Mexican arts startup owner aims to inspire the community with cards

Updated: 2015-08-03 03:47

By Zhang Yuchen(China Daily Latin America)

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Mexican arts startup owner aims to inspire the community with cards

Born and raised in Mexico, Monica Le Baron travels the world as an American and calls Sweden home. Zhang Yuchen / China Daily

Born and raised in Mexico, Monica Le Baron travels the world as an American and calls Sweden home. On and off since 2010, she had been living in Beijing, China, where she founded an arts facility to spotlight cultures and connect continents. She also served as its director.

Le Baron, who holds dual US-Mexico citizenship, previously worked for two years at the Mexican embassy in Beijing, and now works as deputy academic director of the Mexican Center Studies-National Autonomous University of Mexico/ Beijing Foreign Studies University. She learned communication can be done well through inspirations engaging arts and culture.

"(Drawing your experience from all cultures) It's like selecting food, you don't like some in one culture but there are some supplement out there," said the founder of a greeting card startup, "Maybe you have some good Swedish food with Chinese wine and some Mexican dessert. But you need to taste it in your mouth, not your eyes."

Now she is running her own greeting card shop that opened last November. Monikards, the name of her shop, was an idea she had when she first arrived in Beijing some years ago and couldn't find a special card to send back to her family in Mexico.

Taking the first trip for a school project to export tequila to China in 2006, Le Baron could say "I am a Mexican" in Chinese. The plain, passionless postcards with a non-characteristic stamp on the upper right corner did not satisfy her.

When she decided to return to Mexico in 2012 with her husband, she began to think about doing some unique greeting card designs. After one and a half years of holding on to the greeting card idea, Le Baron made it through the hardest part: getting started.

Now, after returning to China in 2014, two of her shops in Mexico and one in the US have been selling the cards. She also opened an online shop to explore the digital market. "Special Chinese elements that might inspire people who receive it," she said.

She once sent her nieces the greeting cards, now they all want to come to China.

"China is becoming their favorite place in the world. So everything about China they know something about it," she said. "It is always a great way for people to know the world."

Added the 30-year-old entrepreneur: "A lot of similarities between Mexico and China: love for family, respect for the elderly, and working hard to earn. … We just don’t know much about each other."

Another way to give back to the community and to inspire others to be happy is to create workshops, she said. A series of workshops followed the opening of her card business in the ensuing nine months.

On July 11, Le Baron opened her first Mexican arts workshop to promote Mexican culture by explaining and teaching to paint masks. With Paola Ibarra, a Mexican artist teaching at CAFA, she shared the idea of how different perspectives on life are between the cultures. Each one can be inspiring.

During the 3-hour workshop, participants made their own faces as the model of the masks. They put plastic paper on the face first and then put the plaster into water. With four or five layers of the wet plaster on the face, the participants waited for 20 minutes to let the mask dry.

In the waiting time, the artist explained about the iconic meaning of Mexican masks. In Spanish, masks are máscara, literally meaning multi-faces. In Mexico, masks can be used in traditional rituals or modern art forms.

"Different from Chinese cultures, Mexican people are not afraid to die. Instead, they make fun of death by bringing bright colors to it," said Le Baron, "we go with all of these in traditions to embrace and respect the dead."

She wants to bring all these elements into another culture and inspire more creativity in a community. Soon after the opening of Monikards, she hosted a DIY greeting cards workshop around Chinese New Year this year. The theme of the workshop was to paint a sheep on a blank card with figures. Because this year is the year of sheep.

Last month's Art Crawl in MoMA, she brought some eco-friendly cards made out of recycled materials. People at all these events first were amazed by the practice and then showed their interest in getting involved.

Having first traveled to Europe during her university years, Le Baron said starting up a greeting card shop is only a stepping stone to starting a non-profit organization to help individuals get a better education, seek opportunities and experience life in different cultures.

"The most difficult part, however, is when back home your family doesn't understand you any more (after your traveling so much). Because you have changed through living in another culture every day."