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"We're here with 'LERT' the furniture design studio founded by James, Gres, and Cake, where craft, artistry, functionality, sustainability, and a vision for the future converge."

If I don't mistake, we first met at your workshop 'HTDIY: How to do it yourself' here during Chiang Mai Design Week 2022, right? But how long have you guys been doing LERT?

James: I think it all start around the end of 2019. We were writing our new year resolution and having my own workshop was on the list.

Gres: James was busy with some woodworking for his personal space. I thought it would be fun to team up and create small home goods together. We really got into the project around mid-2020, and that's when LERT officially kicked off.

Cake: It's been three years since James, Gres, and I started spending a lot of time together, and LERT started from those time.

What's the meaning of LERT for you?

James: It comes from my name “Lertpong” At first I didn’t really like my name, but after forming LERT I feel like it become more than just a name. To me LERT is the people Grace, Cake, and James. Because with these people I feel like something magical is going to happen.

Gres: LERT means a lot more than a name. It all began with James's middle name "Lertpong," and along the way it turned into this big project. But it's not just a brand, it's more like a living thing. It’s where we join forces with people who share our passion for making things the wrong way (hahaha). It's questioning the normal ways we do "stuff" and creating a better and more sustainable solution.

Cake: For me, LERT is all about furniture that's versatile and full of possibilities. It's like a canvas for collaboration and artistic expression, a medium and a tool. It's not just something you buy and leave in your room. LERT invites you to get creative and make it your own. It's living furniture that's meant to be engaged with and transformed.

About the balancing of friend and co-worker, how do you divide responsibilities?

James: You can say that my responsibility is to bring the design to life.

Gres: From the beginning, we've divided up our responsibilities. Personally, I handle the product design and branding, and I've got the final say in those areas. We all have our own say in what we do. We trust and respect each other's skills, which helps us find that sweet spot between friendship and work without any major hiccups.

Cake: We had our roles defined from the beginning, as the brand director my job is to keep the brand in the right direction.

Most people always said 'Don't run business with friend', is it particularly challenging for LERT, or does it make you work easier?

James: Working with friends is easier because we often share similar values, goals, and visions. This alignment can lead to better communication, decision-making, and collaboration, as we understand and respect each other's perspectives.

Gres: Personally, I think working with family would be a lot worse. Hahaha! We've been through it all together, as friends and business partners. We've learned to separate work time from friend time, and it's made things surprisingly smooth. The best part is that we each bring unique strengths to the table. The key factor here is that our friendship is built on shared values, and that's what makes our business thrive.

Cake: I think there's just something special about collaborating with people you're close to. You can count on each other's skills, give honest feedback, and support one another through the design process. The vibe is relaxed and creativity flows naturally. It's the kind of environment where you can truly enjoy what you're doing.

So, you guys live and work together? It's interesting that you said you've never had conflict.

James: We know each other and spend time together for so long that we learn to understand and respect one another.

Gres: Yes, we do share a living space as well. At home we don’t really have conflict because it is a space for relaxation and we do have our own space. At work we also don’t have conflicts. It’s discussions, decisions, and working things out. We do of course have different points of views at work, but I don’t think it’s something we have to fight about.

Cake: Agree.

Let's talk about the atmosphere in studio when you're creating work, is it noisy or quiet? Do each of you prefer music in the background while you're creating?

James: I usually put headphones on, so I can listen to music and at the same time block out all the noise.

Gres: We always have some music on if the machine isn’t running. For me it helps to tune in the right mood.

Cake: I can’t listen to anything too good because I get distracted. So, it’s either silence or sometimes ambient music.

Then what type of music you're listening to right now?

James: I don’t have a specific type of music that is like, I like to explore around and lately I have been watching anime, so it got me into Japanese song, J-pop, Japan alternative rock etc.

Gres: Currently, I'm really vibing with Disco tracks that is from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and even 80's Bollywood. It's fascinating how you can pick up hints of familiar Western tunes in there too, or sometimes it goes the other way around. During my studio time, I love tuning into DJ mixes that introduce me to fresh and selected music, it always keeps the energy going.

Cake: It could be anything from 70’s Ambient to Percussion dub depending on the mood. If I am on my own in the studio I tend to listen to more slow tempo and meditative sounds like Mort Garson or Brian Eno.

Some part in the studio that you like the most, and why?

James: I like the CNC machine the most, it's like printing a furniture.

Gres: It's quite a small studio, so I do like every part. The part I like most is the air-con and the music, because our first studio was hot as hell and no music. Overall, I’m very grateful to be here. The location, the size, the vibe and ease. It's just right for this stage of the business, and our lifestyle.

Cake: The Sound system.

I notice you work with a lot of plywood, what make it your favorite?

James: Plywood is valued for its strength, durability, versatility, and cost-effectiveness, making it an excellent choice for various applications. It is also considered environmentally friendly as it is often made from sustainable sources and can be recycled or repurposed, reducing waste and promoting sustainability.

Gres: It's easy to understand, comes in the same size, cheap and durable.

Cake: I think there are so many ways that you can do things more sustainably and they don’t actually cost more money.

Tell us about your collaboration with illustrator TUNA DUNN.

James: It is our first collaboration project. I think it's a fun project, combining illustration with furniture. The result turns out to be a pretty interesting piece.

Cake: The collaboration with Tuna Dunn clearly showed that LERT is not a furniture brand that fades away. We provide a space for people to explore and create.

How do you decide who to collaborate with?

James: We are still a very small brand, at this point it's more like them who chose us to collaborate with. But of course, we are looking forward to doing many more collaboration projects.

Gres: We all have people we "dream and wish" to collaborate with. Often, they’re people who inspire us, super into their craft, or doing something so creatively courageous. We have never approached anyone yet though, we want to be confident in our craft and hope the law of attraction comes into work.

Aside from your work, do you guys have any hobbies?

James: Once in a while I like to go rock climbing.

Gres: I do DJ as a part time job. Is that considered a hobby? (Haha) Apart from that I read and sometimes run.

Cake: Being based in Chiang Mai, I love going on treks outside the city, immersing in nature. It clears my mind and fuels my creativity for new work.

Do you plan to create a personal project? Is there something you've always wanted to do and haven't done it yet.

James: We do have a lot of personal projects that we want to make and renovating our studio is also one of our personal projects, we are glad that we could share it with Wood And Mountain.

Gres: There are tons of things I want to do and haven’t done! I mean everyone will also have. Let’s keep it a secret haha.

Cake: I want to make LERT grow in a more enjoyable direction, with projects that can build a community and allow people to experiment even more.

Location: Made by LERT, Chiang Mai

Follow: LERT / James / Gres / Cake

Photography: Bitter Amara


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