Featured Crafter: Enan and Nadja of Alunsina Handbound Books

We are so inspired by this week’s featured crafters. This couple’s range of leather handbound journals and planners were causing quite the stir when we found them at a fair last Christmas – so much so that we had a pretty hard time getting items for the site! Read on to learn more about Enan and Nadja of Alunsina Handbound Books.

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Alunsina Handbound Books is a maker and seller of coptic-bound books, hand-bound leather journals & leather accessories and brainchild of Nadja Castillo and Enan Juniosa.

Nadja has always been a big fan of collecting journals and journal writing but “I couldn’t afford the ones sold at big bookstores.” Four years ago, she found some free time after she resigned from her day job to start learning how to make her own journals. Her partner Enan eventually caught on with Nadja’s hobby. Since then, he has learned to love the craft as much as Nadja does.

Nadja and Enen first started out making cloth-bound journals using Coptic binding, with batik, tinalak and yakan as covers, which they sold to friends. They did this off-and-on for the next 3 years since they both had full-time work then. Early 2011, they fell in love with leather-bound journals, and tried their hand with scrap leather. When they were confident enough with their designs and once they found reliable sources of good quality paper and leather, they started joining small bazaars and art fairs. Alunsina’s first bazaars were relatively successful and they eventually decided to devote thier full time on the business.

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“Enan and I collaborate on our designs. As a journal lover, my inputs are on what someone like me looks for in an ideal journal, while Enan’s contribution is more on the technical side, on the execution, etc.  He’s a pro when it comes to executing designs using the limited tools and supplies that we have at the moment,” shares Nadja.

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“Because I write my most personal thoughts on my journal, I want the journal itself to be unique, something I can pass on to my granddaughter decades from now. I want my journal to be made with love and I don’t want it to look like any other mass-produced product. This is why we hand stitch everything, from the borders down to the binding. We also don’t have our paper machine cut in printing presses, as most handmade journal makers do. We still cut them by hand using a paper cutter to give it a more distressed edge look. We also burn graphics on the covers using soldering iron for additional details.”

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When Enan and Nadja first started using leather, it would take them 3-4 hours to finish just one journal. Because of improved tools and a more effective system, production time has reduced quite a bit but “each journal is still a labor of love compared to those mass manufactured in factory lines.” Coptic-bound journals, on the other hand, are more labor- and time-intensive which is why the Alunsina duo only makes them for special collections.

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“Our creations I think are prime examples of that phrase ‘handmade with love’.” When the couple first started using leather, it would take them 3-4 hours to finish just one journal. Although they were able to turn the money around and invest on tools and cut total production time, each journal is still a labor of love compared to those mass manufactured in factory lines.

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They also try to make all of their designs unique from other leather journal makers. “This is why we don’t turn away from making complicated designs.” While for more simple designs like journals with a wraparound lock, they add beads on the straps, for instance, to make it different from the others. “We want each journal to have its own special feature. As one of our regular buyers  puts it, ‘They’re like ramp models. Each has its own x factor.’”

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“We are still a micro business and we need all the help we can get for Alunsina to reach that buyer who appreciates handmade and unique items. MyMarquee helps us reach them. MyMarquee is also a big help in that we can focus more on production and in managing our business without worrying about how to sell our items without our creations being ‘misrepresented.’ We know that with MyMarquee our creations are in good hands, that they will be marketed in the same way – professionally but with a personal touch – or even better than how we would market them ourselves.”

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Nadja worked as a researcher in an NGO right before she focused full time on Alunsina, while Enan is a high school graduate who dabbled in cellphone repair and worked as a contractual hotel attendant before they established Alunsina. “He was then most of the time overworked and underpaid, and Alunsina in a way saved him from that exploitative work cycle. On the other hand, Alunsina has made me go out of my comfort zone to learn and do things that I previously didn’t think I was capable of doing. It made our world bigger too, as we gained more friends, fellow makers and journal lovers alike,” expresses Nadja.

“Alunsina has also given us something that we both can love and help grow and work on together. And in return, Alunsina has given us lots of freedom. Freedom to manage our own time, to become our own bosses, to make money out of something we love to do.”

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“Buying handmade means we are, in a small way, not simply supporting a small local business but investing on its future as well. By buying handmade and local, we’re helping that local business earn enough profit to develop its business and expand and be successful enough to compete with international brands/products. A successful business means job generation, contribution to the local economy, etc . It’s a bit idealistic but it can create an impact if practice buying handmade and local.”

