Mitr: a group of designers who want to make a difference

We talked to Mitr, a new Thai design collective bonded together through friendship, passion and a mission to create something fun.

Ask a few people to define Mitr or a similar term Puen (both roughly mean a friend), and their answers would be more or less the same. Puen is a person, regardless of sex or age, we like, someone we enjoy spending time with. Mitr is more like a close friend, someone we have a bond of mutual affection with. 

Back in our school days, many will recall memories of having participated in fun activities – academic or otherwise. But no matter what the activity was, it sure was more fun if we did it with our buddies. But then school was over, and we went our separate ways. With work occupying much of our time, we find ourselves too busy to schedule a meetup with them. If we really want to see them though, we will probably find the way to make time for them.

Mitr’s background

Mitr is the coming together of friends. It stands for “Make It Rawr.” We were trying to come up with a name that reflected our ideas, something fresh and raw. We were not so experienced, but we wanted to be fresh and interesting, something that could still grow. And at the same time, Mitr also means friends. We’re a group of six people, each with their own style of working. We’re like a crossroads with the red light, where people meet sometimes and do something together. Our works are not confined to just products, furniture or interior design. We just want to make something we think is interesting in our time. Mainly, we create temporary space to present contemporary works. We never confine our designs to anything. Not all of us are production designers.

On how it all started:

We’re roughly the same age. Some of us knew each other before and introduced other like-minded people into the group. Because we shared the same interests and had mutual friends, it was easy to get to know each other. We agreed to work together before coming up with the idea of what to do together. 

What does each of the group’s members do?

Clean: I’m Clean. I did Industrial Design at KMITL. My main focus is on furniture. I work with a couple of brands in Thailand (Mobella and Kunakij). I do submit my works to contests sometimes. Recently I won the second prize from Singapore’s FTA. It gave us a chance to showcase Mitr products there, too. 

Ken: My name is Ken. I did Interior Architecture at KMUTT. Currently I’m helping out my family’s business of construction contracts, overseeing construction sites and things like that. 

Tarn: I’m Tarn. I graduated from Product Design, Faculty of Decorative Arts, Silpakorn University. I’m currently employed at Thinkk Studio, as product designer and owner of Nuttiyar, a Thai handicraft bag label. I want young people to see that handicraft work can be modern, trendy, and easy to use. I work with local basket weavers in Ang Thong. Personally I love crafts. I did take part in some contests, including Innovative Craft Award and Creative Textile. 

Mai: My name is Mai. I also did Product Design, at KMUTT. I’m currently in Products department at Thinkk Studio, working with Tarn as my partner. I don’t have personal projects. I work with Ken sometimes on furniture. Not long ago, a cat house we worked on was on display in Chiang Mai. I have several cats at home. The house is like a stool with a dome for a cat. I help out with my family’s bakery business a bit, which is totally different from what we do (laughs). 

Amm: I’m Amm. I did Industrial Design at KMITL, just like Clean. There was a year when we had two majors: textile and furniture. After graduation, I worked at a company that imports handmade wallpapers, as a wall stylist. It was basically an interior designer’s job with products thrown into the mix. Clean was the one that asked me to join Mitr, to work on non-furniture products. It’s true that I studied design, but I didn’t really wanna work in design anymore. I preferred to just deal with designers. But now that I’m back to the world of design, I quite enjoy it. Confusing, isn’t it (laughs)?

Beer: I’m Beer. I studied Industrial Design at Lad Krabang. Presently I’m a designer for the PDM brand. I have plans to continue my studies in Product Design overseas, but I won’t tell you where in case I don’t get accepted (laughs).

On each member’s concepts and works:

Our main concept is memento, a moment of something that each of us has had. We want to create work that people can relate to when they see it, something they will get instantly. It’s a combination of our individual works. 

‘Frame’: a bar table that serves as a private corner for relaxation in public space by Clean. Materials: Oak, metal, teak, stainless 

Clean: I got this idea from a private corner in a café. Usually there’s a corner by the window set aside for solo customers. I like how it feels. It doesn’t make you feel awkward and offers privacy. So I captured that moment to create ‘Frame.’ It’s supposed to be a table one uses temporarily, an area in public space that is private. In psychology, when something looms over your head, you will focus on the things you see as you look ahead. It’s perfect for space you only occupy briefly, such as at airports. 

‘Knob’: Wall hooks designed as a mock doorknob by Ken. Materials: Ace wood, granite 

Ken: Knob is basically for hanging designed for small space. I had this idea when I hung my towel or other stuff on the doorknob, which I’m sure many people do. I did some research and learned that when we turn on the lock on the doorknob, we’ll feel that the knob has done its job. What makes it interesting is not the design but the analysis and understanding of my own behavior. When I showcase this item, people come to me and say, ‘Yeah, this is what I do, too.” The product comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and materials.

