A TWO-HOUR drive from Bangkok to Ayutthaya’s Bangsai district, tucked inside an enormous park lies one of the country’s treasure vaults storing precious arts and hand-crafted goods.
Known as Sacict, it is filled with world-class fashionwear, from dresses to jewelry including ornament and home decoratives. These range from Benjarong porcelain, silk fabrics to miniature sailing ships.
On the second floor of Sacict, a state-run body under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, a dedicated management works hard to put the Kingdom’s artisan products on the world stage.
“Sacict stands for Support of Arts and Crafts International Center of Thailand,” says chief executive officer Ampawon Pichalai.
The center fosters and procures a variety of high quality hand-made products by the country’s master artisans and their apprentices, she adds.
A palace like exhibition hall with retail spaces equivalent in size and standard to any of Bangkok’s swanky malls offers a microcosm of the rich artistry that can still be found in Thailand’s four vibrant regions.
Each has its proud history and unique culture handed down one generation to the next.
Constructed 15 years ago to houses the scores of local design houses, shops and galleries in an air-conditioned enclosure, the building is itself an architectural wonder drawn in traditional lines.
Ampawon says it is vital to provide marketing assistance as well as lending recognition to the dwindling numbers of artisans whose works are often obscured in a fast changing world.
Sacict aims to keep Thailand’s cottage industries, once on the brink of fading away, thriving and regain relevance.
She says Sacict outlets are available at several airports and selected department stores.
Thus far, the organization has achieved a good measure of success as shown by robust sales thanks in part to an innovative and evolving move by artisans to employ shades and patterns that fit into everyday usage, especially in urban settings.
Today, there is no longer doubt that these provincial hand-made products can compete in quality, price and value in the global marketplace.
“We have hundreds of visitors coming to the center including several foreign buyers who appreciate what Sacict offers,” Ampawon adds.
One retail manager reveals that on average, it is possible to achieve receipts of a hundred thousand baht a day.
Because the center employs price tags, ensuring fair and fixed pricing, it makes it easier and more comfortable for customers to shop.
At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, there is the added confidence that shoppers will be buying authentic goods, not fakes so often found in Sunday markets and bazaars.
On a recent tour, guests were impressed by the professional presentation of exquisitely produced items that cannot be found elsewhere.
“Because they are hand-made, it is unlikely you will see another like that,” says the sales manager.
“Hand-made items are highly prized today in many markets,” he adds. “There was a misconception in years past that handicrafts are relics with little attraction for shoppers.
“In fact, quite the opposite is true. Hand-made objects often reminds us of the heritage we once thought was lost.”
Visitors can also spend time strolling inside the vast galleries that includes fascinating exhibits that show how handicrafts developed in years gone by.
Much of Thai silk, one of the most beautiful materials unique to the Kingdom, comes from the Northeast or Esarn provinces where the art attained its highest form.
These provinces are the heartland of Mudmee or Thai Silk, obtained from silkworms fed with mulberry leaves at shacks next to the cottage where the farmers live.
Silk farming, like many handicraft products, is usually a second occupation for Thailand’s agrarian societies, toiling the fields in the day and tending to silkworms producing the cocoons afterwards.
When visiting, allow time to learn and digest the information. It is for many, an educational tour as well, a reminder of the many wonderful hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.
Top: A replica of a silkworm farmer’s cottage with tools to spin silk.
First in-text: Ampawon Pichalai is CEO of Sacict, based in Ayutthaya province.
Second in-text: Gold and silver jewelry with traditional designs.
Third in-text: Fashionable dresses of silk and cotton are on display.
Fourth in-text: Hand-woven baskets are among the exquisite goods drawing shoppers.
By Cimi Suchontan