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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2004 9:39 pm 
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A link ... _out01.php to the following articl from the Bangkok Post of Thursday 12 August 2004 was forwarded to me by one of our forum members. I have posted the article in full below as the link requires signing up and logging into the Bangkok Post before free access to the article is available.

A pattern of protection

A birthday gift for the Queen is protection for 7,200 unique textile designs


Among birthday gifts presented to Her Majesty the Queen on her auspicious sixth cycle (72nd) birthday anniversary is the patent for 7,200 traditional handwoven Thai textile patterns. Acharn Pao-thong Thongchua describes the process. In 1976 when Her Majesty the Queen set up the Support Foundation, traditional Thai handwoven fabrics like the tie-dyed mudmee silk were in danger of being lost, cast aside in favour of modern factory prints.

Today, these beautiful textiles face another crisis. Because of their new-found popularity, they are now being copied and, through computerised processes, machine manufactured by enterprising industries in other countries, and sold for a dime a dozen.

This greatly concerned Her Majesty, who felt that the unbridled copying was detrimental to Thai villagers who relied on weaving as a main or supplementary income earner. Her concerns, and her desire to patent Thai textile designs from around the country, were made known through her lady-in-waiting, Thanpuying Charungchit Thikhara, Her Majesty's deputy private secretary. Taking up the challenge was the Department of Intellectual Property Rights, Ministry of Commerce. The permanent secretary, Kanitsorn Navanukroh, and his deputy, Yanyong Limprayuravong, took it upon themselves to underwrite the project. They enlisted the support of Thammasat University president Professor Naris Chaiyasoot, who, in turn, assigned Acharn Paothong Thongchua, dean of the Faculty of Arts, to conduct the process of collecting the patterns.

"It's a cinch _ that was my first thought," said Paothong as he recounted the day he was told of his assignment. "There are several collectors around, most of whom have thousands of textiles in their possession."When he tried to authenticate the textiles, however, he discovered that no background information was retrievable. "Without the background information and history of each piece of fabric, we couldn't patent the textiles as being Thai designs," he sighed.

As the time approached to sign the Terms of Reference (TOR), things suddenly didn't seem so simple any longer. It would be necessary to find other sources, and with Her Majesty's birthday around the corner, it would be a race against time to get things ready for the big day.

Luckily, everyone was supportive. With the help of provincial governors, he was able to draw up a list of possible sources. "We were even going into people's homes upcountry, talking to elders and literally scrounging through their trunks and cupboards. And it had to be done within 100 days of signing the TOR."Before he put his name to the agreement, he drew up an exhaustive list of things to do as well as a detailed budget. "I had to make sure it was possible before I took it on."The deal was signed on May 1, making the 100-day deadline for completion August 16, just days after Her Majesty's birthday.

"I set up eight teams of five to eight people each _ photographer and assistant, documenter, even an ironing woman. Each team travelled around in a van most of the time, since many of the villages were far from any airport. I would be in the survey team out front, selecting the textiles to patent, and the support teams would follow to collect the photographs and documentation.

"On one trip alone we travelled from Chiang Mai to Prae, Sri Satchanalai, Chainat, Phichit, Suphan Buri, Ratchaburi, Surat Thani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Trang, Songkhla, Pattani. We'd sleep in the van by night as the driver took us to our destination. During the day, we worked while the driver napped.

"I made three trips to Chaiyaphum alone. On the final trip, we left by van at 3am because the flights were full, and reached there at 8:30am. We met the governor at 9am to go and check out the fabrics, carry out photography and documentation, then drive to Khon Kaen in the afternoon to catch the flight back to Bangkok." Within one exhausting month, he had collected all the basic information. Then it was a matter of categorising, cataloguing and editing the copious amounts of information the teams had collected.

In the process, Paothong managed to pick up malaria, which put him in hospital for an extended period. But it takes more than a bout of malaria to put a man like Paothong down.

"We all die anyway. At least I had been able to achieve something that was most challenging. In Mae Hong Son, we collected hundreds of textile patterns from the Karen hilltribes, which is very exciting because no one has ever done it before. The patterns have unpronounceable names with evocative meanings like 'Leaping frog' or 'Chirping lizard'. These villagers all have Thai identification papers so their designs should also be included in the list.

