Thailan When x Tea Collection

Thailan When Collaboration

Thailan When is a Vietnamese-Chinese American artist based in Oakland, CA. Thailan first caught our eye with her ability to bring whimsical stories to life through her signature illustrations. Born in a refugee camp in Songkhla, Thailand and raised in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, Thailan offers a unique, multicultural perspective. Together, we created a special collection of graphics exploring Southeast Asian folklore and animal symbolism. Read on to learn more about her upbringing, art, and what her designs for the collaboration mean to her.

How do you balance your Vietnamese, Chinese, and American identities?

Thailan When

Thailan When

Living in America in the ’80s was, at times, challenging for my family. The war wasn’t far behind us, and some of the kids I grew up with had fathers who fought in Vietnam. In my community, there was some resentment towards us, but we were also met with warmth and care and made lifelong friends. My mom would make egg rolls for people as a way to win them over – and honestly, it worked most of the time! Food is a language that everyone speaks apparently… It wasn’t always easy, but I learned how to navigate between two different cultures, and I think my Asian-American identity is split pretty straight down the middle. When I went to Vietnam for the first time two years ago, I deeply resonated with the experience. My dad’s side of the family still lives there. My cousin – who is my age – took me under her wing in Saigon. It was like stepping into a parallel universe of what my life could have been like. Seeing how strong her Vietnamese identity is made me a bit envious, but I am truly proud to be Vietnamese/Chinese-American.

Can you tell us more about how your upbringing has influenced your art?

In my family, we were taught to believe in the supernatural world of ghosts, ancestral spirits, animism, and reincarnation. I remember being four years old and my mom warning me, “Be a good girl, or you’ll come back as a pig. In which case, we might eat you, but of course we would ask for your forgiveness first.” This scolding doubled as a lesson on the cyclical nature of the universe and the honoring of all lives as sacred – even the naughty ones. These kinds of ideas propelled my imagination into fantastical realms. Though my beliefs today differ from the ones I was taught, I still flirt with the concept of magic in my life and in my artwork. I also loved to read growing up. Since I lived in a culturally homogenous area, books and the characters within them introduced me to a much bigger world and made me think about the kind of life I wanted to live. If I recall, Where the Red Fern Grows was the first book that made me cry. It’s about a young boy, his dogs and the land on which they live… I still find myself recreating similar storylines within my art.

You helped us design pieces that feature the Qilin and Hoan Kiem turtle, two figures in Southeast Asian mythology. What do they mean to you?

Qilin

Thailan’s interpretation of Qilin

When Tea asked me to collaborate with them, I was really excited and honored. In order to re-envision these mythical creatures, I did a lot of research and went down a few rabbit holes along the way. It was an enriching experience, which not only taught me more about my culture, but also gave me an opportunity to design specifically for kids, which I had not done before. I have always aimed to make art that speaks to the child in all of us, so this project couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for me.

Qilin is revered as a wise and powerful creature because it can tell whether a person is good or evil, and in some stories, would punish them accordingly. There are depictions that show Qilin walking on clouds for fear of harming a single blade of grass. They are also vegetarian! In a sense, they are ethically-balanced; they have a strong nose for justice while still being able to exhibit compassion. It’s this dichotomy that lends them so much respect in Asian folklore.

Hoan Kiem turtle

The legendary Hoan Kiem turtle

Designing the Hoan Kiem turtle was particularly cool because when I was in Hanoi, I visited the famed lake where the legend comes from. As the tale goes, in the 15th century, a man named Le Loi was able to drive out invading forces with the help of a magical sword. After his success, he was crowned emperor and a giant turtle emerged from the lake to retrieve the heavenly sword. Neither the turtle nor the sword was ever seen again… In Vietnam, the Hoan Kiem turtle is seen as a symbol of independence and longevity as the sword lies in wait, a secret weapon to be summoned if necessary.

What inspires you?

