文／謝爾庭 Writer／Hsieh Er Ting
攝影／陳繼遠 Photographer／Chen Chi Yuan
There are many outstanding craft-creators in every field. However, besides exhibitions, many creators lack artwork marketing skills, limiting public influence. It isn’t easy to cut into a non-mainstream art field, and even help develop the market. Established in 2010, MANO is one of the few contemporary jewelry studios that combines curation and select shop. MANO hopes to contribute to the development of the contemporary jewelry field and metalworking industry.
In this interview, Min-Ling Hsieh, the founder of MANO, will share her insights on curation and select shops. Also, she will explain the importance of educating the market, providing future references for every creator.
Made by Hand, Slowly and with Hearts
Min-Ling majored in both traditional and contemporary jewelry in Germany. After returning to Taiwan, she noticed that metalworking creators in Taiwan often immerse themself in creation, and are weak in marketing. Even in exhibitions, the artworks often “disappear” afterward, which leaves the public unfamiliar with metalworking. Some even think it is about making watches.
As an insider, Min-Ling understands that every metalworking creation bears unique concepts. It takes trained experts to introduce further. However, metalworking crafts lack a complete system of artwork dealers like paintings. Therefore, she established MANO with a partner in 2010, starting from curation and selecting, and hopes to make contemporary jewelry a popular art form eventually.
“Handmade” is the core value of MANO. MANO stands for “hand” in Italian, and “慢” 及 “鏝” represent the heart and tool in metalworking. Combine hands, heart, tools, and slow things down, that’s the brand spirit for MANO.
Coveying Contemporary Jewelry’s Value Through Curation
In contrast with traditional gold & silver jewelry, which emphasizes the concept of “addition,” the contemporary jewelry withdraws the outer value and concerns the creation philosophy more. Such discourse is unfamiliar to regular people. As a result, curation becomes the main channel to covey such values.
Takes Japanese artist Kazumi Nagano as an example, Nagano experts in using soft materials like paper, combining with textile techniques to create ever-changing artworks. Take the ornaments of book papers, for example. It reveals a purely aesthetic concept, with a more restrained feature than the shining gold & silver material. Two years ago, Min-Ling invited Nagano to held a solo exhibition in Taiwan and caused a great sensation. Not only did they received excellent reviews, but the artworks were also sold out.
In Min-Ling’s view, contemporary jewelry’s value can only be revealed by coveying the new value discourse into the market and continuously educating customers. As a result, Min-Ling’s have moved beyond Academic institutes and tried to build more connections with private firms.
Regarding the curation, MANO discloses the ambition of cross-overs. For instance, MANO combines Japanese ikebana, a highly time-compressed art form, with daily vessels and demonstrates a live performance to the audience, from selecting plants to the furnishing. For Min-Ling, creating the right atmosphere is critical in curation. She wants to provide a complete experience for the visitors to understand the concepts of artworks and, finally, the value of contemporary jewelry.
Value, not Prices: The Business Model and Pricing Strategy
From the very beginning, MANO has positioned itself as a business brand, with artworks dealing as the primary business model. Aside from the select shop in Shaoxing South Street, Taipei, MANO begins to cooperate with other art spaces. For example, recently, she personally starts a project with ALIEN Art Centre, Kaohsiung, brings modern art into hotels and benefits from the flow of people.
The selection strategy of MANO highlights the story and spirits behind artworks. MANO hopes to find artworks “just like their creators,” and reflect the creation story. Such principle affects the pricing strategy as well: MANO concerns the VALUE of each artwork, not the PRICE. “People don’t buy stuff just because it’s cheap,” Min-Ling said. The average price in MANO Select is actually not low. But as long as the artwork is unique enough, the value will be recognized, and artworks might get sold. Min-Ling once met some high-end customers, who were tired of luxury and were attracted to MANO for some exclusive jewelry nowhere to find.
Value-communicating is one of MANO’s dedication. As a communication medium, contemporary jewelry not only highlights personal characteristics and is also suitable for various social occasions. “While people embrace the aesthetics of garments, the jewelry should be appreciated as well.” Ming-Ling looks forward to seeing more private firms become bridges to the public and create more opportunities for artists, such as holding international exhibitions and inviting foreign artists to show up in person. Once the environment is elevated, the contemporary jewelry industry can be completed.
Construct the Industry and Market Together: Be Brave and Never Give Up
What are the challenges in the ten years of entrepreneurship? Ming-Ling thinks the marketing skills and resources are the most needed. The issues are probably relevant to all artists. She discovers that for artists, an exhibition’s momentum often stops at the “exhibition period.” No matter how brilliant the exhibition is, it seems difficult to move on after returning the artworks, which leads to a smaller audience and un-sustainable results.
In the past ten years, numerous artists came back from abroad and promoted more frequent international exchanges. This phenomenon extends the public artistic perspective. Though very few people persist on the matter, Ming-Ling still believes bravely that with more efforts, the aesthetic of contemporary jewelry will eventually enter the general public’s daily lives. In the future, MANO strives to cooperate with performing artists, letting the audience interact with artworks directly, beyond the traditional form of the static exhibition.
After invited hundreds of foreign artists to Taiwan, Ming-Ling found that foreigners are often more courageous than Taiwanese artists and have a deeper bond between art creation and their lives. Many foreign artists are willing to do part-time jobs for a living, to dedicate most of their time into creating. On the contrary, Taiwanese artists concern more about making money, which is quite a pity. She encourages every creator to keep up the good works and treat everything with hearts.
On the other hand, the Taiwanese metalworking industry comprises mostly small studios and individuals. There are no strict regulations and certificates, even for the material suppliers, making Ming-Ling hard to adapt, based on her German experience. Completing a well-developed industry requires efforts from various fields, such as suppliers, dealers, and creators. However, Taiwanese tend to imitate whatever successful cases showed up and eventually sacrifice the environment’s diversity. Ming-Ling anticipates everyone to endeavor into what the society and industry are short of, and vitalized the environment together.
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