Inspiring Stories :
Panda The Artist
This interview with Panda from Iran is part a series on real people living nomadic, semi-nomadic and location-independent lifestyles. Against a difficult economic backdrop and limited freedom of movement, he found a way to express his creativity and sustain financially his passion for traveling. He is successfully selling his art in the streets wherever he goes. That doesn’t stop him from sharing his knowledge and passionately supporting other young fledgling Iranian artists.
FF: Tell us a little about yourself.
Panda: I’m from the city of Tehran. Officially, I’m an architecture student. I’ve almost finished my studies, but I keep pushing back my graduation to postpone my mandatory military service for as long as possible. I love architecture. But after I started going to university I found out that the way it is taught kills your creativity. They leave you with very little freedom.
FF: You have a passion for traveling but your first travel experience was a disaster?
Panda: I went camping with some friends. We got attacked in the middle of the night by three men. They thought we were thieves digging for archeological artefacts in the area. Initially they threatened us with axes. They calmed down once they realized we were just some students camping, but my phone fell in the fire during the altercation and burned completely.
FF: But that didn’t stop you?
Panda: No! I love to see and be in the Nature. I also really enjoy meeting new people. Different languages, different cultures. It stimulates my creativity. And I like learning by myself. I remember the time I didn’t have a waterproof tent and it rained a lot! But I keep trying, again and again.
FF: Where have you been so far?
Panda: I first went to Shomal, the North of Iran. The forests are nice but it’s raining all the time! I found out that I prefer deserts and the mineral world, so I traveled a lot in the South. Bandar Abbas, Hormuz. I also traveled to Turkey recently.
FF: Where do you want to go next?
Panda: I hope I can go back to Turkey soon. If I pay a fee I can go for one month. But if I don’t come back in time the authorities will think that I’m running away from the military service. If that happens I can never return to Iran. So I have to think carefully about that.
FF: What do you do for a living?
Panda: It’s difficult to make money in Iran. I didn’t want to sit in an office chair all day and always do the same thing for a bad salary. I prefer having my own business. Before I used to make some money as a make-up artist and other small jobs. But I also studied marketing and sale strategies on my own. Now I am making and selling my art in the streets of Tehran, as well as the cities I travel to.
FF: How did you start?
Panda: I’ve always loved art, so I started making my own crafts. I began with jewelry from natural materials. Sea shells, colorful stones. My business has grown a lot since. I now make my own small sculptures using resin and recycled materials. I also love exploring other mediums such as photography and painting.
FF: Where have you sold your art so far?
Panda: Esfahan, Mashad, Bandar Abbas, even in Turkey. People love it. My art is something new and unique to them. I’m obviously not the first one to do this. All over the world you can find travelers selling their art for a living. But in Iran it is becoming more and more difficult to sell art in the streets these days. The police stops us regularly, particularly the girls. They see it as immoral.
FF: You tirelessly help other young artists to follow your footsteps. Why?
Panda: Many young people want to travel independently. In Tehran most of them know me by now. They come and ask me for advice. I help them develop and sell their own original crafts. Or I give them some of my art to sell on their trips. We even go on travels together sometimes. The good vibes always come back to me, it’s like karma!
FF: Thank you Panda, you are an inspiration to us all!