Asian American Designer Creates Rugs Inspired by Asian Snacks

Cynthia Chen

Designer Cynthia Chen has spent hours making rugs that look like her favorite childhood snacks after picking up a new hobby last year.

How it began: Chen, 29, who is based in San Francisco, began punch needling during the beginning of quarantine, VICE reports.

  • In September, she attempted to make a rug that looked like a can of Spam.
  • In an interview with Apartment Therapy, Chen shared her fondness for other iconic food: “After the Spam rug was done, I was hooked. I definitely had a personal attachment since it was nostalgic for me, so I decided to keep the theme going with other snacks that I loved as a kid.”
  • Chen created other rugs, from re-creations of Yakult to White Rabbit candy and Calbee Shrimp Chips.
  • “My parents are from China and when we were growing up, we would take trips to China at least once a year to visit our grandparents and relatives,” Chen explained to VICE. “The food we ate was primarily Chinese — my mom is an amazing chef — and all of our grocery shopping was done at our local Asian grocery store. So, there was plenty of opportunity for us to get our hands on tasty Asian snacks.”

A therapeutic process: Chen spends up to 15 hours creating each rug, according to Apartment Therapy.

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  • “Others might lose the patience but I find it quite therapeutic. I know some people choose to use a rug tufting gun, which is easier, but I enjoy the whole process of doing it by hand,” Chen shared.
  • To create each rug, Chen first chooses a snack. She then analyzes its packaging before sketching. Finally, she gathers yarn of different colors and starts punch needling, which is a technique that involves pushing yarn or thread into loose-weave fabric.
  • When choosing a snack to re-create, Chen spends time thinking about food and packaging that many people would recognize instantly.
  • “I love how iconic these package designs are,” Chen said. “If you removed the product name from the Spam can, Yakult bottle, or Calbee Shrimp Chips bag, you would still know exactly what that snack is.”

 

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A post shared by Cynthia Chen (@yescynfria)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Cynthia Chen (@yescynfria)

What’s next for Chen: After posting photos of her Asian snack rug series on Twitter, her tweet received more than 60,000 likes.

  • Due to the popularity of her rugs, Chen created an online store. Her Spam, Yakult, and Calbee Shrimp Chip rugs are no longer in stock, but Chen offers the option to commission a custom one-of-a-kind rug.
  • Chen plans on continuing the snack series and recently tweeted photos of her newest creation: a Pocari Sweat rug.

  • Chen shared her thoughts on why her rugs grew traction online: “I would say they spark fond memories of when we were all kids, eating these snacks. And through that, we’ve found that there are so many others that have had similar experiences and upbringings.”

Feature Images via @yescynfria

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