Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Apprentice - Thai designer Paphop Wongpanich

Thai designer Paphop Wongpanich bided his time as a protégé, but now he is coming into his own.

For seven years, Paphop Wongpanich has been working under the tutelage of one man – and a great man at that. Duangrit Bunnag, one of most respected names in the Thai architecture and design field, hired Wongpanich back in 2004 as a fresh graduate who, though armed with an interior design degree, decided that he preferred to work with the materiality of furniture more than making up spaces. “I found out that I love to design furniture since in my university days,” the designer says. “So I decided to work as a furniture designer right at the start... I wanted to focus on it, not just [do it] as a hobby. I always put my thoughts and focus into one single interest when I decide to put my feet into something.”

Plunging into furniture design headlong, Wongpanich might have, against the advice of the wise saying, tested the water with two feet, but under the wings of Bunnag he didn’t have much to worry about. “Duangrit is a good boss and likes to give new talents opportunities. Over these years, he has been coaching me and we work closely in discussing ideas on design and furniture all through my learning and work processes. So in fact, it is not big surprise that my work has been influenced in some sense by his style.”

Anyroom, set up by Bunnag, is the furniture design and retail brand that connects the mentor and his student, under which Wongpanich’s earlier works, designed collaboratively with Bunnag, are beautiful pieces – not just in themselves, but in that they were the products developed from a rigorous discussion between two people. And the fact is, Wongpanich admits, sometimes he doesn’t know how much of them is Bunnag’s and how much his.

Perhaps a piece such as Lanta, a seat combined by two pieces of solid wood, embodies their working relationship best – it is reciprocal. “Lanta was one of the very first pieces I worked on about six years ago when I first joined Anyroom. But I would say it is more my boss’s design and I worked on the details and finishing.” Today, not only has Wongpanich become more involved in the design process, he has started his own label, TakeHomeDesign, earlier this year.

“TakeHomeDesign reflects another aspect of my design which I cannot express in Anyroom,” Wongpanich shares. “But Duangrit’s style will always be part of me in my development as a designer. I do also wish in the near future people will recognise me as a great independent designer.” It’s a wish we suspect will come true, as it did for so many of the greatest designers today – Philippe Nigro, Patricia Urquiola and James Irvine, to name a few – who had, like Wongpanich, chosen the long but sure way up by apprenticing under a master.,

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