Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Excitement of the First Meeting with A Real Artist, Niramol

This blog should have been blogged more than 2 months ago. Due to the crash of my main PC, I could hardly retrieve anything until it is fixed lately. Then the different version of my WORD software caused the lost of data, so I have to rewritten everything again.

Since there are so many to talk about, this article about a True Artist, Niramol Vangtal, would be divided into 2-3 parts. Part I would be about our meeting details; the rest would be about an interview with Niramol!

Niramol & Patta

Getting to Meet and to Know a True Artist:

You may be surprised when you know someone who could play so well with dolls but is acutally not a doll collector. Knowing dolls so well because it is a way to express her own creativities and passion on arts and craft. Niramol Vangtal, a true astist as I would call her (please refer to my previous blog about here ), is someone like this.

When I was in Bangkok in last late September, I met with Niramol and her sister, Patta of Pattart! Although I met with Patta breifly a few years back, it was my first time to meet with her elder sistger, Niramol.

On 28th Sept., I went to Niramol and her team’s workshop with the help of a local friend before 5pm to avoid the heavy travel. Although we avoided the travel as planned, we were almost caught by the heavy shower that happens from time to time in Bangkok that time of a year. The shower always comes suddenly, and when it comes, it really hits on you hard like a small stone!

A Warm Welcome

It is easy to find Niramol’s workshop because you can see 4 gigantic posters of her customized traditional Thai figurines put on the full length glass wall. Patta greeted me with big smile and then introducted me to her elder sister, Niramol. Honestly, I did not feel like stranger to her. I don’t know if Niramol felt the same, the moment I met her, I felt like I have known her for sometime already. Probably, it is because I have seen quite a number of her works before. Just like most of the Thail people, they are very hospitality people with big smile and speak softly!

The workshop is nothing glamours but very homey feeling. There are 2 big showcases in the entrance to welcome me. On the righ hand side of the entrance, there is a showcase with a giantic elephant decorated with Thai style jewellery. On the back of this light colored elephant, there sits an armed male figure. Well, to be a little bit more descriptive, there sits a very manly look man in black and gold (like golden threads) traditional Thai outfits with semi-treasure stones or rubies on him. I have never thought that a man could carry “jewelry” and still look so macho. Since there is a beautifully crafted golden seat with treasure stones inset at the back, I supposed he is a body guard of the royal family to me. I fall in love with the whole set at my first sight. I especially wanted to take the gorgeous elephant with me!

In front of me, there is another showcase that displayed those figures that I have seen in Pattart’s multiply page about Niramol’s Sri Exhibition in last summer. “Finally, finally, I am able to see those Sri Exhibition creative in real!” That was what I told myself at the moment I saw them. I could not take away my eyes off those perfectly scaled figureines with delicated Thai ornaments and jewllery.

Probably, Niramol and Patta knew that I was already fasinated by all the display the moment that I stepped in the workshop; they allowed me to open the showcase and take as many pictures as I wanted. (That is so nice of them that flash is allowed!) No sooner had I got carried away by taking pictures of those arts and crafts, Chewin and Khun Phong (the one who has magical fingers to twist a piece of tissue into a dress à click here for that previous blog) entered the workshop as well. OMG! What a fun fair for me to be alble to meet all my favoirtie doll artists in one workshop!

Inspiration at a Hidden Paradise:

Later on, Niramol took all of us to a place where is just behind the shop. It is a hidden place where her pervious exhibition pieces are displayed. There is another paradise to me!

Seeing so many dolls in “period fashion” and “east meets west” with the exact size of 1/6 historical diorama at the same time was definitely my first ever! The most impressive diorama setting, doubtlessly, is the “replica” of the scene of Kosa Pan presents King Narai's letter to Louis XIV at the Mirror Hall in Versailles on 1 September 1686. I did a rough counting, there are about 50 figurines being created in different sizes, looks, costumes, wigs, age groups, facial expressions and motion. Each of them is hand made according to the 2-year full research findings of Niramol and her artisans!

While I am taking pictures here and there, up and down, Niramol explained to me about the materials used on the dolls and diorama patiently. It gave meaning to every single press of my camera shutter. It is like a record of an educational class.

I saw another male figurine ridding on a hose in his traditional Thai male hair cut and costume! He is a worrier of ancient Thai. I recalled some similar senses that I have seen in one of my favorite Thai movies called “Kunpan”. And next to it, there is a “blink blink” golden castle with a King figurine extending his hand to receive the gift or a message from Western diplomats. I really fall in love for that Thai castle and the King!

Niramol with her giantic display with over OOAK 50 figures - same as Sri's Exhibition

Thought all these pieces of creation, I could see the passion and dedication of Niramol’s work, especially on how much she appreciates history, culture; and her persistence on the factual. Her works are well planned; great details being take care of; with top glass craftsmanship. No wonder she said it is a way to express her I felt so inspired.

