted with the task of mastering and developing this high-class art to a very high degree.

At first, master craftsmen from Nakhon Si Thammarat were invited to give training at the center. As models, Her Majesty provided the yan lipao boxes belonging to Queen Saowapha, which had withstood the passage of over a hundred years. She has paid close attention to the progress of yan lipao weaving among the people and stresses at the same time the full use of local resources and the sustainable preservation of the native
tradition.

The yan lipao basketry section at the Chitralada Center tasks itself with the entire process, beginning from the selection and maintenance of the sources of yan lipao, instilling an awareness of both the care and shaping of the fibers (by splitting and passing through a die until very fine and smooth strands are obtained), as well as learning to construct the frame of the object (in various configurations). Needless to say, the tedious process requires the best skills and extreme patience before a worthy object is created that bespeaks all the pains and efforts involved. From humble, raw yan lipao vines in nature to stunning, exquisite products admired by all the world, enormous value is added to simple local materials. The transformation translates into handsome income for the artisans and local people, who will in turn take care that the forests and yan lipao plants are kept in pristine condition, thereby serving as the local treasure indefinitely.


Basketry is one folk handicraft that man had invented from natural materials as far back as prehistoric times. A great variety of natural materials may be used in basketry, such as rattan, palm leaves, reed, straw, coconut strips, and bamboo.

Bamboo is found everywhere, in all the regions of Thailand. Many species have been identified. Countless numbers of home appliances in all shapes in Thailand are still made of bamboo today. Even the wall paneling in some rural areas is made of matted bamboo. The other familiar items are mats, hats, farmers' hats, and furniture.

Bamboo khid pattern basketry is a handicraft specialty of the Northeast. It is distinguished by unique geometrical patterns created by interweaving bamboo strips that have been pared thin and straight. The resulting patterns are intricate, interlocking patterns that yet form a strong body. In addition to basic patterns, other motifs have been developed in animal and plant figures or imitations of patterns in nature, such as beehive khid, frog khid, bullet wood flower khid, cotton leaf khid, and others. They represent the ingenuity inherited by generations of families and artisans in the northeastern region, a skill that is not to be found elsewhere.

Appreciative of the Northeast ingenuity in this respect, Her Majesty is reviving and conserving this part of the cultural heritage by setting up the bamboo khid pattern basketry section at the Chitralada Center in order to transfer the knowledge and the craftsmanship to new generations and to preserve the traditional patterns. In addition, the local people will have an additional occupation in the form of local handicrafts to fall back on.

In spite of the waning popularity of local ware in the face of strong urban culture, Her Majesty is firm in her resolve to revive the bamboo khid pattern basketry in its original birthplace. She instills in the local folks a sense of pride in local resources and awareness of the importance of developing their villages themselves, which will help to mitigate the chronic problem of the Northeasterner's migration to greener pastures in other regions. The birth of self-reliance results from the creation of worthwhile occupational opportunities in their hometowns and the breathing of new life into their ancestors' legacy.


In the past, almost all the buildings in Thailand, be they houses or temples, used wood as the basic construction material, since Thailand was then endowed with plentiful tropical forests, particularly high-quality golden teak. All the old palaces and mansions were built of teak wood. One of the outstanding teak buildings, supposedly the world's largest, that still stands today is the Vimanmek Palace in the grounds of the Dusit Palace , Bangkok , which was first built by King Chulalongkorn on an island and later moved to Bangkok as his suburban residence.

Since Thailand's forest area has been reduced considerably, large-scale carpentry projects are almost non-existent. Hence Her Majesty thinks that any available timber should be given extra value by using it in creating smaller-scale works as a supplementary source of income for the people.

The carpentry and rattan ware section was therefore set up at the Chitralada Center to give training in carving and building miniature models of woodwork, particularly Thai houses of the four regions, mansions, royal barges, Chinese junks, steamers, sampans, and kolae boats. The works are exquisite and lifelike, being precisely scaled models of the real things, and they have joined the many other popular Thai arts. Among the models is that of the Super Mod sailboat that His Majesty himself built and raced in a competition in the 4th Asian Games in 1967, together with Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana, and won a gold medal.
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In addition, the carpentry and rattan ware section has expanded its scope to include rattan furniture, which was inspired by the rattan furniture Her Majesty saw during a visit to Narathiwat. Rattan furniture was therefore promoted as another source of supplementary income for the local people. Rattan is indigenous to the southern forests, and villagers can harvest the stems from surrounding areas at little cost. Instructors have been recruited to teach rattan ware making to members of the section at the Chitralada Center .

