A village of craftsmanship
inviting everyone to enjoy art
Kalm Village is a new kind of space created by the Rojanapirom family, who believe that arts, crafts and culture are integral to life and wanted a place where anyone could spend time experiencing and learning about them. Managed by Kruat-Araya Rojanapirom and Sai-Achariya Rojanapirom, who are brother and sister from a family of architects who run two hotels in Chiang Mai, Kalm Village lies in the heart of Wiang Chiang Mai within the old city surrounded by moats.
“Our first hotel has a philosophical concept to find peace according to Buddhist principles. After working with artists, we decided to build the second hotel following an art gallery theme. Kalm Village was subsequently born out of family discussions about doing something that was related to our original businesses. Our family’s work has long involved architecture, art and culture. We grew up in a Thai-style house surrounded by antiques our parents had collected, and so we absorbed their cultural value unconsciously. This is what ultimately led us to decide on creating a space for everyone to engage in our culture through architecture, art, textiles, utensils, food and drink and plants,” said Kruat.
“Kalm can be written as “คาม” in Thai, which means “village”, and is a homophone of “calm” in English reflecting our simplicity. It is also a homophone of “indigo” in Thai, which is the symbolic color of this village. We chose this name as we wanted to pass on traditional and new knowledge through contemporary art in a mix of architectural and cultural diversity, “ said Kruat.
“We don’t want Kalm Village to be like a museum or gallery that everyone has to come and see. We want this place to be a space where people would just like to come without feeling they have to, so we designed Kalm Village to be like a community that anyone can use as casual space. Visitors don’t need to be particularly interested in art to come here. We hope that by coming to see our exhibitions and being surrounded by art and crafts, they will gradually become immersed in our culture just as we were when we were young. We hope that frequent visits will generate a passion for art and generate inspiration, especially in Chiang Mai, which is a city of art and culture. This is our story too, for I feel deeply involved with these things. I graduated in hotel management, but when I came here, I realized that I wanted to preserve the value and importance of our architecture, art and culture. I wanted to keep it going in any context we could. It’s not just about beauty and elegance, but also about the intentions of those who create it.”
A walk around the village
Kalm Village is divided into eight houses connected by walkways. Each house has a different story and function. The buildings are made of black brick made in a special process and arranged in unique patterns inspired by basketry work, such as the Guay Sang, Abkhao and Sat Yaeng patterns. The lights symbolize each house, with inspiration coming from the designs found in Wiang Kalong pottery, Chiang Rai. Each pattern represents the abundance of local resources, beliefs and dharma tales that feature motifs like a pair of Thai carp, a crow or a lotus, for example.
Kalm Reception is at the entrance to the first house, upstairs of which is an exhibition area. The next house contains Kalm Kitchen, which serves Thai food inspired by Kruat’s Grandma. Upstairs is a space for cooking workshops. Kalm Coffee House, which serves coffee and teas and sells local products from different provinces, is adjacent. Visitors can enjoy their drinks upstairs in the library, where they can sit and work. The next building is the Kalm Gallery, which holds rotating art exhibitions. On the top floor, there is a viewpoint of the Phra Chedi of Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan and Chiang Mai city. The roof is designed with a traditional wooden structure of old wood. Kalm Hall follows next; it is used as a multipurpose space for organizing events, meetings and seminars. The remaining three houses constitute Kalm Style. The ground floor sells clothes and lifestyle products under the Kalm Brand, which includes custom designed products, products designed in collaboration with various communities or other brands, and products from abroad. The upper floors of the three houses also contain interesting features. The upper floor of the last house adjacent to Kalm Reception is called Kalm Archive, which it is hoped will be an educational space deserving close study. It displays the family’s personal collection, which includes cloth and silverware accumulated by Kruat’s mother for more than 30 years.
“We have contact with local communities in many parts of Thailand. We use artisans who are all Thai and who are very knowledgeable and skilled in their crafts. We aim to make this creative space a must-visit destinations for both Thais and foreigners. We believe that our creative space should not only herald Thai culture but should also be a space for foreign arts and crafts. This will allow us opportunities to share our knowledge at the international level.”
A learning space for everyone
Kruat believes that anywhere where people can go can be a creative space regardless of whether it is a temple or a museum; it depends on the purpose of the person using it. The more creative the space, the greater its impact on creativity.
Kalm Village’s allure is that it draws people in with its distinctive style and identity, attracting people with activities using arts and crafts as a medium to create new things and friendships. It is not just and exhibition space, but a creative space to encourage and support artists, Kruat says.
“We are an open or community space that everyone can access. When we organize events and activities, we invite everyone to join in. We try to make our space useful to both outsiders and the local community, which is known as the Phuak Taek community and is where many artisans already live.”
The hope of the village
Kruat said that Kalm Village was launched during the Covid-19-pandemic.
“For one year, all activities and workshops were restricted but from now on we will be holding more events like talks shows and rotating exhibitions. Once everything is back to normal, more people will come. We have a website and are active on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Products from our store are available online. We hope those who have been here will help tell people about us by word of mouth and come back again, bringing their family and friends with them. While we promote our workshops and exhibitions on our own channels, the artists we collaborate with will themselves also promote them through their channels. There are no admission fees at present, so I would be more than happy if public or private organizations can help support or promote us if not come to use our space for meetings or seminars.”
“I think crafts, art and culture are similar in that they involve processes that are beautiful and refined. Anything created by hand for a particular use that involves a learning process is a craft. An artisan might spend 3–4 months creating a single piece, their craft being the context of their life. We have a heritage of crafting that will always be with us provided we not only maintain the knowledge, skills and stories we inherit from previous generations but also invest it with new vigor through creative development into our shared future.”