Thai-style fish mobiles: Pla ta pian

Small fish made from palm leaves, swinging over baby's bed to put them to sleep, Thai handicrafts are changing with the times to survive & thrive.

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Economics

Still holding sway

Thai-style mobiles are a shrinking industry, but the artisans that stick to the tradition are rewarded handsomely
15 Jan 2013

Pla ta pian - wind mobiles in the shape of a carp - may be harder to find nowadays, but for a lucky few this locally made handicraft remains a thriving business, generating income of 20,000 to 40,000 baht a month for makers in Bangkok's Thawi Watthana district.

These mobiles made from bai lan, or fan palm fronds, used to be a common sight, swaying in the breeze above babies' cribs.

The woven fish caught on among Thais partly due to the local belief that the carp is a symbol of prosperity.

Back then people believed pla ta pian were a symbol of abundance. The fish grow to full size around the same time that rice is ready for harvesting. They called the period kao mai pla man - "new rice and delicious fish." 

Somewhere along the line, pieces of pla ta pian were put together to form a mobile, which was then hung over a baby's cradle. The mobile is also a toy

While lying in the cradle, the baby will watch the mobile move until lulled to sleep

A pla ta pian mobile is considered auspicious for the baby. Parents use them to bless their children with good health and prosperity...," said Nuttatorn Dangsepon, chairman of pla ta pian mobile community enterprise. The former shipping company employee formed the community enterprise six years ago in Thawi Watthana, Bangkok...

Fan palm fronds are traditionally believed to be a propitious plant as they were used as manuscripts for Buddhist scriptures

Bai lan is tough but not brittle, which also makes it suitable for weaving.

Several of the enterprise's founding members are from Ayutthaya, the home of this folk craft, and one of them is aged 80

The venture now has 13 members.

"The number of pla ta pian weavers has dropped and unique designs on the mobiles have been fading away. Without conservation, this sort of openwork will eventually disappear," said Mrs Nuttatorn.

...it is not the community alone that helps ensure thriving business, as the enterprise is partly funded by the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand (Sacict), a non-profit public organisation of the Commerce Ministry, which plays a vital role expanding marketing channels, allowing the mobiles to be showcased at international roadshows... 

Sacict also helps compile historic records and traditional designs of the mobiles

...Thai handicraft products have a promising outlook given their uniqueness, quality craftsmanship and wide range of products

Sacict forecasts Thai handicraft exports will grow by 4% to US$898 million this year.

Thai handicraft exports mostly consist of hand-woven textiles, silver and gold ornaments as well as wooden sculptures and ceramics. Europe is the leading market, accounting for 20%, followed by the US (18%) and Japan (11%). Other key markets include Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, Singapore and Myanmar...

(Source: Bangkok Post, Economics, Still holding sway, Thai-style mobiles are a shrinking industry, but the artisans that stick to the tradition are rewarded handsomely, 15 Jan 2013, link


Handicrafts Vocabulary

mobiles
(art) - objects that hang in the air balanced and move around (See Wikipedia)

handicrafts -
the making of beautiful objects made by hand by people known as "artisans" (See Wikipedia)
craft
- 1. a handicraft; 2. skill and experience, especially in relation to making objects ทักษะ

craftsman (or craftspeople) -  skilled workers who do crafts
craftsmanship - skill at making things ฝีมือ
artisan - Same as "craftsman"

folk
- related to the people living in old-style villages ที่มีพื้นฐานความเชื่อของชาวบ้าน, เกี่ยวกับขนบประเพณีของชาวบ้าน, เกี่ยวกับพื้นบ้าน
folk craft

sway - to influence or change someone's opinion มีผลต่อการตัดสินใจ
hold sway - people still like (and are influenced by)
still holding sway

shrink - grow smaller หด
a shrinking industry

artisans - a job that requires skill with your hands งานฝีมือ
the artisans that stick to the tradition are rewarded handsomely

Pla ta pian are wind mobiles in the shape of a carp

thriving - very successful ประสบความสำเร็จอย่างสูง
thriving business - a very successful and profitable business; people make money from it

income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
generating income - creating income

for a lucky few this locally made handicraft remains a thriving business, generating income of 20,000 to 40,000 baht a month

palm fronds - the long green leaves of a palm tree
common sight - something that people usually see; something easy to see; happens often

swaying - moving back and forth; from side to side
breeze - a light and pleasant wind สายลมที่พัดเบาๆ
swaying in the breeze

crib -
a bed for a baby made with high wood around it so the baby cannot get out 
baby crib

These mobiles made from bai lan, or fan palm fronds, used to be a common sight, swaying in the breeze above babies' cribs.

woven - a cloth made by weaving เสื้อผ้าที่ลวดลายถักทอ
woven fish

caught on - become popular
caught on among Thais - become popular among Thais

local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
local belief

symbol -
something that has the meaning of some other thing (when people see it they think of the other thing) เครื่องหมาย, สัญลักษณ์

prosperity
- when people are making money and life is good ความเจริญรุ่งเรือง ความมั่งคั่ง
symbol of prosperity

abundance -
when there is a lot of something; more than enough
symbol of abundance

the woven fish caught on among Thais partly due to the local belief that the carp is a symbol of prosperity

harvesting - collecting a crop from the fields การเก็บเกี่ยว
The fish grow to full size around the same time that rice is ready for harvesting.

