We met Tum at his studio/home on April 6, 2011. The MAMAFAKA Studio is located on a quiet soi off of Ladphrao 44 not too far from the Ratchada MRT station.
Sook Yawd: When did you decide to decorate your entrance?
TUM: People can see inside, so I needed to cover up the window since this is also my home. I wanted to make something that would be a landmark.
SY: It’s good for promotion.
TUM: It is. This soi doesn’t get much traffic, but when you were coming here it stood out right away. Just like that! TUM: I cleaned up the studio for your visit.
SY: You didn’t have to clean.
TUM: I should have left everything on the floor with clothes laying around. [laughs]
SY: People love seeing the daily mess! How long have you had this studio?
TUM: I’ve been in Bangkok for 7-8 years now and just moved my studio into my house a year ago.
SY: Are you freelance?
TUM: Yes. I’m a freelance graphic designer.
SY: What other mediums do you work in besides graphic design?
TUM: Typography and illustration.
SY: What is your field within graphic design?
TUM: I design a lot of book covers for Thai editions.
SY: Did you move to Bangkok by yourself?
TUM: Yes. Well my father was here for work, but I lived closer to my university.
SY: What did you go to school for?
TUM: I graduated from Rangsit University in Visual Communication Design. Basically graphic design.SY: How old were you when you started to get into art?
TUM: When I was in primary school I loved reading the comic book Dragon Ball, which came after the Dr. Slump series. I would draw copying the manga style of monsters. My house in Khon Kaen had drawings everywhere.
SY: When did you start to develop your own style?
TUM: As a kid I just copied Japanese cartoons. Copied, copied, copied! Then I learned about graphic design in college.SY: You use a lot of black marker in your work. When did you start using markers?TUM: I draw on the Wacom with the marker function for hair, eyes and faces. P7 invited me to participate in the “For” Wall Painting Showcase at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) last year, and it made sense to use actual markers to achieve the look I designed on the Wacom. Since that show I have been using marker in a lot of my work.
SY: We noticed you were the only artist in this year’s For 2 wall painting show using a grid to layout your mural.
TUM: When I was a kid, I used to watch them paint the signs for the cinema near my house. They used small grids to layout the signs, so that’s how I learned that technique.
SY: How long does it take you to complete a mural?
TUM: It can take me a full day to several weeks depending on the scale and environment. I completed the Mass Universe mural in a day and a half.
SY: Do you sketch too, or do you just use the Wacom?
TUM: I sketch. This book is from my time in Melbourne.SY: What inspires you?
TUM: Fashion, magazines, toys. Thai artist P7. Banksy for his ideas. Thai graphic designer Tnop.
SY: Tnop lives in Chicago! He used to work for Segura Inc. Logan had a nice chat with him last year when he was in town.
TUM: When I was in university he was featured in IdN magazine, and he was my idol. He came to my university once, so I got to meet him. I didn’t have a name back then and haven’t had the chance to meet him since.SY: Have you done any work outside of Thailand?
TUM: My friend invited me to draw some monsters in his bike shop in Melbourne when I was studying English there for seven months. Besides that I just washed dishes, went to concerts and partied.
SY: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
TUM: I love Japan. Ever since I was a kid I drew from the Japanese style. Japan has everything, art, graphic design. But right now I wouldn’t want to go because it’s scary.
[*Referring to the March 11th 9.0 earthquake on Japan’s northeast coast.]
SY: How long have you collected designer toys?
TUM: When I was in university I would ask my mom for money, which I used to buy toys.
SY: What is the significance of toys to you?
TUM: They inspire me. I love things you can play with. My life goal is to design a 1000% Be@rbrick. If I could design a 1000% Be@rbrick, I would die happy. SY: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
TUM: I have one younger sister. She opened up a cafe near Khon Kaen in Maha Sarakham.
SY: What do your parents do?
TUM: They’re both retired now, but they were government workers.
SY: Do your parents like your art and design work?
TUM: They don’t really understand my work. They are old school and conservative. They were okay with it after I finished university and started working on the book covers. I started to build a name for myself, and it was paying the bills.SY: You were recently featured in Wallpaper* Thailand as a member of B.O.R.E.D (Band of Radical Experiment Design).
TUM: B.O.R.E.D. is a design collaborative I started with my friends Rukkit Kuanhawate, Pongpassakorn Kulthirathum, Koonklung Kouputhai, Varathit Uthaisri, Porachon Sathanon and Wanpracha Thitipaisal in 2002. Back then there were only serious graphic design publications in Thai, and nothing fun that just showcased work and was visually appealing. That’s how we came up with the name B.O.R.E.D. because we were bored of everything going on in our field.SY: You mentioned your mural for Mass Universe earlier. What is Mass Universe?
TUM: Mass Universe is a graphic design school I started with a couple of friends. We run small workshops, and the space is also an office. Art4D just did a feature on the school.
SY: Did you meet everyone while at Rangsit University?
