The word Pipalbot evokes myths, stories and a lot of importance in Nepalis’ life. Every town and village in Nepal has a Pipalbot — it’s a place where people converge to relax, talk and exchange ideas and information; it’s the centre of social life and shared experiences.
Inside Baber Mahal Revisited, the Greek styled former Rana abode is a multi-faceted contemporary lifestyle outlet named Pipalbot. Pipalbot is the first contemporary retail boutique of its kind in Katmandu.
For years, Tim Linkins and Diki Onamgo have run a rug-weaving studio in Katmandu employing master weavers to create high quality Tibetan wool and silk rugs for Tibet Sydney, their company based in Sydney, Australia.
Three years ago they decided to move closer to the production in Katmandu where Diki’s family lives and where she spent her childhood. Once settled, they began to meet other artisans in the valley working in materials such as brass, cane, ceramic and, of course, wool and cashmere.
Diki not only has one but several of such interpretations, on the significance of Pipalbot in our society. However, Diki’s Pipalbot is an admirable sanctuary of different eclectic pieces of design.
“Kathmandu is a small place with very diverse people who move in their own circles, we wanted to mix them up,” said Diki. “We wanted to provide a venue where people with different interests could overlap, talk, eat, be entertained. It’s really open-ended how the space can be utilised and this keeps the space fresh and ever-evolving.”
“Pipalbot is very multi-faceted venture because it is an interiors and clothing store, restaurant, event spot as well as a gallery,” puts Diki and continues, “We’ve tried to create a space that appeals to many different circles within the society here from Nepalis to long-term expats.”
Pipalbot is a traveling mini world of designers who have embraced all the qualities of the traditional Nepali Pipalbot—social, spiritual and sustainability.
In addition to other international designs, creations from the Pipalbot collective — Diki Ongmo and Tim Linkins based in Kathmandu; Shane Powers in New York and Timothy Hill in Australia –- take the nooks and corner of the store.
“The essential components of our aesthetics are simplicity, clarity and functionality,” says Diki. Minimalistic ceramics, cane sofa, wood and marble tables elucidate her statement. Pink colored legs give a stylish edge to the simple rectangular wheat-brown table.
Exclusive Tibetan carpets—from polka dotted and stripped to playful fusion of multiple colors—are spread on the floor of the white-walled store. “These carpets are woven in 100-knots, which make them more flexible, finer and lighter,” says Pema.
All of the products sold at Pipalbot are made within a 30-mile radius of the city.
Every day of my two months was filled with visits to the artisans, slowly getting to know them and the materials they work with. Often I was inspired by the materials they considered “poor”, that which they see as just plain and everyday. Most artisans were anxious to impress us with the glossiest finish or the most elaborate details…But often I was drawn to the honest and straightforward materials they pushed to the back of their workshops.
These opportunities are only the tip of the iceberg in a place where artisans are still making things everyday by hand, often right in the back of the shops on the streets. These artisans are immensely inspiring and hungry for fresh ideas.
The creative process is open-ended in these parts of the world where regulations of mass production and the harshness of the bottom line has not put up barriers every step of the way, paralyzing the random chances and accidental nature of the creative process.
Ideas emerge uncontrollably when people still share a passion for working with their hands. Food, craft and cultural traditions keep these skills vibrant. Pipalbot embraces the improvised and personal touch when crafters work different materials whether it be silk, cotton, clay, or metal.