Words Vicki Ravlich-Horan, Images Ashlee DeCaires
The Mandarin Tree, run by dynamic mother and daughter duo, Claudia and Isa Aalderink, just got a lot bigger. What started with a chance detour to the dairy has grown into one of Waikato’s largest art galleries.
Their original space was what caught Claudia’s attention nine years ago on that fateful trip to the dairy. At the time Claudia was about to start studying for her masters in photography, and the opening of an art gallery was not part of the plan. Luckily, she made it part of the plan and “the rest is history” says Claudia, smiling.
So how has a gallery out in Gordonton been so successful when others struggle? Claudia believes it’s because they have continued to stick to the original vision of representing both emerging and established New Zealand artists while providing art for every wallet. “Consistency has been a key factor too,” notes Claudia. “People know what to expect at The Mandarin Tree.”
When she first opened The Mandarin Tree it was a case of tapping into her networks of friends and students at Wintec to find artists, but news travels fast in artists circles and hearing of a new gallery opportunity, the walls were quickly filled with a wonderful range of art.
The gallery currently has the work of over 80 artists with a waiting list of more keen artists to have their work on the walls.
The new space, that was most recently the Mr Ralph showroom, has really opened up the gallery. Claudia says, “People are loving it! There is room to step back and take in the different artwork. Or take a seat on our lovely couch.” And it doesn’t stop there, there’s room out the back to continue the expansion for a garden art space and an exhibition room.
The Mandarin Tree has not just grown its physical gallery but branched out 18 months ago into online sales too. This has been the domain of Isa, who has grown up with the gallery and started working part time a few years back before recently jumping on board full time.
Isa believes the online sales have been a success because they are an extension of what the gallery offers, a selection of New Zealand art, accessible to everyone, with a personal and friendly touch.
The Mandarin Tree
1034 Gordonton Road, Gordonton
Alongside growing The Mandarin Tree, Claudia has grown her own reputation as a successful artist creating unique pieces made from beehives. In fact, her work is so popular she has a two-year waitlist for commissions and often struggles to keep pieces of her own work on the walls of The Mandarin Tree.