In this increasingly aggressive, work-driven world, we need to be able to take a break from the stresses. And what better way to clear one’s mind than with an engaging hobby? While many men turn to challenging sports and adventurous quests for their release, some enjoy the more refined pursuits of painting or the cathartic process of crafting things with their hands. We caught up with five such creative individuals to discover how they get their zen on.
Just how does one get into the flower arranging business? For Panitan Thongsatit, owner of Bangkok’s elite flower shop Ruern Boossaba, his relationship with flowers blossomed out of a coincidence. “I was actually pursuing a language course at New York University at the time,” he says. “Someone suggested that I should find a job on the side to meet new people and improve my language skills and I was able to secure a stint at a flower shop.” It was the first time Panitan experienced the joy of arranging flowers. “I think what I liked the most was the creative side,” he says. “I worked there for around six to seven months and frankly I discovered that I had a gift with flowers, a skill I didn’t know about before. When I put together a bouquet it relaxed me and I found the arrangement would last a week or more. Of course, the quality of the flowers played a role.”
Panitan established Ruern Boossaba back in 2003 and although he still finds flower-arranging fun, he admits that turning something you enjoy as an escape into a business inevitably brings a stressful side to things. Today, however, he has a team to help him design flower arrangements. “A favourite part of the job is when I get an array of new flowers and varieties to pick from,” he smiles. “I usually go for the same species in a display but add small touches of variety for colour tones and textures.” And his favourite flowers? “Orchids and more specifically vanda, phalaenopsis and cymbidium.
Made Here on Earth is a unique co-workshop space in Bangkok complete with carpentry tools and machines for wood and leather craftsmanship. A regular visitor is Nara Ketsusingha, secretary general of the Thailand Equestrian Federation, who has been attending classes and workshops since the placed first opened about a year ago.
It all began when he and his fiancée were making preparations for their marriage. “Regular wedding invitations made out of paper just end up in the trash,” he says. “I wanted to include a personal touch, something hand-made, an original gimmick for the wedding.” So he decided to make his own out of wood with the added touch of hot stamped leather, invitations that could double as drink coasters. They are one of his proudest creations to date. Since then Made Here on Earth has become a second home and a source of calm amidst chaos. “If I am in Bangkok and I have free time, I will come here after work,” he says. “It’s my way of relaxing. It also helps to improve my concentration and focus, which is important as an equestrian.”
Nara has been a rider since the age of 10 and is passionate about the sport. Thus it comes as no surprise when he proudly shows us what he’s been working on—a hand-made wooden bootjack for removing riding boots. His creative ambitions go further too. “I really want to make a big wooden trunk for all kinds of horse riding equipment: tack, saddles, helmets you name it,” he says.
Predapond Bandityanond, managing director of Landscape Architects 49, might spend most of his time designing, drawing and sketching for a career but when he does have time to himself, the landscape artist enjoys digging out his watercolours to practise watercolour and Chinese painting. “I’ve enjoyed drawing since I was little,” he says. “I began by copying Japanese cartoon characters from my comic books.” Despite his busy schedule today, painting remains a favourite hobby. “Lately I haven’t had much time for it but I still paint,” he says. “I even took a two-year break a while back, but I always return to it.”
As he sorts through the countless works he has produced over the years, his artistic talent is obvious. Much of what is depicted relates to nature: birds, fish and bamboo groves. Hobby it may be but Predapond has had the occasion to showcase his work in the past and some pieces have even been sold. Currently he is working on improving his portrait painting skills; something he admits is not one of his fortes. “I tried to create a watercolour portrait of my wife [Korakot Srivikorn] once. I don’t think she was very happy with the result,” he says with a laugh. “I simply feel good when I am painting,” he adds. “It’s a way of releasing whatever it is you may be feeling inside. And there are always new things to learn. I would like to go back to school to learn how to paint in oils,” he says, before adding with a chuckle, “although that might have to wait until after I retire.”
Kompit Panasupon, or Pete, director of family-owned Mac Education, has always felt drawn to the hands-on creative side of things. “From around three years old I loved folding and cutting paper and making things out of clay. I attended art school on the weekends to paint and work on ceramics,” he recalls. Today, one of the hobbies he enjoys most is leather craft, which he indulges in at R Studio, Thonglor. As Pete explains, his decision to join the leather workshop coincided with the passing of his grandmother. “After she died I was going through some of her possessions and came across an antique leather-sewing machine. I think that’s what really inspired me to enroll in the workshop.”
Running a business that was created over 40 years ago with the goal of reforming the educational system in Thailand is a stressful job. For Pete, working on leather is his sweet escape from endless phone calls and emails. “When I’m at the workshop I turn off my phone. It is one of the few times I am able to focus on one thing for a few hours without being distracted,” he says. “I just feel so at peace.” One of his proudest achievements is a small leather penholder, which he carries with him everywhere. “I also made a tote which I’m pretty proud of but I seem to have lost it,” he laughs. “I have to admit I haven’t had much time for my hobby lately but I have bought my own set of leather-working tools and I plan to get my grandmother’s sewing machine refurbished and up and running again.”
For Dusit Samangoen, woodwork has progressed from a hobby to a life’s calling. He recalls his father—the renowned national artist, carpenter, craftsman and designer Saiyart Semangoen—got him a wood lathe from Germany for his birthday when he was just a young lad. “I don’t think many kids can say they received that as a gift,” he laughs. “It was my main hobby. I used to have fun making all sorts of random objects with it.”
Today Dusit is in charge of his father’s legacy, Saiyart Collection, an atelier focused on hand-carved wooden furniture of exquisite craftsmanship. “What we do here is more than simply building things,” he says. “About 80 per cent of what we use is old wood. We see it as extending the life span of wood, earth’s creation that has accompanied the lives of Thais down the generations in everything from tools to houses and boats. We are also trying to safeguard traditional woodworking by doing it in a way that combines art and function. It is a cathartic process and deeply satisfying.”
Though much of his time consists of overseeing the work of his team of talented carpenters rather than hands-on crafting himself, the overall designing of each piece still comes down to Dusit’s sketches and he is dedicated to keeping not only his father’s legacy alive but the brand’s DNA along with it. As for his father’s treasured gift, the wood lathe, it is still being put to good use at the workshop today.