Sanmai, meaning New Weave in Thai, is a versatile line of products inspired by traditional craft methods in Chiang Mai, designed to evolve craft process, revitalize the value of Thai craft, and create a stronger connection between the maker and buyer.
Project Type /
Social Impact Design
Team Members /
How can we be inspired by Thai crafts, and help them evolve + endure?
Thailand Field Research
We spent two weeks in four provinces across Northern Thailand—Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, and Phayao, visiting local craft villages and learning traditional Lanna crafts first hand. “Lanna,” meaning “Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields,” is the Thai name of this region of Northern Thailand, where traditional crafts and culture have flourished since the 13th century.
Northern Thailand is blessed with a rich community of craft makers spanning over generations of heritage. We were fortunately brought into homes of many different craftsmen and shown their step-by-step processes, such as basket weaving, woodcarving and loom weaving.
Palm Leaves Weaving
Water Hyacinth Bag
In the village of Baan Ta Karn, we pull two really important insights, sitting and weaving rice baskets for a day is a great way to strike up a conversation.
Palm Baskets Village
Crafts people need to pass on their skills
The crafts people expressed their concern for the livelihood of their crafts in the future if no one will continue to practice them
The opportunity is to find a way to help crafts continue to exist and thrive for generations to come
Connect the youth of Thailand to the future of craft by supporting them to become more involved in craft process
Younger Generation needs relevance
We learned that not many young people in Thailand are involved in the traditional crafts we were shown. It seems the next potential generation of artisans are going to school to find jobs elsewhere
The opportunity is to gain interests of new generation makers by elevating the value of crafts
We asked 22-year-old Thai college student who recently returned from school, why people her age are not as involved. She said the crafts provided low pay and were very time-consuming
Younger Generation Explorers
We learned from our experience that the Thai youth are seeking relevance and connection with a global culture. So for the explorers who are willing to take an extra step into learning from a new culture, this is a great starting point for making a connection between the makers and the buyers through new products.
To get that genuine experience, we want to stay at someone's home and learn the local way of life. There are several homes just in Chiang Mai that provide such local homestay locations.
Homestay helps provide cross-cultural exchange opportunities for both the hosts & their guests.
Bring Design to the Thai Homestay Experience
Inspired by palm leaves baskets weaving, we draw our form language from traditional craft and transformed to furniture design.
Started from scale mockups to 1:1 full-scale model, tested out ergonomics relationship
With the interest in combining traditional craft methods and new methods, we designed a jig for artisans to work off of and customize their own weaving patterns.
Water hyacinth is one type of plant that reproduces very quickly in Thailand. It impeded water flow, blocked sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starved the water of oxygen, often killing fish and turtles. It became a big problem and successive governments tried to find a way of controlling it. So we decided to use water hyacinth as our main material to design products while solving the problem.
Sanmai lounge is a high-end furniture piece seating that can be assembled in different ways so that either one person sits or groups of people sit. It is designed with a higher value that can help to stimulate craft production on a larger scale and in turn helps to promote jobs for the craftsman. It can be used within homestay, homes globally or as public seating.
Sanmai Floor Seat
Sanmai floor seat is a multi-use furnishing made by Thai artisans and provides connected experience within a space. It's easy to move within the space, and it can provide a working space for global travelers in the homestay.