“Plus, you’re also buying something that was made with love, maybe something that the creator loves so much that it will sometimes break his/her heart to see it go but still gives it to the buyer ‘cause s/he knows that the buyer will love the creation just as much, if not more. You don’t get that from mass manufactured products.”

All photos by Alunsina.

Fun in the Sun: Balik Bukid 3

The MyMarquee.ph team joined its second Balik Bukid fair this summer. It was so much fun chatting with customers, organizers and other merchants. It was also such a refreshing break from the city life. there were horses and carabaos not 10 feet from where our booth was, trees everywhere, and the glorious summer sun was out the whole day!

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Painstakingly DIY-ed signage by our resident crafter, Dianne.

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Love at first sight with her newly bought Pop Junk Love Princess Bubblegum plushie.

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Our favorite 9 yo customer, Rocio, with her Bahia Accessories drawstring bag. She only had Php500 to “spend wisely” and she decided to spend it all at the MyMarquee.ph booth! Thanks Rocio!

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Writer and fashion stylist Rachelle Que visits our booth.

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Our favorite toddler checking out the crafted goodies.

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More Adventure Time fans flocking Pop Junk Love’s creations

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Our very own Regina by our booth.

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The desk items corner.

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Dianne happy despite the sweltering heat.

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Until the next Balik Bukid!!

Staff Picks: Candy Colored Summer

The sweltering summer had us daydreaming of a soft cool breeze and candy-colored hues.

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Looking at these colors made us feel like we were lazing in a hammock underneath a merciful sun (though in reality, sweat is carelessly pouring down our backs)

So, why not take a piece of a candy-colored summer with you to cool you down?

Here are our picks:

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1. Aztec Woven Friendship Band by Knots O’ Love 

2. Teal Basstard by Loudbasstard

3. Kate Oversized Clutch by Vesti

4. Dotty Paper Mache Horse by Takatak Project

5. Crocheted Bib Necklaces by LoveNikita Handmade

6. Purple Turban by Bonne 

7. Pampanga bowtie by Cuello

8. Blue Oyster solid perfume by Aromateria

Here’s to the last few weeks of summer 2013!

Featured Crafter: Aileen Kim of House of Isla

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“I am an indie designer…a title or career, I believe everyone hasn’t been accustomed to hearing at least here in our side of the planet.” Aileen is the crafter behind House of Isla and lives in Baguio. Despite a background in Language and Literature studies, she decided to give in to that creative itch that had been in the backburner for the longest time. Along the mainstream of big brands and huge names, she is hoping to introduce another option in the market — the Handmade Option. “I have always had this propensity for beautifully handcrafted things and also a strong passion for green fashion and ethical consumerism. I hope in my own little, humble way I could carve a niche of change on the way people look at the current ‘buying culture.’”

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Sewing was not one of Aileen’s first craft ventures. As a kid, she was always fascinated with different forms of creative avenues but never once thought that she’d eventually take on sewing despite having been surrounded by great seamstresses in the family. But what got her started on sewing was her fascination with fabric and on how she could transform such simple material into so many beautiful things. Also, her love for fabric was inspired by zakka and handmade culture of Japan. The idea of creating useful things in the house such as simple tea towels or tote bags sparked great interest. This interest grew into a passion when she became a mom and realized that she’s every bit an old school type of wife. Since she wasn’t a seamstress by profession she decided to create little things first like bags, cute pillows, and small clothing pieces like kiddie shorts and pants. “It was fun playing with fabric since you could incorporate a lot of other crafty things like silkscreening, handprinting, painting and embroidery. Then this passion which used to serve as a simple cure out of my domestic boredom eventually turned into an indie label that is House of Isla. Isla is the name of my late daughter who passed away a day after being born.”

 

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“Having been raised in the country as a young kid, I have always had this great affinity with nature so I take inspiration mostly from it. I don’t have a strict creative process. Sometimes I would do sketches, but most of the time I won’t and just cut the fabric without any particular design in mind and let the creative process itself inspire me. But when I do a seasonal project with a particular theme or concept, then I try to organize the cuts or shapes, the colors of the fabric and the overall design aesthetic. I don’t know how other designers capture an inspiration or an idea, but for me it is as if I am constantly in daydream and if an idea struck me, even in the middle of the night I’d have to have  it drawn or written down. This I find more effective, to the detriment of my wall which is constantly bombarded with post its and whatnots.”

