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  • Channeling One’s Inner Artist: 9ArtZone and DIY in Shanghai

    Post by : expatree


China’s economy grew 7.8 percent in 2012; disposable income growth outpaced this, growing at a brisk 12.6 percent clip. This means that, for all the capriciousness of the global economy, Chinese consumers finish the year with more money in their pockets, leaving them ample room to pursue new hobbies. One of the fastest-growing pastimes is DIY, or do-it-yourself craft-making. Pursued mainly by women (along with a few men and children,), the pursuit allows its users to escape from the minutiae of daily life, channel their inner artist, and adorn their homes with the beautiful fruits of their own labor.

The DIY movement has its origin in Japan, where the post-War boom has given rise to vibrant craft-making sector. Only 48.5 percent of Japanese women participate in the labor force, amongst the lowest rates in the OECD. Homemakers in Japan have thus had ample opportunity to pursue other endeavors, with craft-making topping the list. With social activity centering on making pottery, paper creations, and various other forms of handiwork, DIY has spawned a variety of industries. The popularity of DIY creations has resulted in strong demand for high-quality art supplies, studio space, and artistic expertise. DIY has also caught fire abroad, taking Taiwan, South Korea, and even the United States by storm. With strong income growth and a taste for the bold and new, DIY’s next frontier to conquer is clearly China.

Although there have been some attempts at bringing DIY to China, mainly through the Japanese diaspora, most have failed to catch fire. Various online suppliers and kit-makers have popped up, most failing to capture the hearts of an otherwise-occupied Chinese audience. Even after three decades of rapid growth, China’s per capita GDP is still less than a quarter of Japan’s. Further, according to the World Bank, China’s female participation rate is a lofty 69 percent, well above Japan’s. More aptly, the country has little history with such pursuits, meaning that awareness, expertise in craft-making, and social validation of the DIY lifestyle have been sorely lacking.

Enter Shanghai 9ArtZone. Formed in 2011 by the enterprising Anita Wu,  9ArtZone features a robust selection of supplies of various origins. While many of the labels are quite similar to those found in a typical Japanese craft-store, are from further afield or build upon Shanghainese tastes. About 20 percent of customers are expats, with the balance being made up of locals. Painted ceramic and glass works are the bread and butter of 9ArtZone’s work, although any continuity ends there. Customers are free to experiment with any type of coloration, mosaic, or accoutrement they can dream of. Themed works, such as animals, landscape vistas, and odes to friends and family are all popular. 9ArtZone staff are always on hand to provide advice on glazing and finish, ensuring that those one-of-a-kind creations stay one for a long time.

By giving customers a holistic experience, 9ArtZone aims facilitate a culture of artistic creativity in Shanghai. “We see ourselves as educators” says Anita Wu. 9ArtZone hopes to have a knock-on effect by providing customers with the forum and expertise to make gorgeous handicrafts. With customers teaching the tricks of the trade to their friends and making the pursuit a social endeavor, DIY will continue to grow and prosper in China, creating a win-win situation for all parties. Such prospects have naturally led 9ArtZone to consider expanding the business in the future, possibly opening a store downtown. The boutique would also like to offer art programs for children and promote parent-child craft-making. With such a forum for success, the sky is truly 9ArtZone’s limit.

See 9ArtZone's Handicrafts

Thomas Mehaffy
for Expatree

Date:2013-07-04 10:49:56
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