Thai Gifts, Souvenirs and Decorative Items



Introduction

The concept of meaningful gifts is an important part of Thai cultural heritage. Thailand is one of the world’s top producers of gifts and decorative items, many with a traditional Thai flavor gained from the skills and ingenuity handed down from renowned craftsmen.  The range of gift, souvenir, and decorative items is enormous, including photo frames, sculptures, artificial flowers and trees, lamps, bags, wallets, dishes, and festive items made from a wide variety of materials.

Among the types of materials used are paper, wood, silk, other natural fabrics, ceramics, leather, water hyacinth, banana palm, plastic, rubber, clay, resin, metal, and silicon.

Thai designers create traditional as well as contemporary styles and have won a number of international as well as domestic awards for their ingenuity and skill.  Thai designs often are functional as well as artful, aesthetically pleasing but also very usable.

Decorative items from Thailand, including carpet, curtains, fine reproductions of artifacts, and paintings, can be found in major projects around the world such as palaces, upscale hotels, and homes.

Thailand’s leading producers of gifts, souvenirs and decorative items exhibit at prominent international shows such as Maison d’Objet in Paris; Ambiente, the leading international trade fair for products for the table, kitchen, household, giving, and decorating, plus home and furnishing accessories, held each February in Frankfurt; Tendence, Frankfurt’s Fall consumer-goods event; Paperworld, Frankfurt’s leading international trade fair for paper, office supplies, and stationery; the New York International Gift Fair, and the Bangkok International Gift Fair and Bangkok International Houseware Fair (BIG + BIH).

Demonstrating the strength of the industry, 136 exhibitors with 260 products from Thailand took part in Ambiente 2010, approximately 22 exhibitors with 25 products attended at Tendence 2010, and 36 exhibitors with 95 products will exhibit at PaperWorld 2011.

Examples of Thai designers and companies that have participated in Maison d’Objet include VORAVAN, which creates innovative floor and wall decorative items and earned the 2009 Good Design and Design Excellence awards, and Anon Pairot Design Studio, whose founder and namesake, Anon Pairot, has won numerous awards for his unique lamps, vases, massive bags, and eco-furniture:

Anon Pairot design photos from Notcot,

Also exhibiting at Maison d’Objet has been a Thailand-based French design and manufacturing firm, Bayok.  Bayok’s skilled and talented craftsmen create fashion accessories and home décor items, including woven plastic, leather and polypropylene bags and lamps, which are marketed worldwide

Photo from Bayok.

Another company that has featured products in Paris is Crafactor, which has brought together a group of Thai designers whose use of modern technology and reinterpretation of the aesthetic of traditional materials and crafts result in striking, clean designs and modern home and office furnishings that have earned numerous awards;

Crafactor chair photo from treehugger.com

Plato, a spin-off of B.P.S. Milcom Co., Ltd., a leading manufacturer of fine teak garden furniture, architectural woodwork and flooring, also has exhibited in Paris.  Since it was formed in 2004, Plato and its team of designers have won critical acclaim for their modern to contemporary, solid wood interior and exterior furniture;

Maison d’Objet has provided an opportunity for Saran Youkongdee to display his designs.  A young, talented, award-winning designer of lamps, furniture, and decorative items, he generally uses local materials in his designs, creating an opportunity to display his designs. Many of Youkongdee’s creations, such as curtain screens from banana trees, are environmentally friendly.

Photo from Saran Youkongdee.

Another exhibitor in Paris has been Tazana Co., Ltd., which was formed by Thai designer Suppapong Sonsang, whose furniture, lamps, and home furnishings reflect the environment and Thai cultural assets.  Tazan combines new technology with traditional Thai methods.  Sonsang says a design should not have a static meaning, but its beauty depends on the individual’s point of view and attitude.  Each unique piece in Tazana’s collection is meticulously woven together by skilled craftsmen.

Photos from Tazana.

