There is a wonderful new place, art gallery and coffee spot in Mae Haad village in the North of the island close to Chaloklum called ‘Dream’, it comes from island resident Narelle Wellington.
Narelle first visited Thailand around 10 years ago and pretty much planned her escape from the UK ever since. She moved to Samui in 2014 thinking it might be the place for her but found it too busy.
“I visited Phangan not expecting to like it and that was 3 and a half years ago and I’m hooked, it's pretty much perfect for me”.
(Photo courtesy of Paduka Fansiar)
Where did the idea for Dream Phangan come from and what is the concept of the gallery?
I am a massive contemporary and amateur art fan; my house is dotted with things I’ve picked up all around the world.
So, Dream combines my two favourite things – art and charity. Everything in the shop is made in Thailand by upcoming and established artists. The artists are all paid well for their work. We give between 10% and 100% to Thai based charities depending on the item sold. So people support charitable causes as well as the artists themselves. It's not the usual mass produced stuff you find in the markets.
Tell us about the charities you work with and what they do...
We will work with lots of local and national Thai charities and causes, but there are two main ones we are featuring at the moment:
Centre for girls who help educate and support undocumented women and girls in Northern Thailand. Members of The Songpinong Women for Change have made us some beautiful traditional bags that we are currently featuring in the gallery. We do not take any money from the sale of these items. 100% of the sale is given back to the women so they can continue their education and support their families. Each bag can take several days to make. Find out how they are made and more about the cause here.
We also have gorgeous hand-painted elephants in by ‘O'. We give 55 baht from the sale of each one to Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital – the world’s first dedicated Elephant hospital.
Any local to Koh Phangan?
Of course! As it gets closer to high-season we will hold fundraisers for PACS and the local schools on the Island. Charlie's Children's Charity is another I would like to work with. Phangan Reptile Rescue, Trash Hero – anything that benefits Thailand and its people really.
What do you think is special about Thai arts?
We’ve all seen the traditional type of Thai craft especially in the tourist areas and on the islands. It’s easy to assume that this is the only style of art that is popular and reflects modern Thai culture. This is so not the case!
A lot of contemporary art draws on Thai folklore and traditions but gives them a modern twist – to me this shows the bright and exciting future Thailand has, rather than being stuck in old traditions.
And what does the gallery bring to the island?
Hopefully, it helps raise awareness of the diverse art scene in Thailand and also helps people understand Thai culture a little better. And of course, the ultimate aim is to raise money for Thai causes.
What are you exhibiting at the moment?
The bags made by Songpinong women are a big feature and of course O’s painted elephants. We have a fabulous range of hand screen prints by Luck Maisalee, Musical sculptures made from steel and brass by Luca, photography exhibition by Paul. We have jewelry made on the island by Pet Tawan.
Woodcut print bags by KaPloy. Exclusive leather bags by Miguelle LaSalle – we’re so lucky to have these we’re one of two boutiques in the whole of Thailand that stock them. A small collection of paintings by Kwanta Plodpinyo and Kriangsak Tangjerdjard. Handmade paper and woodcut prints featuring traditional Thai scenes, Mango Wood bowls inlaid with silver and gold, traditional Ceylon Ware…. lots and lots of fabulous things.
What are your hopes for Dream Phangan for the future?
I hope to hold exhibitions for known and upcoming artists at the gallery. Hopefully the first exhibition in high season will be Kwanta Plodpinyo who has a gallery of her work on Koh Lipe. We’ll also feature local artists including Pet Tawan and Phangan Art Club.
Typically, big exhibitions are held in Chiang Mai and Bangkok – it would be wonderful to add Phangan to the art-world map.
I would love it if tourists went home understanding a bit more about Thailand too, it’s past, the traditions, it's current modernity and aspirations for the future.
Did you know, for example, that Arnon Thitiprasert from Ristr8to (coffee house) in Chaing Mai won International Latte Art championship in 2017?
On a smaller scale, we will open as a coffee shop closer to high season – Thai coffee of course!
How can people support or get more involved?
Like the facebook page and you’ll get invited to upcoming fundraisers, events and exhibitions.
If you're a Thai artist looking to exhibit, contact me via facebook so we can meet up and take a look at your work. And if you're a Thai charity looking for support, we'd love to hear from you too.
What do you enjoy in your free time here?
I spend too much free time on Facebook haha. Now that the weather is getting cooler I am trying to enthuse my friends into doing some exercise. We’ll see how that goes. Somehow we always end up at The Crow Bar.
And leave us with the ‘Dream Phangan’ philosophy….
Help others through art.
Visit the Facebook page here.