TUM: Several people from our group graduated from Rangsit. Rukkit went to Chulalongkorn, and we met at Fat Festival 8 years ago. We had similar ideas, and we also like to drink. [laughs] One of our B.O.R.E.D. members won a prize at Cannes and works for Google in NYC now. That’s our biography.SY: In Thailand it seems like working with friends or in a group is really important. Can people work individually?
TUM: Eight years ago an individual without a big name who hadn’t really worked before would have a hard time finding a job on their own. Back then we didn’t have Facebook or design magazines for self-promotion. We thought that if we all worked together we could build a bigger name for ourselves. At Fat Festival we did an event similar to Cut&Paste called Graphic Battle with two computers and a large projection for the audience.
SY: You use a lot of English phrases in your work. How did that come about?
TUM: I like typography. I’ll write something in Thai and have my friends help me translate it into English.SY: Do you ever do any Thai typography?
TUM: I tried it once. I attended a typography workshop with Rukkit, and it didn’t work for me. Rukkit’s worked! It’s very difficult for me because my work is more freeform, freestyle. Rukkit is more detail oriented.
SY: I was talking to Miamian Jessy Nite, and she said she was into your typography.
TUM: I like her style. It’s very freeform.
SY: Farang [Westerns] see the Thai alphabet and think it’s so beautiful even though we can’t read it. On the other hand Thai artists seem to lean towards the use of English in their work.
TUM: With Thai all the letters fit into a specific form. I write English incorrectly all the time, but the letter forms are very open to interpretation. I like writing in Thai as well, but it’s very difficult. If I have more time, I work with Thai.SY: With English anything goes.
TUM: Actually I made stickers in Thai for B.O.R.E.D. Can you read it?
SY: No. What’s it say?
TUM: It says เบื่อ [beuua]. Like, “I’m bored!”SY: You made a lot of stickers.
TUM: This one is for my fixed gear bike crew Jao Noo Singh Nak Pan (JNSNP). SY: Is everyone in JNSNP a designer?
TUM: Chubby Chain is a pretty famous photographer and helped start the bar Happy Monday on Ekamai. Other members are creatives. One guy is a copywriter.SY: How did you pick the alias MAMAFAKA?
TUM: Can you guess? [laughs]
SY: How long have you used this alias?
TUM: I started using this name around the same time we started B.O.R.E.D. Is it a funny name? I like the way it looks when you write it. There is a rhythm with the way the letters go up and down with alternating A’s. It reminds me of an African pattern. I was a kid back when I chose the name, so I didn’t over think it.SY: Can you show us your favorite pair of shoes?
TUM: These were an accident, but they’re my favorite.SY: You have a lot of sunglasses.
TUM: I buy from local shops and ask friends to pick some up if they’re traveling outside of Thailand.SY: I see a lot of kids wearing glasses with no lenses. What’s up with that?
TUM: It’s funny isn’t it.
SY: We’re both life-long eyeglass wearers, so we find it very funny.
TUM: My prescription is really low, and I only started wearing glasses a couple of years ago. I’m a beginner.SY: When’d you get this Cobrasnake sticker?TUM: He came a few years ago when Steve Aoki played at Club 808, so my picture’s on his website.
SY: He came to Chicago before but didn’t take my photo. I’m too old and not handsome enough. [laughs]TUM: This is my most important note.SY: What’s it say?
TUM: It says, “Call mom more often.”
SY: Who wrote that?
TUM: I did because my mother says I don’t call her enough!
SY: I’ve seen these hats online. What’s the story behind “plusone1“?
TUM: My friend Narongsak Prommala started a cycling hat line with his dad who is a master tailor. They live out in Lop Buri and asked a few local artists to collaborate on some designs. Narongsak does more of the graphics and marketing end, and his father sews each hat himself. He used to make suits and other custom pieces, but now their business is focused on the father+son collaboration to produce the cycling hats.
SY: It’s a good idea. The bike hat with the leather is well stitched. The quality is great, and it still has a lot of personality.
TUM: If you want to go it’s easy to get to by train, and you can go fishing, ride a bike around and relax.
SY: Sounds amazing!SY: So what music do you listen to while you’re working?
TUM: Electro, soft soft. Breakbot. Indie rock like Modular Recordings, Ed Banger Records. Inspirational, fashion and lifestyle music.SY: What’s your favorite food?
TUM: Som tum bhu pala [green papaya salad with salted soft shell crab) because I’m from Isan. In Isan you eat som tum for breakfast, lunch and dinner .
SY: Where is the best som tum in Bangkok?
TUM: Krok Mai on Kaset-Nawamin.SY: Do you have any plans to move out of Bangkok?
TUM: No. The city has good work and good people. Khon Kaen is really relaxed. You can rest and go for fun, but Bangkok is the center for graphic design in Thailand and projects are always happening. The same also goes on in Chiang Mai.
SY: Last but not least, please draw us a self-portrait.
TUM is SOOK YAWD’s first interview. We would like to thank him for inviting us into his space and for putting up with our broken Thai!
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