A spotlight on the North

A spotlight on the North

Chiang Mai Design Week returns for a ninth edition to highlight how local creators and communities are driving change

A spotlight on the North

Even though winter winds arrived later than normal this year, Chiang Mai Design Week is on schedule and running for its ninth edition until Sunday, encouraging both local residents and tourists to discover the ancient capital of the Lanna kingdom through 200 intriguing programmes.

"The festival aims to show how local creators and community movements have been significant drivers. Especially during Covid-19, we saw collective efforts to come up with fresh ways to deal with problems. We see more outstanding potential for growth and development as digital disruption speeds up communication and connects the world," said Imhathai Kunjina, development strategist of the Creative Economy Agency (CEA).

Under the concept of "Transforming Local", the Chang Moi, Tha Phae and Klang Wiang neighbourhoods continue to function as the main art hubs, but this year's festival has expanded its creative boundaries to include Hang Dong and San Kamphaeng, offering space for upcoming and experienced creators, designers, artisans and entrepreneurs to connect and share ideas in search for new opportunities for their own communities.

"Now is the ideal moment to discuss local transformation in the northern region. Despite sluggish action, we concentrate on the many mixtures and rhythms of transformation from different perspectives. Emerging artists and businesses were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and made the decision to go back home. When youthful innovators use their ideas and experiences to reinvigorate communities, this presents opportunities for the ageing society in the North," Imhathai added.

"The festival plays as a catalyst and link between the content, local wisdom and strong individuals in the region, and networks that will expand collectively. I hope they will serve as a foundation for new ideas for the future generation."

Visitors can ride a bike or take a tram for a sightseeing tour, and TCDC Chiang Mai is a great starting point for exploring the realm of innovative ideas. Despite Chiang Mai's reputation for exquisite craftsmanship, this part of the city's cultural heritage has gradually diminished as time has passed.

In accordance with the philosophy of mingei, meaning folk craft, the "Everyday Contem" exhibition takes visitors back to the 1920s to see the harmonious coexistence of traditional Japanese craft and modern creative industry. This is an ongoing source of inspiration for veteran artisans to work with new-wave Thai designers to reinstate our cultural past via the use of the artistic yet practical objects.

The Mango Art Festival at De Siam Antique Chiang Mai. Pattarawadee Saengmanee, Creative Economy Agency (CEA)

It's a collaboration between Japan Foundation, Muji and Homecoming to showcase the evolution of industrial design from handicrafts in honour of Thai and Japanese wisdom. There are three zones to introduce visitors to the mingei philosophy via a range of Japanese handicrafts such as paper mache amulets for good luck, mulberry tree seasoning bottles, and wicker fly traps created from dried grass.

The core of the gallery is an assortment of astonishing furniture and accents created by 22 talented Thai artisans and young designers. The Chang Chang Chang Collection, for example, is the brainchild of designer Na Rojanusorn and master carpenter Ambhorn Srihata from Kiw Lae Noi village. It comprises colourful, exquisitely carved wood chairs that are inspired by elephants. These chairs would make a statement piece of furniture for any modern home.

Architect Monthon Pararoon teams up with Chuanlhong Ceramic to develop the Chuanlhong On-Off collection, which includes functional, colourful switch plates and lamp holders in a wide range of forms and hand-painted ancient Lanna motifs that can be placed in every corner of the house.

Traditional Thai warrior helmets were repurposed by Coth Studio and lacquer master Kiattisak Chaimuangchuen into a modern collection of unique Lanna visors and caps. They have a lacquer coating to provide breathability, water resistance and UV protection.

Next door, well-known brands Deesawat, Pasaya and Prampracha are working on the Mad Project to create a wide range of funky furniture, jewellery and ceramic ware, all of which draw inspiration from abstract paintings by artist Theerach Apipatana, who is living with pervasive developmental disorders.

Theerach uses vibrant brushstrokes and colour tones to evoke intense emotions and this project represents the ability of different individuals in society to coexist harmoniously.

Projection mapping Open Me by DecideKit.

Prampracha presents the newest collection of In Blue ceramic dinnerware, which features vibrant colours and flowing brushstrokes that turn 2D artwork into 3D objects with functional features.

Theerach's artworks have been woven by Pasaya into dazzling carpets, allowing viewers to appreciate the vivid hues and whimsical brushstrokes while deciphering the meanings he wishes to get across.

Meanwhile, Arisara uses layers, overlapping colour palettes and brushstrokes in its jewellery to depict the erratic nature of emotions that are always changing and swirling.

Thanks to Deesawat and Arisara's use of printing technology, the Umm...mm Share chair is infused with art and craft to make mental connections, coming up with various conversation-related topics and promoting communication with those around us or even with ourselves.

