Of Courage and Creativity

Henri Matisse, the famous French artist, once said: "The artist begins with a vision — a creative operation requiring effort. Creativity takes courage". Well, I had a vision and an ambitious one at that. The vision was to make at least Php150,000 worth of bags and join the 2014 MaARTe Artisan Fair. In a space of four months. All by myself. Needless to say, it was a creative operation requiring gargantuan effort. I needed courage, by the truckload.

June 2014 saw me making bags like a madwoman. I made them all day, thought about them as I retired at night, and dreamt of them in my sleep. I spent long days hunched over my sewing machines and equally long nights threading waxed cords through holes on leather discs. I survived on 4-hour shut-eye for weeks at a time. Finally, the frenzy came to its much-awaited end. When August came, it was time to put away the scissors, turn off the sewing machines, and head off to the Rockwell Tent in Makati for the 2014 MaARTe Artisan Fair.

This was my second year as an exhibitor at MaARTe. Organised by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, the fair takes pride in gathering some of the country's most creative artisans and designers under one stylish roof. The affair is always a feast for the senses- beautiful hand-crafted accessories tempt the eyes, artisan food tease the nostrils and the taste buds, delicate fabrics tickle the skin while the ears take in the din of trade between the designers and their loyal customers. I was captivated by the vibe of the fair last year; this year, even more so. I finally found a place that nurtures my craft and fuels my creativity.

My collection this year included my trademark abaca (manila hemp) bags, hand-crafted using hand-woven poly-abaca from my hometown of Iloilo. The bags had simple, clean lines but the details- a pleat here, a panel there- created interesting shadows and gave the bags another dimension.

Abaca Raya in Mustard Yellow

Abaca Bulak in Tangerine

Another collection featured was the Waxed Canvas and Leather Range composed of the Fold-over Tote and the Classic Tote Set. Both styles combine the sturdiness of waxed canvas and the luxury of leather resulting in durable, waterproof daybags with a vintage feel.

Waxed Canvas and Leather Classic Tote Set in Khaki

This year, I also had the pleasure of working with scrap materials. I rescued a box full of salvaged leather discs from landfill by turning them into hip, tribal accessories. The results were these leather medallions that convert into bag charms/decor by adjusting the cord.

Leather Medallions

All these things were displayed in my booth at the 2014 MaARTe Fair. It was a tiny space- a mere 4 square metres- but it felt grand. I proudly stood within its walls, surrounded by my bags, months of hard work, pricked fingers, long days and even longer nights slowly melting into nothingness.

MaARTe Booth

Henri Matisse once said that "Creativity takes courage" and he was right. For nothing is scarier than putting one's creative take on life -nay, the world- out in the open, for all to see. Then again, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do.

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