Thai companies participating in the New York International Gift Fair included Circa Asia, which displayed wooden picture frames.  Circa Asia sells quality, stylish, handcrafted items created by artisans in Thai villages. Circa Asia follows fair trade practices, ensuring that its artisans are fairly compensated and work in a safe and comfortable environment.  Its picture frames, vases, bowls, serving trays, candle holders, and fashion accessories are earth-friendly, created from sustainable or reclaimed materials.

New York- based T.Karn Asian Art and Decor, launched by Tesha Karn, also has been at the fair.  Reflecting its founder’s passion for the culture and art of the East, T.Karn offers one of the finest and most diverse collections of Asian art and décor. The company’s carefully selected inventory varies in price from hundreds of dollars to millions.

Two organizations involved with Thai silk have exhibited at the New York fair:  The Thai Silk Association, which from its headquarters in Bangkok promotes the production and trade of Thai silk, and Siw Thai Silk.   Based in Yardley, Pennsylvania, Siw Thai Silk works with village artisans in Thailand to design and manufacture an elegant, eco-friendly line of handcrafted home and personal accessories.  The home collection, which blends a modern aesthetic with traditional weaving techniques, includes pillows, throws, tabletops, and wall hangings, all hand-woven with silk, water hyacinth, and other natural fibers.  The personal accessories collection includes hand-woven silk scarves and shawls.  Founded in 2001 by Susan Firestone, Siw Thai Silk, Inc. is committed to environmental sustainability and fair trade practices.

Photo from TheDecoratingDiva.com.

At the New York International Gift Fair, a Rockville, Maryland, interior lifestyle company, Blissliving Home, won the Winter 2010 Home Textiles Market Week Best New Product Award for its Chang Mai Duvet Set, a children’s bed set featuring Thai motifs in creative pointillism — including elephants, Thai warriors and native flowers.  The pattern was adopted from a design by 11-year-old Aria Curameng, a local Maryland girl, who won the Blissliving Bliss Kids Arts Festival in 2009.

Another international expo where Thai gifts and decorative items may be found is the California Gift Show.  At the 2010 show, Hand and Heart, a wholesale distributor and importer of quality gifts and collectables, introduced purses, handbags, small luggage, caps, and accessories, including some from Thailand.  The firm sells denim fabric articles, fine handicrafts, ceramics and quality gifts.

Also exhibiting Thai products at the 2010 California show was Your Needs Company, of Ventura, California.  In addition to a variety of leather and cloth accessories, Your Needs sells colorful Thai artisan handicrafts, including colorful purses and totes, plus shirts, belts, and hand bags with Thai-style art patterns.

Photo from Your Needs Company.

Wood Picture Frames, Crafts, and Ornaments

Thai wood products are known worldwide for their strength and durability as well as innovative design and low cost.  Hundreds of Thai and foreign-owned, brand-name companies are involved in the manufacture and trading of wood products.  While Thailand has a rich tradition of wood carving, professionals from such countries as Sweden, Norway, and Finland also have provided expertise and guidance to some Thai manufacturers to guide their production of high-quality, lasting wood products with international appeal.

Environmentally friendly hevea brazilliensis, or rubberwood, a byproduct of Thailand’s rubber industry, is a “green” wood widely used to manufacture wooden items including kitchenwares, housewares, and indoor furniture.  Monkeypod wood and teak also are popular for gift items.

Following are examples of some of the many Thai companies producing objects in different varieties of wood.

Artisan Intertrade Co., Ltd., produces a range of items crafted from old wood, including picture frames, display frames, and canvas frames, plus furniture and other home décor products with an Asian flair.  The company’s factory is located in Chiangmai.

Artisan Intertrade is a member of NOHMEX, the Northern Handicrafts Manufacturers and Exporters Association, founded in 1991.  The association includes small- and medium-sized manufacturers and exporters of handicrafts in Northern Thailand and has more than 250 members working to support Thai handicrafts.

Another Chiangmai-based company, CM. Old Wood Design Co., Ltd., produces and exports wooden picture frames, trays, candleholders, frames, and furniture.