‘On the Table’: Table accessories and wares. These come in three sets, to be matched based on intended use. By Tarn. Materials: Ace wood, rattan, and metal.

Tarn: This collection was inspired by things like cone-shaped covers, bowls, and plates at the dining table at home. I’ve noticed how we tend to arrange them on top of each other when putting them away after use. I was captivated by such form and function and created this Decorative Item collection for dining tables. The items can be used and put on display for decorative purposes. There are three pieces in one set: a bowl, a plate, and a cone-shaped cover, but they can be attached to one another depending on how we wanna use them. The materials used are a combination of industrial and rattan, to add a touch of craftwork. 

‘Furl’: Playful foldables – a seat with an arm rest. By Mai. Materials: Polished stones and fabric

Mai: I choose Furl, which means to fold. The idea was from the moment I use a folding curtain, or a tissue paper roll. I’m fascinated by the folding part. So I mate this seat with an arm rest. The seat can be folded out to a maximum length of three meters. You can lie down on it or use it as a chair. I added the arm rest because I have a large build; I feel that an arm rest is necessary. Furl also has a sense of closed space, of privacy in public space. 

‘Akat Amnuai’: Wall decorate made of hand-woven cotton fabric. By Amm. Material: Hand-woven cotton fabric

Amm: The idea behind this creation came from a moment when light touches the surface of water in a swimming pool, which makes it seem as if the underwater tiles are wavy and moving. It’s a pleasant thing to see. I can’t assign a category for this work. Is it a curtain, or a partition? I want it to be anything in wall decorates. I worked with local weavers on this one. It’s all handmade in traditional style. The threads are sourced from Akat Amnuai District, Sakhon Nakorn. The weavers are locals in Pak Chong District.  

‘Pump’: A pump-shaped table with a pipe that allows users to adjust the height, a stone base and the pedal used for extending the tabletop. By Beer. Materials: Metal and granite.

Beer: The idea behind this came from me observing how a bike pump is used. The posture when you use the pump is unique and seeing a similar posture takes you back to the moment. I used the idea to make this table, with its elements redesigned and rearranged to make it simpler yet more interesting. And its form still reminds you of the pump.

On what Mitr think as a group in terms of product expansion and changes in the design industry in Thailand

We’re a group of six people. Our works come in a great variety, like a collage. Each one of us is interested in different things. In terms of changes in the industry, we all agree that we’re not experienced enough to make any change. We just want to present new perspectives. We can contribute to the development of this industry by sharing ideas with one another, bringing all of us to our goals. In this age, we don’t think we need sole superheroes; but more like Power Rangers that work together. 

Conversations are no longer between one designer and another, designer and artisan, or manufacturer. There’s no fixed pattern to it. In this era, works tend to be more interdisciplinary, or cross boundaries. There’s some Asianness in European art, and vice versa. This would really improve the industry. 

We want a platform where people can meet, whether designers, artisans, or manufacturers. A place where they can learn to understand each other and open up for creativity. A place where they realize they can produce this and that. Our country has come a long way in the field of design. We’re lucky to have factories with production capacity. We’re probably in the midst of changes. Designers themselves have to keep learning, keep exploring new possibilities. Even some manufacturers are turning themselves into brands. If there’s space for these conversations to happen, this will occur much faster.

People our age tend to get us more. This model has already been put into action, resulting in initiatives like TCDC Connect or SACICT. This is coming along, thanks to both government agencies and designers. We will definitely see more innovations coming. 

On role models Mitr members look up to: 

When we went to fairs during college, we met the people behind the Design Plant group and thought it was a cool initiative. When we had a chance to work with them, we realized it was fun working in this industry. They are nice people. It’s great that we’re working with them now.

When like-minded people come together, a certain energy is created, and each individual shines more brightly. We went to see a fair in Milan and saw the ideas of artists working in a different corner of the world. There’s a great variety. It’s interesting to be working on something fresh and new. 

This is also linked to platform. There is this neighborhood called Ventura Lambrate in Milan, where there are tons of expos. They hold events in warehouses. I think having so much space for this purpose is wonderful. 

On Mitr’s future:

We started out very small. So we see Mitr as a project that will grow as we do. We may have more ideas and can do something like an exhibition, but we’re not saying it has to be exactly this or that. We are prone to change. New ideas emerge every day. There’s a good chance we’ll have a project like this again next year. This year, the concept is memento. Next year we might have to sit down and talk about what we want our concept to be. You’ll definitely see Mitr products, but follow us if you wanna know what they will be. It depends on the timing, mostly. The opportunity that presents itself at the time. It’s great to be able to work together as Mitr. We’ve become known to a wider audience. More people hire us. We have new platforms to work with. As we grow older, our ideas should become clearer. We might even ask other people to collaborate with us.  

English translation: Suchanart Jarupaiboon

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