Since rattan has naturally beautiful qualities, the designers of rattan furniture will try to retain the palm's original appearance as much as possible. Great care, therefore, is exercised in selecting and preparing rattan that has the right shape and dryness for maximum utilization, while highlighting its natural exquisiteness.


Clay modeling is the magic of transforming an ordinary clump of earth into a piece of art, with the help of imagination and skill. At first, clay modeling at the Chitralada Center was used only for creating prototype models for goldsmiths and silversmiths. Later, Her Majesty thought that clay modeling could form an important step in the development of the works of many other branches of the SUPPORT Foundation. A fine model must give an accurate three-dimensional representation of the prototype. She therefore suggested that a formal curriculum on clay modeling be developed in both theoretical and practical aspects. The clay modeling section, along the line of sound architectural precepts, was set up at the Chitralada Center to teach human and animal anatomy for use in modeling accurate representations, as well as fundamental theories of craft making. The aim is to master essential skills in all aspects of advanced modeling in support of craft making in other areas.

At the clay modeling section, members go through step-by-step training, from fashioning plasticine, which ranges from soft green to tougher gray and black, and which has qualities closest to clay. In order to create perfectly finished pieces, the clay modeling section provides a fully integrated curriculum, consisting of mold casting, firing, and glazing.

From modeling the prototypes for goldsmiths and silversmiths, to creating their own works of art in models, including ceramics, stucco sculpture, metal casting, and wax molding, the section harbors craftsmen whose skillful hands result from long experience working on clay. Each year the number of modelers keeps rising, and so does the number of the products in all categories. The number of those interested in receiving the training also keeps growing, particularly the people from hill tribes. All these phenomena testify to the success of the clay modeling operation, owing without doubt to the compassion and far-sightedness of Her Majesty, who recognizes the importance of formally developing the clay modeling work to attain the highest technical standards possible, hence the consistent production of craftsmen and the creation of works that continues even today.


Palace dolls are modeled from clay putty, dried, and painted to give a life-like look. They were formerly handmade by the noble ladies and retainers in royal palaces, hence the name "palace dolls," and intended as toys for royal children and attendants in the past. Each palace doll is about 1 inch high, with painted-on clothes and hair, usually wearing the chongkraben (pantaloon-like garment) and sabai (chest cloth). The favored poses include a small girl lying face down in a wai gesture or sitting with her legs folded at the knees leaning on one of her arms. The dolls became popular and spread to the general populace when they were retailed at festivals and fairs. However, they gradually faded away after World War II, when plastic dolls from abroad flooded the market.

While Their Majesties were visiting the people in Ang Thong in 1973, it was found that the local farmers supplemented their income by making bricks and charcoal during the off-season lull from farming because the locality has the right clay to produce them. Her Majesty thus asked the locals to make palace dolls from clay as well. She set up a center to teach palace doll making at Wat Tha Sutthawat, Amphoe Bang Sadet, Ang Thong, in January 1976. Experts were sent to train the locals in the technique of making palace dolls to a high standard. Soon the cute little toys were embraced locally and shipped for sale everywhere, becoming a major income-generating source that enhances the quality of their lives.

With the preservation of the palace doll tradition in mind, Her Majesty set up the palace doll section at the Chitralada Center on 29 October 1979. The training course is given entirely in a professional manner: the previously simple-looking dolls became figurines with realistic details, from the body shape and facial expression to clothes that are given the neatest painting job. In time, the simple toys became fancy decorations and collectibles, with the arrangement of poses that depict scenes of life, such as a floating market, a wedding, a traditional musical ensemble, and folk games, all of which provide a splendid reproduction of Thai lifestyles, customs, and sports. Furthermore, other materials have been tried to make better-quality dolls that would still be considered palace dolls, such as using acrylic paints to replace oil colors.

