Thursday Spotlight: Mano-A-Mano’s Jill Folino and Wven Villegas

You could call Jill Folino and Wven Villegas handy people — their company, after all, is named Mano-A-Mano. Folino and Villegas have crafted bespoke signs for Citroen and holiday decor for our holiday market — to name just a few recent examples of their work around the nabe — but it is their communally-sustained relationships they seem to prize most. As our interview illuminates, the crafty mavens behind Mano-A-Mano not only support each other but local establishment after local establishment. They see their projects as a way to artfully represent a company’s vision while also planting themselves knee-deep in the ethos of all they collaborate with. Below, we caught up with the two artisans to discuss their creative backgrounds and favorite projects.
Greenpointers: Introduce yourselves!
Jill Folino: I work with a partner, Wven Villegas, and we created Mano-A-Mano. Our work varies from mural and sign painting, sculpture, woodworking, type and creative direction. We model building and anything else we can conjure up. Together we share a tool box of skills that we are constantly juggling.
Do you both reside in Brooklyn?
Wven has lived in Greenpoint for over 13 years, while I was born and raised in Staten Island where I once again currently reside. We work out of a three-car garage we converted into our studio behind my apartment so we have more than ample room to spread our creative wings. It’s also enough space to build some sizable pieces. It’s our creative lab we dubbed “Pop Art Garage.”
Let’s dig into what people might be most familiar with: your work at the Polar Vortex Holiday Market. How’d that come together?
When we were asked by our good friend JD to lend some props for decor at the market, we didn’t hesitate. We love that this market is a platform for artisans and other creatives like ourselves to present their creations. We hope to be vendors at a future market.
The castle was created a few years back for a children’s birthday party, but we gave it an icy makeover, changing it from it’s original cream colored/pink and Disney-esque paint job. The snowman on the other hand, has been around for more than 20 years. He’s been a fixture in our studio, just hanging around changing hats and costumes. We felt it was time for him to get out into the world and get a real job, hehe. The Out Snapped photo booth was his first modeling gig!

How long have you been collaborating?
We have been working together for about five years now. Wven is an SVA alum with an impressive advertising resume. He is a photographer, writer, art director, and designer. I studied fine art privately at Cooper Union and have worked as an artist, fabricator, faux finisher, muralist, and exhibit designer independently for most of my career.
Can you describe how you two work together?
As designers collaborating from two different worlds, analog vs. digital, our skills allow us to take on projects that are constantly challenging what we know. We recently built a replica of the Grand Central Station Information booth clock. It was illuminated from the inside for Ralph Lauren’s holiday windows at the flagship store on Madison Avenue along with a whole host of props including an eight-foot camera lens.
What other pieces have you created that have been contributed locally?
Before the clock we jumped around Williamsburg and Greenpoint working our design magic on different businesses. We started gold leafing our amazingly talented close friend Enrique Muthuan’s door for his jewelry store Dirty Hands on 296 Bedford Avenue. Enrique made a post about the door and his friend Felipe Mendez-Candelas wanted work done for his Mexican restaurant, Cerveceria Havemeyer not far away on 149 Havemeyer. Felipe was awesome to do work for.  We really enjoyed transforming the whole face of his place, designing the windows and sidewalk planter boxes.
Doing the work for these businesses is more rewarding than most because we actually support them personally. In 2016, it started with doing an indoor mural of our version of a Brooklyn Geisha for Amami Sushi Resturant on 57 Nassau Avenue. And here we are in 2018 supporting yet another friend, Dawn Eldridge, and her collaborative effort with Craig Kafton in opening Citroen on 931 Manhattan Avenue. It’s been a great experience to spread our art and design in the area. It’s like a small tour of work that can be all seen in short distances in various mediums that live a longer than your average mural.
Citroen is such an amazing new spot. What was it like to work on that?
Doing the sign for Citroen was a great project because we were given complete creative freedom to design the window treatment, the front door gold leafed logo design, paint the signage for the interior and exterior down to the menu design. We thoroughly enjoy working meticulously on every little detail of projects we take on. So this was super fun.
Any other projects you and Wven are particularly fond of?
We are probably most proud of a personal project that we worked on this year. We created three oversized Crayon boxes and redesigned the packaging as a homage to the street artist’s Crayons, the aerosol spray can. We repurposed our empty cans, painted them solid colors and labeled them like crayons. For those old school writers, Kryola and Cray-oleum, and of course Montana brand in the traditional Crayola colors. We’ve gotten a really great response to them. Two of the boxes can currently be seen at Gallery Blue, 321 Starr Street and at LowBrow Artique, 143 Central Avenue, both in Bushwick.
Follow Mano-a-Mano on Instagram here!

About Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn Magazine, Indiewire, HowlRound, Eclectica Magazine, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.

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