SMALL HAPPINESSES IN THE HANDS OF A DREAMER
Naruporn Chawantat, the owner of Naru Ceramic is like a miracle. Her big smile and bright eyes enliven the day as would a flower in bloom under a bright blue sky.
“’Naru’ comes from my name, but the word means ‘become’ in Japanese, which is appropriate since my work is to turn shapeless clay into products that please everyone,” she said.
Her dream started when she was an exchange student in Japan. Using design skills she learned in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, she created her ‘Teapot Diary’, a final thesis project that combined Japanese design with function of use.
“It’s important to think about the kind of product customers want. I knew I could sell teapots, so the work that I’m doing right now is easy to sell, which is good for the producer and for the customer,” Naru said.
After graduation, she pursued her dream working on the Japanese-style ceramic sculptures she loves. These can be used for home decoration or for everyday use, whether they are cute mugs, chic coasters, dolls with pretty faces or new-style images of Ganesha.
“I’ve been doing this for three years but have only just got my own product lines this year. I used to be the kind of person who would just put anything I liked into a work, but what I do now is more distinctive. My products might suggest a sense of Japan with things like clouds and rainbows, but everybody should be able to recognize my work quite easily.”
DREAMING WITH CLOSED EYES
Naruporn defines herself as a dreamer who wants every day to be a happy one for all. When she started Naru, her ceramic works aimed to help relieve the stress of people facing the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“I’m a dreamer who constantly thinks about what I want to do. My mother would tell me that If I wanted to do something, I should dream about it first, and then think it through and set goals; then it will gradually become reality. This is what I did for the first two years. At that time, I liked to make plant pots with whale patterns. Since people needed to stay at home during the pandemic, things like plants and trees and the pots to put them in helped relieve stress.”
Early this year, Naru changed the company logo to a picture of a cute girl sleeping with closed eyes. “Her name is Yume, which means to dream in Japanese. She keeps closing her eyes and dreaming of flowers and leaves. When I look at the shapes I have created in recent years, Yume is always there, helping customers remember Naru from her face.”
SHAPING DREAMS INTO REALITY
Naru’s work makes for good dreams. Every piece is bright, like a colorful flower or a star that lights up at night. Whoever sees a piece cannot help but pick it up and admire it.
“My products now follow one of two concepts: ‘Have a good day’, which might be a floral representation of the day, and ‘Have a good night’, which is a star in the night. I emphasize use of bright colors, using special ceramic paints that won’t fade after firing. I use white clay from Lampang mixed with ordinary clay, which makes pieces easy to shape and paint.”
She is happy working on what she loves, spending every day in both her sculpture workshop and studio when she is not going out to source raw materials such as clay and ceramic paints in Chiang Mai and Lampang.
“Most of my products are made-to-order things like birthday presents or graduation gifts. One of my best-known collections is a set of bowls painted with flowers from the north. I was inspired by stamps with Chinese characters to make stamps of local flowers such as the golden shower or orange jasmine. Each stamp has undergone much trial and error, having been drawn on an iPad and then sent to the artist who makes them.”
She works alone, so preparing, mixing and filtering the clays before leaving them for 10 days takes up a lot of time. But when the clay is ready, she says the next step does not take long. Perhaps it is because she enjoys doing her job.
“I can make 10-20 plates per day. The firing and painting process takes about 10–14 days. I always tell my customers how long production will take and keep them updated on progress.”
She began with a small kiln but had to change to a larger one from Lampang so that she could increase production capacity.
SENDING HAPPINESS TO DREAMERS
Naru Studio holds workshops every month. Most participants are teenagers, tourists and people living in Chiang Mai who hear about Naru by word of mouth. Pottery is a way to relieve stress, which is why the response has been better than Naruporn expected.
“In the beginning, teenagers and people from Chiang Mai came to make gifts for friends. Then doctors, nurses and others who needed a good way to relieve stress joined in. Lately, Naru Studio has been gathering interest among Bangkokians. Some are following our Instagram account or fan page, so when they visit San Kamphaeng, they like to stop by to make ceramics before going to the hot springs and other tourist spots. I teach them how to mold by hand, and if they want to make mugs, plates, bowls or pots, they can prepare the own shapes. I give them a kilo of clay for them to freely create whatever they want within three hours. Once they have finished, the pots are left to dry before firing, which takes 10–14 days. The customer can then either pick their work up or have us deliver it.”
NEVER STOP DREAMING
Soon, Naruporn’s small studio will be part of the San Kamphaeng cultural project, which is being set up by young artisans to preserve their traditional cultural heritage. The project aims to help local artisans pass on know-how to the next generation and help them adapt and become more contemporary. Culture, Naruporn thinks, is like a dynamic dream that changes as time goes by.
“In the future, the San Kamphaeng community will become a cultural zone for tourists and a learning place for students. We are happy to teach and transfer our craftworking skills and knowledge to anyone. As for the brand I’m building up, I want it to grow gradually. There is no need to hurry. Most importantly, I just want people to use Naru’s products and be happy every day.”