The last time I read Seneca, I was a 17 year old philosophy major in French high school, scored 5/20 in my dissertation for the baccalaureate, nearly failing the general exam. Twenty years later, I find his words again…
“WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN ASIA?”
“WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LAOS?”
“TO WATCH THE SUN RISE OVER TEMPLES…”
This conversation took place one rainy September evening. It was only several years later that I made my way to Laos for the first time. The time in between was used to form many fictitious images of the place in my head, including how watching the sunrise would actually feel like. Laos, back then, was a country I could barely locate in Asia and it seemed very unreal… Like a dream.
The genesis of the project CRAFTED (“because local culture is the global future”) was strongly inspired by my first visit to Laos in 2012. Like many others, I was struck by the natural beauty of the place, the gentleness of its people, but also became infatuated with the effortless sense of local style. The level of sophistication in textile making, basketry, the tasteful combination of colours and textures, were far beyond my expectations. I quickly came to learn that Laos is a rare gem for crafts in Southeast Asia and, in fact, is known to have a level of craftsmanship that is unique in the world. This encouraged me to introduce the work of brilliant “non design” makers within the context of contemporary design and human development. And so CRAFTED was born.
Besides the sheer beauty of the place and the products, Laos also revealed itself to me as vulnerable in this age of globalization. Its local cultural assets are endangered, and some have already disappeared because of a changing society. Of course, all societies have to change, as ways of life are shaped to be improved, but how can people keep their local cultural practices alive and retain their amazing cultural wealth for the future? I believe that Laos’ biggest asset is its culture but the country may be lacking access to creative thinking, an element that could strongly benefit local communities.
In a country where basic education still remains a challenge, creative education can only seem like a luxury. And yet, the biggest misunderstanding about creativity is that it is optional or secondary. This project is a modest attempt to introduce creativity as an equal right to all individuals. Because we are all born creative and with plenty of imagination. I want the next generation of Lao people to be able to live in a world of their own making.
Read full article in The Makers Journal by HAYSTAKT
River crossing to Ban Jan. The unknown has become a familiar territory.
In the framework of my online project CRAFTED, this international collaboration is inspired by social change and creative empowerment. It will consist of an artistic showcase of the handmade products designed and made by students at the Phoudindaeng Youth Center in 2013 in Laos, in partnership with Japan-based Atelier Loghouse, Singapore-based online craft retailer HAYSTAKT and the gallery/salon Kizuki+Lim.
Halfway between artistic showcase and pop up retail, this project will take place both as a physical space in a gallery and as a virtual display of products sold online. More information and details about the event will be available at HAYSTAKT and the CRAFTED Facebook page.
CRAFTED began as an online project inspired by a love for objects, journeys and encounters. After nearly two years of existence, this is the first hands-on project that takes CRAFTED to a new stage, turning it into a producer, international coordinator, and social enterprise that supports the development of local creativity and education.
In 2014. I will continue to bring people together in order to materialize the dreams I have been dreaming for a while. It only takes the right few for magic things to happen… I am grateful for the past years and the wonderful people I have met along the way.
The journey continues in between collaborations and shared visions across borders.
To all beginnings
To new beginnings
To each day, each hour, each minute, each second…
3 years ago, author Aaris Sherin and I sat in a cafe in New York, while I shared my experience as a designer (slash) former UN civil servant working in the field of human development, for her book Sustainable Thinking (Ethical Approaches to Design and Design Management). Today I received my copy in the mail… It took so long to make this book, but it feels all the more relevant for aspiring designers who believe in social change and sustainable practices through design.
Sustainable Thinking: Ethical approaches to design and design management
Author: Aaris Sherin
On a crisp December morning, I headed to Kiryu with my friends from NOMA t.d., a Japanese fashion company. 2 hours away from Asakusa Station (Tokyo) by train, the small town is famous for its textile factories specialising in weaving for many generations.
We had the privilege to tour the factory premises where dozens of machine worked tirelessly. The sound of them had a rhythm that echoed in harmony. This visit gave me some insight about the evolution of textile making within the context of industrial production. Not all machines are the same, the newest ones produce faster but do not have the ability to create complex patterns and textures. For this particular reason, the owner of this factory, reclaims old machines that are disposed by other factories, because he wants to make the best quality textiles, and not the simplified type of products that everyone else is making.
See more photos at CRAFTED
In the last issue of The Design Society Journal (07), I elaborate on the things that happened to me since I “left” the so-called design world, 10 years ago, to work as a UN civil servant… I have resigned from that position in 2008, but this ‘Journey Outside of Design’ to me revealed the power of creative thinking toward human development. In the hope that more individuals around the world discover their creative ability, and more designers work outside of design… My mission continues…
On my way to find the lost Kamisama…
Atelier Loghouse is an art education project that give children new methods to explore visual arts in unconventional ways. In Laos, children do not have the privilege of learning art. For the first time, we gathered 180 students and together they discovered the joy of mixing colours.
Our students were extremely skilled. Through their behaviour we witness the depth of Lao handmade culture. Most of them would stay until the sun disappeared behind the limestone mountains of Vang Vieng. Some even sat in the dark until they ran out of paint…
Contemporary accessories were also developed during this week. Materials purchased at the morning market in Vientiane were mixed with Hmong embroidery techniques. The results were striking. Colourful, original, and quirky pieces appeared by the end of day. Laughter and happiness could be felt all around.
The products will be commercialised in Japan within the next few months. All proceeds will go to Phoudindaeng Youth Center in order for them to carry out further educational activities for local children and youth.