Once a quirky city with lots of unique independently-owned shops selling one-of-a-kind items, Kunming is now fully embracing the retail chain. But throughout the city there are still some shops keeping the DIY spirit alive.
One of those is Psycho Graphics, a small space on Tianjundian Xiang crammed full of posters, bags, t-shirts, hats, notebooks and other items designed by Kunming native Huan Huan (欢欢). Many of the items Huan Huan produces blend classic Chinese themes with modern elements, others delve into abstract and nonsensical realms.
We recently spoke with the 30-year-old self-taught designer about life, inspiration and jianzi:
GoKunming: When did you first take an interest in graphic design?
Huan Huan: A long time ago... I really got into posters that were being made abroad between the 1930s and 1970s. I thought the coloring in some of the posters was fantastic. I slowly began to learn how to do it myself. I spent a couple of years experimenting before opening my shop four years ago.
GK: You make a wide variety of items, what do you enjoy working on the most?
HH: Actually, I don't feel like I have enough variety in the store. Of the things I do make, my favorite things to make are notebooks and t-shirts. For me there is more freedom and creative space in making them, which I'm enjoying more all the time.
GK: Why set up your own shop rather than get an office gig?
HH: Opening my shop was a way for me to find my own way out, I don't have problems with the idea of working for a company, I just think this way of making a living suits me better.
GK: Your work has some Chinese elements and some elements from other cultures... which Chinese or international artists or graphic designers have inspired you?
HH: My inspiration usually comes from everyday life, but it may occasionally come from other sources, like reading a Buddhist classic.
Most of the time I'm just hanging out at my store with friends from all kinds of different places, perhaps that's the source of my inspiration. I respect what most designers are doing... that said, there aren't any designers that I'm especially fond of.
GK: How would you describe the different things that you make?
HH: The things that I make are just snapshots of where I was at one moment during the progression of my personal development.
GK: What's your take on the creative industry here in Kunming?
HH: I've got thoughts about the creative industry, but I can't say what they are because I myself am part of it.
GK: What do you enjoy about doing what you do here in Kunming?
HH: Over the four years I've been running my shop, my mind and knowledge have been constantly expanding. I'm thankful for everything around me and for the friends from different countries that I've made that have passed through town over the years.
GK: Almost every day there is somebody kicking the jianzi (毽子, a shuttlecock kicked like a hackey sack) outside your shop, who's the most skilled?
HH: First, I highly recommend to everyone that they take up kicking jianzi. Not only is it a great way to make friends, but it's good exercise too. It's great fun.
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