the mobile was hung over a baby's cradle

Somewhere along the line, ... - at some time during the events that happened ... this happened ....
Somewhere along the line, pieces of pla ta pian were put together to form a mobile, which was then hung over a baby's cradle. The mobile is also a toy

lulled to sleep - put to sleep by some comforting sound or feeling
While lying in the cradle, the baby will watch the mobile move until lulled to sleep

auspicious - lucky, having good luck; showing signs  that something is likely to be successful โอกาสอันดี เป็นมงคลฤกษ์  ที่มีฤกษ์ดี
auspicious for the baby

bless children with good health and prosperity
A pla ta pian mobile is considered auspicious for the baby. Parents use them to bless their children with good health and prosperity...,

community - local people, all the people who live in a local area or place ชุมชน
enterprise - an organization, especially a business กิจการ, บริษัท,อุตสาหกิจ,วิสาหกิจ
community enterprise

chairman - the head or highest person in charge of an organization
chairman of pla ta pian mobile community enterprise

shipping - the transport of goods (by boat, train, or truck)
employee - someone who is paid regularly to work for a person or an organisation ลูกจ้าง

shipping company 
shipping company employee

propitious - lucky
propitious plant

manuscripts - handwritten versions of books
scriptures - the holy writings of a religion คัมภีร์

Buddhist scriptures - the important books of Buddhism that teach the religion and teachings of the Buddha
manuscripts for Buddhist scriptures

fan palm fronds are traditionally believed to be a propitious plant as they were used as manuscripts for Buddhist scriptures

tough - strong, and difficult to break เหนียว,ทนทาน,บึกบึน, แข็งแรง
brittle - easy to break, fragile เปราะ,  หักง่าย, บอบบาง, แตกง่าย

suitable
- acceptable or right for someone or something เหมาะสม
suitable for weaving

Bai lan is tough but not brittle, which also makes it suitable for weaving.

founding - starting an organisation, company, political party, etc.
founding members - the people who started an organization

several of the enterprise's founding members are from Ayutthaya, the home of this folk craft, and one of them is aged 80

venture - a new activity, usually in business, which involves risk or uncertainty ธุริกิจเสี่ยงแต่สามารถทำกำไรได้
the venture now has 13 members.

unique - very special, unusual or good ที่มีลักษณะพิเศษ เป็นเอกลักษณ์
unique designs on the mobiles

fading away
- disappearing, growing less and less and soon none of them will be there

conservation
- the protection of plants and animals, natural areas, and interesting and important structures and buildings, especially from the damaging effects of human activity การอนุรักษ์ธรรมชาติ, การป้องกันความสูญเสีย, การสงวนไว้

openwork

eventually
- at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process ในที่สุด
eventually disappear

"The number of pla ta pian weavers has dropped and unique designs on the mobiles have been fading away. Without conservation, this sort of openwork will eventually disappear," said Mrs Nuttatorn.

ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
ensure thriving business

funded - given money บริจาค money provided for operation of a business or organisation ให้ความช่วยเหลือทางการเงิน ให้เงินลงทุน
the enterprise is partly funded by a government agency

profit - money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid กำไร
non-profit - not making money or profit (has some other goal such as helping people)
a non-profit public organisation of the Commerce Ministry

marketing channels - different ways for a company to sell the products and goods it produces
expanding marketing channels - more and more places to sell the product

vital - very important ที่สำคัญ ที่จำเป็นยิ่ง จำเป็นสำหรับชีวิต; สำคัญมาก
role - the position or purpose that someone or something has in a situation, organisation, society or relationship บทบาท
a vital role - to something important in some activity or organization
plays a vital role expanding marketing channels

international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
roadshows - when a company or organisation travels to many locations to promote their products and services
international roadshows

showcased - to show the public how good something is
showcased at international roadshows

...it is not the community alone that helps ensure thriving business, as the enterprise is partly funded by the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand (Sacict), a non-profit public organisation of the Commerce Ministry, which plays a vital role expanding marketing channels, allowing the mobiles to be showcased at international roadshows...

records - pieces of information describing something written down or stored on a computer บันทึุก
historic records - writings from the past that show what life was like in the past

compile - to collect information from different places and arrange it in a book, report or list รวบรวม
compile historic records

traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
traditional designs

Sacict also helps compile historic records and traditional designs of the mobiles

promising - likely to be successful มีแนวโน้มที่ดี
outlook - what people think will happen in the future อนาคตที่คาดไว้ ภาพรวม อนาคต
promising outlook

uniqueness - unlike anyone else, something that no one else has makes you special
products have a promising outlook given their uniqueness

range - a number of different things that are of the same general type ขอบข่าย, ประเภท
wide range of products

...Thai handicraft products have a promising outlook given their uniqueness, quality craftsmanship and wide range of products

forecasts - what experts say will happen in the future คาดการณ์
Sacict forecasts Thai handicraft exports will grow by 4% to US$898 million this year.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer