Weaving Our Stories

In celebration of the 190th anniversary of U.S.-Thai diplomatic relations, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, in partnership with Thai counterparts, embarked on a series of initiatives throughout 2023, reflecting the depth and breadth of the special partnership between the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand. The “Weaving Our Stories” initiative is the culmination of this year of celebration. Weaving Our Stories skillfully intertwines the threads of friendship between our two countries and people through a captivating public art installation and exhibition in Bangkok as well as co-creation sessions and educational programming.

Driven by the vision of Ambassador Robert F. Godec, the “Weaving Our Stories” initiative aims to ignite meaningful public discourse while celebrating the past and envisioning the future of our ties. The initiative encapsulates the essence of our 190-year journey and celebrates the enduring partnership between our two nations through a collective narrative that uplifts voices of ordinary people and showcases the rich tapestry of our U.S-Thai relationship which has been woven by generations.

The centerpiece of the initiative is the captivating “Time Owes Us Remembrance” art installation at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) by Thai-American multidisciplinary artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya. “Time Owes Us Remembrance” is drawn from dozens of in-depth conversations, co-creation sessions, and in-person visits over the course of a year with communities across the United States and Thailand. Through a compelling combination of U.S.-Thai fabrics and a documentary, this extraordinary exhibition delves into the future of women, sustainability, climate, and the 190-year journey of the U.S.-Thai diplomatic relations. The strands of this tapestry of friendship between our two nations are many, and also cover areas such as trade, investment, addressing climate change, advancing public health, and ensuring regional stability and security.

The exhibition is on display from January 16 – June 25, 2024.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist. Born in Atlanta to Thai and Indonesian immigrants, her practice spans participatory installations, textile, sculpture, large-scale murals, and public art campaigns.

Through defiant storytelling, her work brings forth textures, histories, and rituals to amplify marginalized voices and creates liminal spaces that heal and transform.

She is a 2023 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in Visual Arts and Civic Practice Artist in Residence with Poster House and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. In 2022, she transformed Lincoln Center’s campus with “GATHER: A series of monuments and rituals” that used ceremony, sound, and large-scale mixed media installations to inscribe new meaning to memory and foster belonging.

As artist-in-residence with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Amanda’s art series celebrating the resilience of the AAPI community, “I Still Believe in Our City”, reached millions in New York City and worldwide reclaiming space on billboards, bus shelters, subway tunnels, buildings, at rallies, protests, and on the cover of TIME Magazine.

Her work is held in permanent collections at the Museum of the City of New York, the Goldwell Open Air Museum, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In 2023, she was appointed to President Biden’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities where she advises the President on how art can foster community well-being.

For more information on the artist, visit www.alonglastname.com.

The Weaving Our Stories initiative celebrates the 190th anniversary of U.S.-Thai diplomatic relations by spotlighting the intricate art of textile creation. This celebration serves as a powerful metaphor, illustrating the dedicated and multifaceted journey of building resilient communities across diverse cultures. Artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, deeply committed to learning and connection, spent months of engagement with American and Thai weaving communities and artisans. The encounters became a wellspring of inspiration for her artistic endeavors in Thailand.

Amanda’s immersion in Thai communities included meaningful interactions with “the mothers,” local artisans in 42 communities. Embraced by these artisans, she delved into the essence of expressing their spirits through the medium of thread and textile. These profound experiences have been interwoven into her art installation titled “Time Owes Us Remembrance.” Despite linguistic differences, the universal appreciation for heartfelt moments between the artist and Mae Mae (aunties and grandmothers) has fueled Amanda’s initiative. Sewn and woven together using the American quilting technique, these artworks symbolize the diverse and beautiful relationship between the United States and Thailand.


(Click map to enlarge)

Research–Working with Weaving Communities

These meaningful stories have been observed and interpreted through the eyes of Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, a Thai-American artist-in-residence in Bangkok. As the thread that weaves the stories of two cultures together, Amanda has taken a one-of-a-kind journey traveling to 42 communities in every region throughout Thailand from July to August 2023 to explore local cultures and learn the local wisdom of textile making including cotton weaving, silk weaving, natural color dyeing, Royal Khon performance embroidery, hill tribe weaving, batik painting, upcycled plastic weaving and many more. Her journey also includes conversations and co-creation sessions with weaving and quilting communities in the United States, bringing both American and Thai traditions to bear in the final public art installation piece. Throughout her journey, Amanda learned techniques and traditions emblematic of each unique region of Thailand:

  • Northern: Lahu and Akha embroidery, Karen traditional weaving, indigo dying
  • Northeastern: traditional silk weaving, indigo dyed cotton and ikat, natural color dyeing and printing, sedge weaving, ‘Praewa’ silk weaving
  • Eastern: upcycling plastic materials, traditional weaving using waste pineapple leaves
  • Southern: traditional batik painting, beads embroidery, local traditional weaving
  • Western: traditional ‘Pa Khao Ma’ or loin cloth weaving, Thai Song Dam embroidery and weaving
  • Central: silk weaving, traditional embroidery for Khon performance

Co-creation in Thailand and the U.S.

