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Mann Craft (Prach Niyomkar)

An interview with changemaker Prach Niyomkar of Mann Craft Studios & Mann Gardens

Thai Textile Artisans

Can you tell me a little about your childhood? Where in Sakon Nakhon did you grow up, what did your parents do, where did you go to school, etc.

Mann Craft: I was born in Sakon Nakhon. My mother’s family is here. My dad was a police officer, and my mom was a medical technologist at hospitals. We moved to many provinces due to my dad’s job. Every weekend or month we came back home in Sakon Nakhon. My home was in Ban Nong Fak village surrounded by fruit trees, and my parents love gardens. That’s why I also love plants and gardens.

When I was 8 years old I entered Vajiravudh college (a boarding school in Bangkok.) I only went home once every 3 months. When I was young I liked to read very much. I read novels, magazines, poets, plays, etc. My parents encouraged me to be able to speak English. They thought it could open good opportunities for me in future.

When I was in Matthayom 4, I went to Nelson College (a boarding school in New Zealand). They had cooperative relationship with Vajiravudh college, so I had the opportunity to study there for 1 school year, which was quite a big change in my teenage life. I graduated from Law school at Nareasuan University, and then I studied design and graduated with a Master’s Degree in design from Rangsit University in 2009. The following year I moved back to Sakon Nakhon to open the Mann Craft Shop.

Where did your passion for local arts and crafts come from, and when did it start?

Mann Craft: I have loved arts and crafts, as far back as I can remember. I like drawing and playing with sand and mud, leaves and flowers, and with my imagination. About the traditional arts and crafts, I think they are amazing, with processes that relate to nature and the environment. It’s quite a challenge for me because it takes time to practice to be a skillful artisan. And also it’s fortunate that many people in Sakon Nakhon can make a living with craft products. I enjoy both designing and making craft objects.

Mann Craft at the Sakon Hed Handmade Market Festival

Can you tell me a little more about the Mann Craft brand you developed and the craft products you make at your shop?

Mann Craft: I started the Mann Craft brand in 2010 as a founder and designer. I love to learn new things, and at the beginning I had no skill about weaving or natural dyes at all. I’d never even heard of indigo dye. So I learned crafts from local artisans, and many skillful crafts teachers in Thailand and overseas. I like to read research and books and experiment in my studio. Mann Craft products are wearable art, and they reflect my ideas, inspirations, and emotions in each collection at that moment in time.

So to be a good artist and have high quality products, I think I should use my own materials (plant dyes and space to create inspiration) at a studio where I can experiment with new techniques. Fortunately in Thailand, we have many organizations that support makers to sell and promote products and brands in Bangkok and overseas. And I have had opportunities to join craft fairs to sell products, to teach, and to learn.

You are a leader in promoting the local arts and crafts of Sakon Nakhon. Please tell me more about the work you’ve done promoting traditional Isaan crafts.

Mann Craft: Every time I joined craft fairs or exhibitions, I thought that we should have some good craft fairs in Sakon Nakhon. Me and my crafts friends gathered as a group of creative makers named SAKON HED and built a crafts community. We also have a crafts festival once a year to promote local crafts and build awareness among local people (and tourists).

I have a dream to build creative communities in Sakon Nakhon and in greater Thailand. I think that a designer, artist, or artisan should not only make beautiful products but help people live better, and benefit society by using our creative ideas and skills. I have had opportunities to join exhibitions, be a speaker, and teach natural indigo dye workshops overseas, which have opened my mind and perception. I bring these new ideas back and apply them to my workshop at Mann Gardens and my Craft market to show people how important crafts are to our lives.

Khun Mann Conducting a Creative Craft Center Workshop in Sakon Nakhon

What is it that makes the Indigo dye textiles of Sakon Nakhon so special?

Mann Craft: Sakon Nakhon indigo dye textiles are created in a variety of motifs (traditional motifs and contemporary design) and with different fibers (cotton, handspun cotton, silk, and rayon). Sakon Nakhon is the biggest indigo producer in Thailand. We grow indigo trees (indigofera tinctoria) to make good quality natural indigo paste. Many local dyeing houses are still using natural recipes for indigo dyeing. The younger generation of local artisans are applying new techniques and ideas for dyeing and weaving. Local people like to wear indigo dye fashion, and they help local producers to promote their products. I think it’s more than a transaction between sellers and buyers, but a relationship built on kindness and generosity toward each other that makes Sakon Nakhon indigo dye textiles not only beautiful and a quality craft product, but something even more special.

 

You obviously know a lot about the arts community in Sakon Nakhon and the Isaan region. For tourists coming to Sakon Nakhon who are interested in seeing local arts and crafts, could you give some recommendations for places to visit?

Mann Craft: For me, local arts and crafts include lifestyle and local food. You can visit Ban Nong San Village to stay and have some experience with local activities there.

If you are interested in Ceramics, Don Moo Din is a nice place to learn how to make your own tea and coffee cup, and you can buy one of a kind handmade ceramics from Khun Ple the artist.

If you are interested in mixed media art you should visit Art-play studio and coffee in Kusumal.

For children who love drawing and painting, parents can take them to learn with Khru Tuy at the local art space in town.

At night, you could stay at Baan Sangiam-manee, the wooden old Isaan style hostel in the old town area near the Wat Phra That Choeng Chum temple.

Every weekend in the afternoon until around 8 PM, in front of Wat Phra That Choeng Chum, there is the Indigo street (walking street) with thousands of indigo dye textiles for you to shopping.

If you want special wearable art products you should visit my Mann Craft Shop in town. And every first Sunday and last Sunday of each month from 10 am. – 4 pm. you should come visit the Sunday craft market at Mann Gardens to learn crafts, eat crafts, and feel crafts.

 

How has being a fluent English speaker helped you in your work as an artist and entrepreneur?

Mann Craft: Learning English has helped me to be able to ask important questions and get the answers.

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