Come rain, come shine….

…. and an umbrella from Bosang village will definitely come handy!

This small community 10 kilometres east of downtown Chiang Mai, in
Sankamphaeng district, is widely known for its umbrellas and painted
silk fans. The art of umbrella-making is at least 200 years old in
this area.

Each tiny little detail is hand-crafted. The frames are made from
bamboo, the covers are cotton or mulberry paper. Intricate designs of
birds, flowers, dragons are painted for decoration. Umbrellas and
parasols come in a dozen or so sizes, from tiny little key-chains to
huge waterproof umbrellas that can protect an entire family from a
downpour or strong sunshine.

Every year, in January, Bosang craftspeople organise Bosang Umbrella
Festival, one of many small, colourful village handifcrafts fairs in
the region during the cool season. They showcase the very best of
their work, decorate shopfronts and streets, have special deals for
the visitors.

You can admire the dexterity and artwork of the elderly craftspeople
as they demonstrate each step of the process.

It is unheard of to have a local festival without a beauty pageant!
The girls were riding their bicycles along the village holding
umbrellas, of course.

As usual, the local children are invited to dance and play music on stage.

You can ride a horse cart along the main road of Bosang, a nice little
trip to take in the relaxed, colourful atmosphere.

Recently, the local media reported an alarming drop in the number of
umbrellas sold on the overseas markets. Global recession and
competition from other craftspeople in the region have hit Bosang
hard.

It is always sad and somewhat ironic that it is demand from ten
thousand miles away that helps preserve traditions in a small village
over here. If nobody buys the umbrellas, will those old wrinkled hands
show all the tricks to the young ones? Will the young ones care? After
all, you can buy a cheap factory-made umbrella at BigC. After all, it
is not a very glamorous career to craft bamboo umbrella frames for a
one-baht profit per piece for the next twenty years.

Come rain, come shine…. what does the future gold for Bosang and its
craftspeople?

What role do you think traditional arts and crafts can play in a
rapidly modernising society such as Thailand?

The handicrafts fairs will keep them going. Lanna culture classes at
schools will definitely help. Overseas consumers are likely to come
back. But will it still be real and alive?

4 responses to “Come rain, come shine….

  1. beautiful post.

    lets hope for the best for them.

  2. Interesting and thoughtful blog Betti.
    Festival or no festival, Bosang is always worth a visit-truly amazing what can be done with bamboo and paper made made from mulberry tree bark right in front of your eyes.

  3. Good story. I loved the parasols at Bo Sang, but it was the third last day of our six week trip and we were already struggling to fit all the little bits and pieces we had bought in our suitcase. Now that we’re back home I can see a good spot in our backyard for one of the big Bo Sang parasols. Shame.
    San Kamphaeng also had hot springs, about 30 – 40 minutes drive from Bo Sang. Well worth a look, and a bath in the hot water too I suppose.

  4. exactly – who is going to buy an umbrella and then drag it along for a few more weeks? and shipping is expensive. but at least you have a good excuse when saying “sorry just looking”.