This article is a condensed version of the cover story for Prestige Thailand’s August 2016 edition – on stands now.
Lotus Arts de Vivre is practically synonymous with Thailand’s von Bueren clan. Founded by Rolf von Bueren and his wife, Helen, the brand has grown in range and depth to encompass everything from knuckle-sized diamond-encrusted lizard rings to a unique carved wood armchair – more of a throne, really – covered in gold lotus leaves.
The magnificent pieces take inspiration from Asian mythology and culture, with artisans seamlessly melding precious metals and jewels with organic materials such as ebony, seeds, nuts, seashells, bamboo, scarab wings and ostrich egg, bringing to life mythical beasts and ancient tales.
The latest creation by Lotus Arts de Vivre, though, is even more special than their usual wares: Unexpected Creations is a collaboration with prestigious publisher Assouline, Japanese photographer Yuriko Takagi and freelance specialist writer Victoria Gomelsky.
It’s both homage and historical, marketing and art – a celebration of the exceptional design and craft that have made each Lotus Arts de Vivre piece such a sought-after collector’s item.
Rolf von Bueren
First Arriving in Thailand:
“I was brought up in a very rigid, class-conscious German family with lots of rules and very little tolerance, so when I first arrived to Thailand 54 years ago as a representative for a German chemical company, I immediately fell in love with the culture and the people. I think one always compares things with what they know and Thailand was in stark contrast with post-war Germany where there was no fun or laughter left in people’s lives.”
Individualism in Art:
“In Thailand, people did everything in a group effort and not as individuals. Individualism has a different weight in Europe; they started to sign art in the 13th century, and the first art ‘brand’ was created by painter and German Renaissance theorist Albrecht Dürer. Here, individual signing of art is perhaps only 50-60 years old.”
His Brand’s Success:
“We’ve had a number of successes around the world and I can say with a level of certainty that most of the wealthy people are in the know. More importantly, it has only spread through word of mouth since we don’t advertise – in fact we refer to ourselves as ‘the silent brand.’”
Sri von Bueren
The Meaning of Good Design:
“It is important for us to have a synergy of quality and craftsmanship, combining different techniques or different worlds, while making sure the pieces last and are wearable,” explains Sri. “Good design is a whole bunch of stuff coming together in a combination of look and feel, with good technical execution. But in the end, design and quality have to prevail.
“Design is not all about trends, it is about making things that last and spark interest. The most important thing is to be complimented – getting attention in other words, being noticed. I think there is a desire for that in every human being. We’re funky and we attract attention.
“That is our style, I believe, and what people enjoy about our designs. It’s a marriage between the user and the piece, whether is it a piece of jewellery or a piece of furniture or home décor. It becomes a conversation piece and it takes a certain person to buy our pieces. It is not about having a lot of money, it’s about having a lot of style and fun.”
Nicki von Bueren
The Meaning of Luxury:
“Luxury to a person is time to enjoy – to be with their family and to do what you want. But in terms of jewellery and in terms of home decorations, our business is about a certain perception, it’s about fewer pieces. I don’t, at least from my selling point, believe in luxury for the masses.”
His Management Philosophy:
“Managing is just making decisions and you just have to go with what you feel is right; sometimes it has more of an Asian approach, sometimes more of a Western approach; sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong… I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other, you just sort of go with what you think works.”
Thailand’s Artistic Talent:
“Our thing is to preserve culture, or crafts in its own little way. Everything we do has a thought process behind it. It will allow people the opportunity to understand what we’re about… Somehow, [Thailand is] very talented, but we are still not known on a worldwide scene for fashion, jewellery… there are very few [known brands], and that’s a little disappointing because there’s so much talent.”
Photographer: Apichart Chaichulla
Stylist: Sarunya Ariyakul
Assistant Stylist: Pisit Jieathadaphan
Makeup Artist: Patchayanan Wattanasirijirakul
Assistant Makeup Artist: Pratchaya Phothong
Hair Stylist: Narongsak Yiamlaengamkool
Assistant Hair Stylist: Rachata Kiatkumkan
Art Direction: Kanda Charanawat
Editorial Coordinator: Sirinart Panyasricharoen
Assistant Coordinator: Prea Satrusayang and Wipawee Suebprasit
Venue: The von Bueren Residence