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“When I started House of Isla, one constant thing on my mind was that it has to be beautiful and unique. I make pieces not according to what is popular and what sells but rather on a particular design inspiration that strikes my fancy. And since it is basically a one-woman show, most pieces are designed in a single piece or very limited number. I thought this would be particularly of interest to the buyer since it would somehow feel like finding a very rare gem in a sea of mass-produced brands. There’s a particular charm to handmade goods since not only do they buy a piece of apparel, they also take with them the very creative spirit of the artist/maker since every single stitch was carefully done and with utmost attention to detail. There may be some crookedness here and there but those are just part of their charm and uniqueness.”

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“Before getting listed at MyMarquee, I had a working online shopsite but taking care of it took so much of my time away from the actual production of the pieces. Juggling my mommy duties plus attending to queries and purchases often left me exhausted. But not only do they provide a great online market for small and independent businesses, MyMarquee also supports and encourages handmade goodies making it  a great avenue, not only for showcasing your work but also for meeting other local handmade artists.”

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“I used to be a part of the workforce with the standard 8 to 5 job. When I got married and became a mommy, it was a bit difficult for me to juggle work and family life. Not that these two jobs were too overwhelming for me but because perhaps of my personality and my priority. When I had my son, I always had this uneasy feeling whenever I had to leave him with a yaya or even with a family member. I felt like I was missing so much. That’s when I decided to give it all up and be a stay at home mom. It may have turned out to be one great “Providence” because I finally had the time to reclaim  a long lost passion. Finally I dont’ have that feeling of dreading each workday anymore because I am doing what I am truly passionate about. I may not earn as much as I did in the past but at least it is enriching  my soul. Everyday I wake up with so much anticipation and excitement, relishing every single minute of it. Work doesn’t feel like work anymore.”

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“I love handmade and my hope is for it to become one big community in the Philippines much like those in Europe, Japan and South Korea. Handmade goodies are not only made for consumerism but  also for a creative exchange between  makers and artist, to share their individual stories, visions and advocacy through the different things they make. It’s like jumping in a pool of soul-searchers, daydreamers and innovators and experiencing how it feels to wade and swim in their creative minds.”

All photos by House of Isla.

Featured Crafter: Franz Ignacio and Koh Onozawa of Loudbasstard

The Loudbasstard, a handcrafted bamboo sound amplifier has been making waves in the Philippines since they launched late last year. The creators, Cebu’s own Koh Onozawa and Franz Ignacio talks to the MyMarquee team about their craft and the story behind the “basstards”.

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Meet the crafters, Koh and Franz.

Franz’s family history is in manufacturing and exporting furniture and Franz himself is from Pratt Institute, NY and was invited to Art Basel, a premier furniture show in Miami. Koh has a background in anthropology and is from a family of designers. Koh is all for incorporating a social aspect and Cebuano community empowerment into our production.

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Passive amplification was not an invention of loudbasstard™. However, it was during a trip up to the mountains in Cebu with Franz, Koh and Koh’s girlfriend Julie Ghafari where they came about commercializing the idea. They went up with a sketchbook looking to find inspiration for a furniture line they are planning. The funny thing was, during the think tank, Julie pulled her phone out to play music and put it inside her cup to amplify the sound. Both the guys were amazed! And that was it, they shifted their focus onto pieces that would bridge modern technology, industrial design, and utilize the abundant resources in the Philippines.

How the Loudbasstard works

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“We voluntarily worked on every aspect. From sketching to material sourcing to sanding the prototypes and painting them.”

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When they had their first office in Koh’s basement, they even painted the office themselves. Not because they couldn’t afford or even ask from help. It’s just that they were both used to working their 9-5 jobs in the US/Japan. Having moved back to Cebu knowing they wanted to collaborate in something, they just wanted to set up a strong foundation by doing all the nitty gritty work.

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Knowing that they now have employees, they know exactly what they want from the employees and what can or can’t be done in a certain time period. This set Koh and Franz up to continually take on any type of challenge thrown at them as the business grows.

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“MyMarquee has played a key role in our business in the Philippines. The mission behind bringing together handmade products and exposing that to the public eye has been really good for us. It adds value and attention to handmade Filipino products, which is also a strong focus for us.”

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“[Buying handmade] means supporting communities and their art. We noticed a lack of enthusiasm for local artisans, despite how plentiful they are in Cebu. We wanted to foster the economic growth through tradition. Because of this intention it has expanded into daily thinking that you can put a face and name behind each product rather than a mass corporation where each item is ‘cookie cutter’ perfect.”

“From Our Hands to Yours” – We at MyMarquee can’t get over this video!

