For the Love of LeatherWritten by Jane Littlefair
R Studio was started by Bangkok local Nuke Ratinath to showcase and teach artisans how to work with leather. With her own brand and a series of in-demand workshops, this homegrown creative is attracting attention thanks to her unique aesthetic and unusual teaching methods.
Whether you’re new to the world of craftsmanship or interested in honing your abilities, Ratinath Chantawilaskul (better known as Nuke) firmly believes that everyone can craft magic with their hands. In 2014, Nuke launched R Studio in the bustling district of Thonglor in Bangkok as a space dedicated to all things leather. Not only a place for her to work her craft, the studio also aims to build a community through a range of workshops designed to help revive Bangkok’s leather tradition with a touch of artistic innovation, attracting an impressive number of artists and students as she goes.
After completing her degree in Fashion Design at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok in 2010, Nuke chased her creative instincts and managed to land a job as a designer for a Maneesilp, a “handmade Thai shoe brand with a lot of character and history,” as she describes it. And it was through her exposure to different materials at Maneesilp that Nuke acquired a fascination for leather. She confesses, “I fell in love with leather because every piece is different. Leather is natural and it also ages with character — the smell changes as well.”
And so, at the age of 26, she jumped onto the entrepreneurial bandwagon and established a self-run studio that specialises in small leather products and shoemaking workshops. “The concept of R Studio is that there are no restrictions on what you can make.” Run like a mini-art exhibition that showcases her products (some of which are for sale) crossed with a shared community space that offers classes at the same time, R Studio has quickly become a vibrant space with a reputation all of its own. The next item on her list is to also develop her luxury line which she plans to sell in boutiques worldwide.
Since the establishment of her studio in 2014, Nuke has become an expert when it comes to leather. She handles her material like a pastry chef, knowing how it stretches, how it moulds, and how it smells after certain periods of time. Along with her teaching, Nuke has her own production line focusing on leather accessories, bags, and shoes. In fact, many students have joined her leather classes because of her own unique aesthetic. “If I have to describe my style then it would consist of creating minimalistic products that are full of detail and interesting gimmicks,” she explains. One of her most treasured pieces is her ‘Bird in the Golden Cage’ – a shoe that was constructed for a competition when she first started out as an entrepreneur. For her, the shoe signifies the first handmade item that truly showcased her talent for being able to create wearable yet conceptual designs.
At R Studio, workshops range from one-day courses to a full 30-hour course which includes a day trip to the Charoenrat Market in Bangkok where students can gain a feel of local leather and fabric shops. However, each class is limited to just 4 students. “The reason why R Studio is different from others is because we don’t limit creativity when it comes to your designs. I don’t teach step-by-step rules on how to create – I teach my students how to care for and maintain tools, and how to think as a designer – this is important,” Nuke says.
When it comes to the design process, Nuke firmly believes in beauty and function. She’s a creative who disregards current trends and believes that uniqueness is the key to great design. “Your character is the most important part of your design. I teach my students to craft designs that show their personality in a beautiful and conceptual way.” And she’s more than proving her own concept as she does that.
R Studio, 3/F, Black Amber Building, Thonglor Soi 5 – 7, Bangkok, Thailand