The beauty of this whole thing is that people from all over the world are utilizing hemp and other renewable materials to create products and art that resemble old world flavor in a new world environment. Read on to learn about Thitiporn’s designs. She also decided to grow her own batch of hemp specifically for her designs. Could you imagine if an artist tried that in the US. ” ‘I was growing it to make a rug!’….’Sure you were’, say the police as they cart her off to jail for drug charges.” – Josh Davis, Hemp.com
Interest is growing in products created from natural materials, and innovators in the furniture industry are among the beneficiaries. In the furniture and home decoration business, materials could include rattan, water hyacinth, bamboo or vines – all of which were used long ago but with simple patterns.
Thitiporn Chanawangsa makes mats, chairs and vases from agriculture-based raw materials, including hemp fabric, which is normally used to make ropes and rice sacks.
Many consider the practice old-fashioned. But Ms Thitiporn says the coupling of natural materials with creativity is the only way for a business such as hers to survive once the Asean Economic Community materialises in the next four years.
“Thais are well-known for their decorative arts such as classical masked ballet, gold and silverware, and carvings that are of high quality but are hard to appreciate and can’t be used in our daily lives,” she said.
On the other hand, foreigners have never seen us [Thais] in the area of creative handicrafts which, when joined with creativity, can be a more efficient economic adder than the high arts.
The 32-year-old design director at Peakchan Co Ltd had been selling her products for four years before setting up the company two years ago. Of her total sales, 80% are exports to countries such as the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, England, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Orders are increasing at a rate of 40% per year along with new collections, while the area of the hemp plantation that Ms Thitiporn owns in Khon Kaen has grown to more than 20 rai.
“We need to use our folk wisdom” in order to compete with other countries, she said.
But Ms Thitiporn is not only targeting the foreign market; she hopes to boost domestic sales from 20% currently to 40% in future, targeting projects, resorts, condominiums and hotels.
Her products won Thai creative awards last year, earning her a high reputation within the Thai market.
Thais are beginning to decorate their homes, she says, as opposed to in the past when people would separate beauty from function. Now the two issues are interrelated.
Production capacity is 800 mats and 500 to 600 vases per month, and even though labour costs are subject to an increase, Ms Thitiporn isn’t worried about the issue in Ubon Ratchathani and Khon Kaen provinces.
“Thais have advanced handicraft skills,” she said, adding that communities can also use hemp fabric as an alternative material when there are shortages of silk and cotton.
Ms Thitiporn, along with her doctoral degree in applied arts and design, is conducting research on hemp fabric. In future the hemp leaves could be dyed, or the core might be used to produce furniture
Starting out as a project for her master’s degree, Ms Thitiporn’s passion for hemp occurred simply because the material itself was being overlooked.
Hemp hasn’t been developed at all, and [at that time] we weren’t able to find any information about it. Then there were other material such as bamboo and water hyacinth that were already being used, so I thought it [using hemp fabric] was a good idea.
She then decided to grow her own batch of crops in an area of four rai.
Ms Thitiporn advises those who are interested in starting a business to do thorough research on the material that is to be used, as well as enter competitions in order to be known to the market.
You should dare to think, and think outside the box. Don’t be ashamed of Thainess. Thais are skilled in handicraft but are ashamed that if they [focus on it] they will fall behind the trend. It’s like people who carry iPads so they are up-to-date with technology. But if we use things that we already have and are always renewable, then that’s a way of using folk wisdom.
(Source: Bangkok Post, It just comes naturally, Thitiporn Chanawangsa uses an overlooked material – hemp – to create her company’s unique furniture and accessories, 29/08/2011, Nanchanok Wongsamuth, link)