Meanwhile, the palace dolls of Amphoe Bang Sadet, Ang Thong, have evolved from a supplementary occupation in the household to a major enterprise that occupies a huge factory, with more than 20 households going at it full time. Using local clay and with departmental specialization that makes possible mass production in each lot, they are able to turn out, among others, dolls, baskets, musical instruments, fruits, and houses.

Fortunately, the palace dolls are regaining their traditional popularity and recognition. Other experts in the craft, reenergized by the fresh demand, have turned their hand once again to making more palace dolls. The old hands who previously abandoned the craft are thus encouraged to make a comeback and busy themselves doing what they can do best.

The palace doll section at the Chitralada Center aims to preserve the traditional art of making palace dolls and takes seriously the task of advising the local people to retain as far as possible the traditional features of the dolls, so that palace dolls will stay in popular demand as representatives of the old Thailand.


Drawing is a medium of expression basic to all craftsmanship. It is fundamental to making structural designs and drawing a figure from the craftsman's imagination prior to the subsequent invention of a work of art, with whatever technique the artist chooses. Most importantly, it marks the starting point for fixing the Thai identity on every piece of work.

When instruction first started at the Chitralada Training Hall, drawing was done as a preliminary step for making nielloware only. The training gave an understanding of the diverse Thai motifs and the flawless rendering of the motifs. Having once mastered the technique, the trainees may apply their skill to other crafts with the same finesse.

Her Majesty started the drawing and painting section with a view to formalizing the instruction and learning activity, the attainment of perfect standards, and skilful application to other crafts. Art instructors who are experts in the fine arts are hired to give lessons and to respond to her wish to see the development of new motifs for widespread use. The drawing and painting section therefore expanded its scope to include line drawing, art composition theory, and color theory, both theoretical and practical. Later, in response to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's drive for the conservation and revival of Thai arts, traditional mural painting became an additional department.

At present, the drawing and painting section at the Chitralada Center spreads knowledge and teaches the skill to members by allowing them to accumulate the experience of drawing up to the highest level, that is, the ability to apply the knowledge they acquired to other crafts. The intention is not only to produce draftsmen to accommodate other sections, but also craftsmen who are so well-versed in painting that they can execute paintings to accommodate the wishes of Her Majesty. Examples include the mural painting in the ubosot of Wat Tha Sutthawat, Ang Thong, the painting in the prayer room at Phuphing Ratchaniwet Palace, Chiang Mai, and the painting at the SUPPORT Museum, Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall.
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Beetle-wing decoration - collage is an old craft often seen as decoration on clothing and jewelry in the former court circles. The wings of a wood-boring beetle of the genus Sternocera, called malaeng thap in Thai, that has died a natural death are sewn onto cloth, replacing beads or sequins as used by Westerners. In contrast, the beetle wings are beautiful because of their iridescent green-blue surface that shines like an emerald. This is all the more incredible, considering that the wings are clipped off a dead insect.
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Beetle wings are durable and nonperishable in normal, non-abusive use. Although the cloth the wings embellish has turned old and been long discarded, the beetle wings still retain their natural sparkle. Many such shawls and sabai cloths were discovered by Her Majesty in the Grand Palace. Seeing that beetle wings are durable adornments and a form of ancient embroidery work deserving of preservation and transfer to modern generations of artisans, she set up the beetle-wing decoration-collage section at the Chitralada Center and asked that beetle wings be tried in decorating sculpture and wood carvings, thereby giving birth to novel works of art. Other examples include using multicolored fine strips of beetle wings to be woven into yan lipao pieces, and fashioning a collage peafowl whose feathers sparkle like the real thing, all becoming SUPPORT masterpieces that received widespread acclaim.
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The beetles have a short life span. Their life cycle begins at the onset of the rainy season, or khao phansa (rains retreat) for Buddhist devotees, and the insects die off after having laid their eggs in the period ending the rains retreat, hence the insect's alternative name, "malaeng khao phansa" (rains retreat insect). Because of the relatively short life span, only the beetles that die off naturally are collected, to avoid disrupting its life cycle and disturbing the ecosystem. To accomplish this purpose carefully, Her Majesty asked expert entomologists to conduct research on the life cycle of the beetle in order to better manage its conservation in nature.
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Mother-of-pearl inlay is the practice of inlaying shiny shell parts into wood. This craft is another supreme decorative art that dates back to long-past eras. A handicraft that requires a delicate touch, it is practiced widely in four countries only: China, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand .

