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Creating a little piece of Mexico through arts and crafts
By Yang Di

ROLANDO Garcia Alonso's latest professional challenge meant not just a new position as Consul General at Consulate General of Mexico in Shanghai, but also finding a home outside his home country.

With a busy working schedule, a cozy house close to the office was a priority, so this spacious two-floor villa inside one of the best residential compounds on Jianhe Road is considered a perfect base.

"I brought my personal collection of Mexican arts and crafts, and by chance they fit very well in this place,'' Alonso said, adding that he had no idea of the space's layout and conditions before his arrival in Shanghai.

Within a weekend, a space emerged that's not only tailored to a beautiful life but is also rich with memories.

"I wanted to build here in Shanghai a real Mexican space because I think all the residences abroad have to be a showcase of the country's flavors, colors, culture and food. So here you can find masterpieces from each region of Mexico, from embroideries, paintings, sculptures, lacquer wood to ceramics,'' he said.

"I wanted this place to feel as though it's in my country, with lots of colors.''

One thing Alonso has always stressed to his Chinese friends is how big an influence China has had on Mexican art. For example, all the displayed Mexican ceramics are copies from museum pieces and those museum pieces are copies from 16th or 17th century pieces from Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Between the 16th to 18th century, all trade from China to Europe was made through Mexico, says Alonso.

During the time, Mexican art was strongly influenced by Chinese techniques and colors, and even some animal motifs from embroidery arts were inspired by Chinese stories, according to him.

The vivid collection of Mexican art and antiques at Alonso's Shanghai residence shows how art can put the warmth and soul into a modern villa, without changing much of the interiors. He likes color and eclectic pieces put together. And his Shanghai residence is like a gallery showcasing a distillation of the best traditional and contemporary Mexican art created by some of the best artists and craftsmen.

"Both Mexico and China have a very big sense of art. I have a few of the first prize works at home from the yearly contests for Mexican artists organized by our government,'' he said.

"It has to express the best tradition of that Mexican art but I'm also open to innovation and new twists.''

Alonso's love of art and design has led to a diverse collection of pieces, from traditional art forms to designer furniture. Another strong decorative element here is the antique map of Mexico. Decorating with old maps can give the rooms an elegant and classy look. He hangs maps as he would a piece of artwork in a frame. His collection of 13 antique maps of Mexico shows intriguing historical and political moments that have an enduring beauty which invites you to travel into the life of the past.

Alonso has collected original Mexican maps from galleries all around the world in Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, New York, Ottawa, though found none in Mexico. The oldest map from his collection dates from 1579.

"I've always been interested in geography and my parents once told me that I had to stop collecting everything and instead focus on one area worth the investment. About 12 years ago, I started to collect old Mexican maps, and it's become something of an addiction,'' he said.

The clean-lined furniture and earthy color palette creates a cool backdrop for an eclectic mix of objects while at the same time making the artwork stand out.

The ground floor, which is composed of living area, dining room and the study, gets abundant natural light. The second floor is the night zone, consisting of three bedrooms and one room for worship.


Rolando Garcia Alonso

Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?

A: The people and the food. I've even found the best Mexican food outside Mexico in Shanghai.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Mexican, colorful, illuminated.

Q: What's the first thing you do when you get home?

A: I take out all the things out of my pockets and remove my tie.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Reading, listening to music and going into my garden.

Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?

A: In the living room and the study.

Q: What's the best view outside your window?

A: From my kitchen, there is the nice garden view.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: I have some essential oils of green tea and jasmine I bought in Shanghai in 2008 and some incense I bought in Japan.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: The first important watercolor painting my father bought many years ago in my hometown.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: Not yet. But I found a wonderful store in M50 on Moganshan Road.


Le Creative Sweatshop

Who are they?

Le Creative Sweatshop is a creative studio based in Paris, at the crossroads of fashion, contemporary art, design and architecture. They are three people working together: Julien Morin, Mathieu Missiaen and Olivier Migda from The Imaginers.

Tell us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

Each project is unique; we want to keep originality but also quality in artisan work. Most of the objects are handmade which gives them a precious and fragile identity. We're really proud of what we have just finished for Hermes; it was a great experience to work on the windows of their new Plaza 66 store and to create such big paper sculptures.

The concept of those windows was to work on the effect of time on objects, through the idea of shape gradient; an object's movement as a transformation of itself. A geometric shape evolved to become a Hermes piece. We wanted to talk about "The Gift of Time," the Hermes 2012 yearly theme, and how an object evolves in our minds. It's a random journey into an art work.

What projects are you currently involved in?

We're involved in several projects. We've just finished two editorials for a UK magazine, and are working on a campaign for Persol eyeware. But we are mainly working for a huge event in Paris next month for network company Orange.

Describe your design style.

Our style is defined by the materials we use. We develop our universe around a work of fixed volumes and dynamics. Initially, we worked exclusively with paper, but now we are exploring new materials. That means our style always changes and adapts.

Where are you most creative?

In bed, sleeping and dreaming.

What does your home mean to you?

We don't have time to be at home so our homes are just for sleeping!

What do you collect?

We collect nothing, actually; never really keep objects. Collecting is kind of against what we believe in, and we don't have a place to keep everything.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

On the Mint rooftop, enjoying the beautiful skyline!

What will be the next big design trend?

We never know what's going to be the next trend and even if we knew, we wouldn't be telling you.

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