"Previously Her Majesty was concerned that mudmee designs would be abandoned; then these concerns were directed towards hilltribe fabrics, batik, embroidery and patchwork, all of which we have managed to collect. Although we have yet to touch every single hilltribe, at least we can say the minority groups are represented."Grouping the textiles was another problem that Paothong had to consider. After careful deliberation, he decided on a system that gathered the textiles first by region, then by technique such as mudmee, khit and prae wa, and finally by ethnicity.

"If we used technique as the main focus, there would have been some confusion because some techniques and patterns are used in every region, but are known under different names."As it was, the project was completed well within the designated 100-day time limit. The 7,200 textile patterns have already been patented, to be presented in CD form to Her Majesty the Queen who will accept the gift on behalf of the Support Foundation. In accordance with Her Majesty's wishes, however, they will be offered back to all the Thai people for their benefit for generations to come.

The next project is to publish these patterns in book form, another challenge of Mount Everest proportions. "We thought we could put several patterns on each page, but Her Majesty wished to dedicate two full pages to each pattern; one page for the photographs, and one page for the details in Thai and English. With 7,200 patterns that would mean 14,400 pages of content. That's approximately 80 volumes of 300 pages."To print 10,000 sets _ 5,000 for distribution around the country for reference by students, weavers and the public _ even at 100 baht a volume would require a budget of 80 million baht. "CD-Rom versions would not serve Her Majesty's purpose of giving the weavers access to the patterns. Her Majesty believes that seeing the patterns will help stir their imagination for further creativity."At this initial stage, however, Paothong is proud that his work has been achieved. He acknowledges that he might have been chosen because he had greater potential to carry it off, given his background in the field of local textiles. But given the time limit and both the amount and complexity of work required, he feels it was nothing short of a miracle.

"From the word go, we hardly had any obstacles. It was difficult, it was tiring, but everything went smoothly, just as I had prayed at the start for Her Majesty's profound greatness to facilitate the job."The project held greater meaning to him than meets the eye _ because he owes his life to Her Majesty the Queen.

"Ten years ago I was diagnosed with cancer, and doctors gave me three months to live. I was undergoing chemotherapy, and doctors had to pump my heart twice. I had already submitted to Her Majesty my formal expiration request, but she made it clear she would have none of that nonsense. 'I order you not to die,' were her words as relayed to me.

"Miraculously, I recovered."

Patently described

Each entry of the textile design patents includes a photograph of the entire fabric, close-up shots of individual patterns, the detailed history by researchers, pattern description and weaving technique. Here is one sample from the collection of 7,200 designs:
Fabric History
No: K0001
Description: Silk pasin (tube skirt) with gold brocade
Provenance: Lamphun province
Ethnicity: Tai Yuan
Age: 67 years
Size: 76cm wide; 98cm long
Material: silk, gold threads
Weaving technique: Brocade pattern with alternate silk and gold threads
Present owner: Duenchai Khoman (addresses are included where known)
Pattern names: soi dok maak pattern and diamond pattern overlapping with pine pattern, with kruay cherng border
History: The fabric was originally a skirt belonging to Khunying Yaowamalaya Bunnag, mother of [the owner] Duenchai Khoman. It was woven by Chao Phuang Kaew na Lamphun in 1937 at her Lamphun residence. At first it was made into a skirt with overlapping pleat down the front, as a Thai costume to wear at the Coronation Day ceremony to accept the Member (Fourth Class) of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao in 1943. It was worn again at two gala dinners, then put away. It was inherited by Khunying Yaowalaya's daughter who unstitched the skirt and kept it as part of her fabric collection until today.

File comment: Paothong Thongchua holding a piece of traditional handwoven Thai textile. Without protection, the age-old wisdom and design can be copied and mass-produced, threatening the livelihood of traditional weavers. Photo by YINGYONG UN-ANONGRAK
120804_hori1.jpg [ 25.46 KiB | Viewed 3907 times ]

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