Looking good on paper

In the city of Boxburi, you can meet a variety of paper craft models from Hanuman the monkey hero from the Thai Ramakien epic to Japanese guitarist Yui Mirasawa from the K-On! manga series.

  • Published: 16/11/2012 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Boxburi's paper craft models sprung from the passion of its creator, Prem Hataitham, a former video game designer who wanted to create a unique series of characters.

"Box" refers to box assembly and "buri" in Thai means a city, so Boxburi is the city of making boxes.

Prem started offering paper craft models of Thai characters such as Hanuman and Jah-Choey (the police sculpture standing at intersections) and Hong the swan on his boxburi.com website last year after he quit his job at a Korean 3D game company to help his parents take care of the family business. During the day, Prem is in charge of a construction materials shop in a Bangkok suburb, while his evenings are devoted to designing paper models.

Every model in Boxburi is one of a kind, you can't find them anywhere else in the world. The painting patterns require a special technique which Prem said is exactly the same technique used to render textures in online video games.

"The model itself is not so difficult, you design it so that it can be folded as simply as possible. The most challenging part is the pattern. The models aren't very detailed, so we design them to have the least polygons, but the texture has a lot of details," the designer explained.

Hanuman was the first Thai character Prem created and he pointed out that Hanuman's arm has only four polygons, but people won't notice this due to the heavily detailed texture of the design.

This technique is especially popular in South Korea, where real-time online games are highly popular.

Prem said that he is constantly improving the designs of the paper characters in order to make them more lively.

Taking part in the New Entrepreneur Creation course held by the Department of Industry Promotion and Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC) gave Prem a new idea. He decided to design models that are able to move their arms or shake their heads, powered by a solar cell, such as the model of a girl in Thai costume named "Sawasdee".

Prem is a big fan of Japanese anime, a major source of inspiration. Japanese characters in the solar cell set include Hatsune Miku, a very popular singing synthesiser application with a female persona, Yui Mirasawa, a guitarist and vocalist from the K-On! series, and Madoka the magician.

The designer's latest development is a set of mechanical paper models including a caveman and a cat that can express a variety of emotions on their faces. Simply press a button on top of the character's head and a smile or frown will appear. Meanwhile, the "Blue Bird" model has wings that can move up and down once you press it.

Prem also received an order from a couple about to tie the knot to make paper models as wedding souvenirs, perhaps the first of its kind in the world.

The designer's sources of inspiration are various. He figures out their functions before refining the design. The caveman, for instance, changes his facial expressions, sticking out his tongue or frowning.

"It could be nothing else, only a caveman who wears a beard and fur clothes. Or the guitarist in the solar cell set who moves her head moves along with the music when she plays the guitar. So each character was designed with distinct functions."

Playing with the paper models is practical for the children as they are not only fun to make but also help them develop their concentration through cutting, folding and gluing the paper models.

They can also learn the basics of science with this toy, such as learning the mechanisms of a lever.

"One of the joys of these paper characters is that there is no step-by-step assembly, so you do not need to follow the same procedure every time," Prem pointed out.

"Each time that you assemble one, it's never the same process"

Prem tried selling his models on eBay, but due to a misunderstanding, that plan went awry, so he decided to sell them through his own website. Currently, 11 models are available on boxburi.com and the mechanical mock-up series is the best seller. Prem is now planning to design household items for his characters.

Prices range from 100-150 baht. More information, visit www.boxburi.com.

About the author

Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer

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