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Meet Polar Buranasatit, our December Teafluencer. He's a window display artist, visual display specialist and a 2018 PAVE Rising Star Award finalist who was born with a passion for merchandising. He is also the creative genius behind the beautiful window displays in our SoHo store location. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Polar about his life, career and, of course, his love of tea. Read our full interview with him below!
Tell us about yourself! How did you become a window display artist and visual display specialist?
When I was a little boy my parents took me shopping at the local department store and I saw some people working in a window dressing some mannequins. I thought it was so cool and fascinated by it. When I got home I tried to dress my stuffed animals in my clothes and arrange my toys into a display like I saw from the shopping trip. I even built a LEGO department store with 2 windows and I changed the window displays and moved stuff in store around every week!
Where did you find your passion for display and merchandising?
From my heart and soul. I think I was born with it.
What are some of your favorite displays you’ve done in your career thus far?
One of my favorite windows were the ones I did for Harney Soho. One holiday I combined the 150th anniversary of the children book, Alice in Wonderland with a winter wonderland concept. As a result, we got Alice in Winter Wonderland which came out really breathtaking! I also loved the one I did to celebrate New York Fashion Week last year. It was a simple New York fashion show set up to showcase a realistic mannequin from Rootstein all dressed in head to toe look made out of 2,500 teabag foil wrappers. Oh, also the one I did this summer that's called 'Fierceta Summer' was also super fun with a fun vibrant outdoor summer party theme with a hint of Latin cultures and all the pinatas were made of shredded foil tea wrappers!
Do you have any merchandisers, window display artists or other creatives that you admire?
I always admire the windows from Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols to name a few since they always look magical and full of stories behind them. For visual merchandising, I always like the stores that pay attention to store experience to get people in the mood for shopping and I'm not talking about sale signs everywhere. I always love the way Anthropologie incorporates the right amount of props and decors along with beautiful products arrangement to transport shopping into the visual story they want to tell every season. They always feel personal and special.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments? Tell us about something you’re most proud of.
I have 2 greatest accomplishments that both happened to me this year actually. First, is when the window I did for Harney Soho with the Des-tea-nation concept made the cover of VMSD magazine last April. I was so shocked because usually they didn't put the work of an independent freelancer or small store on their covers. I also did an interview about mannequin trends in the same issue. So that was a very special moment for me. Also recently I was nominated and became 1 of the 3 finalists for the 2018 PAVE Rising Star Award. It's the award to recognize outstanding talents from visual merchandising and retail design industry. After working so hard for 18 years it's such a huge honor to be recognized by the industry.
What inspires you? Where do you look for your artistic and creative ideas?
My inspirations come from everywhere and anytime. My head is always thinking and full of ideas. Sometimes it happened when I was walking on the street and saw something that caught my eyes. Sometimes I find cool photos on Instagram or Tumblr and save them for window ideas later.
What types of materials do you typically work with when you create your window displays? Anything that may surprise us?
Since I run my own small creative company, Studio Polarizer, I'm focusing on working with small retailers and create window props mostly by myself and don't have a lot of budget to work with for each window. So I have to be very creative and resourceful when I design the windows and select the materials. Since the window usually lasts for about 8 weeks, I tend to use disposable materials like color papers and foam boards from art supplies store and Home Depot a lot. Sometimes I buy things from eBay or Amazon or discount stores and "polarize" them into unique props for windows. You can't really tell where they came from or used to be. That's a surprise!
In what environment do you work best? What is your ideal location for “being in the zone” with your work?
I'm a night person. I find it the best time my creativity and work energy flow the best. I also prefer to work alone in peace and quiet time in my work studio space with some upbeat indie music playing to keep me going through the night.
Do you do any other types of art?
I also do custom clothing and accessories. I actually use the term "polarizing" instead of customizing for my works. I also do some painting and sculpting as well. Recently I sculpted and painted a vintage-inspired male mannequin head and used it in the spring tea flight promotion window and fall'18 window for Harney Soho. Originally I tried to find a vintage mannequin head to buy online but couldn't find any. So I made it from scratch by myself.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t at work?
Since I'm a freelancer my work hours are varied and usually happens in the evening into late night, when I finally have my free time I either rest at home catching up with my favorite TV shows on my DVR or go see art exhibitions or go window shopping to see what other retailers are doing for their windows and stores. I also enjoy exploring delicious foods from different cuisines New York has to offer along with great wines and craft beers from around the country.
Do you have any advice for someone who may be interested in a similar career?
Develop your own style by looking at the style of works that inspires you the most. Also, find what skills you are good at and use them as the key to design and create your own works. When you work as an independent freelancer like myself, it's very important to make the most for yourself as much as possible from the budget you are given for. When you need someone else to make things for you or buy some stuff from someone else, you will be making less money. Being resourceful and always compare the prices when you choose materials are also very important. Always check if there is a discount going on or promo code. That helps a lot to stay in the budget and I have no shame to admit I prefer not to pay full price if I have a choice lol!
You share a lot of your work on Instagram. Do you have a website or blog people can visit if they would like to see more?
I have been sharing all my latest works on my Instagram, @polarpolarizer because it's the fastest and easiest way to upload and showcase my works to all my followers and people who are interested in the world window display and visual merchandising. I also created special hashtags for people to look for my works on Instagram as well. They are #windowbypolar, #vmbypolar, and #studiopolarizer. I also have a website, www.studiopolarizer.com that should be launched by the end of the year but if people want to see my latest works posted constantly, I recommend to follow me on my Instagram for work updates.
Are you a tea lover? If so, how did you get introduced to the world of tea?
YES, I'm a tea lover! I got introduced in the world of tea when I started to do window displays for Harney Soho store back in 2012. I got to work and taste different teas and products Harney has to offer. There is almost a new tea flavor to try almost every month. That's what I love about Harney & Sons teas. They source teas from around the world and create unique blends that give people different flavors and aromas. There is always something for everyone. Even though you aren't a regular tea drinker.
What do you love most about tea?
It soothes me and calms me down. Iced tea refreshes me and hot tea warms up. It depends on my mood and season. Coffee doesn't give me the same effect.
Do you have any favorite flavors/types of Harney & Sons tea?
Oh definitely yes! I'm a big fan of Japanese green teas. I live and work in the busy hectic city of New York, so I prefer something to help me relax and take me away from the hustle bustle to a serene peaceful nature and refresh myself. That's why I love Bancha very much because it gives a beautiful refreshing grassy aroma as if you are relaxing in a lush green field on a nice warm summer day. Another one I like is Genmaicha that has a nice toasty aroma which is also made with Bancha tea leaves but added roasted brown rice kernels that look like mini popcorn to it. Both of them tasted amazing as iced or hot tea. Perfect for my ever-changing mood. I highly recommend them both!
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us and share your story, Polar! To learn more about Polar, check out his Instagram @polarpolarizer. All photography in this post has been provided by Polar.
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Our October Teafluencer is Chantal Larocque, a paper flower artist, author and owner of Paper and Peony. Chantal’s work runs from mini paper flowers to jaw-dropping wall-sized blossoms. Read about Chantal, who turns to tea for her afternoon forget-me-not pick-me-up.