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Suppapong Sonsang; A Furniture Designer Who Grows Forests to Fulfill His Timber Needs

Suppapong Sonsang; A Furniture Designer Who Grows Forests to Fulfill His Timber Needs

Some ten years ago, Suppapong Sonsang rose to fame as a laureate of the Designer of the Year award. Apparently content with living a green lifestyle, he kind of vanished from the limelight and got into a different field, something more upstream.

He brought 70 rai of destroyed forest land back to life in a bid to generate enough timber supplies for Jird Design Gallery, his very own furniture brand. Committed to sustainable growth, he viewed the mammoth undertakings as crucial for the future of his career as designer.

Lesson 2 Understanding Wood / Learn from Suppapong Sonsang, a furniture designer of Jird Design Gallery.

In a recent meet-up with room Magazine, he said: “The design profession is dependent upon purchase orders and customer hiring contracts. To do a good job or run a business well, skill alone isn’t enough. You also need a readiness to accomplish the task, reliable resources, even luck, et cetera. So I set out to find a green route for business to continue to perform for a long time; meanwhile, relying less on hiring contracts and more on selling direct to end-users. I viewed the practice of growing and caring for timber forests as a basic occupation with some hope for the future.” 

Suppapong Sonsang

Suppapong started his first new growth forest at Kamphaeng Phet Province in lower northern Thailand and gradually expanded to Nong Pho, Ratchaburi. The latter has since served as his headquarters with storage facilities for partly prepared timber and logs. There’s a sawmill with 4-5 types of machinery, where logs are cut, sawn into lumber and packaged ready for delivery. As business grew, he converted his humble abode in the forest into a showroom.

As he put it, “Timber is a valuable resource. So I focus on planting only trees that have economic importance. Little by little, I searched for knowledge and experimented with various methods in a bid to achieve the desirable outcome. Eventually, I obtained not only the resources needed for furniture making, but also a workplace with the atmosphere of a nature reserve. Before anything else, it’s about the better quality of life.” 

Suppapong Sonsang

Suppapong’s forests are home to valuable ecosystems. Apart from hardwood trees that are grown for timber, he also set aside some areas for planting crops. His work on the farm encompasses three aspects of product manufacturing, including design, human resources, and forest resources management.

Sharing his work experience, Suppapong said: “I’m responsible for design while others are busy taking care of things, ranging from caring for the forest floor and planting new trees, to grafting branches and growing plants from seeds in nurseries. Everyone deserves a good quality of life. For people in the community who’re working with us, it’s an opportunity to learn new skills in carpentry and agriculture. The knowledge that they gain as apprentices will be an asset beneficial to their future career.

Suppapong Sonsang

“Meantime, the forests that we grow ensure that our furniture business will be adequately resourced for a long time to come, in other words until death do us part. It will be another 20 to 30 years down the road before some of the trees become fully grown and ready for harvesting. That said, it’s a guarantee that our community will still have timber supply lasting us a hundred years, or after old growth forests have been depleted.”

“While others invest in big manufacturing facilities and expensive machines, we put our money in land that we need to grow forests for timber. Oftentimes, people asked why we chose land covered with trees and undergrowth instead of beautiful pieces of property elsewhere. Well, it may be of little value to them. But it’s a great asset both for us and for the community 20 years down the road. We will have access to timber that our business needs. To begin with, it’s about growing healthy forest ecosystems. That means you need the initial capital, and patience. You have to give it all your energy to succeed. Been there, survived that. And now the rest is easy,” said Suppapong laughing.

Suppapong Sonsang

“From then until now, little went as planned. Success came from resilience and the ability to adapt to new challenges. The workers that we hired from the community had no carpentry skill. So we started training them while the trees still had a long way to grow and mature. We believe that by the time our forests are ready for harvesting, our helping hands will have become well versed in woodworking. In the meantime, we just have to keep up with design trends. Together, they constitute parallel paths to future growth.”  

Suppapong Sonsang

Above, a bench seat from the KOOPREE collection by Suppapong Sonsang is made of timber from KrathinThepa (scientific name: Acacia mangium) a species of fast growing tree in the pea family Fabaceae. Harvested at 7 years of age, the tree provides an alternative to hardwood commonly used in furniture making.

Suppapong Sonsang of Jird Design Gallery is one of subject matter experts being featured in an online curriculum titled, “A Passion for Woodworking”. It’s part of Baan Lae Suan Classroom, a collaboration with the Creative Economy Agency (Public Organization), or CEA. The program is designed for people interested in woodworking and those looking to acquire basic carpentry skills through furniture making using basic tools and community resources. Plus, it provides tips for developing a career in creative business. The program is hosted by Jeremiah Pitakwong, Editor of Baan Lae Suan Magazine.

Suppapong Sonsang

In the previous video, we presented a lesson on the Milking Stool by distinguished designer/carpenter Phisanu Numsiriyothin. In this episode, Suppapong Sonsang shows the steps in transforming homegrown timber into a beautiful bench seat. 

