STORY
       
 
Tong Noon is Thai for ‘raised gold’. It is a traditional style of exquisite, hand painted bone china and porcelain from Thailand where the pattern is raised above the surface of the underlying piece. The range of pieces available extends to bone china tableware (dinner services, tea and coffee services) and lamp bases, vases, covered ginger jars, candlesticks and small boxes, mostly in porcelain.

The painting of Tong Noon takes place in small workshops in certain Thai villages where these skills have been handed down through many generations. It is an incredibly labour intensive process which demands a high degree of skill and craftsmanship from the artists. A combination of artistic, manual dexterity and visual skills are essential which take years of painstaking effort to master.




The origins of Tong Noon can be traced back to the ancient Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya (1350-1767). Around the 1650s, a village of Mandarin artists living in a colony in the south of Siam, started producing bowls and trays made of steel that were highly decorated with gold leaf. The design was known as ‘Tom Tong’. Tom Tong is Thai for ‘fill with gold’. The process involved placing steel ornaments into the kiln until they were blackened and soft. An artist would then use a hammer and chisel to form a design on the piece. A sap, from an indigenous tree was then applied to the design. The sap acted as an adhesive and also produced a raised effect. Gold leaf was then overlaid on the design.

The King of Siam at this time was King Narai of the Prasat Tong Dynasty (reigned 1656-1688), and arguably the most famous Ayutthayan king. Each year the Mandarin artists would send gifts of bowls and trays to him. As the pieces were so exquisite King Narai declared that Tom Tong was only to be used by the Siamese Royal court. Later on during the same period, furniture and interior decorations in the Royal palaces became adorned with the Tom Tong style.


 


King Narai’s reign was the most prosperous during the Ayutthaya period and saw great commercial and diplomatic activities with foreign nations. In January 1684 he dispatched a mission to France with letters for the French King, Louis XIV, with the aim of improving diplomatic relations. The letters were sent in a steel casket decorated with Tom Tong, together with a selection of other Tom Tong bowls and ornaments.

Over 200 years later, in 1897, it is thought King Rama V (1868-1910) brought back porcelain from his diplomatic missions to the West. Having seen the embossed designs on the porcelain, Thai artisans developed a style on their own ceramic pieces, based upon similar techniques used to make Tom Tong. Tong Noon was born.


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We currently do two patterns.


Pikul    
     
Tong Noon handpainted porcelain - Pikul pattern   The pattern lying under the gold is known as Pikul, and originated during the reign of King Rama the second of Thailand (1809-1824). Pikul is a flower symbolising Buddhist lent. The trees that produce this fragrant flower are often found planted in temple grounds. This trellised pattern, with geometric shapes can often be seen decorating the walls and ceilings of Thai temples.

Click here to see samples of pieces painted in the Pikul pattern
     
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Roses    
     
Tong Noon handpainted porcelain - Rose pattern   Roses were cultivated in China over 5000 years ago and came to represent hope, beauty and love. Rose petals have long been used in Chinese herbal medicine and to flavour wine. Fragrant rose petals used to be carried by Chinese ladies.

Click here to see samples of pieces painted in the Roses pattern
     
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We will be introducing new patterns in the near future.

The skills to make Tong Noon are held by only a few artists. Each piece is created to meet a customer’s order and is signed on the reverse by the artist. Tong Noon is delivered to the customer twelve weeks from the order being taken.

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