Thai jewelry designers take center stage at Bangkok trade fair

BANGKOK — Two years ago at the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Trade Fair, Thai officials announced that they were going to embark in several initiatives to train jewelry designers and create a jewelry design culture based on European design. The first of these initiatives is near completion and was showcased at this year’s Bangkok show.

Called the “Dynamics Project,” the initial work of 16 students of various backgrounds was unveiled at the show.

Spanish jewelry designer Chus Bures created the program and the work was funded and managed by the Thai Department of Export Promotions and the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association. The idea was to take advantage of the country’s rich heritage of craftsmanship and use this heritage to create a unique design culture.

Beginning in April, Bures hosted a series of workshops for 16 students on jewelry design. The workshops end in October. But learning the techniques of jewelry design was only part of the task. The true goal of the program was to help students learn the importance of art and design, how design can be used to enhance their daily lives, how to work with original ideas, and how to promote their work. Bures said the job was much more difficult than he first anticipated because much of what he was teaching was foreign to the Thai culture.

“At times, understanding them, their different personalities, their set ways of thinking, and all colored by a culture different from mind, proved as much of a test for me as it was for them to absorb the concepts being demonstrated,” Bures says.

“They have never been to a museum or gallery. How can you teach them design if it wasn’t part of their culture?” he continues. “Part of my job was to help them to learn and realize how design is so important in their lives. The important thing now is that they have a different mindset.”

They also have a body of work that focuses on original ideas and the uniqueness of the Thai culture. And the work shows a breadth of materials and techniques that is reflective in the diversity of the students (which includes factory workers, business persons and art and jewelry students with ages ranging from 23 to 50), chosen by the Thai sponsors.

For example, Vinita Sinturuck, who works in his family real estate business, was displaying a work titled, “Morph,” a richly textured bracelet made of sterling silver foil. The design was inspired from Lanna textile, which he says is unique in both materials and patterns.

Sinturuck says his goal is to be full-time jewelry designer and the Dynamics Project helped him to understand the process and importance of art and design.

“Chus opened my mind,” he says. “Not only with the individual ring or earring, but also in terms of how jewelry works with the whole body and with all the materials you can use”

The work differs with Thitiwan Thubtimthong’s body ornament titled, “Center of Power.” The round silver ornament contains a VDO projection image of the human body. A long leather rope allows the ornament to be worn at the center of the body.

Thubtimthong, an artist who has had her previous work exhibited in Thailand, says her ornament was inspired by the hermit’s art of healing in Wat Pho. She says the philosophy is based on a method of healing that unites the mind and body. The place where that healing begins is at the center of the body.

Thubtimthong, 23, the youngest of the students, says the Dynamics Project taught her how to produce work in a factory environment.

“In a factory, the process is different because an artist works as an individual,” she says.

She also says she enjoyed the diversity of the group because they came with a breadth of original ideas.

Bunnom Rakchat created a large handmade expanding necklace using sterling silver and laced with pink silk that she calls, “Bua” or Lotus pattern. She said the pattern is generally used in architecture from the Sukhothai region of Thailand.

Rakchat says that the program changed the way she approaches design.

“I now an open mind where I have learned new ideas and a new way of designing.”