The story of Thai jeweller Patcharavipa

Meet jeweller Patcharavipa Bodiratnangkura whose sculptural pieces are crafted in her atelier in Bangkok and rumoured customers include Rihanna. Here, she explains her love of collaborations

By Kim Parker

Though she only founded her eponymous brand in 2016, Patcharavipa Bodiratnangkura’s uniquely textured designs quickly made hers one of the hottest names in the contemporary jewellery world. Today, jewellery designer Patcharavipa’s sculptural pieces are crafted in her Bangkok atelier and stocked in London’s Dover Street Market, with a legion of loyal clientele (rumoured to include Rihanna). Here, she discusses her love of architecture, why collaborating with a tattoo artist was a dream come true, and what exciting plans she has for the year ahead. 

Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer?

I set my heart on it early. When I was 13 years old, I was digging around in my mother’s wardrobe and found a collection of loose cubic zirconia stones. I think they must have been left over from one of her passion projects. My mother attended art school in Paris when she was younger. She left to join the hospitality industry before she had me. But she still used to make a few things on the side as a hobby, with her friends, every now and then.

I remember there were lots of tiny pink stones and some larger crystals in the bag. I got so inspired, I drew a stick of candyfloss, with pale pink candy swirls around it. There’s a huge craft industry in Thailand. It exports enormous amounts of jewellery and it’s easy to have your own design made up. So we took my sketch to a maker and created a candyfloss pin, with pink pave stones and a silver stick in the middle. I still have it somewhere. That was my ‘aha’ moment. 

My family have always been quite into design. My grandfather was an architect and my father’s family are all in the textile business. After school, I moved to London to study at the Chelsea College of Art and enrolled on their art foundation programme. Which was wonderful. Then I got a place at Central Saint Martins on the BA jewellery design course. I graduated in 2014, and immediately started to look for goldsmiths that understood my aesthetic and could make what I designed, and an art director that got my vision. We showed our first collection in Paris in 2016. 

Thai jeweller Patcharavipa
Echec ring

Where does your inspiration come from?

My grandfather’s genes must be strong. As I take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, from interior design and architecture. At my home in London, we’ve got a lot of books on artists and sculptors like Jean DuBuffet and Fernand Leger. I go back to them time after time. I also love the work of Richard Serra. When you look at his sculptures, which are often huge, you see lots of clean, geometric shapes. But when you look at his sketches of those same designs, they look rapid and tactile. He uses lots of thick, hurried-looking lines. I love that contrast. 

I’m also inspired by memories of growing up in Thailand, and the landscape there. My family would take little trips to the beach at the weekend, to Hua Hin and Pattaya in the south, which had sandy shores but also cliffs and caves where we would go exploring. I still remember the jagged texture of the rocks there. Which is why my pieces all have a rugged, organic-looking texture to them. 

Most of my ideas tend to come to me at night, just as I’m settling down in bed. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because I’ve spent the daytime seeing things and meeting people. So the evening is when it all filters out again and I got to quickly jot them all down in a notepad on my nightstand. Sometimes it’s a quick sketch, sometimes I just write down a single word or a sentence. In the morning, I translate it all and begin sketching my ideas out properly.  

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I’d say texture has become a bit of a signature. In my latest collection, Lignes D’Ete, for example, I’ve got a ring with a 5-carat marquis-cut diamond, which is all about straight lines. But I’ve set it in dimpled, tactile-looking yellow gold. The clash between a geometric shape and that more natural, uneven surface is what makes it cool to me. 

Thai jeweller Patcharavipa
Lignes D’Ete Marquise Dance ring

I like an element of playfulness or surprise in my pieces, too. I always include an object in each ready to wear collection that isn’t strictly jewellery but works well with the overarching theme. One of my collections was inspired by the twisting forms of ropes, which reminded me a bit of hair. So I made some gold hair clips to sit alongside the jewellery.

For another collection I used a lot of salt and pepper coloured diamonds. I thought, why not create some gold salt and pepper shakers, too? For Lignes D’ete, I was really inspired by my partner’s North African heritage, and by the traditional designs of many African and Thai tribes. So I created a gold hair comb in the shape of a figurine. I’d love to find someone to collaborate with on a set of beautiful drinking glasses one day. That would be the dream. 

What have been some of your favourite designs from over the years?

My very first collection felt very personal. I used a lot of recycled coconut shells, in shades of white and black, which came from a special type of coconut we use in Thailand to create violins. It’s very beautiful and to me it was a symbol of a birth, of a new start. 

I’ve also got a collection called Tiny, which came about because I absolutely love playing with scale when I’m drawing. It’s inspired by the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each design is no bigger than your little fingernail. I really wanted to show off the craftsmanship of the goldsmiths and wax carvers that I work with. Who are so talented, and it’s such a fun collection. 

Thai jeweller Patcharavipa
Tiny Serpent Necklace

Last year, my partner and I started working together on my collections and it’s been brilliant. We launched our first men’s jewellery collection, though really anyone can wear it, which was inspired by everything from chess boards to match sticks. We also created five limited edition watches, which I’ve wanted to do for some time. My partner has a fantastic eye and sourced some beautiful vintage watches, which we customised with my textured gold techniques. They sold out right away and were all bought by women. I’d love to do that again. 

Thai jeweller Patcharavipa customised Rolex Jubilee
Customised vintage Rolex Jubilee watch

I also recently collaborated with a fantastic LA based tattoo artist called Mr. Cartoon. He’s been a friend for many years and has an amazing talent for graffiti inspired design and typography and has tattooed everyone from Snoop Dogg to Eminem. We created a collection of personalised initial pendants using a kind of graffiti ‘tag’ font. That was a dream come true as I’d wanted to work with him for so long.   

So, what’s coming up next for you?

I’m currently working on our annual couture collection that will launch later this summer. Like the Lignes D’Ete ready to wear collection, which is all about wearable pieces with neutral coloured diamonds, it has also been inspired by traditional North African designs. But I want to incorporate lots of wonderful colours. Either with coloured gemstones or enamel. I’ve sourced some sugarloaf emeralds and rubies that are going to look beautiful. We’re also hoping to launch our first Paris boutique this summer, to coincide with couture season. I’m finalising that right now, too. There’s a lot to look forward to this year.

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