Buddhist teachings emphasize on impermanence and immaterialism. However, when one lives in a ‘Material World,’ it’s difficult to detach oneself from the various kinds of materials out there. Jarupatcha ‘Pook’ Achavasmit is a material designer and has delved deep into the realm of matters, discovering the essence of social fabrics and moral fibres.
Always curious and with a passion for textiles, textures, and construction since her childhood, Pook recalls, “My maternal grandmother imported Singer sewing machines and taught me how to use them. Other techniques such as stitching, knitting, cross-stitching, and embroidery followed. I would gaze at the weave structures of my handkerchief through the microscope and was in awe of its warp and weft and twisted yarns.” She thus decided to study Textile Design at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.
Later, Pook was awarded a scholarship at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, learning Fashion and Textiles with Prof. Sherri Smith, who mentored her into conceptualizing and designing textiles into art.
Pook recollects, “My flat world of textiles suddenly became three-dimensional sculptures with the loom of 32 harnesses and various weaving methods. It’s where art and science entwine.” She furthered her postgraduate studies in Sustainable Textile Design by combining traditions with technology at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, University of The Arts London.
Upon returning to Thailand, Pook began lecturing Textile Design at her alma mater and consults for many companies and organizations, as well as using her experience within the role as Fabric Director at Mae Fah Luang Foundation. Inspired by hill tribe textiles, her complex weaves with new materials and colours, were incorporated into the fashion show for the brand at Bangkok Fashion Week in 2005. For Tai Ping, a well-known carpet and rug manufacturer, she spun 100 tonnes of leftover carpet fibres worth 40 million baht into wall-to-wall rugs, helping to up-cycle carpet waste into art and adding value to industrial waste.
As Pook explains, “My pivoting point came when Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul from King Rama IX’s Chaipattana Foundation asked me to help the Vetiver Make-over Project. After reading Richard Grimshaw’s book, King Bhumibol envisioned to have vetiver planted all over Thailand. While covering the soil surface, vetiver’s useful leaves can be fed to cattle and used for roof thatching.”
Armed with new materials, Pook founded Kiddi Project at Kredtrakarn Shelter, where underage females rescued from human trafficking learn craft-making. As a healing process, the project teaches and empowers girls with new skills for supporting a source of income, helping them to overcome suffering and trauma. “I poured my energy to help them. These teenagers learn how to make hats, bags, and other products from vetiver and other materials. I learned about giving without thinking about return benefits. They show me that there’s still hope.”
Pook continues, “I integrate these projects into the educational programme with my students. They learn how to grow, collect, dry, and spin vetiver leaves. They involve village craftsmakers, design product prototypes, and create look books and presentations. The products with potential are sold at Patpat shops and even distributed to Japan and Italy.”
After dealing with many textiles and working with manufacturers, engineers, designers, and marketeers, Pook innovated with new challenges—metals. In 2016, she co-founded Ausara Surface with her friend, Shoson Tatawakorn, specializing in the niche category of vertical textiles for walls, panels, blinds, room dividers, and hanging sculptures. The metallic creations have sparkled through new interior spaces like the Sun, the meaning of Ausara.
“I like recycling industrial wastes into higher values,” says Pook. “I found and designed car safety belts in wrong colours into wall panels. It’s now exhibited at Pure Gold: Upcycled Upgraded for German International Foreign Affairs at TCDC and will travel globally. PTT have asked us to recycle PET bottles and bags from the garbage around Koh Samed, Rayong. So these plastic bottles and bags are cleaned, grounded, stripped into fibres for knitting. With Prapakas Angsusingha, Hook’s fashion designer, he applied the fabric and other materials into a huge chada, a headdress, in Remake, Recycle, Reborn at Bangkok Design Week 2018. So the garbage lowly form was transformed into the highest form of adornment.”
Through her art and design, working with textiles and up-cycling, Pook is finding a calming balance. “The cycle of life, everything is in constant decay—at its core, its molecule, its atom. Things keep constructing, deconstructing, and transforming all the time. Through Buddhist teachings and meditations, I’ve finally found happiness within and peace of mind. By giving, I help improve education, do charitable works and have a satisfying business. My life is in balance.”