Continuing in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Chang Moi, the Mantana Building has been transformed into an engaging living space where people can take in art exhibitions and leisure activities in the nostalgic ambiance. Ascending the steps allows visitors to experience a trip back in time to the 1940s, when this building served as a CIA office before being abandoned.

The 2nd floor is devoted to the "Persona Of Things" exhibition, where a number of homecoming artists collaborate with local experts in many fields to show off how to imaginatively reuse broken and antiquated objects using fresh techniques. The lovely memories they evoke, even when their duties have been modified for modern living.

Because Of Love by artist Thanistha Nunthapojn demonstrates how she repairs fractured earthenware moulds from the Chuanlhong Ceramic workshop by using hemp fibre, lacquer gum and darning techniques rather than epoxy resin. It's the ideal blend of natural materials and age-old sewing methods to symbolise a family or love tie, while the red fibre represents our ancestors' blood and DNA.

Household items from the Mad Project.

Designer Pakawat Vijaykadga gave Grandpa's Chair a makeover. With an emphasis on practical restoration, the uncomfortable slats and hard wood seat are swapped out for a plush cushion made from locally sourced fabric, which guarantees comfort while preserving the piece's vintage aesthetic.

Upon reaching the 3rd floor, visitors may find themselves in the shoes of business owners wishing to lease space from the real estate agency. The Upper Floor Project, developed by Cloud-Floor, is showcasing Chang Moi's urban layout to exchange ideas on how to use accessible areas and unused levels in buildings.

Here, investors can evaluate the area and figure out how much they can afford to spend for renting, while travellers can also choose the kind of activity or business they want to see. In the evening, the rooftop doubles as an outdoor theatre and a pavilion for yoga and mental healing programmes.

As the sky grows darker, visitors can start a night tour on Ratchawong Lane 3 and see the Open Me digital art presentation by DecideKit. A three-minute loop of projection mapping will be screened on the white façade of the Thana-kan Building, chronicling the history of wickerwork in Chang Moi, from the bamboo forest to the development of wickerwork designs.

Just a short stroll away, Kor Bor Vor has converted the five row houses into a huge screen for the Original Five video installation. Using photographic perspectives and photo motion techniques, it illustrates how the old commercial hub of Chang Moi has managed to pass on its charming way of life from generation to generation.

Additionally, Kor Bor Vor's lighting art project, Connecting Bridge, illuminates the crimson bridge. Tucked away in the riverfront community, it's an off-beat path from the popular approach that local residents have been using to cross the Mae Kha canal. The bridge currently has motion-activated lighting to direct pedestrians and is adorned with bamboo wickerwork. Kor Bor Vor uses Pagoda Local to provide colour to Wat Chomphu's entryway at the end of the alley. This glowing bamboo lighting installation is created to pay homage to a traditional holy stupa within the temple.

The 'Everyday Contem' exhibition.

The following morning, visitors can take a 30-minute drive to explore De Siam Antique Chiang Mai. Situated in Hang Dong district, the site is transformed into an open art space for the Mango Art Festival to host an extensive collection of over 100 artworks created by both established and young artists from Chiang Mai, Lampang and Phitsanulok.

Charoon Boonsuan's floral paintings, Insorn Wangsam's abstract prints and Seri Art Gallery's hand-painted ceramic ware are among the highlights. Also on display are the Divinity Upcycling sculptures by environmental-conscious artist Eggarat Wongcharit.

To raise awareness of waste management problems, he utilised paper mache techniques and plastic waste in his house to create sculptures of Lord Buddha, whose back is covered with gold plastic bottles rather than gold leaf; Brahma who creates earth and trash; and the Goddess of Earth squeezing water drinking bottles from her hair to drive away comic book villains like Joker and Penguin.

On the other side, collector Anusak Parnichyakorn has adorned a series of vintage rail cars with a rare edition of century-old luxurious trunks that date back to 1858 when Louis Vuitton first started manufacturing custom-made luggage.

Weary visitors can lay a picnic blanket and unwind in the lush courtyard, where during the day creative vendors provide a variety of locally sourced treats, drip coffee, quality tea and other herbal beverages.

Chiang Mai Design Week continues until Dec 10. Admission is free. For more details, visit chiangmaidesignweek.com.

'The Persona Of Things' exhibition.

Connecting Bridge on the banks of the Mae Kha canal.

Eggarat Wongcharit's Divinity Upcycling sculptures.

Relaxing at the Mango Art Festival.

Anusak Parnichyakorn's vintage Louis Vuitton trunks.

Kor Bor Vor's Original Five video installation.

The 'Upper Floor Project'.

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