The artist facilitated a series of co-creation sessions with Thai university and high school students in Bangkok, and with American individuals in Brooklyn, New York. The pieces made by Thai and American participants will be sewn together using the American quilting technique to create a small participatory artwork symbolizing the diverse beauty of the relationship between the United States and Thailand at the Weaving Our Stories exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Residency

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya spent approximately 4 months from September to December 2023 as artist-in-residence at SAC Gallery in Bangkok to create the stunning art installation which will span three stories at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Unravel the tales of textiles, sustainability, and the long-standing bilateral ties behind the “Time Owes Us Remembrance” installation.

Yo-Yo

These little fabric puffs are called Yo-Yos. Yo-Yos are made from circles of fabric sewing a gathering stitch around the turned edge. The thread is then pulled and gathered to lay flat as a circle rosette. The Yo-Yo phenomenon began in the U.S. in 1920s. Women on a budget often made Yo-Yo textiles from fabric scraps, old bed sheets, or leftover feed sacks. Yo-Yo quilts, fashioned as individual “rosettes” sewn together to form a decorative item, were one of the most imaginative of 20th-century textiles.

While the artist was building “Time Owes Us Remembrance” at SAC Gallery in Bangkok, many Thai visitors to the studio expressed such nostalgia and joy at seeing the yo-yos, which reminded them of precious childhood moments spent making yo-yos with their mothers and grandmothers.

American Quilt

The history of quilts touches upon many American communities. The term “quilt” comes from the Latin culcita, meaning a stuffed sack. The quilt, as we know it in America, was originally a strictly utilitarian article, born of the necessity of providing warm covers for beds. Early settlers and emancipated people throughout the United States could not afford to simply discard things when they wore out; necessity required they carefully use their resources. Therefore, when blankets became worn, they were patched, combined with other blankets, or used as filler between other blankets. In the 100 years between 1750 and 1850 thousands of quilts were pieced and patched, and many of them are preserved.

Many of these quilts were so elaborate that years were spent making and quilting them. Nowadays they are cherished as precious heirlooms and occupy honored places in homes and museums. Those early quilts provide a glimpse into the history of quilting as well as the history of the United States.

Mat Mii (Ikat)

The Northeastern region of Thailand is known for its silk ikat (Mat Mii in Thai), a resist-dyeing process in which the patterns that will appear on the finished cloth are dyed onto weft threads prior to weaving. Mat Mii weaving is the oldest form of pattern weaving in Thailand and dates back approximately 3,000 years when sericulture (silk production) was first introduced to Thailand.

Mat Mii is produced through the traditional method of tying in the desired pattern with straw, hay or banana ropes. The ropes stop water from affecting the silk yarns, whilst dyeing it in the process. The tied yarns move through the dyeing process, but only the untied yarns absorb the dye. The method is repeated as many times as necessary, depending on the preferred color variations. Afterwards, each silk yarn is woven to create a variety of designs, combining the colored areas to produce patterns. The more colors, the more repetitions are needed. Every seemingly simple design demonstrates an artisanal level of detail that shows how much effort goes into the creation of the piece.

Handwoven Cotton

Cotton, originally cultivated in the Indus Valley has been used to make textiles for thousands of years. It is cool, absorbent, and wears and dyes easily. These are properties that have made it popular worldwide. It is the fiber most often used to make traditional Thai textiles. Weaving was a craft that was passed on from generation to generation throughout Thailand. Today there are a handful of weaving communities left where the tradition is kept alive, mostly by older women who weave on their front porch, in between farming and taking care of their families.

The cotton used for weaving is grown locally or nearby the village. Before cotton can be used for weaving, it must first be spun. Spinning twists the fibers around each other, entangling them and thus making a thread and holding the fibers together. Spinning offers choices of making thin or thick yarn and tight or loose yarn. A simple, traditional treadle loom is used to weave a cotton brocade which has one set of warps and wefts for the ground fabric and an extra weft for the pattern.

Sustainable Materials from Thailand

The artist repurposed fashion waste sourced from Rama Textile Industry in Samutprakarn to evoke a verdant lushness in “Time Owes Us Remembrance.” Over 3 separate factory visits in 2023, she hand selected hundreds of bundles of dyed threads that did not pass color testing and were set aside for resale to local crafters. The artist’s process of giving new life to textile waste reminds us all to look around and think more critically about creative ways to build sustainability through reimagination into our lives.

Sustainable Materials from the United States

The artist sourced these materials from a warehouse in Queens, NYC whose mission is to serve and cultivate a practice of repurpose and reimagination for community-based organizations, schools and social practice artists in the New York Area. These surplus fabrics were reclaimed from events, stage sets, and other venues so that students, artists and community members could find new, imaginative uses for them to foster connection, belonging and joy.

The Kingdom of Thailand is one of the United States’ most important friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific. Our two great nations have shared a long history together – dating back to 1833 when we signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce – and this year, we are celebrating 190 years of weaving the fabric of our partnership.

Over that time, our nations created a rich and vivid tapestry through threads of educational and cultural exchange, trade and investment, medical research, security cooperation, and so much more. Our strong ties have meant better lives for Thais and Americans, and we will continue to make our countries more prosperous and secure. And, together, we are stronger at tackling our mutual challenges than we ever could be separately.