Like Artisan Intertrade, CM Old Wood Design is a member of NOHMEX.

From a wooden handicraft maker employing fewer than10 people in 1976, Able Housewares Co., Ltd., has grown to employ more than 50 workers manufacturing all kinds of wooden items, primarily in rubberwood.  The company produces more than1,000 types of kitchenware, tableware, and houseware items.  Able not only crafts fine products to its own experts’ designs but also to the unique drawings and specifications of its many customers.  Based in Bangkok, the company began exporting in 1996.

Simplicity and attention to detail are hallmarks of the exquisite products of Bahari (Thailand) Co., Ltd.  Bahari follows Southeast Asian artistic traditions of balancing beauty and utility, the ancient and the modern.  Its bowls, trays, utensils, candle holders, serving plates, vases, lamps, trivets, and other creations are handmade from such abundant natural resources as mango wood, teak wood, palm wood, and bamboo.

Bahari prides itself on crafting uniquely appealing pieces that are functional and practical.  A second generation company working with wood and lumber, Bahari uses wood from legitimate sources with certified sustainable forest management.  Its bowls are carved from tree stumps left in the ground and unused by other furniture manufacturers.  The company also minimizes its environmental footprint by encouraging its staff to recycle consistently and to carpool.

Established in 1995, Creation World Wild Wood Co., Ltd., is an expert in lumber processing, kiln drying, and lumber trimming and dressing, as well as  Thailand’s leader in manufacturing and designing products from mango wood.  In 1999, the company expanded into the home décor business, focusing on wood carving, and in 2002, it introduced special painting techniques, such as gold on wood.  Creation World produces amazing and beautiful candleholders, trays, lamps, frames, boxes, and bowls from mango wood.

Eiwlee Industrial Co., Ltd., is a leading Thai manufacturer and exporter of woodenwares, housewares, kitchenwares, gifts, decorative items, small furniture, home office items, and household wooden products.  The company is ISO 9001 2008 certified.

Under the Love Wood label, the company produces high-quality, eco-friendly products primarily from acacia and rubberwood, as well as other wood from renewable resources.  Among the companies many products are tea boxes, jewelry boxes, candleholders, bowls, bathroom caddies, toothbrush holders, nesting tables, cutting boards, and trays.  The company has more than 25 years of experience in woodworking and exporting.


Bangkok-based Gift at Home Co., Ltd., is an experienced manufacturer and exporter of wooden products.  The company specializes in high-quality wood photo frames, kitchenware, vases, and small furniture and exports to retailers, wholesalers, and importers around the globe.

Among its other products are salad bowls, serving trays, chopping and cutting boards, plates, hangers, shelves, towel holders, spice racks, kitchen trolleys, utility carts, photo albums, mirrors, and desk organizers.  All of Gift at Home’s items are made from plantation-grown trees such as rubberwood, acacia, and palm wood.

N.V. Rare Wood Products creates outstanding tableware, wine holders, salt and pepper shakers, bowls, knife holders, glasses cases, nutcrackers, brush holders, trays, small jewelry boxes, and miniature gifts — delicately carved guitars and elephants — for export.  A member of the Thai Gifts Premiums & Decorative Association, the company is based in Bangkok.

Asian Design House is one of Thailand’s leading handicraft decorative items and natural lighting factories.  The company specializes in unique decorative items, furniture, and dinnerware solutions.  Its wooden lamps are especially popular. The company, which is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) as well as an Original Design Manufacturer (ODM), also produces boxes, vases and bowls, tableware, and trays.

Artificial Flowers

Thailand is an ideal place for businesses that want to source the design and construction of artificial flowers made from silk, saa or mulberry paper, rubber, clay, or plastic.  Thai manufacturers offer a tremendous variety of realistic-appearing artificial flowers and floral displays that often are far superior to their natural counterparts.

Thailand’s diversity of flora, especially exotic orchids, has inspired the country’s artists, designers and manufacturers to create breathtaking examples of floral displays to grace the finest dining tables, homes, and offices.  Following are examples of companies in the artificial flower industry.

