Tiana Wong: tiny Cloudland

Originally posted on Friday, December 19 2014

I came across Tiana Wong and CloudLand at the Kowloon City Book Festival at the end of November, 2014 (where Lik Ink also had a table). Besides promoting the products associated with Lik Ink, Lik Ink was also there to take a look into other creative DIY projects taking place in Hong Kong, specifically those who worked with the book or zine form, so it was with much pleasure that we came across the CloudLand project and its products. Using the tiniest of tiny book forms, CloudLand packages and sells the books through vending machines (machines usually positioned in front of supermarkets and used in the USA or Europe to dispense candy or tiny toys). What follows is Tiana’s explanation of the evolution and purpose behind this project.  

Likink: How did this project start?

Tiana Wong: CloudLand is my private brand since 2010, which came out of the independent publication project “eggwich.

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eggwich (I like use the small “e”) is an independent publication project. The name “eggwich” (egg sandwich) is same as “egg zine” in Cantonese pronunciation. The shell (the capsule inside the vending machine) that the tiny books are in is also named “egg shell”, so it is “egg zine” (in Cantonese).

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The project started in 2012. Including me there were 8 authors and nearly all of them had experience in independent publishing. We saw that people were always choosing to put their thoughts online, using social media platforms like facebook, twitter, etc. Some of the stories or ideas were interesting, but it’s easy to lose track of them in a very short period, not just the visitors/readers, but also for the author him/herself, but when we transform the idea into a real book, that becomes another issue, something more meaningful and long lasting.

Likink: What is it you like about tiny books?

Tiana Wong: I like writing and book binding, and started collecting miniature book when I was young. They are small, easy to carry, and when you read them you do not need to take hours, weeks or even months to pick up the whole story like other works of fiction. When I write or try to make my own books, I do not need to think of a long story before I start, as I only have room for a sentence in this small container. It’s similar to making a zine, but I’d like to play with the form of the book as well, and the tiny project won’t cause too much stress for me.

If people really want to write, even online fiction, it’s seems they have to have at least ten thousand words, but it doesn’t mean that it will be good, on the other hand, little texts are sometimes more powerful.

And when we use the machine to sell the tiny books, it’s random as the consumer cannot choose exactly which one they get. It’s more fair to the author that way, as everyone has an equal chance to sell their books, besides, the reader has a chance to connect with something that they might not have thought of before.

Likink: What kind of things influenced you as far as this project?

A: I went to Japan to learn book binding in 2011, and visited some bookshops where I saw that they were selling miniature books. At one of the shops I saw a gashapon (vending) machine placed outside the book shop that was selling mini books, actually they are selling some simple form of books which were promotional objects in order to attract people who might buy the expensive masterpieces, but I thought that might be a way to sell miniature books in Hong Kong.

So, the vending machine idea came from Japan, but in fact, this is also a very good security method for us to sell miniature books in regular bookstores. Japan bookstores will have a whole shelf for selling miniature books, but that wouldn’t work in Hong Kong. For bookstores to display the mini books in Hong Kong they need more protection so using the vending machine is a good way to distribute them.

Likink: How do you decide the topics for the books and how often do you publish these books?

Tiana Wong: We will have group meeting every two months. After the anniversary exhibition, we will have a vote and decide on topics for the coming year. Usually we will throw some words or ideas around and then vote.  Members in eggwich will then decide how to use the topics in their books. All the books are handmade by the author. After they are sold we will share the income. At the beginning, most of the authors were friends of mine. After the 1st year anniversary we arranged an open application. The active group now has about 20 authors, and a total of 30 or more have contributed to this project.

As already mentioned, this is a project about experimenting with the form of the book. I have been nicely surprised by different authors who used different materials to make books, besides paper these artist have used plastic, wool, and everyday objects, and some of them use very individualistic techniques. They really use what they have and put it into the work. Some of them might not know book binding, but they find a way to solve the problem, and that makes the outcome so unique.

Likink: What has the response to this project been like (what kind of responses/feedback have you gotten)?

Tiana Wong: At the beginning we only sold our books at different flea markets. We could see the reaction and talk to the customers directly. Now we have our facebook fans page and we will organize exhibitions every year. We think the direction has been positive. Many audience members/readers shared their interest and appreciation about our project, and some of them became our authors/book makers later on.

Likink: What is your background in both the arts and in Hong Kong?

Tiana Wong: I graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and received a Master in Arts (Fine Art) in 2014, and a BA in Arts (Fine Art) at RMIT University in 2012.

I was born in Hong Kong. My father is a columnist and journalist, my mother is an editor for newspaper, that’s why I am so interesting in writing and the book form itself. My home is like a library, full of books.

Likink: What is it like being an artist in Hong Kong?

Tiana Wong: It’s hard. It takes more time to make people understand what we are doing, but it also strengthens our communication skills. I believe we cannot just sit in our studio, we need to share ourselves with others. Also some artists don’t like this socializing action, and actually neither do I, but I really like what I am doing and I want to share and make people appreciate and understand the same things. I wish artists could be closer and help each other to build up their circle. Everyone has their talent, if we could share what we have, maybe more good things will happen.

Likink: Why do you use the name “CloudLand”?

Tiana Wong: CloudLand is somewhere like utopia or illusion. I just treat that as my world of books. www.tianacloudland.com

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