Staff Picks: An Indian Summer


Since we’re at the edge of our seats awaiting summer 2013, and we’re totally inspired to blog (whoopee!) we’ve decided to let you guys in on our first ever Staff Picks post! Tadaa!

We recently stumbled upon these pictures which absolutely inspired us and got us that much more pumped up for the coming sunny days. These colors are all we want to wear and see come summer 2013!

These amazing images are from Block Shop, an Indian textile company that sells scarves online:

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1. “With Love” Print by Imprints

2. Yellow “Wave” Paper Mache Horse by Takatak Project

3. “Endless Summer” Journal by The ArtBeat Manila

4. Emerald Basstard by Loudbasstard

5. Nadi Naja Knapsack by Bahia Accessories

6. Beaded Tassel Earrings by LoveNikita Handmade

7. Blue Braided Turban by Bonne

8. Angela Clutch/Sling in Red by Vesti

Featured Crafter: Mary Velmonte of Takatak Project

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The MyMarquee team was privileged to meet Mary Velmonte, one of the founders of Takatak Project. The taka project is an effort to revive interest in the traditional art of making paper mache horses. It is also an effort to generate more business for local craftsmen. All members of the Takatak team are advertising professionals who were in search of a hand made art project and fell in love with paper mache horses. Mary and Claude Rodrigo Canete are art directors while Missy Galang and Dexter Canete (Claude’s husband) are copy writers.

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Mary Velmonte of Takatak Project

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We were greeted at the door of Mary’s home/workshop by this adorable puppy, Chubi

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A green blackboard-painted taka (their latest innovative product) stands out from a pile on unpainted ones

It all started 2 years ago in an usapang lasing at Nomnomnom. The 4 friends and colleagues were pitching in a collective pet project they could do on the side to compliment our computer based desk jobs. They needed a break from the routine. They recalled long forgotten scribbles of future projects and the taka craft revival project won over all the other project pitches. After toasting to this, the next day, Mary began writing a proposal for a grant. It was then that the 3 objectives of the project were laid out to ensure takas remain a sustainable craft: 1.  Make the design and marketing of the takas more contemporary 2. Make sure Pinoy kids are educated about takas 3. Make sure artists and craftsmen are able to exchange knowledge about design processes

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A white taka awaits a carefully chosen design to be painted on it

The team’s creativity comes into play in the last stage of production of making the takas–in painting them. They come up with more contemporary painting designs as well as look for creative venues to sell the takas.

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Finished takas for delivery and newly developed carton animals on display

Design-wise, Takatak Project is very Mod. They take inspiration from 50s patterns but change the color schemes. But what Mary thinks sets them apart and makes their products things they can sell with much gusto is that each one is part of the effort to keep takas a sustainable Pinoy craft. Their business is a “craft revival module”. They hope to make it an easily appliable model for other crafts. This keeps them up and about and looking for better ways to do things. Even in Claude’s own line of crafts, Barrio Chic, the same applies in that the themes and inspirations are still Pinoy so each product is an effort to keep traditions, colloquial sayings etc.- alive.

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Jobelle, their in-house artist, brings Takatak Projet’s designs to life

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Each taka takes at least 3-4 hours to paint(!)

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Our gracious host, Mary, shares her experiences with the MyMarquee team

Mary says that Takatak Project has made her much much happier.  The steady momentum of the project’s development and the response of buyers and sellers like the MyMarquee team is an immediate feedback for her that she is on the right track in keeping this going. Mary shares that everyone in the Takatak Project did not expect it to go this far. Since their usapang lasing session 2 years ago they have attended 8 art fairs and arranged one exhibit. The team has met so many fellow crafters and seen their development too. “I cannot help but myself lucky to work on a pet project that I thought would remain a line and doodle in an old sketchbook,” she expounds.

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Traditionally-painted takas

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Masterful designs peek out from under plastic covers

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The living room is now a home for the exceptional takas

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The MyMarquee team documents the inspirational visit

“MyMarquee will play a big role for us in terms of streamlining our online selling methods. We design everything too and have day jobs. I personally find  it hard to keep track of orders and follow a schedule of production. But when we signed up with MyMarquee this year we were happily forced to come up with a collection and have definite price points.”

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One of our (creepy) favorites

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Amazing attention to detail is given to each taka

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Mary on supporting handmade: “Hand crafted things reflect a lifestyle. Oftentimes they are made by a community and a person and not by a machine. For crafts like takas especially, it is part of the culture and day to day lif of a province and that makes it more valuable for me than it’s actual cost.”

All photos by MyMarquee

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