Did you know that the month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? At Mosaic Makers Collective, we’re constantly learning new ways to support marginalized groups, and we want to bring you along on our journey. For AAPI Heritage Month, we’re raising funds for Asian Texans for Justice and highlighting artists of Asian descent in our store with a new AAPI collection.
We couldn’t have made this possible without Kathy Phan, of kathyphantastic, who’s been instrumental in curating a collection by Asian American-identifying female creators. We absolutely love the pieces she and the other artists have created for AAPI Heritage Month, and we can’t wait to share a little more about how this collection came to be and how you can support Asian Americans all year long.
Can you please share a little bit about your background?
I am a first-generation Vietnamese American. My parents were refugees from Vietnam who came to the US to escape warfare. I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in creative advertising and Asian American Studies. I spent some time working in e-commerce, higher education, visual merchandising, and marketing before becoming a watercolor illustrator at kathyphantastic. These days, I run my product-based business illustrating food and animals for stationery, stickers, magnets, and home goods. Most of my illustrations feature food from Texas and the Asian diaspora.
How did the idea for an AAPI collection come about?
The idea for the AAPI Heritage Month collection at MMC happened organically.
MMC founder Katy, Ashlea Kiiing from Kiiing Creations - a Black artist - and I had just wrapped up our podcast episode for the She Makes a Podcast titled “She Makes an [IDENTITY]: Creating Cultural Representation from Art.” Katy, Ashlea, and I were eating lunch while talking about race and representation and how Katy and Mosaic could help.
That conversation was in mid/late February, and I shared that I co-hosted a very successful Lunar New Year Festival in East Austin featuring a vendor lineup of all women of Asian descent. Katy wanted to make space for underrepresented groups and support the AAPI community and asked if I could host an in-person market at MMC. Since I live in Austin, I suggested curating something in-store during the month of May for AAPI HM - to save us from the heat and to make the logistics a little easier.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to work with Katy and Taylor and to uplift the AAPI community, especially after the huge increase in anti-Asian violence and racist anti-Asian rhetoric that has permeated the United States since COVID. I am also grateful for Katy opening her heart and store to marginalized groups and allowing us to use her platform to share our stories as well as our art.
How did you choose artists to get involved in this collection?
I wanted to showcase and represent a diverse group of product lines and artists from around Texas to ensure an inclusive collection while also making sure the products fit well with the rest of MMC.
The artists in our AAPI Collection include makers whose families originated from Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Hawaii, the Philippines, and India, among other countries.
I wasn’t sure how many artists could physically fit on the table, but wanted to make sure we included jewelry, paper goods, fine art, and children’s products. I aimed to also include bath and body/apothecary products, ceramics, and glassware, but unfortunately, May is a very busy month for makers with product-based businesses.
Between Mother’s Day, in-person pop-up markets, and AAPI Heritage Month, not all makers invited had the inventory on hand to participate. I wanted to make sure that the products we brought into MMC were high quality, so I chose artists and items that I had seen in person at pop-up markets in Texas.
In the spirit of inclusivity, we sent out a call to all current MMC artists asking if anyone who was Asian-American-identifying wanted to join. It’s important not to make assumptions about who might be from any type of background.
It’s also important to recognize that creative careers are traditionally/historically discouraged in Asian communities, and making art is often its own form of protest. Several of the makers from our collection have full-time jobs within math and science-related fields and have made art their side hustle.
Can you please tell us about the art you created for the AAPI display?
For this month’s signage, I created a set of cowboy boot illustrations that featured flowers representing different Asian cultures for the artists we are featuring. I wanted to combine cowboy boots and flowers to reiterate that we can be both Texan AND Asian American - not simply one or the other.
Lotus Flower - relevant to many Asian cultures, including Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese
Mugunghwa Hibiscus - Mugunghwa is the national flower of Korea. Its meaning is “eternal blossom that never fades” in Korean. This species is similar to the Hawaiian hibiscus. The yellow hibiscus is Hawaii’s state flower.
Yellow Mai or Yellow Apricot flower (also known as Hoa Mai or Ochna integerrima) is popular in Vietnamese culture around Lunar New Year to symbolize spring
How can people get involved in supporting the AAPI community?
People can support the AAPI community in a number of ways - some important ones are:
1. Learn Asian American History
People of Asian descent are often excluded from history textbooks. Taking time to learn about immigration and anti-Asian racism, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act or Japanese Internment. Here are some great places to start:
- Asian Americans film series
- Asian Pacific American Heritage Month + a great link for teachers
- PBS series Ancestors in the Americas
2. Sign up for bystander intervention training
Bystander intervention training teaches how to help someone who is being harassed. I believe that there are people who want to help but don’t know how. These principles go beyond helping the AAPI community and extend to anyone.
3. Learn how to correctly pronounce Asian names
Many people are tempted to shorten names that are unfamiliar. But often, AAPI identity is often wrapped up in our names-- they're symbolic of culture, religion, and family. Changing or shortening names is a way of stripping that identity. Take the time to learn how to correctly pronounce ethnic names and show that you people that you accept them exactly as they are.
4. Support Asian-owned small businesses
5. Give back
MMC is supporting Asian Texans for Justice as our charitable partner during May. Asian Texans for Justice was founded to be a voice for our state’s diverse Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community — to claim their space and inspire Texas to invest in their stories.
ATJ envisions a future where AAPIs are a visible force shaping our state — free from discrimination, marginalization, and oppression. Its mission is to unite our Texas community, train future leaders, and build solidarity across communities to advance equity, social justice, and civil rights for all. Help us support, donate, and share!
Kathy, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and for helping us uplift the AAPI community of artists. When we know better, we can do better, and we’re committed to doing better.
Visit us during May to check out our AAPI Heritage Month collection or shop online.