ART OF THE MAT­TER

Two artists share a pas­sion for whimsy

Cebu Living - - Front Page - By SA­MAN­THA RAMOS-ZARAGOZA Im­ages by GABBY CANTERO

Happy Garaje, a cre­ative stu­dio from Cebu founded by Mark and Jo­hanna Deutsch in 2009, was born out of the duo’s pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. The un­fold­ing scenes from the time the cou­ple met un­til the in­cep­tion of their brain­child is a story seem­ingly lifted from nar­ra­tions they fancy cre­at­ing.

Their tale be­gan in a serendip­i­tous en­counter in a gro­cery store that ig­nited a spark be­tween the two. This only fur­ther in­ten­si­fied their com­mon love for art and sto­ry­telling, and a walk home one day that re­vealed they were once child­hood neigh­bors. The two wed in 2009 and brought their part­ner­ship into the busi­ness realm. “We reg­is­tered as a stu­dio in 2009, which was less than a year af­ter we started do­ing il­lus­tra­tion work as free­lancers. We started it be­cause we wanted to work on cre­ative things ev­ery day,” they share.

Mark worked as a graphic de­signer while Jo was in­volved in mar­ket re­search and brand­ing man­age­ment. Their hearts were al­ways rooted in art de­spite it tak­ing a back­seat as they were grow­ing up. Mark, a comic book col­lec­tor who would sell one-peso sto­ry­books in his neigh­bor­hood, trav­eled a lot as a child and doc­u­mented his ex­pe­ri­ences in paint­ings, pho­tog­ra­phy, and hand­made pieces. Jo, like­wise, filled her note­books with draw­ings of fairy­tales, and the peo­ple she en­coun­tered.

Happy Garaje be­gan in an ac­tual garage they fash­ioned to mir­ror their cre­ative fas­ci­na­tions. To­day, it is an art stu­dio, vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency, and store with out­fits like Folk Fic­tion, Bar­rio Peli­gro, The Land of Fly­ing Peo­ple, Geeks on a Beach, and Week­end Barista Club. From their hum­ble begin­nings, the duo now works with a team in­volved in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and web/ app de­sign and de­vel­op­ment. They’ve done projects with com­pa­nies here and abroad, with no­table ones in­clud­ing Dis­ney, The Four Sea­sons Ho­tel in Mar­rakesh, Raf­fles Praslin in Sey­chelles, and Mead John­son in the USA. Some of these are en­coun­ters that blos­som from their hard work. “Some­times when peo­ple you do good work for move up into the world, you find out that they make an ef­fort to make it hap­pen for you, too,” they share. Keep­ing a good bal­ance for their projects and main­tain­ing per­sonal dis­cov­ery through ex­per­i­men­ta­tions, they’ve come up with solid work that have earned in­ter­na­tional ac­co­lades from the So­ci­ety of Il­lus­tra­tors Los An­ge­les, Luerzer’s Archive in Europe, and Tokyo De­sign­ers Week, among many oth­ers.

Spend­ing even their breaks on art-re­lated pur­suits like play­ing mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, read­ing, or draw­ing, they also turn to trav­el­ing and spend­ing time with their daugh­ter Sum­mer to re­boot from their work. In any case, it’s a part­ner­ship that works be­cause it’s es­sen­tially grounded on love. “It’s a true col­lab­o­ra­tion process. Some­times an il­lus­tra­tion pro­ject comes and one of us will feel re­ally strongly about it and will take the role of art di­rect­ing it. There are also times when we pass the pa­per back and forth. It works for us be­cause we have an un­der­stand­ing as to what the other per­son might think but, at the same time, we are not to­gether 24/7 so the in­flu­ences can vary. That bal­ance of de­pend­abil­ity and un­ex­pected ran­dom­ness is good,” they end.

ASIDE FROM BE­ING CO-FOUNDERS OF

HAPPY GARAJE, MARK AND JO­HANNA DEUTSCH IS IN CHARGE OF IL­LUS­TRA­TION AND WRIT­ING, RE­SPEC­TIVELY (EX­TREME ABOVE). THE VISI­TOR IS A TOY THAT THE COU­PLE MADE FOR THE STRANGE BEASTS

TOY SHOW IN CEBU (ABOVE, LEFT).

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