Alice Melloni, an Italian artist, lives and runs an art studio in Shanghai.
The first time Alice Melloni stood in People's Square she was impressed and shocked by the vitality of Shanghai with all its hustle and bustle, noise and whispers, just like the city was talking.
"The people who walked beside me smiled at me, the laughter of children, the music, the smell of food, the light that shines on the river. There was a positive energy that made me feel good, that I was in my place, that this was home," Melloni said. "People are so happy and so curious here, it made me feel so energetic and alive."
"I'm an artist. This is like food for me, and this, here in Shanghai, is the feeling that changed my way to make art."
Born in Rome, an artistic city as well as Italy's capital, Melloni, 41, started to frame her art journey when she was a 5-year-old girl.
She came to Shanghai for her son and daughter-in-law and also her coming grandson. However, she did not expect that life in Shanghai would inspire more emotional ideas in her to create artistic works.
So, every day she thinks it was the right and happy choice, from the depths of her heart.
"There are so many things different in Shanghai and Italy. It takes only one day for things to happen here while in Italy it could be one month," she said. "And more people are interested in our works."
Melloni founded her company in 2019, which only took her about four months from sending the documents to obtaining the operation certificate.
"Because the materials I brought from Italy are sufficient with many local friends to help, everything went very smoothly," she said.
Shanghai is friendly to foreigners and overseas investors to settle in the city, including lowering taxes for companies, providing legal help, intellectual property right as well as multiple language services.
"For overseas companies which need to settle in Shanghai, there are laws and rules to help them quickly go through the registration processes and provide them with a better business environment," said Luo Peixin, deputy head of Shanghai Justice Bureau. "This is in accordance with the WTO's principles."
"Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China, Shanghai has released some policies to lower taxes for small companies, which I think is very helpful for their development," Melloni added.
Alice (second from right) and her team members.
The successful establishment of her company gave Melloni and her husband a good start to enjoy their life in Shanghai.
They now run Ailimeile Art Studio, titled like the sound of her Italian name, in downtown Yangpu District.
"It means beauty and love and happiness in Chinese," she said. Her son is a freelance musician who loves motorcycling.
The studio's team of five people have completed over 20 projects since it was founded.
"We have a lot of different and interesting fields going here," Melloni said. "We have made many sculptures and special objects for commercial businesses as well as models for high-end pastry."
There are many paintings, models of scenes and props displayed throughout the studio, and she can relate the story and emotion behind every piece.
"I started with emotion because I work on this all of my life," Melloni said.
The emotion behind her artistic work is not only used for creating, but also is the way she communicates with people.
"The first time I arrived, I didn't speak Chinese or English, so for me it was so hard to understand others," she said, "But I also missed communicating with people."
So she started to use her art works to communicate. A sculpture in the studio depicts a fish jumping through a gate then becoming a dragon, a scene from an ancient Chinese legend "Liyu Yue Longmen," which indicates success of the career and achievement of the dream.
"We just look into our eyes and understand each other. Because sometimes we don't need to have a lot of words to explain everything," Melloni said.
She has also created a miniature sculpture encased in glass and with the self-explanatory title of "Moon Garden." She describes the work as a dreamer's place.
Alice Melloni's art pieces displayed in her studio.
Melloni wasn't interested in limiting her art practice to only one form so she focused on using all types of materials to find the best way to share the meaning of a story.
"I like things, I like real things, but to be honest, I like the mix. Sometimes it is more time-saving and easier."
For one project, to do a paper scene for the popular Disney animation film Zootopia, her team took less than 10 days to finish a job that would have taken four months and 30 people to make a totally digital version.
"People think about 4G, make everything 4G and shoot 4G," she said, adding that other ways can also be interesting.
Melloni shifts between artistic techniques and media – glass blowing, sculptures, miniatures and paintings – to create works of art that reveal deep emotions.
One of her special areas of expertise is making blown glass sculptures of which she has many pieces in Italy, however, after moving to Shanghai, she doesn't do it any more because there is no suitable place.
"That is the favorite of my life. Nothing is more magic than to do this type of sculpture," Melloni said. "The material is hot and liquid and you have to decide to make it in a shape in a very short time, like in four or five seconds, before it solidifies.
"I miss the time when I made the glass (sculpture) in Italy," she added, "but the glass blowing needs a very strict environment, the temperature, the humidity ... I'm still looking for the right place in Shanghai."
Apart from the city becoming her true love, she also enjoys its food.
"Have you ever seen a city with so much choice of great food? " she asked.
"I like the restaurants with outside chairs and a river view," she said, "and I love going to hot pot. Whenever there is something to celebrate, or even to get friends together, I love the way food is shared, the way we cook together."
"I have met wonderful people, new friends and I look to the future with optimism and gratitude to this place that has welcomed me."
Alice Melloni holds one of her prop works, a laser gun, in her studio.