Let’s try this: Look around you, remember as much as you can, and close your eyes. Then answer this: Are the things around you play a major role in making who you are? Or let’s not take things that far. Do the environment and people around you make you who you are today? If you’d ask me, the answer would be yes. They make up who I am without me even realizing it. This must be what it means when people say, a positive environment brings positive things.
Today we from the Kooper team find ourselves in such a positive environment: this bright and colorful studio of the girl who loves to dream, ‘Juli Baker and Summer’ or Paan Chanaradee Chatkul Na Ayutthaya, an illustrator whose art is both colorful and sincere. Her works have appeared on the album cover of the band Plastic Plastic, mobile phone cases, T-shirts and a hotels’ walls. In short, definitely an artist to watch, which is why we are sitting her down for a conversation today. The more we talk, the more impressed we are with her talents and her views toward the art she creates.
What’s the story behind the studio’s adorable name, Juli Baker and Summer?
Actually, I was only naming a store for selling my secondhand hats. So it started from something really simple: I like this film Flipped by Rob Reiner, my favorite movie director. In it there’s a character named Juli Baker. Her father in the film was similar to my dad in so many ways. So I started seeing myself as Juli Baker (laughs). The ‘Summer’ was a character from 500 Days of Summer, but now I think it means summer as a season because my art and products are cheerful, summer-like. So I put the two together and continue to operate under this time until now.
Juli Baker and Summer’s colorful products
We currently have pins, scarves, postcards, Zine –which are handmade books– and dresses. I plan to expand the product line into houseware, including carpets and tablecloth. Now these products are available for online purchases on Facebook, Instagram and in the Happening Shop at BACC. Soon, they will be available at Tentacles N22 and Spacebar as well. I want to have a store of my own someday, but for now things are fine as is.
I also plan to get a master’s degree before opening an art school with a small shop inside. This is why I need continuous learning. I’m considering doing Fine Art in either Amsterdam or the UK. I really want to go to Amsterdam, but the problem is the course takes two years and is expensive. But UK courses take only one year. After the one-year course, I can spend a year after traveling. So, two different experiences. At Amsterdam there is what is called Dirty Department, which sounds super cool. It’s actually Fine Art but a bit more unconventional.
You studied fashion, but ended up as illustrator.
I’ve also loved drawing, since I was a child. I drew girls in pretty dresses and thought, “I guess I’m into fashion.” But once you’re in a fashion school, it’s not only about drawing. There are materials, trends, and other processes which I don’t enjoy at all. So I let myself try several other things. And as it happened, when I was an exchange student in the UK, I took Visual Communication which had a course on illustration – and I loved it. That’s how I switched into this field.
It’s not like I gave up fashion entirely. I have been working as a regular freelance for a children’s clothing brand based in Berlin, Germany for more than two years, designing fabric patterns for them. I got to know them while on an internship program in Berlin. Because I’m only doing patterns, I can just send them through Dropbox. I also work with Vick’s Weekend, a Thai brand.
Your identity is shaped by events in your life and the people around you.
To me, identity is formed from every event in our life from when we were young, how we are raised, places we visit, people we meet and talk to, books we read, movies we watch. My parents are into art. Dad grew up in the 60s and 70s, and to me the people of this generation had an artist in them. Dad supported me in this direction. Mom used to sell handmade accessories. So I grew up familiar with art.
My dad is a big fan of the Beatles. He adores them. When I was younger, I didn’t like them at all. To me, their music was for old people, because my dad was the only one I know who likes them. No one else my age does. So I silently hated the Beatles, because it was always them. My dad once made a card for me and placed the photo of my face next to the band members (laughs). But one day, when I was a bit older, I heard a song in a restaurant and really liked it. Turns out it’s a Beatles’ song. So I went through that album and fell in love with it. If I could choose, I’d probably prefer to be born in that era. I love everything from that age, architectural style, fashion, the confidence of the people in that generation.
So every little thing in your life becomes an inspiration behind your work.
