The art of making lacquer originally came to Thailand from China. However, over the centuries, the designs and techniques in making lacquerware have become distinctively Thai, and lacquerware handicrafts is booming industry in Thailand. Lacquerware is made in Chiang Mai, the northern province of Thailand.
The art of lacquerware takes a lot of patience and time. It begins with a fine woven bamboo basket or wood that has been carved or shaped on a lathe. First a basic coating material known as Samuk is applied to basketry or wood. Samuk is nothing but ashes of burnt rice paddy husks or ground clay mixed with black lacquer. Black lacquer is obtained from a tree which grows only in the northern hills of Thailand. When the coating dries, it is polished with soap stone and another coating is applied. This process is repeated several times till the lacquer becomes durable on the basket or wood. Finally, the object is polished with a wallpaper-like leaf called the bai-nod.
After this, the object is covered several times with just black lacquer. The coating of black lacquer is then polished with water and powdered fired clay. It is this last polish which gives the lacquerware of Thailand its unique glistening sheen.
Designs are then made on the object using two distinct methods. One is lai kud while the other is called lai rot nam. If the object is to be in color, the lai kud method is used. Lai rot nam method is only used for gold designs. Once the designs are done, they stand out beautifully against the black glossy background.