When I was little, we had kind of a mini farm with wildlife all around, so I spent a fair amount of time observing animal behavior. I think what fascinates and inspires me the most about animals is how they seem to live in the present moment, a state of mind that can be difficult for me to tap into. I have also discovered that through them, we are able to indirectly examine ourselves. When our strengths, weaknesses, values and fears feel too sacred to convey explicitly, we anthropomorphize and project them onto animals. In this way, they have long been our reflections and our teachers, and carry a universal symbolism that transcends language and culture. In my artwork, I try not to look at nature in and of itself, but instead examine humankind’s relationship to nature – from folklore into the future.

You can find all the pieces Thailan helped us create at TeaCollection.com. Be sure to check out more stories like this on Instagram @tea_collection.

Boutique of the Month: Cotton Tails

Cotton Tails

All across the U.S., boutiques help bring Tea to your local communities. This month, we headed to Memphis, TN to meet Miki, the owner of Cotton Tails. She told us more about her store, a bit about herself, and why she was drawn to Tea. Read on to see what she had to say!

What inspired you to open your boutique? How long has it been open?

 

Tea Display in Cotton Tails

Tea Display in Cotton Tails

My store has been open for 30 years. It all started with going to a children’s store when my daughter Elizabeth was 2. The customer service was horrible. The ladies stood around chit chatting and I could not even get them to ring up my purchase. It made me sad. Picking out your children’s clothing should be a happy experience!

What makes your store special?

 

My wonderful, wonderful customers!

What was your favorite Tea destination and why?

 

My favorite Tea destination will always be Japan. That was the first country that you did.  My mother is Japanese and I was born there. I was there till I was 6. We have been back a few times to visit.

What was the last trip you and your family took together and what made it special?

 

We always like to go to the mountains. It was nice to get away and pack a picnic lunch and hike. Just us and nobody else.

Who inspires you (alive or not) and why?

 

My mother. She is the epitome of grace and wisdom. I love hearing her stories. She was a young girl during WW2. I am always amazed by how brave she was during the war. She went through so much but survived. She and her country gave me a worldly outlook on people and their cultures. It has given me such a respect for people and their differences. Tea drew me in immediately because I understood exactly what their mission was.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

 

A rainbow! I think it takes a lot of different shades to make a box.

If you happen to be in Memphis, TN, be sure to stop by Cotton Tails and say hello to Miki! Of course, you can always shop Tea at TeaCollection.com. Follow more adventures like this on our Instagram @tea_collection.

 

Boutique of the Month: Kissui

Kissui

Kissui’s Owner, Laura

Did you know you can find Tea in 300 boutiques around the U.S.? In our new Boutique of the Month series, we’re celebrating the hometown heroes who bring Tea to your community. This month, we’re featuring Kissui from Redlands, CA. We spoke to Kissui’s owner, Laura, and asked how she brings a bit of magic to her community.

What inspired you to open your boutique? How long has it been open?

 

I grew up with parents who were business owners. I always knew I wanted to own something of my own, but wasn’t sure what. I graduated with a degree in Entrepreneurship, but it wasn’t until having my first baby that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I quickly learned there were no local shops that carried the items I saw online. Just after my daughter turned 1, we opened our store in Redlands and never looked back! I feel so grateful to have spent the last 12 years loving my job.

What makes your store special?

 

Kissui

Inside the Kissui Store

Kissui is not just a store full of products. Kissui is a place where families come and lasting friendships are made. I have raised my kids in this store. Employees bring their babies to work. Customers know there is always a place for them here regardless of whether they are here to shop or just need a break. The products we offer are products we use in our own lives. To us, this is a community. As we venture into having a website, we know it will allow us to grow and have positive impacts on families outside of our small town.

What was your favorite Tea destination and why?

 

Italy! The delicate florals… The ruffles…. It was perfection.

What was the last trip you and your family took together and what made it special?

 

Our last family trip was to Tulum, Mexico. Life can be hectic with 3 kids and 2 stores. Having the opportunity to slow down and just relax as a family was so needed.

If you happen to be in Redlands, CA, be sure to stop by Kissui and say hello to Laura! Of course, you can always shop Tea at TeaCollection.com. Follow more adventures like this on our Instagram @tea_collection.

Hear from Our Team: Celebrating International Women’s Day

For International Women’s Day, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the amazing women (and men) of Tea! Hear what our employees have to say about balance, teaching their kids to be little citizens of the world, and celebrating themselves.

Tea's Leadership Team

International Women’s Day is a day to recognize the incredible women in our lives. As a female-founded company with a majority female leadership team, Tea is rooted in the accomplishments of women who are passionate about what they do. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, asking us to reflect on what we’re doing to create a more balanced world. We sat down with some of our team to hear what they had to say about this year’s theme and more.

One of the first questions working parents — particularly working moms — get asked is how they balance having a career with children. Some of the team compared it to walking across a tightrope; others thought of a seesaw.

Our founder and CEO Leigh Rawdon spoke to the inherent bias that comes with the question, and challenged the notion of adhering to external standards:

Leigh Rawdon

Leigh Rawdon, Tea’s Founder & CEO

What does that actually mean to say, “Do you balance it all?” What’s most important to me is that I don’t use any external standard of what being a good enough mother is or what being good at my job is. I’m not playing a role on TV. I am who I am, and I do what I do. With my kids, I want to raise good, engaged citizens of the world. I want them to discover their purpose and feeling of fulfillment… I am here to shepherd them into this world, but I’m not here just to do that. I have my own sense of purpose, so it’s less about how do I balance one versus the other and it’s more about how do I have a full mix of richness in my own life.

We wear multiple hats, but are not defined by any single one. As we grow up, Leigh advised not to compare ourselves to others:

Measure yourself against your own standards and not against someone else’s external expectations of what success looks like.

 

Dreaming Big

 

Reflecting on what she would tell her younger self, our Senior Copywriter Symmi said to just go for it:

Symmi

 

No dream is too big or too small. In fact, the bigger the better. If you can think it, then there’s more than likely a way to do it. I would tell my younger self, and younger girls everywhere, to think about it and go for it. Don’t be afraid. There’s a quote that I like: “If you dream something and it scares you, then you’re going in the right direction.” – Symmi, Senior Copywriter

 

 

 

Amy, our VP of Finance, would assure herself that she has what it takes to go through the highs and lows that come with life:

Amy

 

 

Have confidence in the fact that life is going through some challenges and having successes, and it all comes together and that feeds into the person who you are. – Amy, VP of Finance

 

 

 

Raising the Next Generation

 

Tomorrow’s generation are today’s kids. Here’s how our team is teaching their children to be good global citizens:

Cindy

 

I think it’s super important to expose them early on to different cultures and what’s outside of their day-to-day. Both my kids were born in Taiwan. We travel every year to a new destination. I’m a big believer in going to different places, learning about something new, and exposing them to what’s different. – Cindy, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

 

Vicente

 

 

I think one of the first things that separates us is language. My parents taught me Spanish, so I speak exclusively, or try to speak exclusively Spanish to my little guy. – Vicente, Creative Operations Director

 

David

 

The way I teach my son to be a little citizen of the world is how I conduct myself. He’s always watching me. He’s always around me. So whatever I do, he’s going to pick up. The way I would teach him to become a respectable young man is to try to be the best person that I can be. – David, Web Developer

 

 

Ansley

 

I think one thing I’m always focusing on is trying to encourage my daughter to be curious. There’s no silly question out there, and I want her to be comfortable to ask me anything she has a question about. – Ansley, Sr. Director of Operations

 

 

 

Celebrating and Taking Care of Yourself

 

We ended on a lighter note, asking our team how they celebrate themselves:

Spend time with my girlfriends laughing, cocktailing and enjoying each other’s company. No one builds you up like your gal pals. – Tina, VP of Product

The way I celebrate myself is making sure I have time for my own hobbies… It’s important for me to foster other parts of creativity, whether it’s through hobbies like tap dancing or making time for my friends. – Kim, Senior Graphic Designer

For me, holding space for experiences that engage and strengthen my support system is the ultimate act of self-care. – Sarah, Head of Community

What are you doing to #BalanceforBetter this year? Let us know in the comments below.

Get Crafty: Make A Paper Plate Octopus

Octopus Craft Finished

March 3rd marks World Wildlife Day, a day aimed at celebrating and raising awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. This year’s theme is “Life Below Water,” which aligns perfectly with the eight-legged friends we encountered during our travels around Southeast Asia.  We teamed up with Amy again from Start Creative Studio to create the perfect under-the-sea activity for you and your little citizen of the world to participate in World Wildlife Day.

You probably already knew that octopuses have eight legs, but did you know that octopuses live in all of the world’s oceans and can change colors to blend into their environments? While we made our octopus purple, feel free to make yours in any color you like!

Materials:

 

  • Paper Plate
  • Black, White, and Colored Card Stock of Choice
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Stapler
  • 1 Inch Hole Punch (Optional)

Instructions:

 

Step 1: Trace a circle approximately 3 inches in diameter in the center of the plate. We used a mason jar to trace the circle, but a large cup works well, too!

Paper Plate Circle

Step 2: Cut four equal sections of the plate around the edge of the circle.

Paper Plate Octopus Plate Four Cuts

Step 3: Pull two sections together and staple the ends (we recommend adults handling this step). Continue until all four sections are stapled together to form the body of the octopus.

Paper Plate Octopus Body Formed

Step 4: Paint the octopus body and allow to dry.

Paper Plate Octopus Body Painted

Step 5: From white card stock, cut out circles (or use 1 inch hole punch) to form eyes. From black card stock, cut out half circles to form pupils. Glue black circles to white circles to complete the eyes.

Paper Plate Octopus Eyes

Step 6: Glue eyes to octopus.

Paper Plate Octopus Eyes Attached

Step 7: Cut eight 1 inch x 8.5 inch strips of card stock.

Paper Plate Octopus Legs Cut

Step 8: Using a pencil or finger, wrap one end of a strip and curl. Continue until all eight strips are curled.

Paper Plate Octopus Legs Curled

Step 9: Glue strips to underside of octopus body.

Paper Plate Octopus Finished

Find more octopus-themed looks and more at TeaCollection.com. Did you make this craft? Be sure to share it on Instagram with #teacollection, or tag @tea_collection and @startcreativestudio.

Journey to Vietnam: Behind Our New Spring Holiday Collection

Spring blooms bring idyllic days and dressier occasions. During our travels in Southeast Asia, we found that Vietnam evoked a magic and romance perfect for the season of renewal. Our new dressy styles celebrate a country rich in culture and history. Journey with us as we take you through places that sparked inspiration.

Ha Long Bay

Each season, we travel around the world to find inspiration for seasonal collections. For this spring season, we traveled around Southeast Asia, incorporating elements we found along the way into a collection as diverse as the regions we explored. In our newest capsule collection, we bring the romance and vibrant colors of Vietnam to life. As we traveled along its coast, we discovered places where the past meets the present and a myriad of cultures come together in new and unique ways. 

 

Hoi An: The City of Lanterns

 

Lanterns of Hoi An

Our first stop was Hoi An, a port city located along the central coast of Vietnam. In its past, Hoi An was used by Chinese and Japanese merchants for trade. As a result, the city has become an assemblage of cultures, reflected by the diversity of its architecture, food, and art. At night, the city is illuminated by the glow of hundreds of lanterns, leaving you engulfed in a dreamy rainbow of colors. 

Find this majestic village brought to life in our City Graphic Trapeze Dress. We reimagined the Hoi An cityscape as a unique print on a Tea favorite silhouette.

 

Hue, Ha Long Bay, and Hanoi: Folklore Galore

 

Next, we traveled up the Vietnamese coast, stopping in Hanoi, Hue, and Halong Bay. In Hanoi, we crossed the Huc Bridge on Hoan Kiem Lake, or “Lake of the Returned Sword,” to visit Ngoc Son Temple. Legend has it that King Le Loi of Vietnam was given a sword at this lake by the Golden Turtle God, which helped him defeat the Chinese in the 15th century.

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Outside spiritual structures and along vibrant boats in Hue and Halong Bay, we found fierce foo dogs and dazzling dragons. Foo dogs symbolize prosperity, success, and guardianship, while dragons are often used for celebrations.

Find our interpretation of these mythical beasts in the form of whimsical prints in new Boy tees.

Boy's Tops

 

Mai Chau: History Preserved

Mai Chau

Our last stop was Mai Chau, a rural village town located in Northwest Vietnam. As if untouched by modern civilization, Mai Chau immediately transported us to a time centuries ago. The calm, grassy fields and rice paddies tucked between the valley’s mountain ranges starkly contrasted the hustle and bustle we experienced in Vietnam’s metropolitan cities. We met with locals who showed us the 700 year-old tradition of hand embroidery, which results in a brilliant kaleidoscope of colors and patterns.

Vietnamese Embroidery

This centuries-old embroidery technique inspired the detailing in our new dresses and rompers, bringing a piece of Vietnamese history back to your little one’s wardrobe.

Girl's Dresses

 

Be sure to check out more stories from abroad on Instagram @tea_collection, and find all the new arrivals mentioned in this piece and more at TeaCollection.com.

Get Crafty: Make A Tiger Mask

Tiger Mask

Amy is a life-long crafter who shares modern kids crafts on Instagram @startcreativestudio.

During our travels abroad in Southeast Asia, we discovered that tigers are considered a symbol of bravery and protection in many Asian cultures. To celebrate this mighty animal, we created dresses, tees, rompers, and more featuring unique tiger prints as part of our Tiger Cub Club. We also teamed up with Amy from Start Creative Studio to create the perfect craft to work on with your little citizen of the world. For all the brave, little tigers out there, this tiger mask makes for a fun activity and creative play afterwards. All you’ll need are some painting, gluing and scissor skills.

Materials:

 

  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Paper Plates
  • Black Card Stock
  • Glue

Instructions:

 

Step 1: From cardboard, cut out large heart shape.

Tiger Mask Cardboard Heart

Step 2: Paint cardboard heart orange. Allow to dry.

Tiger Mask Orange Heart

Step 3: Cut textured edge off of paper plate. Use the center portion to cut out ears.

Step 4: Paint the ears orange and allow to dry.

Tiger Mask Painting Ears

Step 5: Cut two white circles (from the center of your paper plate or from white card stock) and two black circles from card stock.

Tiger Mask Eye Cutout

Step 6: Glue black portion to white portion to form eyes.

Step 7: Glue two pieces of textured paper plate edge on each side of the tiger’s face. Trim as needed.

Tiger Mask Paper Plate Whiskers

Tiger Mask Whiskers Trimmed

Step 8: Cut a black circle shape for nose and glue to tiger face.

Tiger Mask Nose

Step 9: Cut stripes from black card stock.

Tiger Mask Cutting Stripes

Step 10: Glue stripes to tiger face.

Tiger Mask Stripes On

Step 11: Glue ears and eyes to tiger face.

Tiger Mask Complete

Step 12: If desired, cut out black portion of eyes to make them see-through.

Use for dress up or as artwork in your child’s gallery! Pair it with books about tigers for a book and craft kind of afternoon. Or, wear it with your favorite tiger print from our new collection.

Tiger Mask On

Did you make this craft? Be sure to share it on Instagram with #teacollection, or tag @tea_collection and @startcreativestudio.