© BRITISH COUNCIL
16 November 2014
by João Guarantani
This is the latest report by Carol Sinclair, from Cultural Enterprise Office, on her recent visit to Thailand working on a British Council programme to support local craft and design practitioners developing their businesses.
I have just returned from delivering the second part of a two part training course in Thailand, working with craftspeople and designers seeking to develop their businesses and expand their markets. The first training course, which took place in Bangkok in August, was a great success. Participants reported how much they enjoyed the Cultural Enterprise Office’s approach to training as well as an opportunity to meet and work with other designer makers. As I and my colleague Lynn Morrison headed back to Thailand at the beginning of September, it had only been 3 weeks since the first training sessions, so we were unsure how participants would have progressed with the tasks we set them - to develop entirely new product ranges for international markets.
The second training session took place in Chiang Mai, in the north of the country and in the very heartland of Thai craft. As before, our British Council and SACICT partners gave us a very warm welcome with a grand opening ceremony which included the presentation of the new work by our participants. Ms Pimpapan Chanslip, Director of SACICT took time to chat to each of the craftspeople about their experience on the programme and to discuss the creation of their new products.
On the first day of the programme we heard each of the participants tell the story of their business and product development in the previous three weeks, and without exception the stories were inspirational. They had all worked incredibly hard to use the ideas, materials and models shared in the first training to gain new perspectives on their businesses, to consider how they presented their work, and throw themselves into the creation of new products for both home and international markets. But what I found particularly striking was the increase in confidence that came from a sense of belonging to a new community. The participants had formed their own support network and had been helping one another to apply both their new knowledge and their existing skills.
The second part of the programme was designed as an opportunity to share learning and reflect on individual participant experiences to date and to meet the wider aims of this project - to disseminate information as widely as possible and facilitate business development in wider communities of practice. We talked about the practical ways in which skills and tools might be used and passed on to others, and our conversations about the attributes of a good trainer were both informative and hilarious - it is quite remarkable how successfully humour can be shared even when spoken language is not!
Since the beginning of September a group application has been made to Craft. This trade show at Olympia in London runs from 11th to 13th January 2015 and showcases high quality craft from around the world. I am delighted to say that all twenty of our programme participants have been selected for this show, with four of them selected to have individual stands. Over the next three months the participants will be working with four experienced and high profile Scottish based mentors to get ready for the show. All of the programme partners are very pleased to have a chance to introduce these exceptional Thai craftspeople and their work to the UK, so please do come and see us and say hello. http://www.craft-london.com