Unique Thai Maps, Cards and Gifts
Nancy Chandler

Photographer - Ludovic Cazeba

American artist Nancy Chandler has been creating unique maps, cards and gifts celebrating life in Thailand since the early 1970s.
A native of San Francisco, her unique style has been influenced by her parents, her early years in the design business in the US, and a year she spent in Nepal before moving to Thailand in 1969. In Thailand, her work took many forms, from t-shirt and logo design to the maps and cards she is recognized for today.
She now spends much of each year in the US with her youngest daughter, Kim, a high functioning Down Syndrome young lady (and an artist as well - see www.kimcando.com) . Nancy does however return to Thailand annually on research trips and to visit friends and family, including her two other daughters, Nima (now her business partner) and Siri (a kindergarten teacher at the International School of Bangkok).
Childhood Influences
Nancy inherited much of her sense of style and whimsy from her parents, interior designers Maurice and Winona Sands. She recalls them flipping through magazines when she was child, discussing not the stories or pictures, but good layout, colors and fonts. The family was also known for its witty, hand-lettered holiday cards, often incorporating personal touches in unusual ways.
University and On-the-Job Training
Nancy majored in Art History at the University of California at Berkeley. She worked on campus after graduation at the student union Graphic Arts department, producing posters for on-campus activities. After marrying Albert Chandler in 1963, she moved back east where he was finishing law school. There she took on several freelance jobs and spent a year working with Art Designers in Alexandria, Virginia.

Nepalese Influences
In 1966, inspired by the example set by some of Al's law school classmates, the young couple signed on for a year of volunteer work in Kathmandu, Nepal, under the auspices of the Maxwell Foundation-Syracuse University Public Fellowship Program. After moving into a charming Nepali farmhouse with mud floors, Nancy realized several of her art supplies had gone 'missing' enroute. Turning to the local market for replacements, she discovered the bright hues of the puja powders, colors which continue to influence her work to this day.
While not officially working, Nancy's sketches of Nepalese characters and scenery
caught the eye of other expatriates.This led to commissioned work, which was the young couple's only income during the 6 months after Al's assignment was completed. (They had decided to stay on longer for the birth of their first daughter before moving back to the US.).

Life in Thailand
Only eleven months after returning to the US, however, Al and Nancy moved back to Asia. Al had landed a job with a young law firm in Bangkok. In June 1969, with their second daughter well on the way, the family relocated to Thailand. Little did they know Al would later decide to establish his own firm in Bangkok in partnership with a Thai colleague only a few years later, making Thailand the family home.
Upon her arrival, Nancy began illustrating for the American Women's Club Sawaddi magazine as a volunteer. Her work was subsequently published in Living magazine and the Bangkok Post. In the early 1970's, at the suggestion of a friend, Nancy began designing Thai greeting cards for expatriates. In 1974, she established Nancy Chandler Graphics Ltd. Her first map of Bangkok was published that same year and her map of Chiang Mai followed in 1981.
While researching her maps was great fun (see photo below), at the same time, Nancy was working on a variety of projects.

For the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, she produced t-shirts, brochures and humorous certificates for graduates of the junior sailing program. A job for the International School of Bangkok led to her signature series of murals depicting Thai temples and river scenes, which she would personalize for friends on special occasions - adding buildings, banners and silly comments representative of their time in Thailand. For others, Nancy created area maps,
moving and birth announcements, anniversary cards, advertising art, logo and package designs.
"The joy of working in Thailand
was the huge variety of jobs I was able to do," said Nancy. "If I had been in America, I would have had to have been specialized."
In the late 1980s, Nancy began experimenting with new methods, including etchings, watercolors and collage. She teamed up with other artists to establish the Inky Fingers Inc. collective, exhibiting locally.
Associations she was actively involved in, besides the American Women's Club, were the International Women's Club, the Bangkok Women's Forum, Soroptimists International Bangkok, the National Museum Volunteers, the Neilson Hays Library and the International School of Bangkok board.
Nancy set up a second home in Marin County, California, in 1987, where Kim was to finish high school and later community college. In the meantime, Nancy maintained an active interest in her Thai business, returning every year for up to two months. In 1997, she teamed up with her eldest daughter Nima who now manages the business year-round from Thailand, which remains the family's home and a continuing source of inspiration to them both.
The Chandler Girls with Shawlada Daomanee, long-time ‘general manager’ of Nancy’s business. From left to right: Siri, Nancy, Kim, Shawlada and Nima.