It’s not like I can declare ‘Hey, today I’m going to go look for inspiration.’ It’s more like, pieces of a conversation I have today may inspire me to create something in the future. It’s really about everything that happens around us. Visiting an art gallery is a good way to find inspiration. But I believe everything in our life can inspire us. Our dreams can, too. The Beatles wrote many songs based on their dreams.
How do you divide between work and play time at Juli Baker and Summer?
As a freelancer, any day is just as important. I don’t hate Mondays and look forward to Fridays. I know the rhythms of my own life, know when I need to recharge my batteries. When my schedule is tight, I know I have to finish my work. But when there’s free time, I’ll go see a film. In my high school years, I watched a film with my dad every night. I don’t want movies that frequently now but still enjoy it. I also love attending events and try to arrange at least one long trip in a year.
When I take a trip, I choose a destination based on art events. I’m not one for climbing mountains or nature tourism. I love strolling in a city, meeting new people, seeing art exhibitions, trying new food and learning about their cultures.
Paan’s work at Ibis Hotel
I like experimenting. I’m not afraid to take up challenging assignments. Recently, I drew pictures on the wall of Ibis Styles Chiang Khong Riverfront, in Chiang Khong. It was a fun project, the largest one I ever worked on. The wall is 18 meters long, seven meters high. I had to sit on a three-story scaffold tower. My legs were shaking so much because it was very high. Extremely challenging. My dad was my assistant (laughs). The hotel saw my works from a webpage. It was a great opportunity.
Your favorite corner at home where you can chill and get new inspirations for creating art
My studio right here. My workspace and bedroom are separate from each other. Otherwise I’d be sleeping all day (laughs).
I want workspace that will make my happy, because I’m a freelancer. I might go to my dad’s room sometimes because it’s cooler there. But mostly I work, take a break, play the piano here. I stopped playing the piano for the longest time, until I watched La La Land (laughs).
Movies are a source of knowledge and entertainment that influence your ideas
Movies have a big influence on me. I see a lot of movies. It’s a hobby. My best friends often teasingly ask me, “what character are you in today?” because I “cosplay” sometimes, acting as a movie character. But I won’t tell anyone who it is. It depends on how I feel that day. It’s a form of cosplay really (laughs).
Ken Done’s works
If you ask me who my role models in life, I’d say mom and dad. Dad does a lot of charity work. He’s really lived his life to the fullest, using his talents to help people. He was a lecturer; he used to work in an international organization for foreign workers, which I think is a good thing. But in the art world, I adore so many people, which change over time. Right now I’m into Ken Done, an Australian artist in his 70s. I love his works – they are simple and pure.
Your drawings don’t need to reflect reality. Just draw what you want. At school I was inspired by naïve art. I think it’s in this class, History of Arts. There is this idea that you don’t need training to be able to create art. No need to know about art theories. A child or a person without any art education can draw. I love art inspired by this concept. Most look like children’s work. My works are not really naïve art per se, but draw some inspiration from it. One of my lecturers from the UK recently visited Bangkok. He said my art expresses Thainess without me intending it. He said my art is a Thai version of Henri Matisse. I never saw it that day. But come to think of it, I think it’s true. It’s what we have in us growing up.
You want to play a part in driving the art and creative communities in Thailand forward.
I just had this conversation with a French friend yesterday. There are so many aspects to this. In Thailand, it’s quite easy to start a brand. In France, to make a scarf, they need to order one from the Netherlands, because it’s impossible to find cheap production in France, something a student can get going. Here in Thailand, it’s so easy, and cheap too. But at the same time it’s like no one cares about crafts. We don’t pay artisans well enough, which reflects how uninterested we are in crafts. We also don’t allow a lot ofroom for creativity. It’s like we have been taught that art is about drawing. But to me, art is about imaginations and creativity. Any profession, including doctors and scientists, cannot thrive without creativity.
This is why I want to open an art school (laughs). This is all I can do. And I’ll do it the best I can.
It’s like we have been taught that art is about drawing. But to me, art is about imaginations and creativity. Any profession, including doctors and scientists, cannot thrive without creativity. This is why I want to open an art school.
Follow her at: julibakerandsummer
English translation: Suchanart Jarupaiboon