Arts Council England, The Royal College of Art’s Industrial Design Engineering department (IDE) and the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) supported opportunities for two established artists to collaborate with industry in the Chiang Mai region of Thailand.
The successful artists collaborated with IDE students at the Royal College of Art and with talented Thai designers and craftspeople coordinated by TCDC. They spent the first two weeks of their three-month placements at Chiang Mai University as participants and supporting tutors in a special workshop entitled ‘Go global: Thailand!’
The remit of 'Go global: Thailand' was to look at local craft and manufacturers through the theme of 'massclusivity' – a term used to describe the marriage of medium production with exclusivity. This is a burgeoning high end market which is ideally suited to small scale innovation and custom creativity. The project sought to forge working relationships which would make this market available to the traditional craftspeople of Thailand.
The placements continued with research residencies that enabled both artists to collaborate with industry and craftspeople, learning about local culture and skills.
Lotte Karlsen, director of Synchronized Liquid, a maker and designer of contemporary glass, worked in conjunction with the Doi Tung Sustainable Alternative Development project*.
She says: ‘Buddhism plays an important role in the lives of most Thai people. During my stay I attended several Buddhist ceremonies and rituals, both in the workplace and outside, as an observer.
‘Although the production of a new product was not a necessary outcome of my placement, the success of my collaborations with my host Doi Tung led to a series of objects inspired by Buddhist art and rituals (see Images). Local hill tribe craft skills like cross stitching; their costumes and their use of colours are also reflected in the pieces produced.
‘During my three month stay, I built a strong personal relationship with the region, developing a deep empathy and understanding for the people, their culture and skills. With this came an attendant desire to make certain that my work will continue to benefit the region and contribute to its sustainable future.’
*The Doi Tung Development Project is one of the flagship projects of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under the patronage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother. The project works to eradicate opium supply, drug use and rural poverty through Sustainable Alternative Development, education, training, humanitarian activities, environment conservation, agriculture, handicrafts, culture preservation and tourism in the Golden Triangle.
See also Katy Holford