An OEM manufacturer and contract designer 1st Silk Designs Ltd., produces life-like artificial orchids and silk flowers for international sale.

Handitop Co., Ltd., manufactures and exports unique artificial flowers of reliably high quality.  It produces a wide range of flowers that includes orchids, amaryllis, and tulips.  Handitop also operates a shop in Bangkok’s largest market for florists, retailers, and other customers who want to buy and arrange artificial flowers themselves or purchase made-to-order floral arrangements for decoration or as gifts.

For 30 years, Natural Look Design Co., Ltd., has been manufacturing high-quality artificial flowers in its own factory in Bangkok and exporting these creations.  Natural Looks’ experienced design team and highly skilled workforce produce a wide range of handmade flowers such as foam flowers, orchids, and tropical flowers.  Natural Look carefully creates flowers from selected materials and uses special production techniques to ensure a “natural” look.

Prima Artificial Flowers, Ltd., produces beautiful artificial flowers and Christmas decorations and exports them worldwide.  The company also sells design services.  Since it was established in 2000, Prima has grown from a simple home business to one of the largest artificial flower manufacturers in Northern Thailand.

A Part of Nature, Ltd., Part produces artificial orchids and other flowers that are natural-looking.  The company also manufactures other gift items, including cell phone straps, key chains, bookmarks, pendants, necklaces, and earrings.

Giftware Items

Thailand is an excellent source of all types of giftware products for every occasion, including weddings, corporate functions, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, and other holidays.  It has a large number of giftware manufacturers, who produce items to order, made from a wide range of materials.

Rubber Gift Ltd., Part designs and creates from silicone gift items, decorative items, and stationery products, including coasters, key rings, mirrors, placemats, boxes, trays, cups, photo frames, and various types of holders.

Thai Paper

Thai handmade paper, often produced from the mulberry or saa tree, makes wonderful gifts.  Each acid-free paper, made from 100 percent natural fibers, has unique and distinctive characteristics in terms of density, texture and size.  Saa paper possess a beautiful blend of rich colors and intricate designs.

In the past 10 years, the nation’s paper industry has grown rapidly, and new types of paper have entered the marketplace.  Factories in the northern part of the kingdom, which produce excellent, handmade, decorative papers, have revolutionized Asia’s paper market by supplying a vast array of reasonably priced, traditional Oriental-styles of paper that can be used to create a variety of products, including backdrops, painting medium, book covers, lamp shades, and even clothing.

The most commonly and widely used Thai papers are banana paper, batik print paper, Thai unryo paper (translucent kozo), Thai kozo or saa, tamarind paper, garden paper, Cal Ling paper, birds nest paper, and Thai seaweed paper.

Using the COTAN brand, Lakobo Co., Ltd., produces and exports gift boxes, stationery, memo pads, postcards, greeting cards, and wrapping paper, all made from saa, or mulberry tree, paper. The company is a member of NOHMEX.

Another popular brand of paper products is marketed under the Paper (Ph.D.) label and features brightly colored paper turned into book covers, diaries, memo pads, and various types of holders.  Paper (Ph.D) is a brand produced by Suburban Silk.

Located in Walnut, California, Siam Art Creations offers a unique line of all natural, handmade mulberry paper products, including greeting cards, mini-cards, guest books, albums, journals, invitations, stationery, party favors, and accessories.  At the firm’s factory in Chiangmai, Thailand, local artisans follow traditional Thai techniques of creating Saa paper from the naturally peeling bark of the mulberry tree, then turning the paper into one-of-a-kind products.  Siam Art Creations exhibited at the 2010 California Gift Show in Los Angeles.

Thai Silk

Produced from the cocoons of Thai silk worms, which are fed a regular diet of mulberry leaves, Thai silk is considered to be one of the finest fabrics in the world.  Most Thai silk weavers work in the Khorat Plateau in northeast Thailand, producing unique patterns and colors of silk that are used to create fashionable clothing, home décor items, accessories, and gorgeous gifts.