The origin of Thai mother-of-pearl inlay cannot be traced to a specific period, but the oldest extant work of this kind is found on the stucco motif decorating a Dvaravati chedi (stupa) at Tambon Khu Bua, Amphoe Muang, Ratchaburi Province , and in the eyes of a Chiangsaen Buddha image. The mother-of-pearl work was popular in the Ayutthaya period, consisting mostly of the mother-of-pearl inlay on temple door panels, Buddhist altar offerings, royal regalia, and Buddhist monks' utensils, such as Tripitaka cupboard, pulpit, footed tray, two-tiered tray, bowl cover, and areca nut box, and the inlay on the doors of vihara, mondop (a square structure with a spire on top), and bot or ubosot (prayer chapel). The decoration takes the form of distinctly Thai pattern ornaments, especially kanok, phum khao bin, kan khod, or episodes from the Indian epic, the Ramakien (Ramayana).

The mother-of-pearl used is the pearly iridescent inner part of a mollusk shell. Several species are used, for example Nile top shell, flag penshell, and nautilus. But the most favored is Nile top shell, which looks like an apple snail and emits a rainbow-like sparkle when hit by light, so it is known as "muk fai" (flaming pearl). The mollusk is found in abundance in the Indian Ocean .

The insertion of mother-of-pearl shell requires the careful, patient attention of a skilled craftsman, in creating a design that fits the character of the thing to be decorated, selecting the right kind of shell to be used, and sawing off the shell into flat pieces of the appropriate size and thickness. The pieces are then inlaid on the surface that is already covered with black lacquer, and pressed evenly with a hard flat board. The inlaid surface is polished with a hard stone to bring out the natural glow of the mother-of-pearl. In order to produce a magnificent piece of mother-of-pearl art, the craftsman must have a thorough knowledge of each stage of the technique.

The mother-of-pearl inlay therefore is a very delicate art that requires extreme patience and a lengthy period for completion. And skilled craftsmen are hard to come by. The mother-of-pearl section at the Chitralada Center was set up primarily to ensure the preservation of this knowledge and prevent its disappearance with the passage of time.


Embroidery is the art of decorating cloth with threads or silk to form exquisite designs. Embroidery has been practiced in Thailand since the ancient times, in the form known as "close stitch." The technique involves not only the delicate adornment with silk threads, but also other materials found suitable and beautifying, such as the beetle wings.

Embroidery is a delicate art that requires expertise and imagination in creating striking colors and graceful patterns, in order to enhance the beauty of the fabric appropriately. Embroidery is another handicraft that is variously marked by distinctly local individuality, because the patterns adopted often reflect the difference in lifestyles and customs. In this way, embroidery is clearly representative of local cultural traditions. For example, the hill tribes' embroidery employs a myriad of colors and sewing techniques that differ from tribe to tribe: cross stitching, or decorating with silver coins or beads or Job's tears instead of using only the threads.

Even though machines are able to sew the stitches well enough to create embroidery that is no less exquisite than hand embroidering, Her Majesty insists that embroidery, apart from its historical heritage status that merits our preservation effort, is still a suitable vehicle for supplementing the income of the rural poor who do not have sufficient means to buy a sewing machine but who have the dexterity to do all kinds of embroidery patterns that are uniquely their own. And this they can carry out in the convenience of their home or anywhere else and even in places where there is no electricity and where no machine will be of any use. Her Majesty therefore set up the embroidery section at the Chitralada Center to train interested members in the intricate art of embroidery, starting from preparing the fabric and silk threads for embroidering, to the ancient art of stitching with Thai silk and sewing on the beetle wings, which practice is becoming rarer as the days go by.
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Her Majesty is of the opinion that Thai flowers have become something of a rarity. Exotic wild flowers, once dotting the forest in abundance and familiar to the ancestors, are also rarely found in nature these days and are practically unknown to modern generations. The pure white fragrant peep or Indian cork tree flower (Millingtonia hortensis), fragrant chankapo (Vatica diospyroides), indigo-blue sae(Jacquemontia pentantha), and white fragrant saraphi (M. siamensis) are some of the examples. The natural beauty and elegance of the flowers merits revelation for all the world to admire.

