PhD Thitiporn Chanawangsa is breathing new life into an ancient handicrafts material, hemp fabric, by adding creativity, research and her own farming.
It just comes naturally, Thitiporn Chanawangsa uses an overlooked material - hemp - to create her company's unique furniture and accessories by Nanchanok Wongsamuth
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)
Creative Entrepreneur Vocabulary
hemp - the fiber of the cannabis plant (the same plant that the drug Marijuana comes from) extracted from the stem of the plant and used to make rope, stout fabrics, fiberboard, and paper (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
hemp fabric - fabric made from the fiber of hemp plants
entrepreneur - a small business person, "a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so" (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
handicrafts - a skill of making decorative objects by hand; these objects can often be used in everyday life too (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
skills - a type of work or task requiring special training and knowledge ทักษะ ความสามารถเฉพาะทาง
handicraft skills - the special kinds of training needed to produce handicraft items
creativity (noun) - the ability to design and create new ideas, especially in the arts
creative (adjective) - creating and developing new original ideas, especially in art or literature
creative handicrafts - handicrafts which are always a little different, depending on the person who made it (craftsman or woman)
decorate (verb) - to make something look nicer and more attractive by putting things on it (example: each year we decorate the Christmas tree to make it look nice)
decoration (noun) - things put on something else to make it look better (example: decorations are put on Christmas trees to make them more fun to see)
home decoration - making the home look better
unique - very special, unusual or good ที่มีลักษณะพิเศษ เป็นเอกลักษณ์
raw materials - materials in their natural state before being processed or used in manufacturing
agriculture-based raw materials - raw materials used to make something (that come from farmers)
natural - found in nature (not made in a factory by humans) ตามธรรมชาติ
natural materials - materials found in nature like wood
overlook - something useful that people could have used (but they didn't see it or didn't realize that it was useful)
overlooked material - a useful material that people did not see
alternative - something that is different from something else, especially from what is usual, and offering the possibility of choice ทางเลือก
alternative material - another choice of material, another possible material among many
shortages - when there are not enough goods for people to buy การขาดแคลน
shortages of silk and cotton - when there is not enough of silk and cotton (so they become very expensive)
dyed - changing the color of something
innovators - someone who introduces changes and new ideas ผู้ประดิษฐ์คิดค้น
beneficiaries - people who receive benefits and help from some programme
simple - easy to understand; not complicated ง่าย,ไม่ยุ่งยาก, ไม่ซับซ้อน
simple patterns - designs with a simple shape (repeating lines, circles, etc)
mat - a small flat piece of straw, plastic or fabric put on the floor in Asia to sit on
vase - a container for cut flowers
fabric - material used to make clothes
rice sacks - bags for holding rice
practice - a way of doing something, that people do regularly การปฏิบัติ
old-fashioned - old style, not new style (done or made in the way they did it many years ago)
coupling - joining two pieces of equipment together, mechanically เชื่อม โยงเข้าด้วยกัน ในที่นี้หมายถึง การเทียมม้าเข้ากับรถลาก
coupling of X with Y - joining of X with Y
think outside the box - "to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective ... novel or creative thinking" (See Wikipedia)
survive - to continue to exist, still be alive รอดพ้น อยู่รอด สืบต่อไปได้ มีชีวิตรอด
materialise - appear, come into existence, start to exist
Asean Economic Community materialises - the ASEAN-wide economic community starting in 2015 (without trade barriers or labour barriers)
classical - of recognized authority or excellence because it came from the most highly developed stage of an earlier civilisation and its culture (examples: classical literature, classical architecture, in the West refers to the Greek and Roman eras)
classical masked ballet - classical Thai dance, such as the Khon (in which dancers wear masks)
silverware - things made of silver found in the home (example: silver cups, plates, bowls, knives, etc)
carving - an art object or design cut out of wood or stone
appreciate - like something (because of all the good things about that thing)
hard to appreciate - difficult to like something
used in our daily lives - things we use everyday (example: the basket that mom puts things bought at the market to bring them back home)
efficient - produces a lot from few resources; doing a task with no waste of time, money or energy
new collections - a new set of products (with a similar design)
plantation - a large farm where crops such as tea, coffee, cotton, sugar or, in this case, trees, are grown ไร่ นาขนาดใหญ่
hemp plantation - a large farm that grows hemp
folk - of the ordinary people, from the ordinary people (farmers, workers, shopkeepers; not from "elite"society)
wisdom - knowledge gained over a long period of time from experience
folk wisdom - knowledge of ordinary people (in tales, medicine, sayings, crafts, etc)
targeting - directing advertising or a new product at some group of people เล็งไปที่
targeting the foreign market - working hard to sell to foreign market (as exports), working hard to get them interested in the product
boost - to increase; to strengthen เพิ่ม; ทำให้มีกำลังมากขึ้น ทำให้มีกำลังมากขึ้น
domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
boost domestic sales - increase sales within the country
reputation - the opinion people have about how good or bad someone or something, being well-known or famous (good reputation, bad reputation) is ชื่อเสียง ความนับหน้าถือตา ที่มีชื่อเสียง ที่เป็นที่รู้จัก
earning a high reputation - she developed "good reputation" for what she did and accomplished
function - the way something works or operates usually ใช้การได้ปกติ
separate beauty from function - treat beauty as different from function (which might not be true)
issue - a subject that people discuss or argue about; a problem that needs to be considered, important subjects that people are discussing and debating about ประเด็น
interrelated issues - issues that are connected together and linked in different ways
production capacity - the amount of something that can be produced ความสามารถในการ (ผลิต)
core - the most central and important part แก่น ส่วนสำคัญ ส่วนสำคัญ
passion - a strong enthusiasm or interest ความชื่นชม หลงใหล
batch - a group of things considered similar in type พวก, ชุด, กลุ่ม
batch of crops - a group of crops
ashamed - be shy or embarassed about something
focus - think about and work on one thing (rather than waste time on many), concentrate time and attention on one thing ให้ความสำคัญ
trend - a new development in clothing, make-up, etc แนวโน้ม
fall behind the trend - forget or neglect to buy the most recent (latest) kind of clothing, make-up, car, or technology
up-to-date with technology - have the most recent (latest) technology
renewable - things or resources that are never used up (exhausted) because they replace themselves by natural processes (example: the seeds of plants are used to grow more plants)
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