Thai ceramics were among the first Southeast Asian wares to be seriously studied, starting with WA Graham’s 1922 article “Pottery in Siam” in the Journal of the Siam Society. The field only gained momentum in the 1960s following Charles Nelson Spinks’ important contributions on Tai pottery and in the 1970s from the discovery of the Prasat Ban Phluang temple site.
The Phan kilns are the third largest of the Northern Thai kilns, after Kalong and Sankampaeng.
Roxanna Brown (1988: 89) tells us:
“They produced almost exclusively celadons, with only a sprinkling of olive-glazed pieces, and the average quality of the celadons far exceeds that of most Sawankhalok products. The glaze is evenly applied and lustrous, without the heavy glassy pooling and trickling so typical of Sawankhalok. It is also translucent and finely crazed. The colour is extremely pale green, with yellow or greyish casts which are almost impossible to reproduce correctly in photographs. The potting is skilful and the shapes neat and well-balanced. […] The clay is light coloured and distinctive for its strange iridescent-like quality – without any actual specks of impurities being plainly defined, such as the white and black speckled clays of Sukhothai and Sawankhalok, yet the clay colour is minutely mottled, usually with beige on a grey ground.”
|This celadon dish is of classic Phan confection, with its olive-green cast and its simple, combed, incised decoration.
H: 5 cm, D: 21 cm
|These are other popular motifs found on Phan wares, mainly abstract, but also zoomorphic forms such as horses and elephants. The decorations are made by fine-pointed incisions under the glaze with a three- and sometimes four-pronged tool.
(Photo from: Brown 1988: 89 and fig. 62)“
Common shapes of Phan wares include bowls, plates and dishes, but also some rarer forms such as jarlets, kendis in bird form and elephants (Miksic 1977).
Approximately 40 kilns have been located in two clusters, and 15 kiln sites have been excavated. The kilns, some of the most highly specialised and accomplished in northern Thailand, may have only been in service for a few decades in the 15th century.” (Miksic 2009: 65)