The villager looks upset but does not set a word. “Why do they not buy any of my souvenirs?”, he asks in his own language to his friends. The scene takes place in Chiang Rai and villagers feel frustrated not to sell anything. The main problem which is a common woe to many handicraft manufactures. The product does not look attractive enough, particularly to a Western and a younger more sophisticated tourists’ generation.
Thailand is getting increasingly conscious of this. over the last two decades, a generation of young designers have taken the Kingdom into the world stage of interior design with sophisticated objects, which can now be seen in many hotels or showrooms around the world. However, this move has not reached yet the production of tourism objects.
The Ministry of culture decided last February to launch a nationwide project to design and create a series of souvenirs for each Thai province.
Or According to Pimon Junsiriwattana, designer and architect working as a project coodinator for Industrial Design Network Co., the idea was to provide a base for the development of a new range of products covering clothing, local handicrafts, writing accessories, dry food, household items or jewels. “We selected three different teams; some are academics from Fine Arts Universities; some others professional designers and the third young emerging designers. They were assigned with the design of various items. This is what we now present today”, she explains.
Objects are exhibited at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre and will then move to W-District in Phra Khanong district. “We will also present some of the objects at the new Thailand Creativity Centre in Ratchadamnoen from the middle of August”, tells Pimon Junsiriwattana.
The result is spectacular with Thai traditional motives or iconic monuments and areas serving as a base for the production of souvenirs. Cushions in the shape of a Naga snake were for example created for Nhong Khai; kissing dolphins grace towels and bags for Trang province underlining underwater wedding activities; the stylish silhouette of Phimai temple ornates mugs and t-shirts for Nakhon Ratchasima.
Some designers showed a real talent of creativity such as for Suphan Buri province where the buffalo village served as a motive to design flip flop shoes in straw; or Lampang famed rooster which could ornate all dry food bags coming from the Northern city; or magnet inspired by the traditional kolek (boat) from Narathiwat fishermen.
What is coming next? “The Ministry of Culture just wanted to initiate the movement. It is now up to the private sector to take over and produce the items. They are free to be produced by anyone interested”, adds Mrs Junsiriwattana.
Thailand would then be the first country in ASEAN and one of the few in the world to offer to the public an all range of souvenir articles. And with the spirit of collecting objects, many tourists might rush to the different provinces of the Kingdom to start their own souvenirs’ collection…