In this episode, we hear from Ploenchan “Mook” Vinyaratn, weaver, textile designer, innovator and creative force behind the label MookV in Bangkok, Thailand. Mook collaborates with a local community of Thai-Muslim artisans to design and weave textiles for handbags, home-decor and interiors. Her work mixes traditional techniques with contemporary design in unconventional ways. Although her handbags and textiles are marketed as luxury, they are made using all traditional techniques and all by hand, leading to an intriguing intersection between artisan craft and high fashion.
Mook is no ordinary designer. She brings a fresh outlook to art and design. She doesn’t abide by labels like ‘old’ and ‘new’. She doesn’t pander to terms like “heritage” or “contemporary” or “modern”. Rather, Mook is intrigued by the potential of any technique or skill that she comes across.
I am not afraid. I am always willing to try new things.
Her process begins at the loom, a heritage technology. After weaving a piece, be it a rug or a swatch for a handbag or pillow, Mook and her team layer it with embroidery, crotchet and applique, turning a flat piece into a functional, multi-dimensional textile. Bold, eye-catching and one-of-a-kind, Mook’s work is a visionary blend of heritage techniques and modern design. She calls herself an innovator, and indeed her work leads to new discoveries and embraces the spirit of being a creative and an artisan.
In addition to making fabulous handbags under her eponymous label MookV, and home decor and interiors for luxury hotels and resorts under the label Beyond Living, Mook is a rising contemporary textile artist. Her work is exhibited in galleries across Southeast Asia, and her latest installation is the centrepiece of the new Louis Vuitton shop in Bangkok. She uses art as a forum to address issues ranging from sustainability and waste in the fashion industry to more intimate topics such as passing on the importance of honouring culture and the environment to her three young sons.
My work is about the technique and the story coming together.
Born and raised in Bangkok, Mook completed her studies in England where she graduated from Central St. Martins in London. In many respects, she represents the fusion of local and global culture that has transformed Bangkok from a quaint river city filled with gilded temples into a roaring modern metropolis that still manages to retain its culture and small-town feel.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mook a few weeks ago at her studio located on a small residential lane in the heart of urban Bangkok. A speedy motorcycle taxi zoomed through Bangkok traffic and dropped me off at a classic Thai teak house on stilts wedged between more contemporary homes and condominiums. It seemed anachronistic, but in Bangkok, anything goes. Mook’s studio houses design and office areas upstairs.
Downstairs is a breezy, open air space surrounded by lush tropical gardens. Here are scattered several large handlooms designed by Mook, as well as some creative handmade tools used to shred plastic, metal and paper into strips that will be incorporated into her art work. Nothing here goes to waste. A team of all women artisans and one man work here, spinning, weaving, crocheting, embroidering, giggling and chatting. Whirring floor fans aside, there’s not a single piece of mechanized equipment here. Everything Mook makes – be it for her commercial work, her MookV bags or her art – is done here. And everything is done by hand.
I’d like to thank Mook for being part of Radio Ock Pop Tok and for giving us a glimpse into her process, into the challenges of integrating artisan, handmade into modern lifestyles and for sharing her relentless passion and optimistic outlook.
If you’d like to see Mook’s handbags, please visit her website.
Thanks, and we’ll connect again next week!
Radio OPT is a conversation series on all things artisan moderated by Rachna Sachasinh, long time OPT collaborator.