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Enter the Design City

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Enter the Design City
Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Sunday Nation


Pimarn Tovanabootr of Soap-n-Scent makes soap that looks like traditional desserts.

Chiang Mai has spent the past week showing off its creative ingenuity

THE IDEA that design is crucial to a lively urban economy has become so prevalent in the last decade that there are now more than 60 "design weeks" around the globe promoting the trade. Just ending today is the first Chiang Mai Design Week, at which the northern city is showing its potential in creativity with craftsmanship.

The theme is catchy - "Born Creative" - and the Thailand Creative and Design Centre's Chiang Mai branch has organised 51 showcases, 26 workshops and 25 talks.

More than 100 northern brands are on display at various venues old and new, from temples to malls. You need a map to find your way around and one is provided, along with a programme with all the activities and an index of the participants.

Make the tour on foot or by freely available bicycle and follow the map according to the colours - orange for design showcases, pink for workshops and purple for discussions. Signs are posted out front of each venue to say this is the place.

"Chiang Mai is rich in cultural assets and crafts," says TCDC director Apisit Laistrooglai. "With creative power and know-how, the city can be developed into a creative city in the future. Design Week aims to become a crucial tool in compiling the existing cultural assets and creative ideas and complementing them with collaborative management by both the government and private sectors, with support from entrepreneurs, creative workers and design studios."

Design Week director Pichit Virankabutra points out that the main venues are all within walking distance of one another. "We looked for unusual places, like old shophouses and abandoned buildings, to give people new experiences."

The designers are mainly stretched out along Charoen Rat Road behind Wat Gate. Here, for the first time, the Nimmanhemin family's two-storey wooden house is open to the public, housing several showcases. In the front yard artist Torlarp Larpjaroensook jars the imagination with an installation in a mesh room titled "Send Mom to the Moon".

Inside the mesh stand two-metre-tall fibreglass "Besto Boys" whose heads look like electrical switches and who have light bulbs at either the chest or the groin. Art that can function as a lamp, the Besto Boys are hooked up to hanging lamps arranged in the form of a spacecraft. Each of these is an assembly of teacups, vases and candlesticks.

"When I was a kid I witnessed the space race between America and the Soviet Union," says Torlarp, a co-founder of Gallery Seescape on Nimmanhemin Soi 17. "Meanwhile I also watched my grandmother using stuff like these - the teacups and vases - in offerings during the Lunar New Year. To me, this is a spiritual way to reach the moon."

Inside the vast family residence are blue and white experimental ceramics from the Chuanlhong factory in Lamphun. Kittikorn Kanjankuha, whose family runs the plant, has incorporated northern basketwork patterns in stoneware in a collection called "Woven Light". The allusion is to morhom, the indigo-dyed apparel of the North.

Jiratt Boonta's clothing recently won the top Thailand InnoFashion Award from the government's Department of Industrial Promotion. His Na-Nang skirt is distinguished by the pleating technique used at the front. Studs, eyelets, bolts and a silver belt add to the appeal.

"This is a conceptual design inspired by traditional Thai pleating," says Jiratt, who also conceived the Jaritt by Harnn line of women's ready-to-wear clothes. He mostly uses silk remnants dyed with henna, but also indigo-dyed cotton and other hilltribe textiles.

Looking at first glance like Thai desserts in their banana-leaf wraps, soaps handmade by Pimarn Tovanabootr for Soap-n-Scent have the whiff of banana, coconut, lemongrass, kaffir lime and ylang ylang. Some look like kanom guay (steamed banana cake), others like kao tom mud (wrapped steamed glutinous rice and banana).

At the textile shop Nussara, Nussara Tiengkate has been studying Lanna-style tin-jok weaving for 17 years. An intricate border is sewn to the bottom of wraparound skirts. You can see her experimental collection, Loong Kid (Abacus), with its patchwork of fabrics using traditional Lawa, Karen and Hmong patterns in cotton and silk.

The next shop, Kome Tong, has a delicate paper hanging-lamp called "From the Chandelier", made by its founder, Rattanaphol Taja. He painstakingly cuts the paper to form elaborate details, laminates it for durability and then folds it into an octagon on a bamboo frame.

The former headquarters of the Office of the Chiang Mai Election Commission houses the exhibition "Deep Ocean" by textile brand Bua Bhat. Inspired by the forms and colours of the sea, it utilises fabric scraps in furnishings and home decor. The patterns include popcorn, spaghetti, pebbles and vines, adorning hammocks, cushions, curtains and carpets.

Baggy denim pants from the brand LoveIsComingSoon by Tepparit Nuntasakun promote locally made denim. The hilltribe-style trousers are cut from a single piece of denim made from sugar-palm fibre and cotton. It's dyed with natural indigo and woven by hand on a special loom.

Palm-oil farmers usually discard the fruit rind once they've collected the sweet-jelly seed socket, but Tepparit boils it to soften and weaves it with cotton at a 30/70 ratio. The result is soft and lightweight, yet strong and with a sheen like linen.


Today is the final day of Chiang Mai Design Week 2014.

For details, call (052) 080 500, extension 1, or visit www.ChiangmaiDesignWeek.com.

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/sunday/Enter-the-Design-City-30249733.html

-- The Nation 2014-12-14

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