Creative handicrafts through innovation
“We stand out for our distinctive products as one of the best-known ceramic brands in Chiang Mai,” said Kraikan Sirirungsi, marketing manager of Prempracha Collection as she talked about the company’s 35-year history. “In the world of ceramics, we are like an experienced well-known elder who has been around a long time and consequently have a lot of knowledge involving multiple techniques. Our ceramics are 100 percent handmade by our skilled artisans, who create unique finishes on our wares using specially created glazes, patterns and colors.”
“Prempracha is my grandfather’s last name,” said Kraikan. “Our family was always interested in ceramics and was wondering what to make in those days. All around here there was already a lot of handicraft manufacturing, such as umbrella and sa paper making. We started out working with both weaving and ceramics, but we were not successful pursuing two crafts at the same time and decided to focus on ceramics.”
“My Aunt, Aumporn Kunchaitis, was a lecturer at Chiang Mai university at that time, but she decided to quit her position and concentrate on the family business. We were very fortunate to be introduced to Japanese ceramics experts, who worked with us even though we were very small and had no knowledge of the ceramics market. I was a child then, running around and playing, but when I grew up, I knew where I wanted to work.”
Learning from mistakes
Prempracha started with an appreciation of ceramics, but the family knew little about business management and marketing; as a result, for the first 10 years turnover did not reach expectations. But Aumporn persevered and kept learning, and with government financial support used technology to modernize production and reduce breakage.
“In the beginning, all we wanted to do was make beautiful products with designs and forms we liked. Some of our pieces would require more than 100 steps in the production process, and then they would be too heavy to pick up. We had ignored the first lesson of manufacturing, which is to do market research to find out what people wanted and liked. Consequently, few people wanted to buy our products. We really struggled. There was no social media in those days, so my aunt would get most customer feedback when she took Prempracha products to trade fairs. But gradually, we got to know our market better and got advice from consultants on trends and concepts for the international market.”
Modernization and keeping up with international trends
As the world of ceramics advanced, Prempracha advanced with it, especially as most of its products were for export. Their business partners were their best consultants on market trends, new technologies and business management, supporting the brand’s continued growth.
“We worked according to customer demand and started to get better known in the international market. Glaze consultants worked alongside our team, and American customers kept us up to date on seasonal trends regarding shapes, colors and textures that we could incorporate into our products. We started out without much of a systematic production methodology, but we adapted, increasing productivity, reducing breakage and adjusting our business management. Social media has since made marketing easier, and now we have customers from all over the world. They are mainly wholesale buyers, hotels and restaurants,” Kraikan said.
Important adjustments and collaboration
Kraikan told us about the need for change and adjustment in business management due to the covid-19 pandemic and their refusal to lay off any staff.
“In 2020 our foreign customers disappeared, and for four months we had to reduce our working week to three days. One of our main clients in America, which operated more than 20,000 stores, closed down. Luckily, we had already shipped out orders for that year, but no new orders came in 2021. Once vaccines were introduced, however, orders started to come in again, but things were very difficult for that one year.”
The pandemic forced Prempracha to adjust its marketing strategy to include online sales platforms. Prior to the pandemic, income came mainly from in-person shopfront sales and made to order contracts. Now Prempracha sells via shopping applications and are working on an online shop connected to their in-person shop management system to allow instant online purchase.
“The perseverance and commitment by our work force of more than 100 people in all departments are the key to making successful, high-quality products,” said Kraikan.
From Prempracha collection to PREM Ceramic
While Prempracha collection customizes products for its buyers (OEM), adjusting the colors or pattern according to the client’s brand, Prempracha has created their own PREM Ceramics brand as another option for clients.
“We wanted to have our own brand, with each collection having its own concept, story, strengths and depth. A final product may look simple in appearance, but it can involve a complex production process. We attach importance to the story behind a design, and we want products to have a modern look befitting a younger target market. For example, we might use a plain color, maybe with some small gimmick rather than using our traditional highly detailed works. We are in the trial period for these new products.”
Product design that celebrates nature
Kraikan mentioned some of their memorable collections. One of Prempracha’s art inspired collections is “Rest”. A collaboration with renowned local designer Mr. Sangsunn Na Soontorn, it features nine vases with a wide base but only enough space to hold a single flower. The concept is to place a single flower in the vase and watch it go though its natural course from bud to full bloom to when the petals fall into the base specially designed for this purpose. Each vase form is made in only one color.
Kraikan is also very proud of the Epoch collection, a collaboration with THINKK Studio. Inspired by hand thrown antique pottery, the collection is a combination of traditional skill and modern molding. The products have the look of hand thrown ceramics, telling the story of the roots of handmade ceramics before industrialization. This collection received the Demark award and Good Design award in 2016.
“Our collection called Paper Clay was an experiment using mulberry paper scarps from the local umbrella making village as a raw material mixed with clay. The result was a beautiful eco-product that has a different texture and light weight,” she said.
Mistakes are lessons for growth
The changes, mistakes and opportunities that have happened over the years are all lessons that have molded Prempracha into what it is today.
“It is as if we had first been a lump of clay with no clear purpose and were then formed through complex processes into a strong, attractive and valuable product with unique glazes, patterns and colors,” Kraikan said.
“By first working to customer specifications, we have gradually evolved our own identity. Once our customers show appreciation and give us positive feedback, we want to maintain that trajectory. Our dream is for Prempracha to be here for the next generations and continue developing into the future.”
Prempracha’s Collection & PREM Ceramic
Address : 224 Moo 3 Chiang Mai – San Kamphaeng Road, T. TonPao, A. San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai 50130
Working hours : 9:00 AM – 17:30 PM. Closed every Sunday
Tel : 0-53960931
Website : www.prempracha.com
Facebook : premprachaco
Email: [email protected]