At the recently concluded seventh run of the Maarte Design Fair, Filipino artistry and ingenuity flourished, writes Nicole Sindiong
Cedie Lopez Vargas on this year’s Maarte Design Fair
The Philippine archipelago paints a wonderfully diverse tapestry of indigenous colours, textures, and patterns. And from August 28 to 30, the Rockwell Tent served as its canvas through the Museum Foundation of the Philippines’ (MFPI) Maarte Craft, Art, Food & Design Fair 2015. Next to Art in the Park, the recently concluded bazaar is the foundation’s annual fundraiser in support of its advocacies. “We were given a grant to create an event that promotes artisan crafts and celebrates the craftsmanship of the Filipino,” says MFPI board member and Maarte co-chair Cedie Vargas of the event’s beginnings seven years ago. “That’s how it started, quite modest. We had to practically drive people to go.”
Maarte has since grown into a much-anticipated cultural affair attracting thousands of patrons throughout the weekend fair. By focusing on rearing homegrown artisan talent and skill,
Maarte continues to evolve as a powerful platform for sustaining non-profit community livelihoods, as well as propelling Philippine design initiatives and start-up entrepreneurs to fruition.
The movement has gained quite a significant momentum in the country that international companies such as Rimowa have offered support. The European brand’s signature aluminum and polycarbonate suitcases were transformed into art pieces by Filipino artists like Heart Evangelista, Max Balatbat, and Jason Montinola. The exclusive collection was on display for the duration of the Maarte Fair and auctioned off last month to benefit MFPI’S initiatives for preserving local art.
To make the Fair even more relevant this year, the Maarte committee, led by MFPI President Maritess Pineda, challenged participating merchants to elevate their craft by exploring new designs. In line with this objective, the committee also arranged a product development workshop facilitated by PJ Arañador, an international consultant for craft and decorative merchandise, to assist artists in refining their concepts and designing compelling items for the Fair. As an expert in the field, Arañador has collaborated with indigenous communities with the goal of preserving their technologies through new design applications.
Over 70 local artisans and merchant gathered from all over the country to showcase the best and the newest in Philippine arts and crafts during the three-day Fair. From textiles, garments, to fashion accessories, and furniture, Maarte 2015 was not short on bold and progressive takes on traditional techniques.
“Based on the feedback, people come back because they feel that we are able to bring to the market a strong selection of what is out there. In one go, you come here and you pretty much get a sense of the level of artisanship that is going on in the country,” Vargas gratefully notes.
Not to be missed was Maarte Finds, a special section devoted to limited edition pieces from artists and designers. Amongst them was the crowd favourite “Beehive”—layers of woven patterns and colours cascading into an exquisite lighting fixture from S.C. Vizcarra. It was recognised as the year’s “Best Maarte Find.” From Hacienda Crafts came a one-of-a-kind standalone counter from repurposed scraps of metal from old trucks in Negros Occidental. For the bath or kitchen, there were sturdy towel racks and bar carts made of rattan from E. Murio. For those who like to liven up a gathering with some tunes, Namana Crafts designed a Filipino “couple” of bamboo amplifiers, complete with painted-on traditional garb.
Inside, customers were greeted with more eyecatching articles for the home. MARSSE Tropical Timber presented a wide collection of dining accouterments—from condiment shakers, chopping boards, to wine and cheese platters, all of which were crafted from every last inch of teak, mahogany, and gmelina wood sustainably grown in their farm in Pangasinan.
Young entrepreneurs from Pambahay by Halo-halo transformed old plastic materials into native banig patterns on bread trays, baskets, and placemats. There was also a stunning selection of hand-painted and hand-embroidered pillows with original designs from designers at The Olive Tree, T’nalak Home, and Art of Gold.
“It’s an event that a lot of people look forward to because it’s not just a shopping event. People come together and meet each other here,” intones Vargas. Indeed, the sense of community was palpable throughout the Fair, from shoppers and artists alike exchanging stories about our shared art and culture.
“We were given a grant to create an event that promotes artisan crafts and celebrates the craftsmanship of the Filipino,” says Maarte co-chair Cedie Vargas
FROM TOP Statement Theory glass cake stand in silver and motherof-pearl; the awardwinning Beehive lighting fixture featuring layers of woven textures by S.C. Vizcarra