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Ivan Pun on Design in Asia


Ivan Pun on Design in Asia
Image courtesy of Ivan Pun.

The Artling speaks to Ivan Pun, Founder of Pun + Projects, ahead of our first ever collaboration set to take place this month in Hong Kong. Pun talks to us about his contemporary furniture brand Paribawga, his motivations behind it, the challenges that come attached, as well as what we’re to expect from this upcoming design pop-up:

The last time we The Artling interviewed you in 2014, you were just starting out Transit Shed No. 1 (or TS. 1), and Pun + Projects hadn’t been initiated yet. So much has happened with you since! What have been some of your highlights with regards to art and design since then?

The highlight with TS1 since we spoke last was how we inaugurated that project which subsequently ran for a little over a year. It was an incredibly rewarding experience because it was the first time a project like that had been done in Yangon. It was satisfying on many levels because we were able to bring together the creative community, for them to come together for exhibitions and events, and to have programmes that ran parallel to these exhibitions. It was exciting and rewarding to see the positive feedback that we got from this community.

In relation to art and design, we’ve since done two shows under TS1. One was called ‘Beyond Boundaries’ which was a group show featuring four Myanmar artists that we held at the Goethe Institut Yangon. More recently, we took a show that was commissioned by the DHAKA Art Summit curated by Cosmin Constinas to the Secretariat in Yangon which is the historical Old Minister’s Building. After this exhibition was shown in Dhaka it went to Hong Kong, then came to us, finishing off in Poland. It was the first time that the congregation of so many international artist’s work was put in a space and that was really exciting.


Madrid Table.

It’s been cited on several occasions that you’re the mastermind behind Yangon’s increasing trendiness since TS.1. What would you say has been the biggest change in Yangon’s cultural scene over the last 4 years?

(Laughs) I think that’s rather overstated. We at Pun + Projects only played a small part in the renaissance of creativity that’s happened in the city. You can feel that across town, not just within the realms of art but also from how buildings are being restored, you see different cross projects, in how so many new restaurants and bars are coming up. We’ve seen an explosion of progress over the last five to six years.

Unfortunately, I do have to say that our current political status has subdued some of the creativity and sense of vibrancy that we’ve enjoyed over the past few years. But I think the long-term prospects for Yangon are great.


Mont Blanc Gold Side Table. 

You’ve also since started the Paribawga Collection as well as Paribawga Bespoke. Give us a little insight into the motivations behind the design pieces created under the Paribawga umbrella?

We started Paribawga off as a wood workshop. We were inspired by the materials and craftsmanship that existed in the country, and combined it with the expertise of the senior carpenters that we have.

Because we don’t have a design team, we decided to build a collection called the Paribawga Collection that’s not so much design but made up of simple pieces that were respectful of the materials and craft to demonstrate the scope of what is possible at Paribawga. This is so our clients who want to learn a bit more about our brand can see the level of craftsmanship, the level of finishes, and the way things are produced.

Paribawga Bespoke is our main business. We work with architects and designers who come to us with their own designs, and we help develop them into their final pieces.


Octa Stool, detail. 

What has been the most challenging aspect behind starting a furniture design studio?

Obviously the logistics of installing, building something from scratch in a developing country, all this has enormous challenges that come attached to it. If I had to think of a few things, I’d say there are a lot of difficulties dealing with government regulations that change very regularly, especially with export regulations.

A second thing would be how in the times that we live in today, as entrepreneurs, we feel the mission and the responsibility to try and be as responsible as we are to the environment and our processes. Working in a place like Myanmar without an infrastructure in place is incredibly challenging in terms of knowing how to execute that.

The Artling and Paribawga are gearing up towards our first ever design collaboration in Hong Kong soon. What are we to expect from this collaboration?

I think it’s going to be a really exciting collaboration! There is such a wealth of amazing designers in Asia, along with really exciting design scenes in Southeast Asia as well as the whole of Asia. There’s great use of indigenous material, technology, and pure innovative design. We thought it’d be great to do a show to highlight this. The Artling has this access and catchment through their site of so much material and talent; it’s great to be able to tap into this knowledge to bring together a curated mix of products that we’re going to show for the first time here in Hong Kong.


Elephant Stools. 

What is your grand vision for Paribawga?

We would love to be known as the premier manufacturer of wood, to be known as a Burmese contemporary furniture maker that really makes the best items. The grand plan is to be known for amazing quality and craftsmanship, for developing products that are representative of this new generation of producers in the country.


To find out more about Paribawga, click here
For more information about Collectible Design - Presented by Pun + Projects & The Artling, click here

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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