PAWTUCKET — Working in the world of European fashion design, Tina Melo-Kufner knows all about the importance of predicting trends. Yet, many artists can be so engrossed in their respective craft that they don’t pay attention to what consumers, and particularly the fashionistas, are clamoring for. Putting those two worlds together is the philosophy behind Melo-Kufner’s latest business venture, Melo International.
With a large new gallery in mill space at 560 Mineral Spring Ave., Suite 204, Melo-Kufner has her concept on display. One-of-a-kind clothing, jewelry, pottery, glassware, paintings, sculpture and photographs adorn the expansive walls. Items are grouped according to color, style and theme, fitting in with such trends as “nature,” with its earthy tones, wood, fiber arts and other natural materials, and “water,” featuring items in colors, materials and designs inspired by the sea.
“I'm predicting lifestyle trends, not fads,” said Melo-Kufner, noting that fashion items and home décor crafted from and/or inspired by nature or spiritual realms are classic and timeless. She held a soft opening for the gallery in June and has an official grand opening party planned for Friday. The public is invited to a reception from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Even more importantly, Melo-Kufner is using digital, video and social media to promote the gallery and its artists. This is a significant expansion of the concept she was trying to launch last year at her former, short-lived Galeria International on Main Street. “I'm exposing, promoting, and marketing artists and designers to the world so they can be recognized,” she stated. “My vision and mission of Melo International is all about artists and designers coming together to create the lifestyle trends and ‘one-of-a-kind’ pieces for the public and the industry as one.”
Melo International's artists and work were recently featured in “The Story of the Creative,” an international showcase of talent sponsored by the website See.Me. The gallery’s video was previewed at a gala opening at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts in New York City. It was also exhibited for several weeks at the See Exhibition Space in Long Island City, N.Y., and projected onto a skyscraper earlier this month as part of an event called Creatives Rising.
Hundreds of visitors attended these exhibits and viewed the Melo International video, and hundreds more from around the world responded through Facebook and other social media sites. Embracing the digital age and marketing through video and social media is something that all serious artists and designers need to be doing, Melo-Kufner notes.
Melo-Kufner is also other working collaboratively with the newly launched Rhode Island Creative Magazine, which featured an article on Melo International in a recent issue. She is also taking part in an online crowdsourcing project, where earning the top number of “likes” on the website could win gallery space in New York City — another boon for her stable of exhibiting artists.
Melo, a Cumberland resident and graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, lived and worked in Europe for many years before returning to Rhode Island. She worked as a fashion and design analyst for several clothing and textile manufacturers, and later launched her own company, The Melo Report, providing a source of fashion trends for the garment and home accessories industries.
Heavily involved in the local arts scene, Melo-Kufner said she knows there are many talented artists and designers out there who are creating beautiful pieces, but don’t know enough about sales and marketing. “Many are working in a vacuum. They come to me and say, ‘I’m not a sales person. Can you help me?’ ” says Melo-Kufner. She said she helps them with guidance on the up-and-coming looks and themes in fashion and home décor, as well as how to best market and promote their items.
“I’m helping artists produce things according to the trends,” she stated.
Sometimes, artists benefit by collaborating with other artists, designers and craftspeople, and Melo-Kufner has taken this approach with many of the people she is representing in her gallery. For example, she carries a line that features jewelry, T-shirts, photographs and kitchen accessories depicting X-rays of animals and sea creatures that have been artistically manipulated and colored.
Melo-Kufner brought the original artist, a podiatrist who began working artistically with x-rays, in contact with a jewelry designer to reproduce the eerily beautiful images on pendants for necklaces and bracelets. She also had the images printed on a line of T-shirts and reproduced again on glass cutting boards and other decorative items.
Also important to her concept is education, and Melo-Kufner recently received a grant from the city’s arts panel to teach fashion design to children and young adults.
“I’m also promoting the educational aspect of the arts,” she said, noting that one of the gallery’s featured painters is a girl of 11. She holds classes at her gallery for children as young as 5, and also offers private lessons for adults.
Aside from Friday’s grand opening, the Melo-International Gallery is open to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is also open on weekends by appointment.
For more information, visit the Galeria United Melo International site on Facebook.
Follow Donna Kirwan on Twitter@KirwanDonna