The Thai artist making sustainable jewelry with rural communities
Meet Narueporn Sanpakijwattana, the marketing management graduate, who after 6-7 years in the corporate world, realized that her real passion was art and product design.
The story starts in 2006 when Narueporn travelled to Toronto, Canada and immersed herself in art mostly through reading and self-tuition but also by visiting museums. One day she decided to craft a long necklace out of simple wire and beads. To her surprise, her simple but striking design caught the attention of several designer stores in Toronto who expressed a desire to stock the necklace straight away.
Two years later in Bangkok, Narueporn began deeper studies into jewelry materials and techniques, such as plating. Soon after she sold her first pieces in Thailand at a festival run by the TCDC (Thailand Creative Design Centre). These early designs involved not only her now characteristic wire but also some of her mom’s unwanted fabric mixed with semi-precious stones. The feedback she got from the event was uplifting. Narueporn realized that people loved her mix of fabric and semi-precious stones, which, at the time was an uncommon practice in Thailand.
The exhibition was a turning point. This was the moment she decided to abandon her career path in marketing and throw all her energy into reinventing herself as a jewelry designer and producer. It was a huge decision but she has no regrets. By 2009 she was presenting her work to BACC in Bangkok and expanding her production scale. Interested in sustainable socially responsible production, she travelled to Udon Thani in the North East and Nakhon Nayok a poor province in the central Thailand. There, she invited villagers to try their hand at jewelry making and she now employs 3-5 villagers part-time to help make pieces for her brand, Mignognie.
As a member of SACICT (Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand), she has been selected to sell her wire designs at the SACICT store in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and has participated in numerous other national art and craft exhibitions.
Despite her success Narueporn is determined to keep her designs unique and exclusive. Therefore she continues to make only small scale production with some designs even being one-off pieces. What she might sell at any point in time is dependent not only on what semi-precious stones are available but also on her inspiration; flowers, trees and nature.
A villager works on some jewelry
Back in the villages, she is now considered a friend. One of the ladies she works with recently told her that thanks to her part time job she can support her daughter who is herself studying art at university. Another is sick with blood disease and unable to work in an office/factory. She is hugely grateful to have found a way to sustain herself by working from home.
About the brand
Mignonie is a Thai designer brand of jewelry inspired by wire design since 2008. The rangeincludes handmade earrings, necklace, bracelet and other jewelry accessories made of silver or brass.
Mignognie wire jewelry is designed by the owner and hand-made by rural women in Nakhon Nayok and Udonthani provinces. In this small way incomes are raised and quality of life is improved for those lucky enough to work with the brand.
Mignonie’s latest channel is Etsy, launched in May 2015 is www.etsy.com/shop/mignonie