Interview with Thai fine jewellery designer, Patcharavipa Bodiratnangkura
Gold is a girl’s best friend
She's not just the youngest daughter of Swissôtel Nai Lert Park Hotel's former executive director Sanhapit Bodiratnangkura and great-granddaughter of Bangkok's transport system developer Nai Lert, but an accomplished jewellery designer in her own right. Meet Bodiratnangkura, who was in Singapore last week to launch her Spring/Summer 2018 Ginkgo Metrics collection at Dover Street Market Singapore. Her fine jewellery label, Patcharavipa, may have been born in 2014, but her knack for designing since her adolescent days placed her on the world stage during Bangkok Fashion Week in 2005 and 2006 when she was just 14, making her the youngest designer to showcase her brand, All That Glitters.
Bodiratnangkura did not stop there, as she went on to further her studies in gemology, becoming a certified gemologist from the Gemology Institute of America's Graduate Diamonds Programme and the Coloured Stone Grading and Pricing programme at the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences. Her dedication to her craft definitely shows, and her intricate jewellery pieces made from Siam Gold in her Bangkok studio are now found across the globe — New York, Hong Kong and London.
For those who are still unfamiliar with your brand, Patcharavipa, please share with us on how your brand came about. I heard that it was because of a research trip you made to Amphawa.
I've been playing with jewellery and designing since a young age. However, the key moment was when I graduated from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London; the course really changed my perception to do this professionally... I set up in 2014 in Bangkok where a lot of the time was actually spent finding the right team of goldsmiths to join the brand. My family and heritage has always been an important inspiration, so I decided to take a trip to Amphawa, where my grandparents first met to trace back origins, learn how they lived and their culture at the time. There, I also discovered a new material to work with which was the coconut. This was the basis of my first ever collection for Patcharavipa, Co-existence.
You began designing jewellery since you were 13 years old. What made you start from such a young age?
I have always been fascinated with gemstones at a very young age. I used to play around and dig into my grandmother's jewellery boxes and she had the most amazing pieces. I was fascinated with the different variety of stones and the intricate details of these antique pieces. I got my appreciation of design and art from her.
How do you incorporate your Thai roots into your collections?
Certainly, this is a core DNA of the brand that runs through all of my work — the heritage of my family and the preservation of Thai craftsmanship. We have the best goldsmiths and Bangkok is actually one of the most famous places for production. At times, pieces from bigger houses are actually crafted in Thailand, but finished in Europe. I really wanted the skills to come to the fore and Patcharavipa to be able to highlight and preserve this tradition. I also pay a lot of importance to using as many local materials as I can, finding beauty in the ordinary every day materials that most may look pass.
Your latest collection, Ginkgo Metrics, is inspired by geometry and Japanese ginkgo leaves. Please tell us more about it.
Ginkgo Metrics was inspired by my trip to Tokyo where I visited temples in Chiyoda. It stemmed from a dried ginkgo leaf that I picked up during the trip, which acted as a starting point for deeper research into Japanese art and culture. I love working with texture and the ginkgo leaf texture was very interesting to me; imperfect linear lines that has its own beauty, certain markings that embody a place and time — there's beauty in that. I introduced a new technique inspired by Oshibana, which is the art of flower pressing to really get the most honest imprint of the leaf with no other manipulation of the hang. I also like to mix unexpected and contrasting concepts; I feel it delivers a certain tension that is appealing. For this collection, I started using more restrictive forms, which are more of an ode to classical jewels by using geometry, mainly circles and hexagon to mix with more natural elements.
What drew you to ginkgo leaves in particular?
The colour that almost looks like gold in the sun and most importantly, the texture of the leaf; its imperfect linear lines that can transport you to a certain place and time. Ginkgo also symbolizes longevity, vitality, hope, and peace. I always like the pieces to carry a certain meaning, to almost protect the wearer.
How long did it take to conceptualise the Ginkgo Metrics collection? Was there anything new that you experimented with this time? For instance, a particular material or a technique?
I can't pinpoint how much time it takes to develop a collection as the ideas all come in at once sometimes. We had to develop a way to perfect the leaf texture that we found in the ginkgo leaf. I wanted to be as natural and organic as possible so I introduced the Oshibana technique.
Are there any other highlights from this collection? Which particular piece is your favourite, and why?
I think for me, personally it was the mixture of something more severe like geometry against something that the brand usually works with which are more organic forms. It was a first for me and really interesting to work on.
What are the differences and/or similarities you see in Ginkgo Metrics compared to your earlier collections?
The shapes I explore in Ginkgo Metrics are a complete departure of the Tushroom or Co-existence collections. However, the similar thread that runs through all of our work is the use of handcrafted textures. I love seeing little natural imperfections on these textures, whether it be the ginkgo texture or the Antré texture; those are the marks that give the pieces their unique character.
I've heard that some materials you use can take years to source. Where do they come from, and why the long period? Are there certain qualities you look out for when sourcing for materials?
Naturally with jewellery, you are always on the hunt for stones. A lot of the pieces we design use stones that are completely one-offs. I also like to work around the stone rather than manipulating it to fit my design, which means that sometimes I am waiting to be inspired by what I find rather than the other way round.
You're also a staunch believer in using old techniques instead of new ones like 3D printing. Can you elaborate on this?
We do not use any 3D printing in our work. I am a true believer in using our very bare hands and I am obsessed with the process of making jewellery. I am a true believer in paying respect to all the materials that we work on and I take pride in these processes. I don't ever want to see it diluted, or for my goldsmiths to not have a platform to show this craftsmanship. I think it's very important, especially in this era of fast fashion and constantly evolving trends. Luxury for me is more about the time and effort it takes to design and construct each creation. That's what makes the difference.
Is there a jewellery making technique you use that is uniquely yours?
We used a new type of setting, which can be found on the Polkilip Ring and the Polki Petal Earrings in the Tushroom collection. It's definitely a type of setting that I have never seen before with any other brands. The pave setting that we've used to embed the stones into our Antré texture for some of the pieces is also something new and interesting.
Many of your collections are inspired by your trips to other countries. Is that how you mainly find your inspiration?
I would say a lot of my inspirations are from my everyday experiences rather than trips necessarily. I am often inspired by interesting encounters throughout my everyday life and also my surroundings like architecture and art.
Check out Patcharavipa's Ginkgo Metrics collection at Dover Street Market Singapore's Jewellery Space.