Excuse the intended pun, but why take a dried up leaf seriously?
One such teacher did.
Tong Tung tree, as they call it in Thailand, has always been a scene in abundance in local life. Commonly known to the world as Teak, the fallen leaves have been used as roofing thatch for centuries.
The hardwood is valuable for its enduring quality in ships, construction and outdoor furniture. The leaves were also used in local medicine and food wrappings. But it was only when a civil service teacher took a step into the unknown when the Teak reached another plane of existence.
Poramet Saiupparach had a civil service career teaching at a Bangkok college. But the stirring of something indefinable could not be satisfied by the security that was attributed to his profession. He had always wanted to accomplish something he could call his own. Deciding to take the plunge, he resigned from his day job and opted to try his hand at selling paper and straw products through the internet. With his professional background in computing, he rode the approaching first waves of e-commerce. The new job was quite lucrative but the best part was having the time and opportunity to study with Japanese scientists on developing a new material.
Young Tong Tung leaves had always been used as sticky rice wrappings because it was durable and had water resistant qualities. And it was abundant in the region. There was too much, in fact, one would hardly notice because the tree would shed its leaves bald from May to September. And the leaves would simply fade to the ground as litter.
Could there be something more? Poramet Saiupparach’s curiosity saw that there is always something more than what meets the eye. The project, however, hit a snag as the Baht ran out and the material kept on breaking under trial. A pioneer’s life is never an easy one.
Poramet decided to go back to teaching but never gave up on the Tong Tung leaf.
After years of study, a new material was born in 2004.
Teak leaves were collected, dried, processed, laminated and treated, it turned into innovative—Mr. Leaf products. To which Poramet could claim, “Our product is unique and like no other.”
The beauty of creation didn’t stop here; in 2016 Mr. Leaf won the Chiang Mai Design Awards 2016 for excellence in the Craft Design Category with their Leaf Cabinets.
As Mr. Leaf’s website summarizes their motto: “Whatever fabric can, leather can, MLEAF can…”
Adhering to a sense of community and harmonizing with nature, Mr. Leaf believes that “anything that can be reused, be worth itself.”
We borrow a line from an unknown author: “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a lot to love a leaf. It’s ordinary to love the beautiful, but it’s beautiful to love the ordinary.”
For Mr. Leaf, there is true inspiration in the most common things.