Since 1960, Suburban Silk has been operating in a family owned factory in Bangkok.  The company designs and produces 100 percent Thai silk home accents, stationery gifts (including wine bags), and travel accessories (such as cosmetic bags) under the Suburban Silk brand, which are exported around the world.  In 2002, the family opened a U.S. operation.  Following an eco-friendly design and manufacturing process, each year Suburban Silk introduces new patterns and designs.

Among its newer product lines are Lux, woven silk travel and shopping bags, and T-II, contemporary men’s and women’s canvass and leather accessory and travel bags.

Souvenirs and Collectibles

In December 2009, the Thai government announced its desire to make the country the hub of the creative industry in ASEAN, especially in the collectibles and souvenirs market, and to enhance the economic value of the creative industry.  As an important arts and handicrafts center in Southeast Asia, Thailand, business and political leaders agreed, should take advantage of its rich array of raw materials, advanced technologies, skilled artisans, and efficient logistics to attract more international business partners and consumers.   A number of Thai companies already are doing well in this sector.
Under the Atte brand, Tosca Group Co., Ltd., produces miniature gift items such as flowering pots, pins, combs, and earrings; decorative ribbons for jams, jellies, and other gifts; as well as woven baskets and miniature wooden animals.

Siam S. Souvenirs Ltd., Part supplies and exports souvenir products to foreign companies and markets. Its primary business is producing porcelain miniatures, mainly animals such as butterflies, dogs, cats, and birds, plus tableware such as plates, dishes, and cups.  All of the company’s items are carefully made by skilled craftsmen.

Craft Collectibles Co., Ltd., manufactures and exports quality polyresin gifts and decorative products, souvenirs and promotional items.  Customers may choose from readymade products or customize their own.  Craft Collectibles produces a vast array of animal, vegetable, floral, and landmark figures that are available as magnetic memo holders, water globes, figurines, photo frames, show plates, and much more.  The company, which won first prize for its polyresin souvenirs from Thailand’s Department of Industrial Promotion, markets its products under the McNets and Handykraft brands.

Most of B & G’s affordable, quality gifts, souvenirs, and decorative items are metal, with some fabric added for color.  The company’s designs follow the 2C concept – “Cute and Capable.” It makes products for every occasion.  Customers may purchase products off-the-shelf or order their own custom designs.  B & G offers such items as key holders and key chains, magnetic holders, mobile phone straps, note pad baskets, frames, magnetic bookmarks, vases, and pins.

New at BIG + BIH October 19-24, 2010

Every year, the Bangkok International Gift Fair and International Houseware Fair (BIG+BIH) features some of the hottest gift and houseware items.  The show includes hundreds of exhibitors displaying some of the hottest products, indicating the newest trends.  The following Thai companies will unveil new items at the 2010 show.

Kasama Trading Co., Ltd., produces a wide range of celadon products, including teapots, bathroom accessories, chopstick holders, condiment pots, and plates.

Pp Design Studio Bangkok Co., Ltd., Thailand’s leading interior design firm, specializes in lights, lighting tables, and wall lamps that transform the ambience of rooms, created by the award-winning, German-born designer Peer PIechnik.

Roi-in Co., Ltd., produces home furnishings under the concept of simplicity and less is more.  Established in 2005, the company searches for new technology for materials and production processes.  Designs stress functionality and simplicity of form, charm, and beauty, without decorative ornamentation.


Classic Inter Leather Products Co., Ltd., markets its wallets, diaries, cases, stationery items, home decorations, and other products under the CI Design brand.

Dhanabadee Art Ceramic Co., Ltd. started operation in 2003 to meet the world demand for high-quality, superior designs of ceramic products, including lamps, vases, and other household decorative items.  These are marketed under the dhanna brand.  The company has won the DEmark for good design and the Prime Minster’s Export Award.

