Nonie Manuel still found time for her art even when she became a full-time mom. She gave up a career in architecture to focus on her visual arts and raising her 14-month-old son, Axl Nate. The trade-off is something she is most grateful for.
“I would be on site all the time, and it ended up being too exhausting. It even got to the point where I loved my job much less,” Manuel said. She said that going to sites took away time from doing art for leisure.
She decided to pursue a visual arts career by teaching in an art center for children. But though she came in as a teacher, she learned a lot, too. The art center allowed her to improve and explore the things she could do with her hands.
Being a hands-on mom didn’t lessen her daily load. She continued working as a freelancer, but without the demands of a company, and she gained control of her time, giving it structure.
“I recently became a full-time mom so most of the work that I do is all ‘on the side.’ They include painting on canvas, bags, walls, or whatever I could work on. I do pattern design for a client based in the United States. And I also do illustrations and calligraphy,” she said. Manuel even designed wedding invitations.
She worked her schedule around her son’s, following the rhythm of his waking hours. That’s how she found her quiet moments between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
She spends this time painting during the few hours when her son is sleeping and she still has the energy to do other things. On weekends, she allows herself to catch up on her K-dramas.
She created the Facebook page Freckled Studio to feature her art. She paints on bags, shoes and, most recently, plant pots. No two plant pots are alike because all of her works are commissioned.
“It’s hand-painted and I don’t even use sandpaper to smoothen the plant pots. I like the wrinkles and the thumbprints the potter leaves,” she said. She enjoys doing custom orders because it makes the item unique and meaningful to the person who ordered it.
The most challenging design she had to do recently was that of a Siberian husky. She wanted to capture the dog’s happy expression.
Manuel paints women, pink roses, scenery, pets, shoes and anything you want. Prices for the pots are P250 each for medium-sized pots and P350 for a set of four small ones. It can go up higher depending on the complexity of the design. Her medium is acrylic.
“I love plants. I painted some pots for myself and someone asked me how much it costs. Orders would come in every time I posted them, so I just continued making them,” she said.
The biggest obstacle her startup business faces is the cost of shipping. Fragile items need special care in wrapping and boxing, and sometimes shipping ends up costing more than the product itself.
Manuel is collaborating with another local brand, Lucida, to hand-paint their bags. She painted jeepneys, women and even whales as reference to the BTS song “Whalien 52.”
For the bags, she uses different mediums including acrylic marker and leather paint. She tops them with a coating to prevent the painted parts from getting scratched.
Her collaboration with Lucida began last year. Proceeds from their bags were donated to “Tinang 92.” They are a group of farmers, land reform activists and students detained during their “bungkalan” activity in Tinang, Tarlac.
Manuel and Lucida also agreed to do more projects together to support Angat Buhay. The group, founded by former Vice President Leni Robredo, aims to mobilize the volunteers during her presidential campaign to continue their advocacy work by supporting communities.
They started their fundraising for Angat Buhay with one bag. Manuel painted a smiling Igorot woman with the wind blowing her hair. She said that they will continue to paint Filipino themes for this advocacy.
Manuel is doing everything right now, since she decided to let go of some things that no longer fit in her life. By doing so, she is able to take care of her child, support an advocacy that she believes in, and create art that brings her and other people happiness.
“It is always a joy for me when I make people happy with what I create. I like to think that’s one of God’s purposes for me. I’ve given them a piece of me that will last,” she said.