Interview

Sleight of Hand

What draws someone into a craft, and what keeps them in it? An exploration of craft-making skills leads to picking up a few lessons from three modern-day artists.

Photography by
Story by
Miguel Nacianceno
Photography by
Videography by
Mike Dee
Read Time
Location Tag
Quezon City

Over the last few years, the local arts and crafts scene has grown exponentially, with many creative entrepreneurs setting up and offering a wide range of craft-making workshops. Whether you’re a budding artisan or someone just looking to try something new, there’s bound to be a workshop out there that suits your creative interests.

People get into crafts for a number of reasons. For some, art has always been a part of their life, and it was only natural to take a creative path. Others discover a talent for it later on, and suddenly wish to change course. Still, others simply want to try new things and open themselves up to new opportunities. In my case, it was the latter, and I figured that writing this piece would give me the chance to explore the local arts and crafts scene and learn some new skills along the way.

In some ways, craft-making then becomes a metaphor for life: it’s a long, tedious, and oftentimes frustrating process that allows us to build something great, as long as we put in the work.

The benefits of craft-making are plenty, and each person experiences them in different ways. For Rita Gudiño of Tahanan Pottery, she’d found her calling through her craft, and for years now has been working as a ceramics instructor in the academe. Andrei Salud of Hocus Manila, meanwhile, finds that silkscreen printing has made him more diligent at his work, especially when working with designs that are not his own. Then, there are those who find their peace working with intricate designs, like Tish Hautea of Sqooid, who believes in the soothing effects that craft can bring.

Despite experiencing crafts in different ways, one thing remains the same for all of us: at its best, craft-making can be a transformative experience. The process of sitting down with nothing but raw materials and a couple of tools on hand, challenged to create something new, inevitably teaches us a thing or two about life and ourselves. In some ways, craft-making then becomes a metaphor for life: it’s a long, tedious, and oftentimes frustrating process that allows us to build something great, as long as we put in the work.

Ceramics

Rita Gudiño fell in love with ceramics as an undergraduate student of Fine Arts, which led her to seek out companies and schools abroad that would give her the opportunity to work with clay. Her various experiences in the field eventually led her to pioneer the first-ever ceramics studio at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where she continues to head the program and teach students about the basic know-how of Philippine ceramic art.

The first thing that often comes to mind when we think about Philippine ceramic art is the Manunggul Jar, an iconic piece of art that was used by ancient Filipinos for burial rites. It is made of earthenware clay, a mixture already commonly used in the country.

However, there’s more to Pinoy clay than just earthenware, and this knowledge is what Gudiño hopes to bring to light through her ceramics program in UP. “Hindi lang tayo nag-progress into stoneware [and other kinds of clay] because of the influx of oriental ceramics,” she shares. “In Fine Arts, [we want] to push for local stoneware, so in the studio, we mix our UPinoy clay—it’s a formation of local clays and is almost 100% local.”



Tahanan Pottery, which she co-runs with her husband Vicente, is an extension of her ceramics program: a pottery school and commercial shop in Quezon City, where the greater public can purchase Philippine ceramic art, and enroll in short-term pottery courses.

As her space in Tahanan grows, Gudiño hopes local clay will eventually be used to create genuine Philippine ceramics. Despite being in the industry for a long time now, she continues to cultivate spaces for anyone interested to learn more about the craft—a stark contrast to how things were for her at the beginning. “I think the experience [of trying out pottery] would give you a feel of the clay and how you can form things into something that’s permanent. … The experience of forming something, the energy you apply on the material, creates a response, a conversation between you and your work. It’s very therapeutic.”

Silkscreen Printing

For Andrei Salud of Hocus Manila, it all started with a question: Is there a way to print his designs without the use of a printer? Then a young student training to be a graphic designer, this led Salud to discover silkscreen printing.

Silkscreen printing is a traditional printmaking process commonly used in the textile industry, where the ink passes through a stencil instead of a cut-out, which results in a neater print. To learn more about the craft, Salud surfed the internet for local workshops he could attend and people he could connect with. “I started out with DIY lang din, doing it by myself and failing.” he shares.

After taking further art studies in the US, Salud came back to the Philippines and started joining arts and crafts bazaars at Legazpi Village.

Together with his now-wife, Sheina, the pair initially sold small prints and postcards. Although their work received positive feedback, the pair wanted to do textile printing more than anything.

Eventually, they found mentors who could teach them about the old trade, and with enough support from friends and fellow printers, they set up Hocus Manila, a screen printing studio that offers locally-designed, hand-printed textiles. Their studio also offers other kinds of printing services, and the two are currently set on developing their own textile product line.

In between running the business and taking care of his growing family, Salud continues to hold monthly screen printing workshops together with Craft MNL, a collective of craftsmen and creative entrepreneurs that offer spaces for learning in the city. More than just a way for him to guide those who are slowly gaining interest in the craft, the workshops have also become a way for him to remain sharp in his work. “It keeps you articulate about what you’re doing,” he says. “The good thing about the discipline of printmaking is that most of the time, you’re trying to replicate an original art, so you have to exercise a good amount of care. Printmaking is about making multiple copies so it’s important to be consistent.”

The experience of forming something, the energy you apply on the material, creates a response, a conversation between you and your work. It’s very therapeutic.

Relief Printmaking

Even as a young girl, Tish Hautea already had a knack for making things. She was the sort of kid who enjoyed attending art workshops in the summer, and in high school, she took up painting as an elective. Her passion for printmaking started way back in college, and she’s carried her love for the craft until today. “It became a hobby, and now it’s a lifestyle,” Hautea shares. “People want to buy it. Who would’ve thought?”

In 2014, Hautea decided to quit her advertising job and focus on transforming her hobby into a business. Sqooid takes its name (and pronunciation) from the same marine creature that’s famed for its natural black ink; likewise, Hautea’s designs are marked by the ink that seeps through her intricate carvings.

To create her designs, she uses another traditional printmaking process called relief-printing, which is the process of removing—by cutting, etching, or carving—the unnecessary surfaces of a material so that only the raised areas of the design will be inked.

It’s painstaking work, especially if you’ve got an eye for detail. And for someone who’s tried her hand at plenty of art techniques, she has found her peace in the slow yet steady rhythm of carving her prints.

“Every time I start carving, it flows smoothly. I’m in the zone. The outside world is not too noisy,” Hautea says. “[Relief printmaking] is also a different way of making or transforming your artworks [that’s not just] painting or sketching. I find that this is more challenging.”

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Originally published in GRID Volume 08.

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