For the past 20 years, Prempracha’s Collection Co., Ltd. has been a leading quality design and production ceramic studio and factory.  The firm’s local artisans, working with the company’s international design and development team, have earned Prempracha a reputation as one of the leaders in fine stoneware ceramics.

Indra Ceramic Co., Ltd. is known for creating modern, hand-painted ceramic articles for every day.  Its products and fine designs are distinctive, fresh, and trendy.  With more than 33 years of experience in the ceramics industry, Indra is the expert and world leader in hand-painted, under-glazed stoneware tableware, gifts and decorative items.

D-Happening Limited Partnership designs and manufactures decorative fabrics and denim specialties, which it sells under the brands D-Mox by D-Happening, and D-Happening.  From a small OEM based in Bangkok in 2003, the company has grown rapidly to become one of Thailand’s more prominent and innovative dedicated asscessories specialists.  The company’s products include wrapping paper, decorative shirts, headbands, carry-all bags, gift bags, stationery items, and household products.

Main Thai Exports of Gifts, Souvenirs, and Decorations Percent
Wood Picture Frames 26
Wood Crafts and Ornaments 16
Artificial Flowers, Leaves, Plants 8
Souvenir and Ornaments 7
Decorative Lamps and Christmas Decorations 26
Seasonal and Party Decorations 3
Candles 11
Umbrellas 1

Thailand’s gifts, souvenirs and decorative items industry employs 250,000 people and has nearly 2,000 establishments.  Following is a breakdown of the number of companies in the industry based on the size of their workforce.

Establishments in the industry, classified by number of workers 1,950
Small (fewer than 50 employees) 1,200
Medium (51-200 employees) 650
Large (more than 200 employees) 100

Thailand’s primary markets for gifts, souvenirs, and decorative items are the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom, which together account for 58.36 percent of all exports in this sector.

Thailand sees Australia as the most promising market for these types of products, with the highest growth rate, 55.71 percent.

Thailand’s Top 10 Export Markets for Gifts, Souvenirs and Decorative Items

Countries
Values (Million USD)
Growth Rate (%)
% Share
2008 2009 2010 2008 2009 2010 2008 2009 2010
(Jan-Feb) (Jan-Feb) (Jan-Feb)
1. USA 136.00 114.65 16.59 -9.00 -15.70 10.59 32.44 34.22 36.06
2. Japan 51.28 38.94 7.94 11.46 -24.05 13.97 12.23 11.63 17.25
3. UK 27.14 19.64 2.32 -18.24 -27.64 9.75 6.47 5.86 5.05
4. Germany 16.67 18.26 2.25 7.61 9.59 3.18 3.98 5.45 4.90
5. Switzerland 21.67 10.74 1.58 20.69 -50.45 -24.62 5.17 3.21 3.43
6. Australia 11.75 8.75 1.43 22.42 -25.52 55.71 2.80 2.61 3.12
7. Italy 10.09 8.48 1.14 3.97 -16.00 40.99 2.41 2.53 2.48
8. UAE 12.55 10.57 1.08 25.62 -15.77 -20.77 2.99 3.15 2.35
9. France 14.28 12.92 0.97 32.48 -9.52 -43.94 3.41 3.86 2.10
10. Spain 6.91 4.79 0.71 -13.16 -30.71 -11.49 1.65 1.43 1.55
Subtotal 10 Countries 308.33 247.74 36.01 -0.58 -19.65 5.99 73.55 73.95 78.28
Others 110.86 87.27 9.99 11.29 -21.28 -.78 26.45 26.05 21.72
Total 419.19 335.00 46.01 2.31 -20.08 4.44 100.00 100.00 100.00

Thailand’s Department of Export Promotion (DEP) is assisting the gifts, souvenirs, and decorative items industry by:

  • Promoting and supporting product development; product design, usages, production techniques, brand building, value-added products initiative, and global market trends;
  • Differentiating products and adding value by using domestic raw materials and efficient use of raw material by-products; and,
  • Penetrating new markets that have high potential and high purchasing ability, in part by upgrading existing products for upper-level consumers.

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