Mod­ern, edgy, sen­sual

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SPACES -

IN his nearly three decades in the fur­ni­ture de­sign in­dus­try, Kenneth Cobon­pue has earned count­less “ti­tles” and plau­dits. He’s been called “rat­tan’s first vir­tu­oso” by Time mag­a­zine and a “trail­blazer in South-East Asian de­sign”. He is cred­ited with tak­ing the “eth­nic” equa­tion out of ma­te­ri­als like rat­tan and bam­boo, and fash­ion­ing mod­ern, edgy and even sen­sual forms out of these tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Philip­pines was ex­port­ing generic, brand-less but qual­ity hand­i­craft world­wide. When young Cobon­pue joined the fam­ily fur­ni­ture busi­ness, though, he in­sisted on putting his name, logo and the “Made in the Philip­pines” la­bel on his works. And for two years, he didn’t get any or­ders.

“I think it’s just dif­fi­cult for them to be­lieve that lux­ury can come from a Third World coun­try,” he said in an in­ter­view in, a Philip­pine news and en­ter­tain­ment por­tal. But he per­se­vered. To­day, Cobon­pue’s pieces can be seen in lux­ury re­sorts across the globe, from Greece and Spain to Dubai and the Mal­dives, as well as on film and tele­vi­sion sets like Ocean’s 13 and CSI. Ap­par­ently, Brad Pitt and Queen Ra­nia of Jordan are fans of his works.

A grad­u­ate of New York’s renowned Pratt In­sti­tute, Cobon­pue’s niche lies in in­te­grat­ing lo­cally sourced ma­te­ri­als with hand­made pro­duc­tion pro­cesses and strik­ing de­signs.

“I find in­spi­ra­tion ab­so­lutely every­where, from the most mun­dane things around me ev­ery day to the most ex­otic lo­cales I’m priv­i­leged to visit,” says the 45-year-old via e-mail.

“So much of South-East Asian cul­ture is re­ally beau­ti­ful. I take bits and pieces of this multi-faceted jewel to cre­ate con­tem­po­rary de­signs, to en­able them to fit equally well into an apart­ment in Mi­lan or New York.

“The com­mon fac­tor in all of my pieces, how­ever, is the pro­duc­tion process, which is pri­mar­ily hand­made. The in­spi­ra­tion I find in the strength of the hu­man spirit is one ideal that will never change.” func­tional op­tion for space-starved ur­ban­ites. A pow­der-coated alu­minium and teak frame sup­ports a sink, mir­ror, chair and leather pouches for cos­met­ics and makeup brushes.

Their Worka­holic collection in­cludes wooden trucks made of ash and steel re­sem­bling toys but which are ac­tu­ally desk or­gan­is­ers. The con­crete Truss vases can be topped with var­i­ous wire frames depend­ing on the de­sired use.

“We pay at­ten­tion to the think­ing process and hu­man be­hav­iour is our in­ter­est,” adds Theer­achai in their email in­ter­view. “We like sur­prise and con­trast.”

Their Ce­men­tWood sus­pen­sion lamp, crafted from hand-lathed ash wood and thin-walled con­crete cast­ing was fea­tured in Wall­pa­per* mag­a­zine’s “Hand­made 2012” is­sue.

The duo isn’t too con­cerned about ex­press­ing their “Thai-ness” in their works.

“People have said our work looks Asian or Thai. We think it’s be­cause we were born and grew up in Thai­land. It’s part of us and is re­flected in our fun ap­proach to de­sign and de­tails like join­ery that de­rives from Asian ar­chi­tec­ture.”

And Theer­achai and Arch­jana­nun think the de­sign scene is Thai­land is in­creas­ingly more vi­brant and dy­namic.

“The younger gen­er­a­tion is pay­ing more at­ten­tion to life­styles, and man­u­fac­tur­ers are giv­ing more value to de­sign than be­fore. It’s a fun time to be de­sign­ers right now!” (Web­site: thinkkstu­

A long-time cham­pion of crafts­man­ship, Cobon­pue has worked with all sorts of ma­te­ri­als, from paper and abaca to car­bon fi­bre.

“There are many lim­i­ta­tions to what can be done by a ma­chine, and in the end, people still value the fact that a prod­uct is well-made by hand and de­signed by hu­man be­ings,” says the award-win­ning de­signer.

“You see it in ev­ery­thing, from the high-end shoe in­dus­try to the Swiss me­chan­i­cal watch in­dus­try. There is a pre­mium for beau­ti­fully crafted hand-made items be­cause, un­for­tu­nately, it is a dy­ing art all around the world.”

Ad­vice for as­pir­ing de­sign­ers: “Be pas­sion­ate about what you do, do it bet­ter than what’s be­ing done out there while re­main­ing true to yourself, and put people at the heart of your ev­ery en­deavor. I be­lieve these are guid­ing prin­ci­ples for suc­cess, not only in busi­ness, but also in life.” (Web­site: ken­neth­cobon­ Stu­dio248 came about four years ago be­cause Bangkok­based prod­uct de­sign­ers Purim Kraiya, Jakka­pun Char­in­ratana and Sukalaphan Suwan­som­boon wanted to make fur­ni­ture for their own use. Turned out, many people liked what they made.

When it comes to de­sign, the trio em­braces dis­parate ideas, works in­di­vid­u­ally and gleans in­spi­ra­tion from var­ied sources. Kraiya, 34, and Suwan­som­boom, 33, stud­ied prod­uct de­sign at Sil­pakorn Univer­sity while Char­in­ratana, 30, grad­u­ated from Do­mus Academy in Italy. Kraiya fur­thered his stud­ies at Academia di Belle Arti Di Firenze.

“But when we put our de­signs to­gether, there are el­e­ments that con­nect us. For ex­am­ple, we like to base our de­signs on ev­ery­day life sce­nar­ios,” the trio ex­plains in a col­lec­tive e-mail re­ply to our ques­tions.

“We try to de­sign prod­ucts to solve prob­lems and keep them sim­ple, clean and de­tailed.”

They work pri­mar­ily with wood, meld­ing lo­cal crafts­man­ship with mod­ern forms and em­pha­sise de­tails like wood join­ery. They have also dab­bled in metal, leather and alu­minium.

“We are in­spired by Thai cul­ture and our life­styles in this mod­ern so­ci­ety, and we try to bring lo­cal el­e­ments into our de­signs,” says the trio.

De­signed as a col­lab­o­ra­tive project with Wall­pa­per* mag­a­zine’s “Hand­made Is­sue” (Septem­ber 2012), the Lean­ing Fruit Bowl was in­spired by the tra­di­tional fish­er­man’s hat. Stu­dio248 took the ba­sic shape and al­tered its orig­i­nal func­tion by adding a wooden base to the bas­ket.

Their OOS Collection – cof­fee and bed­side ta­ble, and ceil­ing lamp – fea­tures the sim­plic­ity of the “joints” be­tween the metal plate and the wood. The wood holds the metal plate through a slit that al­lows the plate to be “locked” at per­pen­dic­u­lar an­gle to the floor with­out a screw.

“We want to make de­sign that can be used in ev­ery­day life and not just a con­cept piece,” as­serts the trio. In the in­creas­ingly vi­brant de­sign scene in Thai­land, one of Stu­dio248’s chal­lenges is find­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers who can of­fer the qual­ity and com­pet­i­tive pric­ing that meet the trio’s stan­dards: “We have to work harder!” (Web­site: stu­dio248. com.)

yoda arm­chair

In the OOS collection — cof­fee and bed­side ta­bles and ceil­ing lamp shown here — the metal and wood are joined with­out screws.

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