Their motivations vary—from creating vessels for food and providing a complete dining experience, to showcasing Filipino artistry and helping deal with anxiety during the pandemic—but they are all changing the way we eat by serving a feast for the eyes even before the actual food arrives.
In 2006, Aleth Ocampo (@alethocampo on Instagram) thought of giving pottery another try (she got intimidated on her first go) at Art Informal’s garage under the tutelage of Pablo Capati III.
“I loved how he encouraged me to keep trying, and how he assured me that my works would survive. And they did!” she said.
Eventually, after a series of sessions under Joey de Castro of Sierra Madre Pottery Studio (Capati became very busy), Ocampo got hooked and set up a work area in her living room. She launched her namesake line at Aphro Living in 2017.
Apart from producing functional pieces for the dining table, Ocampo, who is a chef and former food stylist, got something intangible from pottery.
“I learned to let go of the things I have no control over, to trust the process, and to do my best with things I can control,” she said. “I found it very therapeutic to be handling clay and the repetitive movements I make like pinching, coiling, rolling out slabs and connecting or assembling the pieces together.”
She does everything by hand, sans a potter’s wheel.
Her works have now become her canvas for painting as she decorates them using underglaze paint and tissue transfers. Most of her designs are inspired by oriental motifs from China and Japan.
“Having gone through anxiety, I know how pottery can help ease it somehow. When I work with my hands, I feel grounded,” says Catherine Choachuy (@potterysessions, @catherinechoachuy.ceramics on Instagram), who has set up Pottery Sessions and her own ceramic line.
“It has been my saving grace over the years. I learned to accept my imperfections.”
One of her instructors noticed that she kept recycling clay when the pot was not up to her standard. He told her to still have it fired despite the flaws. “He said, ‘Accept what the clay gives you.’ It has been a constant reminder for me that there will be good and bad days in my practice and that’s okay,” Choachuy recalled.
Owing to her experience in block painting, she gets to incorporate carving into her works. As for her signature style, she simply relies on everyday objects. “I also like incorporating designs that reflect our culture and things that remind me of my childhood.”
Pottery Sessions is already a year old and her physical studio in Makati is down to its final touches. In the meantime, she has started teaching her art online. Teaching virtually in itself is a learning process and takes a lot of patience. But creating earthenware, which takes several weeks from start to finish, has also taught her that it’s only a matter of time before all her hard work pays off.
Casa Juan (tel. 0917-8878680; @casajuanmnl on Instagram) is a homeware brand inspired by the designs, heritage and culture of the Philippines. A business that started in July 2020, it specializes in tabletop items such as napkin rings made by artisans from Paete, Laguna; placemats by handicraft manufacturers from Bicol and Samar; and tabletop basket vases from Ilocos.
The plates, though produced abroad to address high volume, are designed by Filipino artists.
“We are very proud of this collaboration because it is the first Filipino designer plate brand,” says owner Michelle Asence-Fontelera, who started the brand after being inspired by the items she saw in Artefino and the Katutubo pop-up market.
“I think Filipino designers are at par with international ones, that is why I want to make plates bearing their names. They deserve it. They are very very talented.”
Asence-Fontelera is about to launch her ceramic collection, every piece of which is hand-painted and -molded. It takes inspiration from her local prepandemic travels, particularly her trip to Vigan in 2019 where she met the inabel weavers. INQ