From traces on a brass plate to beauty on the body
the story of craftwork on a trailer
Saprang is a brand of brass jewelry created and produced by designer couple “Kawao” Supot Suwannasing, and “Rika” Sirikarn Jirajbhaskornkul, who view their work as more than jewelry, imbuing it with the simple beauty of things they see around them.
Kawao and Rika both graduated in jewelry-making, and, having similar skills, preferences and ideas about work, they decided to work together and create the “Saprang” brand.
“We love to work with brass as the main material for our jewelry
since we have worked with it since our school days. It has special charm,
being shiny when new but then becoming dull and beautiful
in a different way with time.”
Nature is inspiration
'Saprang', which is easy to say in English and has a simple meaning.
For Thais, it connotes 'blooming' and 'beautiful', and it’s a word we often use
with customers to describe how beautiful our products look on them.”
Kawao and Rika place great emphasis on the brand name. “We looked for a word that fitted the jewelry we make. We think jewelry is more than just something to ornament the human body, so we came up with the short word ‘Saprang’, which is easy to say in English and has a simple meaning. For Thais, it connotes ‘blooming’ and ‘beautiful’, and it’s a word we often use with customers to describe how beautiful our products look on them.”
“Saprang’s work is timeless,” Rika added. “It’s not based on fashion trends, so our products can be worn at any time.
We don’t define our target customers; we just work the way we want. The job determines the customer, we don’t think about
who will buy it. Our customers value craftwork rather than mass-produced creations, and they enjoy hearing the story behind each piece. Many ask to go with us to see our studio, which is usually messy with different ongoing projects; but they like going there anyway.”
Kawao and Rika jointly design and exchange ideas about each job, how it will be made and how long it will take depending
on pattern desired. Production starts with sawing and adjusting the brass plates according to the design. A technique often used to create patterns involves knocking to produce neatly arranged lines on metal. Creating lines one knock at a time requires great experience in tapping to be able to fashion the beautiful patterns intended.
Peculiarity in simplicity
"There is beauty in nature, and we want to glorify that beauty by using our skills to embody it in our jewelry."
Over the past 16 years, Saprang has received two quality-guaranteed awards from Design Excellence (Demark); one for a brass tea strainer that brings the jewelry-making process to the next level, and the second for a brooch made from bamboo that
is simple and beautiful just the way it is. With a simple concept, Saprang also won the Prime Minister’s Export Award 2017
in the Best Design category.
Rika talked of the beauty she saw in a branch of bamboo taken from an old grove behind her house that inspired a brooch. She decided to use it to create a new collection to submit in a contest.
“We choose to make brooches from natural materials because they are worn in a position that is fairly well protected.
There is beauty in nature, and we want to glorify that beauty by using our skills to embody it in our jewelry. We see nature
as the main protagonist and ourselves as just small beings aiding its function, selecting suitable parts to make a piece of jewelry. As a result, every piece of bamboo jewelry is unique. We are honest with our customers, however. We do tell them that our brooches can be broken and that they must take care wearing them. But we also tell them that even if a part of it breaks,
the rest will be strong and unlikely to break again. Another charm of bamboo is that it gets darker and shinier when it is touched, reflecting its beauty through time.”
“Saprang” in every step
“During COVID, everyone is affected but we still have some customers
who keep sending work to do via online design meeting,
so we use more online channels"
During the COVID-19 pandemic, exports were halted. Retail and wholesale foreign customers and tourists disappeared, strongly affecting sales. People didn’t dare spend money as consumers were in shock.
“The first thing we tried was online marketing, which was well received even though we weren’t very good at it.
But we managed thanks to our existing customer base, which is well defined since our products are unique.”
It would be nice if we had a workplace that could travel with us.
"Trailer acts like a promotional device that attracts people. Most customers for jewelry used to be women, but later men became customers too. She said conversations would start with talking about things like cars before turning to the work of Saprang."
Kawao and Rika used time freed up during COVID-19 to put some new ideas into practice. Both like to travel because
of the inspiration it gives them along the way. When an idea comes up, they would immediately start experimenting with it,
which was how their fully equipped mobile studio came into being to begin a new journey for them. Saprang chose to move toward people when everything was locked down. They took their mobile studio wherever they wanted and opened a temporary shop at Jing Jai Market in Chiang Mai. Rika said that their trailer acts like a promotional device that attracts people.
Most customers for jewelry used to be women, but later men became customers too. She said conversations would start
with talking about things like cars before turning to the work of Saprang.
Saprang also has a clothing brand that builds on their hobby of making accessories by creating clothes of simple design
that help their products to stand out. “Saprang” never stops blooming.
Meanwhile, Rika has set her sights on having her own exhibition, releasing a new collection and adding more product lines,
all of which are in the domain of the skills and techniques used in jewelry-making. Having made an award-winning tea strainer, she created a decorative ceiling hanger by enlarging the design of some earrings and changing the material used to steel
to make it cheaper. Recently, at Bangkok Design Week 2022, she showcased a pendant lamp that got a lot of attention
and encouraged her to develop more products for home decoration and thereby increase customer base.
Although online marketing is necessary, Rika thinks offline marketing is just as important for craftwork since the crafting process itself is part of its value. Consumers need to come, touch and see the real thing before trying it on. For example,
a particular pair of earrings may not suit everyone, since their appeal may depend on the shape of a customer’s face, head
and hairstyle. Personal encounters are the first step in craftworker and customer getting to know each other better. This will
help make online shopping later easier.
“Saprang is going to open a regular shop at Jing Jai Market soon. We won’t only be making jewelry but will also create wall sculptures, ceiling hangers and lamps, and we will add more lines of clothing. In addition, we will design more accessories, building up our product line. The era of COVID has taught us that we cannot depend on one type of thing.”
Care with Value
Kawao and Rita concluded, saying that: “Craft work is a job that requires attention. A piece may not be 100 percent hand made as machinery and technology may be used in the production process. Northern Thailand is famous for its craftsmanship, and many people associate Chiang Mai with craftwork. People who have moved to Chiang Mai see that Chiang Mai has an atmosphere, language, culture and way of working that suits many types of handicraft manufacturers. People in the community have roots that are passed down the generations, enabling creative cooperation and exchange of know-how. This helps grow
the customer base for craftwork going forward.”