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Chiang Mai Design Week to Showcase City’s Creative Talents

CityNews – More than 150 businesses are preparing to take part in the first Chiang Mai Design Week, which will highlight the city’s creative talents.

TCDC Chiang Mai manager Inthaphan ‘Tum’ Buakeow.

The theme of the event, which will be held from December 6-14, is ‘born creative’. Organisers aim to show how Chiang Mai’s unique mix of cultures, skills, languages and different ethnic groups combine to “create objects that can serve today’s needs and lifestyles”, says Inthaphan ‘Tum’ Buakeow, manager at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC).

The TCDC’s Chiang Mai branch is coordinating the Design Week, which is the first of its kind in the city although similar events have been held in Bangkok.

There are five ‘pillars’ of the event, Tum explains. The first is the ‘design showcase’, with 51 designers and entrepreneurs displaying their wares at three locations – on Charoenrat Road, at the former Election Commission headquarters next to the TCDC offices on Muang Samut Road, and at a nearby shophouse.

Clothes, decorative items, furniture, gifts, textiles, toys, ceramic objects, lamps, silver, wood, food products and more will be put on display and up for sale by their creators. Most are from Chiang Mai, although some are based in Bangkok.

The second pillar is the ‘creative space workshops’, where entrepreneurs will hold open houses and share their skills with members of the public. There will be 26 workshops across the city, where people can learn about producing items such as leather goods, mulberry paper, coffee, clothing, printed textiles and more. The aim is “to link people who know and people who want to learn”, says Tum.

The workshops are already full, with the exception of one being held by Australian artist and pillowcase maker Chris Chun, which will be given in English. Anyone interested in attending can fill in an application form at the TCDC office or email for more information.

The third pillar is the ‘citywide installation and tours’. Large design objects including sculptures, wooden installations and furniture will be installed at seven locations around the city. The aim is to allow people “to interact with the big design objects that use local skills and local materials and creativity,” says Tum. There will also be a coffee tour, a bike tour, and an art and culture tour, among other activities.

The fourth pillar of the Design Week is its business programme, which aims to link local manufacturers and entrepreneurs with buyers and business partners, both in Thailand and abroad. Events include a networking party and a market featuring handicrafts and home-made products, which will be held on December 13 and 14, in the grounds of a 140-year-old house on Charoenprathet Road.

The fifth pillar is the ‘creative dialogue’, which will be held at the TCDC offices, with a panel discussion and 30 local and international speakers giving talks on a variety of subjects related to design and entrepreneurship.

TCDC staff have been busy preparing for Design Week for the past six months, and plan to make it either an annual or bi-annual event.

“I would love to do it annually, to keep the momentum,” says Tum, although he concedes that some businesses might not have the resources to take part every year. “I believe they can, but we have to motivate and convince them.”

Tum, 38, has worked at the TCDC for five years – first in Bangkok, and then in Chiang Mai when it opened here last year. It is a government agency, and Design Week is funded by the government and private sector sponsors.

It has three main aims, says Tum – to allow local designers and entrepreneurs to network, to build a “creative city environment” that allows people to share their knowledge, and to give local people confidence in traditional skills.

“Chiang Mai has a lot of skills in handicrafts but it tends to fade away from the daily life of the people,” he says. He wants them to know that “they can produce the products and meet the needs of today’s market and consumption.”

Chiang Mai Design Week will show people how they can combine local and international knowledge and traditions to create new things.

“One has to preserve, but one has to develop for the future,” says Tum.

For more information on Chiang Mai Design Week, visit www.chiangmaidesignweek.com and http://www.tcdc.or.th/chiangmai/.