Craft, Design and Creative Industry flourish in Thailand. The rich traditions of Thai visual culture persists in the hands, hearts and tools of today applied artists, designers and craftspeople.
Echoing royal patronage of the past, one prominent figure in this revival has been Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. The Queen’s interest in local crafts arose from pioneering trips she and King Bhumibol Adulyadej began making throughout the Thai countryside soon after his coronation in 1950. Both the King and the Queen of Thailand support projects and activities that provide opportunities for crafts people and designers in both rural and urban centres. Project Vetiver, and experiment that combined ecology and design production has resulted in many fine designs. Available in all regions of the country, Vetiver grass protects erosion and maintains underground moisture. The blades of the grass are ideal for weaving. Artisans throughout Thailand were encouraged to experiment with the material resulting in many successful design products and creative industries.
Many Thai design and craft educators are concerned that too many Thai designers copy the West, resulting in designs that have not relationship with Thai climate and culture. Courses have been developed to challenge students to explore the beauty and function of old wats (temples) and markets, along with other traditional Thai arts and crafts.
Perhaps, the most impressive design centre in the world, certainly in Asia is the TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) was begun in 2005. The facilities include impressive libraries and spaces for research, lectures, seminars, impressive regional and international exhibitions. Electronic data bases, and digital tools provide information and documentation of design, craft and creative industries in Thailand and around the globe.
The Canadian Government, through it’s development assistance programme in Thailand, funded a research project that solved a environmental problem. Thai villagers are now successfully using water hyacinth in the manufacture of their baskets. Later the hyacinth was used to produce high quality furniture like this settee. The water hyacinth is use after drying, planning, chemical treating and a second drying. The use of the water hyacinth is not only a alternative use of material, but also helps to solve environmental problems. This research has provided numerous Thai designers/craftspeople with new materials resulting in world wide recognition of fine designs created from water hyacinth.
The Office of Product Development and Design for Export promotes design education and excellence. A number of annual design competitions include awards for toys, jewelry and showcase/exhibitions of Thai gems, furniture, fashions, textiles, and other design products for export. Thai government officials, manufacturers and educators are, very much aware of the need for design excellence in the competitive markets of the world. These groups are working on programmes to encourage highest standards of applied arts.
Represented on the APAAF web pages are thirty examples of applied arts from Thailand including both traditional and new designs, all produces within the past three years. Selection was made with assistance from craft and design professionals, government authorities, faculty and students from universities and institutes in Thailand.
Sam Carter, Curator
TCDC- Thailand Creative and Design Centre
Kittratana Pitipanich, Design Advisory Director
Brian Mertens-Bangkok-“Thai ideas in Design, Textile and Furniture”
Thai Craft Fair
Thai Craft in Bangkok
Chutima Dumsuwan- Public Relations and Brand Manager