I’ve never been much of a shopper as I never had the patience to spend hours shifting through racks or going from shop to shop. But one of the events I look forward to every year is the MaArte Artisan Fair. The unique and beautiful items they have never fail to amaze me.
Far from being a typical tiangge or bazaar, where stalls are simply lined up and items are run-of-the-mill export overruns, each stall in this fair is like a work of art.
What truly sets it apart are the excellent products.
There’s no need to search for one-of-a-kind items when they are all gathered under one roof, curated by members of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines (MFPI), each one of them gifted with an eye for all things beautiful.
Last week, I caught up with good friend Mel Martinez-Francisco. Mel has always been an advocate of local art; he has been very passionate in promoting new artists and igniting people’s interest in local art, with other hardworking officers Mita Rufino, MFPI president Lisa Periquet, MFPI VP Maritess Pineda, Cedie Vargas, Susie Quiros, Trickie Lopa, Phyllis Zaballero and Diana Recto.
The MaArte Artisan Fair and Art In the Park are flagship projects of the Museum Foundation. The foundation aims to uplift museums in the country and make people more aware of them.
Over the years, the foundation has raised enough money for the improvement and refurbishing of rooms in the National Museum, and is raising funds for the Museum of National History.
“MaArte Artisan Fair is not about being ‘kikay,’” Mel said. “Rather, it is living life surrounded by art and artful, beautiful and creative things, and appreciating local Filipino arts, crafts and culture. It’s about elevating the mundane to the delightful so that life is lived with Art. May Arte.”
Four years ago, the foundation thought of creating a venue for the artisans and their craft. In 2010, the first MaArte Fair was held at Silver Lens. I remember going to support one of my oldest friends, Erica Concepcion-Reyes and her precious jewelry line, Riqueza.
There must have been only about 20 booths or so. But over the years, I have seen the fair evolve into what it is today. This August, we will see the fifth MaArte Fair with about 50 well-chosen exhibitors.
“We had many exhibitors applying for a space! It was very difficult to narrow down the list to 50 but it was a good problem to have,” Mel said. “With our creative director, Danny Alvarez, we decided to have a quota in each category so that we would have a balanced and wide variety of products—jewelry, fashion, home, children, pottery and furniture.
“We try to give exposure to those that are really top quality. We also favor those which are not in malls. We also keep an eye out for products that are helping a local community, providing livelihood or have an advocacy. For instance, we have a featured seller that works to keep the inabel industry alive. We also have Anne Marie Saguil’s barong, which are sewn and embroidered by women who work from their homes. Anne Marie creates the designs and gives them to women so that they are able to earn while still taking care of their children.
“This year, we even came up with MaArte Eats which, just like all the other items in the fair, will feature noncommercial sellers and products such as cult favorite Bucky’s Is Not A Brownie and Size Matters Sausage Burgers.”
For artists with very special products but who could not afford to rent or offer enough inventory, there is the new MaArte Finds.
However, for Mel and myself, both of us mothers, the most exciting development in the fair is the conscious effort to put more items for children.
This year, parents and children can visit some booths for unique finds and artistic treasures.
Ines Moda Infantil
This has always been a favorite of mine. Over the last six years, I’ve been seeking out these smocked and embroidered dresses for my daughter because they remind me of my own childhood.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Ines Moda Infantil has been around since the ’80s. Nestled in a small municipal town in Negros Occidental, the company has been providing employment to marginalized housewives.
Muñequita y Muñequito
Muñequita y Muñequito is the latest brainchild of Mandy de la Rama of Tarte Tatin. But this time, Mandy shifts her attention to delicate hand-combed cotton wear for babies.
Those searching for unique toys can pass by the La Pomme booth and find handmade plush items, aside from dresses, throw pillows, wall art and other decorative items. It will also have activities so that children can sew and create their own plush animals and products.
EJ Espiritu Pottery Animals
EJ Espiritu’s name is not unknown among fans of pottery. A ceramic engineer by profession, he, with his wife, has been supplying the local industry with handmade pottery free of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.
In MaArte, his 10-year-old child takes center stage as he displays pottery works for children.
Casa San Pablo Clay Storytellers
Casa San Pablo began as an inn run by Ann Alcantara with her husband. Inspired by the idyllic life and her experiences, Ann creates pottery that tells stories and entertains children and adults alike with her intricate and colorful designs.
Happy Star Child
I was very much intrigued by the concept of Happy Star Child, perhaps one of the most interesting exhibitors. The brainchild of the mother-and-son tandem of Connie Macatuno and her 11-year-old old son Cax Corona, the brand features original, hand-painted and handcrafted apparel for people and for the home.
Cax creates and paints the drawings and designs while Connie curates and packages the items.
Connie said: “Our products’ message to our clients is to encourage parents and children to bond through art—and earn from it as well. We started this collaboration when my son was 6 years old back in 2009, selling in an organic market in Makati City. Our design themes and styles have evolved as my son grows, hinged on our everyday experiences with Mother Earth, books and art materials we get to read, international and local pop icons in the art and music world that my son looks up to, and everyday people we encounter.
“Each experience is transformed into a work of art via watercolors, charcoals and acrylic. We’ve recreated these into our dresses, tees, throw pillows, and bags with fabric paints, and even dabbled in wood printing and acrylic for our few select wooden chairs and art deco.”
The MaArte Artisan Fair will be a great opportunity for parents to expose children to the appreciation of arts and crafts.
MaArte Artisan Fair will run from Aug. 29 to 31, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Rockwell Tent in Makati City. Ticket donations are P120 and come with an eco-bag and will benefit the Museum Foundation. MaArte is held in cooperation with Proscenium, Security Bank, Gree Aircon and Smart Infinity.