Transforming wood scraps into joyful designs
“Hearts and Hands comes from my soul; the hearts are those of our family, and the hands are those that put all the little pieces together to make each of our handmade products. Provided our hearts are together to support each other, success will follow. But if they aren’t, we can never succeed,” said Sanai.
Sanai and fellow designer Parichart own Hearts and Hands, a brand turning discarded teakwood into useful and attractive household items under V.S.T. Woods Co., Ltd.
The heart and soul…not giving up
Sanai moved to Chiang Mai more than 10 years ago after quitting an unsuccessful business venture; it was then that he found a new path that used his creative energy and followed his passion for working with wood.
“It all began one day when a flood in the village brought in lots of small pieces of wood that blocked the drains,” said Sanai. “I went out to help villagers clear the debris and decided to take the scrap wood home and make something useful out of it.”
His first creation was a fruit bowl. He placed this and other things he had made in front of his house in a place where people passing by would see them. Sanai said when a passing tourist showed interest in buying them, he had no idea what price to ask, so he suggested the visitor make an offer. He sold the lot for 7,000 baht.
“That sum of money changed my life. It gave me the inspiration and confidence to take this further. I started going out in search of discarded scrap wood any place I could find it, feeling that every little piece was unique and had potential value. I made and sold individual items with no set design or system. When it got to the point where I could not find enough scrap wood, I turned to the sawmills that were turning out planks. They had a lot of discarded wood that they would otherwise burn in wood treatment ovens. They were mainly offcuts of teak, which is very good to work with, so I offered to buy them from the mill rather than let them be turned into ash,” Sanai said.
Beauty from the heart
Sanai fell in love with his work, keeping his passion for using discarded scraps. He saw the potential in what the wood industry perceived were valueless scraps, inspiring him to use them as the main raw material for making the thousands of designs he created over the years for Hearts and Hands.
“I don’t follow design principles, I just think and create,” said Sanai. “It is the way I work. I start with a desire to create something people can use in their homes. Thinking about cooks and kitchens, for example, I designed chopping boards, spatulas, butter and cheese knives followed by bowls, spoons, forks, chopsticks and other things. Then I developed home décor items like name card holders, lamps and things like amplifier speakers that helped expand my market to younger people living in condominiums. My largest piece is a 3D wall installation, and my smallest items are a salt spoon and chopstick stand. We use every piece of wood to its full potential, maintaining the charm of each piece of wood for as long as possible.”
V.T.S. Woods Company initially manufactured products solely for other brands and exported 100 percent of its products under other labels; that was until Sanai decided to create his Hearts and Hands brand. With this he had the freedom to create the products he liked, putting his creativity into fashioning beautiful, easy to use, stylish and affordable everyday objects. Today Hearts and Hands is a known brand in the Thai market, especially during the past 2–3 years when they made a greater presence in craft markets and shows around the country. The pandemic did not stop Hearts and Minds, giving them more time to focus on designing and creating new products.
“Because our factory is by our home, we can step right out of the house straight into the wood workshop. Working so close to home means that we have more family time, more time to share ideas and create new designs. For example, we have just created a coffee cup from wood,” said Sanai.
Sanai says one difficulty is when they are unable to meet a customer’s order due to limitations in the supply of a certain type of wood that happens to be out of stock, for example. To fill such an order, Sanai says he would have to source the wood in full planks, making the product more expensive.
“Hearts and Hands products are affordable because they are made from wood scraps. Every day brings challenges from the moment I wake up. I look at the piles of wood scraps we have and envision what I can turn them into. This inspires me to come up with new designs and then get on with making them,” said Sanai.
The wings that fly the heart and soul
Parichart Na Songkla, Sanai’s wife and business partner, is no less import to their success than Sanai. She works on sales and marketing, taking products to trade fairs and craft markets around the country throughout the year. While attending these events, she gets feedback from customers, sharing this firsthand market research with Sanai, helping him align production with market demand—making things that people want.
Parichart admits that Hearts and Hands has not focused on online sales, but they do have a Facebook page where they post updates on new products. She says they have received sales inquiries though this channel. They already have clients in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and USA and are currently expanding to countries in Europe. She says they want to find more long-term international clients.
“Time is one of the scariest things in life. We grow up and get older every day. We have less and less time — few live to a hundred,” said Parichart. “Being active is so important; when you think of something, you must go for it. Our goal isn’t to be rich. We just feel proud when people have our products in their homes. We don’t judge our value in terms of money but in the success of our products. When a product is a hit, that success naturally brings financial and other rewards to our lives.”
“When you start working on something, you must finish it and then try to sell it. When someone buys your product, that is one level of success, but when they use it and more people then want it, that is another level. When people like our products, we are happy; it’s not complicated. We keep it simple.”