Creative Thailand

A new dimension of designing fabrics by Belle Benyasarn ในหมวด CREATIVE MAKER

The most common perspective people have towards fabrics usually circles around clothing and as objects to decorate a room. We may only perceive fabrics and textiles as what we see and come into everyday contact with, but in truth, textiles are not limited to their 2D incarnation. Textiles can be presented beyond being the key material and can be paired with aluminum or other unexpected objects, such as copper, to create new, exciting forms. Creative Thailand has gotten a chance to chat with Belle Benyasarn, a textile artist who uniquely brings interesting materials into the weaving process. Belle Benyasarn, or Belle, is the main designer whom creates and designs the pieces. She got her undergraduate degree from the International Program in Design + Architecture from the Faculty of Architecture at Chulalongkorn University, and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Textiles from Royal College of Art in the UK. Toh, a pilot and her creative partner who helps oversee the business side, has helped build the textile studio that they both run.

Belle Benyasarn designs and offers design service that mainly works with textiles and also does other projects on the side. There are some exhibition and conceptual works where Belle is the designer and Toh looks over the business. Their main thread, however, is textile work.


When people think of fabric and textile work, they think of clothes and fashion. What is Belle Benyasarn’s treatment with textile?
Belle: It’s actually just me and how I don’t like the word “textile” because it sounds very clothy. My personal preference made me treat it more as a material. The weaving process is what creates that material and I am interested in its form, which does not have to be limited into making clothing or interiors.

 Toh: Most of our works have been experimental so people can understand our work first. If you ask if it can be worn in real life, well, it’s quite conceptual to some extent.

 Belle: Like said, the weaving part is one process, so we’ve tried including strange materials that people don’t usually use. But some projects we’ve worked on are created can be worn in real life and can be fashion too.


What are some of the benefits and challenges of getting into textiles after graduating from architecture?
Belle: I see them as the same thing. Architecture deals with the 3D, with the environment and with being a human, which shares many components with textiles. Most of my works take a 3D shape and are not just flat fabrics. I don’t create printed fabrics to look 2D, I see it more as something that is 3D. I think my background in architecture has caused me to see textiles that way.


How has studying abroad at Royal College of Art sharpened your artistic views?
Belle: RCA is like a whole new world. It’s the surrounding environment where art is part of people’s lifestyles—especially my classmates. I got a lot from them and their different perspectives really broadened my horizons. On weekends there I get to go to art exhibitions and this lets you see more and have a larger reference pool. When you see a lot of work, it lets you know, ‘Oh, this can be done?’ or ‘If they can do it, I can do it too,’ which is good for inspiring yourself.


After your experimental work, how does Belle Benyasarn make money from that?
Toh: At first, we just thought about creating works to be sold, but people don’t even know who Belle Benyasarn is and what kind of work it is. So we just wanted to work on something to let people see and feel that it’s different from typical textile works, be it in fashion or interior. We want people to understand Belle Benyasarn first and this year we’re planning to create something that people can really use.

 Belle: It’s not a big group that likes my work, but they do ask when I’ll have something for sale. I just say, hang on, I can’t think of anything yet!


Is what you are producing for sale still in its experimental stage?
Belle: It’s very hard, because working with optical fibers is very expensive and if we have to decrease all the specs, then I feel like I don’t want to work with it.

Toh: What we’ve experiment with is the finest and it feels terrible to have to cut that down. It’s a bit slow now because we’re assuming that they’d feel that what they got is not the same with what they’ve seen so we’re working on trying to recreate the same feeling with our prototype.

 Belle: This is what I think is really hard.

 Toh: Textiles in Thailand is also a business that is on the large scale. The medium scale is all gone and the small scale is all in OTOP textiles. It’s very hard to make money out of this, but personally, we don’t see ourselves as selling textiles. We’re not only selling a product, we’re selling a lifestyle too. It’s hard if people don’t understand us and our aesthetics so it’s really about communicating so people understand what Belle Benyasarn is all about.

How does Belle Benyasarn find new materials? 
Belle: When I was in England, there are libraries that have loads of references but back here, there isn’t anything like that. At first, I just went with materials that are easy to find and use, but I’d always run into problems more or less, because I’m not working on a large scale. So I went with using things that people don’t really use or do, but not to the extent of using completely unheard of things.