by Alex M. Eduque
I have always been fascinated with the work of and by Filipino artisans. It highlights a different level of intricacy and craft. The detail, sometimes almost blinding, is a work of art and oftentimes is a collaborative effort of many. In my own designs, I oftentimes seek inspiration from these age-old techniques and artistry when detailing simply because there is a certain sense of pride when one is able to embody nationalism – in what they do and choose to patronize. The rise of fairs and likeminded events that bring together different artisans, that pave the way for locally made goods recognized abroad to be accessible locally have been making a steady rise in the past years.
One such event is Artefino. On its maiden year, it aims to enhance the public’s understanding of committed craftsmen and craftsmanship to “reimagine the Filipino artisan.” Carefully curating and selecting its vendors, the team behind this highly anticipated event has ensured that only those who have “upheld Filipino craftsmanship and pursued it to a level of excellence praised both here and abroad” are able to take part. It is a platform that does not only turn rising stars into superstars, but also launches up and coming brands and artisans into the Filipino consumer’s consciousness.
What makes Artefino stand out from other similar showcases is the added layer to the fair where its buyers have the opportunity to get to know some of the artisans and the stories they have to tell, leading up to where they are today. Through stories, Artefino is able to further celebrate the creative process by indulging its audience with a series of conversations which “highlights a practice that transcends the simplified transactional relationship between buyer and producer.” As the team behind it shares, “In anticipation of the artisanal showcase Artefino promises, conversations on process, sustainability, integrity, preservation and culture ensure the stories do not go unnoticed. In an effort to inspire and empower, Artefino stories ease storytellers into the spotlight to talk about their vision, their practice and the emergent value of their craft.”
The first of two dialogues happened last July 20. “Collaboration without Reservations” as it was titled highlighted the spirit of collaboration that is so evident in the spirit of Artefino. Al Valenciano (of Balay ni Atong), Len Cabili (of Fillip+Inna) and Natalya Lagdameo engaged listeners in their stories that spoke of interwoven relationships not just between vendors and customers, but most importantly, sustaining it with the artisans and communities who are the backbones of producing the Philippines’ finest. They reminded us all that fairs, as such, “thrive on the coalescence of creative wisdom and cultural intellect—” stories that need to be told, known to and heard by all.
Next Saturday August 19, the second dialogue dubbed “Upholding the Filipino Artisan” will take place and hopes to give listeners an insight on process, and how every piece tells a story of culture and heritage. Some of the Philippines most creative minds and successful social entrepreneurs Anya Lim (Anthill Fabric), Reese Fernandez-Ruiz (Rags 2 Riches) and Zarah Juan of her namesake brand will give us all a delve into their brilliant minds, as they tell us how they have been able to successfully accomplish their brand building alongside ensuring “the integrity of artisan communities, while effectively contouring products to fulfill consumer demands.”
This year, I also have the priceless opportunity of somewhat being a part of this prestigious fair, through the kindness and trust of one of the country’s creative geniuses, the “fan man” as he likes to call himself, (Tito) Monchet D. Olives. Continuing his mother’s legacy through Casa Mercedes (now on its 65th year of fan making – the old-school, no-shortcut hand-made kind) I had the honor of collaborating with him and his team once again. My take on modern Filipino – as seen through the lens of nostalgia; heavily inspired by my childhood and love for the country – has found its way onto and has transformed into two different fan designs. It is not my first year to work with Tito Monchet and his amazing team, but year after year, they most definitely outdo themselves and (all biases aside) I feel like I love their work more and more.
It is one thing to love what you buy and spend, but it is another to be able to support a worthy cause, and thus, spend consciously. These, and more, are what Artefino promises to fulfill. So mark your calendars because this is a fair not to be missed!
* * *
Catch Artefino this August 25-27 at Penthouse, 8 Rockwell.