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Design + Culture | Ruth Tshin


We made carrot cake at Ajan Tui and P’Da’s house in Mae Ai the other night.  Carrot cake with cheesecake icing never tasted SO GOOD while sitting surrounded by rice paddies and the sound of frogs brug-brug-brugging at night.  Leklek did all the hard work mixing and measuring – all I did was direct her!

photo courtesy of

Thanks, pill

Country styles

visit this Terra and Shawn – black beans, squash from the farm, rice, salad, chicken.” src=”×768.jpg” alt=”” width=”425″ height=”318″ />

From photos taken earlier this year – much easier to post with fast wifi!

Fashion in the north: The tweens and teens of Shan, page
Karen, cheapest
Lahu and Palaung tribes have distinctive style, some slightly off the mark!

Design + development

I remember seeking advice from a wise person when I was struggling to complete my Masters in molecular biology, patient about the tension I was experiencing because I was interested in a variety of things and wasn’t content to be entirely focused on plant molecules.  At the time, diabetes and pregnancy I was experimenting with French cooking methods, baking pies, exploring food security topics and wondering what to do with my love of English language (because scientific English is just so…scientific).  The wise person said to me that true innovation comes from the intersection of multiple disciplines and it is something that has stuck with me since.

Design for the 10%

Objectified, order directed by Gary Hustwit

I found this documentary in a great little DVD shop in Chiang Mai near my house.  It’s in total contrast to “design for the other 90%”, adiposity of those who are still struggling to obtain basic life necessities.  I found it thought-provoking, especially as I’m constantly trying to bridge the facets of myself that are drawn to marginalized, materially-poor peoples and my love of good design that makes my life easier or more beautiful.

Some tasty quotes from the many designers interviewed in the film:

“…[Products are avatars of who we are]…I show myself to the outside world by this car…” Chris Bangle, BMW, on cars

If you are a person who recognizes good design…it distinguishes you from the naive, bourgeois of the past, the past being everything up to that minute…You can buy into [good design, good taste]…” – Rob Walker, New York Times, on Target

Design for the Other 90%

In 2007, medicine I visited the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in Manhattan for their exhibition titled, order “Design for the Other 90%”.  Lately, I’ve been pondering the intersection of development, social justice, food security, design, fashion and culture (of marginalized minority groups and of popular culture as a whole).  I’ve had conversations about using film to promote the human rights culture.  I’m currently working on a website to promote information resources to development workers.  I love design, good design.  Form + functional, that’s what I’ve always looked for.  So that’s what I’m currently crunching on in my brain.

Any thoughts??


A souvenir from Dan and Art’s month-long visit to India.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama make their way to the East Room for after dinner entertainment with US governors February 22, order
2009 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Oh la la

Oh la la

Wow.  Michelle Obama just wows me.  This is even better than the Jason Wu at the Inauguration Ball.  Fluid beading, site faux couture jewelry, a radiant smile and the Prez.  Thanks to my pleasure-reading site:

Ballet Shoes in Chiang Mai



Even though I’m lazy, pharm I can muster the energy to go shoe shopping when I’m in the mood and especially when I’ve been out in the countryside for a while.  Just off of Nimmanhaemin Road (a really cute neighbourhood with relatively few tourists loitering around) in Chiang Mai is a shoe store called Ballet that sells hand-made, artificial leather shoes.  I’ve popped in several times to check out their selection and yesterday, decided to actually try on the shoes.  I was sold!  It’s difficult to find good quality, orthopedically correct shoes that are also attractive, in Thailand.  Bangkok has an incredible selection but the styles are rather trendy and fashiony, so I’ve always had difficulty finding functional yet pretty shoes there.  Many girls in the city wear inexpensive but trendy heels and flats that cost about $3 but probably won’t last through a rainstorm (because the soles are glued on) and are so uncomfortable after an hour (I’ve had my experience with shoes like that!).  I came to Thailand with my trusty Birks (still love them), Chacos and Blundstones (ditto, ditto) and Old Navy flip flops (yes, I know…why bring flip flips to the land of flip flops?  They were silver…?!?).  Everything was totally functional and not pretty, especially for those days when I need to feel like a woman!  So, I bought a pair of forties-style espradille wedges in green suede, T-strap heels in grey and funky T-strap sandals in metallic purple – all for under $70.  At the store, Jan made sure to stretch some stiff leather sections and to punch in extra holes in my straps.  Wow, that’s service.  She told me that some of their styles are always bought out by their Royal customers (as in related to the King) and I was like, I’ll bet!

Now, reality check: these shoes will not be wearable in Fang (too fancy, will get dirty easily) and relative to the wages the folks around me in the villages receive for a day’s labour in the fields, I spent a fortune on these shoes.  This is the dichotomy (I’m not sure if that’s the proper application of the word) I experience being involved in development work to benefit the Palaung people and being a Westerner who has disposable income to spend on the “finer” things in Thailand (and also a taste for it at times).  I’m not experiencing buyer’s remorse, but I am reminded again and again of the opportunities and experiences available to me because of my background, education and socio-economic status.  Some of my friends in the Palaung villages can’t even leave Fang to travel to Chiang Mai because they don’t have Thai ID cards, nor can they read nor write.  They still prefer to forage in the forest for bamboo shoots and other plants instead of paying for vegetables in the local markets.  Shoes for thought, perhaps?