Source: 
https://www.baanlaesuan.com/online-program/classroom/215124.html
https://www.baanlaesuan.com/181474/design/design-update/people/jird

Phisanu Numsiriyothin Master Woodworker Who Cares about Forests

Phisanu Numsiriyothin Master Woodworker Who Cares about Forests

A designer who’s passionate about all things made of wood, Phisanu Numsiriyothin has grown familiar with using woodworking tools at home since a very young age.

Let’s begin with building a cow milking stool. Learn from Phisanu Numsiriyothin, master woodworker and professional carpenter. / Lesson 1 Getting Started in Woodworking

Upon graduation with a degree in Visual Arts, he led a self-indulgent life for a time pushing himself beyond the limits only to find it had taken a toll on his body and mind. He soon learned that life didn’t get much better than spending the day in a woodworking studio. Life took a turn for the better after his exposure to works of outstanding artistry by big names such as George Nakashima, Sam Maloof, James Krenov, and master craftsman Saiyart Sema-ngern. Only then did his career in woodworking begin in earnest.

Phisanu Numsiriyothin / BaanLaeSuan Classroom / A Passion for Woodworking / Getting Started in Woodworking / master woodworker / professional carpenter

In a recent interview with room magazine, Phisanu said his belief in the value of woodworking came from experience that spanned more than a decade. “A designer may have considerable knowledge of chair making. But if he’s unfamiliar with splintering or tear-out, has never done wood planing or used joinery tools, then he’s only thinking of two parts of the entire process — design proportions, and graphic visuals or style. In the end, beautiful design is achieved, but it may not be the best choice for wood. Plus, ill-conceived design could result in a lot of waste that compounds the world’s garbage problem.”  

The world that he alludes briefly to is one in which a woodworker exists in harmony with natural woodlands. It’s a world where people harvest trees for timber responsibly and at the same time allow time for forests to thrive. Such an ideology can translate into a physically concrete form as is the case with “Rush Chair” by Phisanu in collaboration with the design duo, Jutamas Buranajade and Piti Amraranga, of o-d-a. They use small pieces trimmed off large trees to build the chair frame using traditional methods of wood joinery, while the seat is made of woven natural fibers dyed different shades of indigo.

Phisanu Numsiriyothin / BaanLaeSuan Classroom / A Passion for Woodworking / Getting Started in Woodworking / master woodworker / professional carpenter

If sustainable design refers to a piece of furniture that’s comfortable to sit on, easy to fix using parts sourced directly from nature, and capable of reducing negative impacts on the environment, then Rush Chair would fit that definition, a chair that’s eco-friendly in every sense of the word.

As Phisanu puts it, “If we design without focusing on just our needs and start paying attention to the environment,  the result will be very different. As for me, I focus not only on the production technique, but also on the wood being used, the tools needed to perform the task, and everything that combines to add value to woodwork.”

Rush Chair
Rush Chair

For the time being, Phisanu has relocated his fully equipped studio from Bangkok’s Buddha Puja area to Kuchinarai District in Kalasin. Here, he established a field workshop to make furniture from locally sourced materials. The villagers were available to work after the annual rice growing season had passed. So he persuaded them to join in making the Rush Chair based on design improved in conjunction with o-d-a. By making seat furniture from tree branches found in the area, Phisana subtly communicated the need to protect and preserve the environment among participating villagers. He has discovered the astounding connection between people and trees, and used it wisely promote nature conservation in the long term.

“I believe that between the chair and the trees, our home planet prefers more trees. They are crucial to the physical surroundings, far more important than my designing achievements. By realizing the importance of each and every tree, we are motivated to come up with good design and elaborate manufacturing process, and the resulting effect is worth a try.”

Phisanu Numsiriyothin / BaanLaeSuan Classroom / A Passion for Woodworking / Getting Started in Woodworking / master woodworker / professional carpenterPhisanu Numsiriyothin / BaanLaeSuan Classroom / A Passion for Woodworking / Getting Started in Woodworking / master woodworker / professional carpenter

Phisanu Numsiriyothin is one of subject matter experts being featured in an online curriculum titled, “A Passion for Woodworking”. It’s part of BaanLaeSuan Classroom, a collaboration with the Creative Economy Agency (Public Organization), or CEA. The program is designed for people interested in woodworking and those wanting to acquire basic carpentry skills through furniture making, plus ideas about using local materials and tips for developing a career in creative business. It’s hosted by Jeremiah Pitakwong, Editor of BaanLaeSuan Magazine.

Phisanu said: “A stool for milking dairy cows. It’s a basic stool, very basic and easy to build. It’s lightweight and portable. A first for anyone wanting to try his hand at woodworking. Plus it’s come a long way in terms of design history. It depends on the material we can find, or the purpose of use. This one isn’t made of wood sticks. I made it instead from a solid tree trunk. And this one from wood slabs. The method differs occasionally. Sometimes we use leftovers or cut wide planks to make legs. We’re talking about using one type of material.” 

Phisanu Numsiriyothin / BaanLaeSuan Classroom / A Passion for Woodworking / Getting Started in Woodworking / master woodworker / professional carpenter
Milking stool

 Let’s begin with building a cow milking stool. Learn from Phisanu Numsiriyothin, master woodworker and professional carpenter. Click this link to get started https://dai.ly/x7zc9y1

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