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Artist Interview: Thanya Suwansawad

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Thanya Suwansawad earned her Fine Art degree from Silpakorn University, Bangkok. Post graduation, she opened a clothing business in Thailand elevating the use of handwoven Thai textiles in fashion during a time when the popularity of mass-produced fabrics was on the rise. Her clients ranged from renowned doctors and diplomats to the Queen of Thailand, who commissioned a fashion show. The event garnered Thanya even more recognition for her vision and support of Thai craftsmanship. Fast-forward to 2016 and Thanya has moved to the United States, successfully restarted her clothing business, consulted on countless small fashion businesses, and opened a Thai restaurant in San Francisco. Fueled by her artistic vision, each project was a testament to her attention to detail and her love for blending tastes, textures, color and craft.

What inspired you to begin weaving?

I was knitting with recycled plastic bags that I collected. Then my granddaughter's art teacher, Sandy Drobny, gave a studio tour and I saw her loom. On a whim, I wanted to learn how to weave and my daughter, Salee, helped me to buy a used loom for a great price. Sandy then taught me how to warp and weft over 2 days. Then I got it. 

When I am weaving, I am thinking about painting. When you start painting, you start with the colors and you keep going and going. When you see the colors, I imagine mixing colors similarly to painting. I discovered it was amazing to mix yarn and plastic. Sometimes the reflection of the colors come out so beautifully. You see the blending of color and find harmony. People don't see what I do, and you see the color mixing as it is happening. I've worked on this for 4 years now. Weaving everyday. It's fun. Right now I am working on my new project. 

Where do you get your creative inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from the color of the materials. I started with yarn and discovered that when I mixed it with plastic it became more colorful and reflected color in a different way. Sometimes the color of the bag is ugly and when mixed with a different yarn color it turns into a beautiful color. Afterwards, I start thinking about how the color will translate into the design of bag, jacket, table runner or tape. The color inspires the form. I also love nature more than anything. 


What led you to using these materials?

My daughter, Thanya, gave me a crocheted bag up-cycled from plastic bags that she brought back from Cape Town, South Africa made by a women's artists cooperative. I collected plastic bags from different stores like Lego, Target, Sprouts, Walmart and cut it into strips. I started knitting the material into bags for several years exploring pattern, color and shape. Then it turned into weaving.

How has living in the Bay Area influenced your art?

The imagination is in my head. It's like meditation for me.

Do you find elements of your fashion background in your art?

Yes. I am a clothing maker and I love fabric. I'm very familiar with fabric. I love fabric very much and wanted to learn how to weave. I love the texture and love how you can create textures through weaving. I love materials and using different materials to make it into a different thing. My background is as a designer. I worked creating clothing for so many years.

Where do you want your art to be seen?

I want my show my work in the museum. I want to share the work with people for everyone to come and see the work. I would be so happy if I died and my work showed in a museum. I would love to sell my work to earn more money for the materials for the next project. Ciel did a very good job displaying my work. The natural lighting, the setting and high ceilings makes makes the work more beautiful.

What is the next step beyond these tapestries?

I'm working on a new project and exploring weaving over new kinds of structures.


What is your favorite creative outlet? Art, fashion or your restaurant?

Art and food. I can't separate it. When you are hungry you stop doing art and start cooking. Then when I'm done eating, you do art again. They go together in life!

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Thanya Suwansawad

Pomona Lake