In­ter­view

At the re­cently con­cluded sev­enth run of the Maarte De­sign Fair, Filipino artistry and in­ge­nu­ity flour­ished, writes Ni­cole Sin­diong

Philippine Tatler Homes - - VOLUME 12 -

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

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