Every human their own touch

Speaking with the creators of a new exhibition that displays craftware made just for you

Nopkamon Akarapongpaisan and Nol Netprom, founders of craft studio LamunLamai.

Pottery, ceramics, tableware and wall-decorative items can brighten the mood of a house or a restaurant, as well as present an owner's distinctive personality. Pottery ceramic designers -- Nopkamon Akarapongpaisan and Nol Netprom from craft studio LamunLamai -- have paid attention to each customer. They started from creating name tags for small ceramic items and cups, so customers could have their own unique pieces or could offer special pieces as gifts for others. The craft studio has gained recognition after serving customers with their custom-made designs. Some of their creative wall-decorative items and ingenious tableware designs can be seen at celebrated eateries, including Michelin-starred 80/20, two-Michelin-starred Sorn and at the American coffee chain Starbucks.

At 80/20, a river-smoked fish is served on an orange-coloured dish with fish-scale textures. The course named "The beach" at Sorn is presented on a dish that brings you to the beach with the natural colour of beach soil and patterns of shells, corals and sea sponges. And coffee lovers can enjoy decorative white ceramic plates with artistic paintings of coffee plants hanging on a wall in Starbucks.

With their creativity and talent, Nopkamon, 27, and Nol, 29, were awarded the "Judges Prize" at the "Unknown Asia" exhibition in Japan last October. Success and fame hasn't stopped the designers from learning and they decided to leave their six-year-old craft studio temporarily, to explore more about ceramics at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in the US. Their knowledge and experience gained at the school developed into works, which were put on display at the furniture anddecor French tradefair, "Maison & Objet Paris".

Their journey has been presented as an exhibition, "Keep In Touch: On Celebrating Human Touch", available online at facebook.com/lamunlamai. LIFE spoke to the designers and founders of LamunLamai about their journey, career path and exhibition.

The 'Star Fondly' collection, created by Nopkamon with the pinching technique.

Why did you name the craft studio LamunLamai?

Nopkamon: Nol did an experiment about a ceramic colour coat on a porcelain piece and it came out as palette colours. We felt that if we developed this colour tone to use with tableware, they would be homey and warm at home. LamunLamai refers to mellow or gentle or soft.

What are characteristics of LamunLamai?

Nopkamon: Craft studio, ceramic pottery and custom-made product are our characteristics. We started from creating a small tag, so a customer can put down his or her name or write a message on a tag during festivals. After that, we create custom-made tableware in different colours, textures and shapes to serve a client specifically. This led us to the service design business.

Nol: Ceramic colour coats and colour tones are a part of our unique designs. We intended to design each item to bring a warm touch and feel. Each product must be designed to fit with its shape and form.

How do clients find you?

Nopkamon: Media, fairs and restaurants. A restaurant is like our portfolio because people who are at a restaurant see and use our products until they think our designs are fit with their projects. It is great to serve clients who've had experience of using our products.

Nol: We found that LamunLamai could solve customers' problems. They wanted tableware to complete the beauty of their restaurants.

A highlight of the exhibition, 'The Vessels' collection by Nol. It was difficult to make due to its shape and unique coat colour.

Can you tell us more about your prize at 'Unknown Asia' in Osaka, Japan?

Nol: 'Unknown Asia 2019' was an art exhibition, which saw the participation of various artists from several fields. They let judges vote for intriguing products. We reformed regular items such as bottles and cups into new looks and new functions, which were different from Japanese ceramic styles.

Nopkamon: We told them that in 2016 we had had an artist residency in Arita in Japan before, so an instructor thought it would be interesting to exchange experiences with us. We will be in Osaka for two months, sometime this year. We will have to lecture to Japanese students for a month and the next month we participate in a gallery night.

What was it like to attend Maison & Objet Paris?

Nopkamon: A Thailand home and furniture fair BIG+BIH was inspired by M&O, but M&O is huge. It was eight halls of BIG+BIH and each hall focused on one thing such as bedsheets, mattresses, ceramics, toy designs, etc. The fair was an update on what people in the business did, which was better than looking for information on the internet or reading books. We had the opportunity to meet designers and sellers in person. We learned how people set prices, how people negotiated for wholesale or retail and how selected shops proceeded to bring our products into their shops. We could see every process. We learned what we could do and what we had to improve.

What did you have to improve?

Nopkamon: It is a pain point for Thai brands. Our products are terrific and beautiful, but we aren't great at telling stories. We can't create our value to convince others. We have to find an appealing point to attract interest.

Nol: Brands from other counties had more interesting storytelling from booth design, 3D websites and photography. Their presentations were up-to-date. They didn't give away any leaflets, but used mobile scanning instead. It is a challenge. We thought at a display, a ceramic must be touched, so customers know how thin it was. However, another brand displayed thin porcelain on a stand and set up lighting to make visitors see how thin it was without touching.

What is 'Keep In Touch: On Celebrating Human Touch' about?

Nopkamon: It is about our journey in 2019. We moved out from our studio to meet new people and [experience] new environments to see how they changed our ideas. We found the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in the US from a website about artist residency project. We applied to learn a pinching technique, which allowed us to use only hands to pinch and squeeze clay. We felt it was new to sit in front of clay without thinking about our clients and selling products. We named the exhibition 'Keep In Touch' because it referred to touching [clay]. The event is a record of our travelling, learning and how we developed our works.

European customers like large tableware. Photos: Pornprom Satrabhaya

Why were you interested in the pinching technique?

Nopkamon: It is a basic technique which can be either easy or difficult. We don't use any equipment, only our hands, to control the shape and form of the clay. We learned this technique when we studied for our bachelor's degrees, too, but I like this technique more. It is powerful and can develop into a lot of things.

Nol: When we learned at Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, we started from small clay, but in the US we started from big ones. We decided the direction of the results. Each artist took turns presenting a technique. I liked functional items, so I made tableware, but Nopkamon created large decorative items for display. The more we worked on the technique, the more we learned.

What is your advice to artists who want to exhibit their works abroad?

Nopkamon: You should develop your abilities until your brand can export overseas. Standards of abilities are different. You have to know the standards of each fair or exhibition you would like to attend. Prepare yourself and understand the conditions of each event. Can your staff handle lots of orders? Are you ready to sell products or do you want only to exhibit the products? So, you can position your brand to match the event. You should check out information from the Department of International Trade Promotion, which has many new projects.

"Keep In Touch: On Celebrating Human Touch" and pottery designs by the craft studio LamunLamai can be seen online at facebook.com/lamunlamai. Call 084-044-0961.

Do you like the content of this article?