Mother-of-pearl inlay

Country: Thailand
Contemporary furnitures decorated by mother-of-pearl inlay technique.
Contemporary furnitures decorated by mother-of-pearl inlay technique.

Mother-of-pearl inlay is regarded as a high art in Thailand. This unique craft has been practised for more than four centuries. It is a craft that requires great skill and patience. The challenge is in carving the shiny mother-of-pearl into small pieces and inlaying them on objects or a structure made of light materials such as rattan and bamboo, using lacquer as an adhesive. After the lacquer is dried, the work is polished with sandpaper to smooth the design and create shine.

Mother-of-pearl inlay can be applied to architectural elements, such as door panels and window panes, and other utensils, such as talum (octagonal tray with pedestal), tiab (kind of food tray with a base and a cone-lid), tok (footed round tray), phan waen fa (two-tiered tray with pedestal), dharma chest, and other objects related to Buddhism. For example, the door panels decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay of the scripture hall at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha has a mother-of-pearl inscription stating how King Borommakot had ordered the construction of the door panels, the number of craftsmen employed and the completion date. These doors showcase the height of mother-of-pearl inlay in the Ayutthaya period and the wisdom of ancient Thai craftsmen.

Jukkit Suksawat of Lamphun, a well-known artisan in this technique.


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