Hua Hin’s Family Tree Shares Crafts, Culture and Community with Inspired Artists from across ASEAN

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Last month, Hua Hin was firmly on the map at the LIKHA ASYA, a four-day celebration of the creative ingenuity of the Asian peoples, in the fields of community theatre, community-based tourism and the creative industries.

Held in Bohol, The Philippines, by The Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts, in cooperation with the Philippine Department of Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Provincial Government of Bohol, the LIKHA ASYA was a vibrant cross-cultural exchange, including a festival, conference, workshops and community arts and crafts fair.

 This pioneering celebration convened several hundred artists, performers and social enterprises from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan; alongside government, the private sector, students and academia.

The event showcased how community based arts, crafts, performance and tourism are contributing towards sustainable livelihoods and adding value to the distinctive identities and authentic charm of ASEAN tourism destinations.

Ms. Premruethai Tosermkit, owner-manager of the Family Tree, boutique store ‘for crafts, culture and community’, located on Naresdumri Road, joined the Thai delegation. She had been invited to make a presentation, and run a three hour workshop on ‘communicating the value of local arts and crafts.’

The workshop shared tips and advice, illustrating how the Family Tree communicates the unique and inspiring stories behind Thai arts and crafts, by weaving media, presentation, hands-on activities and social networking.  Participants also honed their presentation skills and spun silk with chopsticks!

Operated according to the principles of Fair Trade, this friendly, family-run social enterprise offers an inspiring and unique collection of Thai arts and crafts, handmade by local community groups and independent artisans.

The Family Tree sources products from over 30 social and environmental initiatives, including crafts cooperatives, women’s groups, ethnic minorities and artists with special needs. Treasures include award-winning, natural dyed and hand-woven Thai silks; natural cosmetics; vibrant paintings of Thai life; and sculptures, jewelry, toys and accessories made from recycled materials.

The creative impulse behind the LIKHA ASEAN, Mr. Lutgardo Luza Labad, Artistic Director of the LIKHA ASYA Event and Head of the Drama Committee of the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts had visited the Family Tree in 2012, while conducting research on community arts and performance in the region.  Mr. Labad was impressed with the vision of the Family Tree to share the people and places behind Thai arts and crafts with visitors to Hua Hin, many of whom do not venture far into rural Thailand.

Also representing Thailand, presenting their inspiring work at the LIKHA ASYA were Professor Jittasak Putjorn, ecology and tourism professor at Silpakorn University, Petchburi campus; Ms. Potjana Suansri, Director of the Thailand Community-based Tourism Institute; and Mr. Bhumin Dhanaketpisarn, a theater for development artist from the Makhampom Foundation.

The Family Tree was planted in Hua Hin by Premruethai and Peter, in July 2011, as a family business with a social and environmental mission.

Premruethai (Dtor) was born in Sri Saket province, north-eastern Thailand. She is native Kuy, an ethnic group with their own distinct language and culture, who live around the Thai-Cambodian border. During her childhood, Premruethai was surrounded by local artisans, natural dyed silk, weaving, festivals and the friendly warmth of rural Thai life.  For ten years, Premruethai has worked with a network of Buddhist Monks and laypeople to support cultural and environmental work in and around her village and further afield.

Her husband, Peter was born in England, and has lived in Thailand for over 12 years, inspired by the diversity, colour and creativity of Thai life. During this time, Peter has been an English teacher, a tour leader, regional Responsible Tourism Manager for Intrepid Travel, and worked alongside Thai colleagues assisting local Thai communities to develop cultural exchange programs.

In 2006, Premruethai and Peter helped 30 women in her home village to set up ‘Tae Moh Hai’, or ‘Our Friends’ Hands’ in local Kuy language. This women’s group make natural dyed Thai silks, and cut and stitch bags and clothing.

According to Premruethai, “The Family Tree was the next big step. Peter and I decided to open a shop together, which could support many different good causes around Thailand. We wanted to start a family business which would also help to sustain Thai crafts and creativity for future generations.”

A signature product in the shop is pure, black silk, naturally dyed using ebony seeds. Dying with ebony requires plenty of rain for a good harvest, alongside long spells of bright sunlight to turn the ebony dye from green to black. If climate is not kind, it can take two to three years to dye the silk to pure black.

Recognizing that local arts and crafts inevitably rely on nature, the Family Tree team are also keen tree-planters. Premruethai and Peter work with a group of like-minded friends to implement the ‘Greener Tomorrow’ project.

Since it’s inception in 2009, the project has raised funds, time and energy to plant more than 30,000 trees. The trees have been planted in Buddhist temple grounds, where they are cared for by local community members. In 2013, the team plan to expand tree planting to Prachuab Khirikan province.

The Family Tree is open daily from 10.00 to 22.00. For more information, see www.familytree-huahin.com or contact premruethai.t@familytree-huahin.com

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