A totaly hand-painted traditional Thai fabric and a Chinese Dragon Gown

Creating a Mind Scene:

Niramol’s Sri’s Artisan Group consists of Chewin and Khun Phong and a few others. Out of a sudden, there is a wild imagination scene in my mind (kind of stereotype though): All the background is darkened with only strong sport lights focusing on Niramol and her Sri’s Artisan Group. I saw it from a bird view. Research papers are flying everywhere in the air, while with the Niramol as the leader, these artists are discussing seriously on how to actualize their findings and introducing the beauties of Thai culture to the world etc. ! I could see there are many action figures and fashion dolls scattered all over the room. Some are completed and look gorgeous, while some are headless or without a limb caused by many try-and-error attempts. Materials like wooden board, clay, copper, paint brushes, paint, cloth, threads are either on the table or piled up on the side.

Creation Begins with Serious Research:

When we went back to the workshop, Narimol took out some more “treasure” to satisfy my hunger of her work. She showed me some early works of her on Tyler size shoes with matching purse. The purse is actually made of egg shells! Can you believe that?

She then showed me some of the doll size pieces that she has made according to ancient Chinese Yuen Nam tribal custom. Such as the silver head piece with lots of leaves and birdies on it. It expresses a certain believes of Yuan Nam tribe about happiness. Niramol usually sets a theme and then conducts a full research before she actualizes them in miniature size. Since most of her themes are about historial and culture beauties, things are not always available in the market. Therefore, she would need to make everything by herself from the sketch, even painting on a piece of cloth to get what she wants. For instance, she showed me some hand painted cloth with traditional Thai fabic patterns. I am amazed as the patterns are identical and perfect in scale. Niramol showed me a great piece of Chinese royal emperor dress with a big dragon head on it! I can ensure you that it is so perfectly drawn and exactly the same as those you could see in a museumn.

A manly warrior as what I saw from"Banrajan"

All the traditional costumes are hand painted as a replica of that particular period
Every single bit is as the real one and all hooks are functionable.

The famous Patta with one of her wigs
Accessories made of egg shells

Artisans at Work - Chewin, Patta, Niramol, Phong

May I Stay Here?

During my educational playing time in the workshop, I witness expensive dolls like Sybarite and Deva dolls passing around, posing, putting on dresses, trying on different wigs etc. “casually”. I usually handle these dolls with great care in “fear” of any damages. But Niramol said lightly “I don’t care. If I have a doll, I have to experiment with it. If it is damaged, any materials, I can fit it! No problem!”

Doubtlessly to me, Niramol is such a true artist who knows how to utilities each material’s property and apply them in her creation. There was a though in my mind that I wanted to stay there for a few weeks and learn how to create anything about dolls from them, if they allowed me to – and if I am talent enough to!

Picture credit: All by Cliff CHAN, all rights reserved. Please do not reuse any of them for any purposes. If you need to use any, please ask first.

Articulated Fingers (Jointed Hands)

As an articulated doll lover myself, if a fashion doll/action figures could pose like human being yet with gracefully sculpted body, I would probably take out my wallet and pay for it. I enjoy undressing my dolls, action figures to check out the construction of their bodies. Trying to see what makes them so poseable or not as poseable as I wanted. The beauty of a doll and its poseable does not necessarily mutually exclusive! Isn't it?

Evolution of Articulation

My serious action figures collection started with Bandai’s Ryutsu Kankichi in the 90s (click here), which has articulated fingers (some call it jointed hands) and toes. So that he could knee on single knee and holding arms firmly. Ryutsu is a household famous animation character in Japan. That action figure series came with 7 difficult facial expressions and ensembles. I have them all with some doubles. I remembered how fascinated I was by that articulation design and material used, and kept playing with it all the time. But that was back in the 90s. Now, articulated fingers or toes on dolls or action figures are not that rare. Oh well, I am not talking about the "fingers" like Jason Wu's Avant Guard. That one looks too funny and functionless. Nor am I talking about the extra expressive hand parts that some dolls would come with (such as Jamieshow, RDG). They are for cool poseing but not "articualted".

My very first fashion doll with articulated fingers is from NEO by VOLKS. I had it put on the Boyfriend fasion doll of Who's That Girl. However, the quality is bad, the finger parts either feel off easily because of fatigue or break easily. It is not well engineered at all. The 2nd one that I came across is Soomdoll’s Super Gem Spinel. It is far much better designed and could pose greatly! It is only sold when you order a doll from them. But now, in China there are several manufactures such as DZ, DK, AS produced wonderful articulated fingers parts. And their price is only 1/3 of what Korean made is.

Articulated hands have different sizes and nails options
Picture credit: AS, DK, DZ