Nancy and Kim still visit Thailand annually at year-end (see them above doing ‘research’ by elephant in Chiang Mai in early 2007) and their home in Mill Valley is cluttered with books and sketches on all things Thai. Nima meanwhile has been entrusted to do most of the map research these days, leaving the best new Thai restaurants to Nancy, Kim and friends to ‘taste test’ each year.

Asked Questions:

How did Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok and Chiang Mai begin?

When and why did Nancy get into the greeting card business?

Scroll down for answers!

Nancy Chandler's
First Map of Bangkok

In early 1974, the American Women's Club of Thailand (AWC) asked Nancy to draw a small map showing the location of all major markets in Bangkok to accompany an article in the club's Sawaddi magazine.

Fascinated by Chinatown, however, Nancy and the article's writers began to talk of drafting a more detailed map, taking notes on each little shop and the best noodle stands for 'snack breaks'. When they got to the Weekend Market (then at Sanam Luang), Nancy began sketching a second map in an attempt to make some sense out of the chaos that was the market.

The result: Instead of a quarter page map of the city, Sawaddi published a fold-out centerfold map covering the Weekend Market, Chinatown and Central Bangkok in extensive detail.

Demand for the map was such that the AWC had to reprint the issue twice, after which the club suggested Nancy begin publishing the map independently. In mid-1974, after forming her own company, Nancy released her first edition, pictured above.

Nancy Chandler's
First Map of Chiang Mai

First published in 1981, Nancy Chandler's Map of Chiang Mai was borne out of a combination of frustration and opportunity.

In 1980, the artist visited Chiang Mai with her two young children. She bought the only map and guide available, but found out the hard way that what looked like a pleasant four-block stroll for the family was actually a mile long trek.

By coincidence, the AWC was about to devote an entire issue of Sawaddi to Chiang Mai and asked Nancy to do a simple map of the city. Nancy used this excuse to meet Roy Hudson, the author of the one and only guidebook of Chiang Mai at that time. She asked if he would mind if she did her own map, and if he would act as her collaborator. Surprisingly, he agreed.

Roy subsequently introduced her to other "colorful local characters, each with their own favorite noodle stand" as Nancy puts it. They became her eyes and ears in Chiang Mai, contributing much to the first edition of her northern map, which she also personally researched on foot and by bicycle (see photo at left).

Times may have since changed (you can no longer safety tour the town by bicycle) but Chiang Mai remains a favorite getaway of Nancy's, a city she visits each year without exception.

Nancy Chandler's
First Thai Greeting Cards

Back in the late 1960's, American artist Judy Sponaugle founded a batik factory in central Bangkok. Attracting a regular expatriate clientele, she heard the same complaint every holiday season: There was no place in Bangkok one could buy Chrismas cards.

That changed when Judy met Nancy. In 1970, Judy's House of Jute (later Jutik) became the exclusive outlet for Nancy's first Thai greeting card designs, black line drawings printed on colored paper such as the one above.

While many of Nancy's original cards are no longer in print, some have been redrawn and reprinted in color in recent years such as the design below. Visit our holiday greeting cards page to see if you can identify it in its current version!

© Nancy Chandler Graphics
Represented by NCG Marketing Ltd.
9th Floor, Bubhajit Building, 20 North Sathorn Road, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tel/Fax: (66) 02-266-6579    email: sales@nancychandler.net

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