By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
In a world where digital is king and disruptors are changing life as we knew it, the importance of retaining the intricacies of traditional crafts while embracing the modern cannot be overstated. It is for this reason that the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand (Sacict) under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit has adopted as one of the trends in its strategy for 2019 a “Retelling the Detailing” concept in the making of new craft products that are both eye-catching and creative.
To get its point across, the centre recently hosted the “Sacict Craft Trend 2019 Open House” at its Craft Gallery in Ayutthaya where it unveiled the mechanisms for creating and presenting the richness of original work and traditional knowledge while increasing the perceived value of handicrafts.
“The story has to be told in a way that’s more appropriate to modern values. We believe that making innovative crafts a part of people’s lives is crucial to passing down the value of Thai arts and crafts to the new generations while simultaneously contributing to the strengths of the community in a sustainable way,” says Sacict’s chief executive says Amparwon Pichalai.
Millennials, she adds, already make up the most influential consumer group in the tourism and service industry. Ever eager to experience a different kind of lifestyle, this segment of society will continue to research what they are buying while comparing prices and quality, and pay attention to the origins from which product is sourced.
The “Tropical Dreams” trend brings nature into the home.
The “Retelling the Detailing” concept communicates contemporary designs in line with modern lifestyles. It represents the richness of original works in ways never seen before and preserves and transfers traditional knowledge to a new generation while enabling manufacturers, designers, local artisans to take pride and raise the value of the products bestowed upon them by ancestors.
“Retelling the Detailing” thus responds to Sacict’s initiative campaign, “Today’s Life Crafts – smart craft, craft studio, and craft society”. The other three trends for 2019 are “Tropical Dream”, “Righteous Crafts”, and “Surreal Hospitality”.
The trend book explains that storytelling provides an opportunity to communicate a good value that will lead a consumer to choose a specific product. And so, retelling the story provides an avenue to highlight new details about the manufacturing process including the material selection, designs, and a series of events associated with a specific product. It can be a story about how a brand was born or the history of a community craft passed on from generation to generation and which continues to flourish in even more attractive physical forms.
Part of the exhibition showcase in the gallery, “Grid Collection: Vastly Patterned” features a network of decorative diamond shapes with floral ornaments designed by Pornphun Sutthipraph. The delicate network of intersecting lines is redesigned and gets a contemporary look in Thai Benjarong (five-colour design) tableware. “Headphones” designed by Kris Putpim and Boonyarat Benjarong, stand out from other listening devices thanks to hoods concealing the drivers that are adorned with a criss-cross pattern symbolic of the Thai Benjarong traditional design.
“Patchwork” by Parsuree Wirachwiboolkit transforms the everpresent plastic chair into a seat everyone will love.
With silk a manifestation of the Thai culture, designer Kris Yesudjai proudly presents the new work from the Mudmee silk Weavers Group of Baan Hua Fai, in Khon Kaen province. “Patchwork” is about transforming the common plastic chair into exciting new form, colour, and texture by upholstering it in multi-colour patchwork. Designed by Parsuree Wirachwiboolkit, it gives an ordinary object an entirely new meaning.
Thanavat Klongvishar and Prapanpong Suksawanf’s award-winning chair named “Where are you from?” is a great example of “Retailing the Detailing”. The pair, who won the Innovative Craft Award, used materials common in craft making such as rattan, wood, ceramics to build furniture that inspires and connects.
The second trend, “Tropical Dreams” refers to an attitude that has become entrenched in the mindsets of the new generation, with the “green is the new gold” code increasingly being adopted for home and workplace decor. Alternative materials are being pressed into service to mimic a natural environment and rising to the challenge is the “Bamboo Low Stool” designed by Plural Designs and the Bamboo Works Group of Baan Sri Pan Krua, Chiang Mai, which uses bamboo strands tightly wound up in a coil. The natural fibre stool is created out of four coils, three for the legs, and one for the seat.
Urbanites are also showing a preference for wood, with wooden lamps turning the room into a relaxing place and a wooden leaf chair adding to the impression of being part of nature.
The third trend known as “Righteous Crafts” is an attempt to show that what matters most consumers nowadays is the origin of products – the source of the raw materials. It is something both manufacturers and new-generation consumers are taking into consideration. In this way, they are able to repay or reward the community for their role in the development and preservation of handicrafts. The Bamboo Basket by Plural Designs has been working with the Bamboo weaving group from Baan Kai Noi, Mae Tang district, Chiang Mai province on this trend too, coming up with a raw material that not only has no environmental impact but which also generates more income for the locals. Also part of this trend are smart and casual outfits made from crafted cotton hand-dyed with organic substances that are nature-friendly.
Millennials enjoy luxury but are also keen on possessing an “experience”. The fourth trend ‘Surreal Hospitality’ caters to this new generation of travellers.
“Hotels these days often make their accommodations more exciting to entice Millennials to visit and experience new places rather than going to popular tourist destinations,” says Damrong Leevairoj, editor in chief of Room Magazine, who also curates the gallery.
“They often use handicrafts to add atmosphere. Crafts are works of art; they take time, manpower, and substantial amounts of money to make and this has turned them into items of luxury. If a hotel owner can work jointly with the artists and craftsmen in the community in creating outstanding pieces, they are sure to benefit and have interesting stories to tell.”
Highlight pieces include “Su-kwan” a suspended luminaire by Takorn Tavornchotivong that draws on the traditional welcome ceremony, Bai-sri-su-kwan, which is adorned with folded banana leaf, and a pendant wrapped in countless shimmering pieces of sheet metal folded and affixed to the enclosing boundary.
“Passion of Craft on the Wall” by designer Kritsanalak Pakkhakuntawi, features a papyrus floor mat that embodies the skill and knowledge of the traditional handicrafts found in all regions.