I had come across an article about the Khun mask maker of Bangkok and was excited to see this traditional process in person, in the makers studio, away from all the mass produced wares that are slowly replacing the need for traditional artisans. Finding the shop was easier than I had expected and, armed with a Soi (side street) number and a photo of the shop front from 2 years ago I set off on the public bus from National Monument to my destination for the bargain price of 12 baht (27p). I entered Soi 68 and found the temple (Wat Thepakorn) easily enough, I walked past it and found a street food seller and showed them the picture and was pointed to a similar, run down shack of a shop. I was greeted with a huge smile from Khun Patchani (the mask makers daughter). She happily showed me the shop/studio and was kind enough to let me photograph some of the finished masks, all the while supplying me with cold drinks which were much appreciated!
Two finished masks; Hanuman – The Monkey God and Phra Pikanes (Ganesha) – The Hindu God
Her father is the Khon mask maker; Khun Sathaporn Liangsorn. He was not there, but this was not a surprise to me as I knew he travels to other provinces, teaching this dying art form to new novices as a way of preserving it. His daughter has also followed in her fathers footsteps and teaches classes in the studio, right there in the dilapidated shop. These classes are free, with students only paying the cost of materials. The love they have for this art is evident, as they both work to preserve its traditions through these classes. Truly amazing, humble people.
The inside of their shop and studio, Khon mask maker – Sathaporn Liangsorn’s daughter, Patchani and myself
The process- First, a basic framework is created using cardboard in sections which are joined together, before paper mâché is added to create the basic features of the mask. This is then left out in the sun to dry before a layer of plaster is applied, from which the features and detailing are formed. Again it is left to dry before gold leaf and various rhine stones and ‘bling’ is added to finish the piece.
Images depicting various stages of development
Take the number 28 bus from National Monument and get off when you see Soi 68… or tell the driver thats where you are going and they will tell you! Pass the temple (Wat Thepakorn) and the shop should be on the street leading away, just before the T-junction, on your left. I used the app maps.me which allows you to access maps offline so you don’t need a wifi connection- its been a life saver! Simply add the Soi number or search for the temple and it should take you right there.
Business card in Thai and area map showing location of shop
I’ve included a map showing where it is, along with their business card, so if you want to make this journey, take a photo (its in Thai) and any driver or local should be able to point you in the right direction! This place is a definite must see if you want to experience real Thai culture and artistry first hand, off the beaten track. By purchasing, making a donation or simply spreading the word you are also helping them continue their work and preserving this amazing tradition. There are many commercial reproductions that you can buy, and this is what is pushing out these precious traditions. They expect nothing in return but love to show off their Art, I suppose partly because they have so much enthusiasm for it but also by way of engaging others and preserving it.
A truly inspiring day.