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sacit Craft Power: A Push for International Renown Gains Momentum

sacit Craft Power: A Push for International Renown Gains Momentum

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Lily J., Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Kranchanok Boonbamrung /

A brainstorming session took place on May 8, 2024 in what was described as a determined effort to take Thailand’s art and craft industry to the next level, ultimately accessing new markets and expanding their reach globally.

Organized by the Sustainable Arts and Crafts Institute of Thailand, SACIT, led by Ms. Naruedee Phurattanarak, director of research and development for artistic products at SACIT, the conference brought together nine experts from a wide range of disciplines to discuss three hot topics; “Unseen Craft”, “Thainess” or the key attributes of being Thai, and “Craft Power”. The panel speakers included luminaries in the art and craft world, namely Mr. Viboon Leesuwan, Mr. Meechai Taesujariya, Mr. Pairoj Pittayamatee, Mr. Asa Piwkhum, Mr. Phitirat Wongsutinwattana, Dr. Sirikorn Maneerin, Ms. Pawinee Santisiri, Ms. Supavee Sirinkraporn and Ms. Cholada  Siddhivarn.

Naruedee Phurattanarak, director of research and development for artistic products at the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand (SACIT).

The discussion on the theme of “SACIT Craft Power – The Future of Crafts: Guru Panel” represented a massive drive to assist and inspire craft makers, retailers and brands to go global and unlock the next level of growth for their business. Very briefly, it’s about challenging many popular perceptions that “craft products cannot be used in everyday life”. That being said, it makes perfect sense to try and change the way people think about arts and crafts on the global market by presenting quality craft goods that can be used every day and in so many different ways. Here’s a summary of the spontaneous discussion, one topic at a time.

Unseen Craft:

The first topic of discussion, named “Unseen Craft”, is mainly concerned with the moments of inspiration that go into creating art and craft products. Panel speaker Viboon Leesuwan, a member of the Royal Society of Thailand specialized in visual arts, talked about the enduring allure of Thailand’s traditional crafts. Viboon is an avid art collector with authoritative knowledge of crafts made from locally sourced materials. For many people, these are products that give great aesthetic pleasure and are valued for their usefulness.

Viboon said that for heritage craft skills to continue for a long time to come, it’s imperative that we foster good practice and general knowledge of art and craft among young people. As he put it, the key to success lies in the dissemination of ideas, values and learning to a wide audience.

He said that mentoring and educating young adults in art and craft must go hand in hand with developing awareness about local wisdom, or customs and practices recognized and followed by local communities for many generations. According to Viboon, each craft product bears a geographic indication, or essential qualities and ingredients that tell the story of its origin and the process that goes into making it. Take for example “Pha Gab Bua”, which is a kind of handwoven fabrics made by Meechai Taesujariya, national artist for visual arts (handwoven fabrics category) and winner of a 2016 Master Artisans of Thailand Award.

Pha Gab Bua fabric is made using weaving patterns indigenous to Ubon Ratchathani Province that’s widely acclaimed for its unique design, original material, and the power of storytelling about the weaving technique and area or neighborhood from which it is made. More than anything else, it’s a heritage craft skill that people rely on as a means of securing a livelihood and, at the same time, stimulating the local economy.

Thainess:

The second topic deals with promoting “Thainess”, or qualities that are the key attributes of Thailand’s cultural traditions. From a different perspective, there’s a feeling of accomplishment in the product, something that gives a sense of history and heritage that makes people purchase Thai-made goods. With this knowledge, a craft maker can maximize his business potential, creating products that are trendy, tailoring them to meet the specific needs of young people and, at the same time, incorporating storytelling techniques in craft goods.

Panel speaker Pawinee Santisiri said that art and craft itself is a language that expresses creativity and imagination. And the power of storytelling comes handy as an important tool to communicate the values and usefulness of a product to potential buyers on the global market. To take it to the next level, the craft maker relies on a universal language to present designs and ideas that are easy to understand. The universal language is one of many strategies used to connect buyers and sellers, eventually giving a product the renown of a famous trademark, not to mention enhancing sales and expanding into new markets.

Essentially, art and craft is about conveying an idea, impression and feeling through a physical concrete form. For a product to be successful, it must answer the specific needs of a target group, for example by placing great emphasis on the pride and joy of being Thai and, at the same time, promoting a good understanding about cultural heritage and the craft skills that go into making the product. It’s a series of actions that starts at the early stage of education.

At the risk of stating the obvious, art and craft instructors as well as master artisans, students and designers all have an important role to play in furthering the progress of handicraft skills, ultimately continuing to strengthen and take pride of place in modern society.

Craft Power:

The third and most important topic of discussion has to do with “Craft Power”, which refers to the ability of art and craft to influence public opinion and the behavior of target audiences on the global market. About this subject, the experts concur that for the art and craft industry to prosper, the only way forward is to advocate for sustainability every step of the way.

Interestingly, the tourism industry helps a great deal in raising awareness about art and craft products, resulting in good customer experiences. This eventually translates into higher incomes from craft making, thereby allowing communities to improve conditions of life. Plus, by making design in an integral part of the art and craft industry, the possibilities are endless. Well-thought-out design gives rise to an exciting array of new products. And they can be anything from a variegated color ice-cream to building supplies needed to create beautiful works of architecture.

Technically speaking, the power of craft can come in many different shapes or forms, even starting from scratch. It’s a good place to start where nothing has ever been done before. Take for example creating a work of handicraft using raw materials from agriculture. Done right, it’s a way to help protect the environment by promoting good practices at both the upstream and downstream stretches of the manufacturing process. In the end, the economy, culture and society stand to benefit from it, thanks in part to enduring efforts at making knowledge available to a wide audience. Online platforms are one way of reaching out and connecting with consumers.

The three topics illustrated above lay the groundwork for the development of a generation direction in which Thailand’s art and craft industry is developing in the near future. The ideas generated from this discussion provide the framework for the preparation of a new book titled, “SACIT the Future of Craft, Trend Forecast 2025.” Taken as a whole, they symbolize a vigorous effort for the advancement of all facets of Thailand’s art and craft industry and, at the same time, advocate for sustainability every step of the way.


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