A native of southern Thailand who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts Faculty, Chiang Mai University in 2004, Somsak “Chin” Chuaynu so loved the artistic vibes in the city that he decided to stay.
“The art market was smaller in those days,” said Somsak. “I saw how an artist friend of mine was making chic furniture using his art skills and wanted to do something like that myself. There were already quite a few artists who were painting or creating things out of wood and metal, so I decided to turn my hands to pottery, especially as it did not require a lot of investment.”
“I began by making a smiley piggy, which I had basically copied from similar products in the market. It didn’t go well. That made me understand that I needed to use my own ideas, so I started following my own concepts and, slowly but surely, sales began to kick off. I learned that while we can be inspired by other people’s works, we should not copy,” said Somsak.
“I started with nothing and had to look for whatever I could that was close to hand. I dug for clay in my backyard and fired my pottery by burning piles of leaves. I tried using a wood-burning stove, but a neighbor complained about the smoke, so I had to stop. I still use local clays but fire my pots using gas these days.”
“It’s strange how things work out. When I had to stop using that wood-burning stove, I had the idea of taking the firewood from the local people who cut it and integrating it into my pottery, which was unique. These days I look for any opportunity to use waste materials whatever they are. I mix paper scraps with glue to make paper mache. I use things like oil drums and keep coming up with new designs depending on what I find,” said Somsak.
Somsak began selling his products at the Sunday Walking Street and Jing Jai Market, where he met customers from hotels and resorts. Such in-person interaction with customers gave him information that helped him consider what they wanted when he designed new products. Buy when a customer ad demands that were beyond his capacity to fulfill, Somsak said he would refer them to fellow ceramicists.
Chin Clay offers eco-friendly products that include animal figures made of metal and wood, home décor items, plant pots and made-to-order sculptures. Each piece has the unique Chin Clay style.
“I don’t make fixed long-term plans,” said Somsak. “I like to live in the moment and do whatever brings joy. If I feel a bit lost, I talk things over with friends and let them help inspire me. I have many lovely friends in the craft community who are supportive and willing to exchange ideas and opinions. We help each other move forward, each doing what we are good at. Some of my friends are great at selling and can help do things like conduct a live sale of my products. It’s a positive and beautiful atmosphere. We don’t compete because everyone has been through the process of self-discovery to create their own unique styles. Competing just isn’t in our minds,” said Somsak.