The artificial flower section was born to produce imitation flowers for their color, size, shape, stem, and graceful leaves, which can capture the essential liveliness of the flower in nature. The aim is not only to produce elegant works of art that come close to reality but also to provide students and foreigners a pleasant glimpse into Thailand's native flora. These attractive artificial flowers are also ideal for decoration in homes, hotels, offices, and public places. The artificial Thai flowers no doubt serve the twin purposes of enlightening and enlivening the environment, whatever the occasion or space.

Once again, the artificial flower section opens up opportunities for families to make an extra income for able members of the center and for the artistic creation to become better known to communities.

Today the artificial flowers produced by the section are well known and widely recognized for their elegant beauty and their lifelike appearance. The accomplishment comes about through the experts' taking meticulous steps in searching for materials that come nearest to nature. It takes months to research the composite parts of the flower, to determine the most suitable materials for template reproduction, and to select meticulously the hues and shades that come closest to nature. Everyone is proud that the aesthetic creations of Thailand have won universal acclaim in international circles today.


In former times, the Thais had one long piece of cloth draped across their bodies, which served as lower garment or trousers all in one go. The wrap-around style fit the humid condition of tropical Thailand and there was no need for tailoring or dressmaking of any kind. In the present situation, however, sewing and dressmaking form one of the requisite skills that Thai women will do well to know something about. Those who are good at it make their own clothes or for their families and can even make a good income-generating career out of it.
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To promote the dressmaking skill as a source of work within the family, or as a ready resource to draw on for home decoration needs, or as a supplementary occupation for members in the community, Her Majesty set up the sewing and dressmaking section at the Chitralada Center and hired professional dressmakers to teach members there and at the other SUPPORT centers. The result has been an enormous output of creative products as well as normal dressmaking, especially cushions, curtains, bedspreads and souvenir items. The course teaches a broad spectrum of sewing and dressmaking techniques, from the basics of pattern sketching to advanced dressmaking skills.

Members of the section continue to turn out other creative pieces, partly to hone their dressmaking skills. They realize that the constant, all-round improvement of one's skills holds the key to producing quality and valued work, the true basis for a secure lifelong occupation. In this way, they are responding to their Queen's wishes to see all SUPPORT members enjoy a decent living standard, based on the self-sufficiency principle.


Packaging is no less important than the product itself because potential first-time customers are attracted by what they can see or touch before they learn anything further about the benefits or enjoyment they may get from the product itself. Packaging also helps to preserve the merchandise or protect it from unwelcome hazards. Her Majesty established the packaging section in order to answer the immediate need of all SUPPORT members around the country for safe ways to transport their products. Packaging also can be taken up as another supplementary occupation.

The packaging section pays attention to the material used in packaging and the manner of packaging appropriate to the merchandise. From packaging silk, to large and heavy products, the most frequently used materials are plywood, cardboard, and sa paper, which cushions the inside of the container to protect fragile items against possible violent impacts.

The section not only selects the size and type of packaging used, but also pays meticulous attention to designs and decorations on the packaging itself. In particular, mudmee silk is used for gift wrapping to enhance the beauty and identity of the SUPPORT brand name.

Other materials are also used, namely krajude (reed) woven baskets and woven krajude boxes and envelopes, in place of plain paper.

The attractive packaging at the Chitralada Center adds extra value to the product and impresses both the buyer and the recipient of the gift. The section is therefore another important department that responds to the royal instruction with admirable success.

The membership of the SUPPORT Foundation increases constantly owing to the fact that Her Majesty keeps enlisting new members from poor families she meets during her travels to visit the people around the country. These people are brought to the Chitralada Center for occupational training, and the number of instructors and officials also keeps growing correspondingly. So many supplementary crafts in various categories have been added that the old building is overcrowded. Her Majesty therefore built the SUPPORT building next to the office building of Her Majesty the Queen's Personal Affairs Division. The cost is met out of Her Majesty's personal purse and the Privy Purse.

The SUPPORT Foundation Training Hall not only accommodates all the training classes for all branches of craftsmanship, but is also the center of coordination and purchasing of SUPPORT products from SUPPORT groups around the country for subsequent packaging and distribution to domestic and overseas markets. Further, it is the headquarters of the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.