Tes Pasola, the designer known for injecting humor into ordinary materials and for elevating paper into delightful home décor and wall art, died after a lingering illness. Until her last breath on Aug. 25, she was surrounded by her immediate family in Erlangen, a city in Bavaria, Germany. She was 61.
“Not only was she a design visionary. With her husband Tony, she boosted the design and export industries by guiding many companies in translating local materials into beautiful products,” says designer Al Caronan.
As consultants for the Center for International Trade and Export Missions, Pasola and Anthony Carl “Tony” Gonzales worked closely with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as mentors in making their products globally competitive.
Architect and handmade paper entrepreneur Gigi Gonzales, Pasola’s sister-in-law, quotes Tony as saying, “Tes’ greatest contribution was her passion to design for all by sharing her creativity. She didn’t use this talent just for herself, but to help many others.”
Pasola’s philosophy was that the product designer’s job is to create objects that satisfy the consumer without harming the planet, while the manufacturer’s role is to combine the design requirements with the production processes and not create wastage.
Born Teresa Cruz, she was married to the late Sofronio “Ronnie” Pasola, whose company, Mind Masters, became famous for the educational board game on warfare, Game of the Generals. The company diversified into paper boxes, sculptures from flour and stationery. Pasola experimented on packaging material by using wax and natural dye to create batik patterns on paper. The “batik paper” boxes and stationery became popular in the market. Mind Masters then ventured into exporting paper products in 1980.
Pasola’s signature design was the award-winning James Bound Collection, objects made from colorful newspapers cut by a sharp steel tool, called die, that makes special uniform shapes. The die-cut papers were bound like books and fanned out into vases with slender necks and wide bases.
Pasola once told Lifestyle that she was extremely comfortable with paper, such that she explored all possibilities. The book-bound papers were made into stool bases, lighting fixtures and costume jewelry bangles. Her wall art made with pulp and handmade paper expressed organic shapes.
A labyrinth at a joint exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2005 was fashioned from handmade paper. This same flat material was likewise used for fashion-forward pants and tops and a model of BMW.
“Tes’ creativity was out of the box. As a designer, I was always surprised at how she came up with those ideas,” says Gigi.
While Tes maintained her TESP Draft Hub, a design consultancy firm, she and Tony put up One of T, a showroom of their witty designs in collaboration with SMEs from all over the country. She also explored other organic materials such as rattan chairs with arurog and abaca, shaped into giant coconut shells.
Pasola designed “spoons that could talk,” with handles saying “be happy” and “go for it.”
“Tes was so full of life,” recalls Gigi. Until 2019, Pasola organized the Christmas party for creatives at the home of exporter Maricris Floirendo-Brias. That year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. Last year, the cancer metastasized into a rare form of skin cancer and she had to go to Germany for treatment. Last June, the cancer spread to her bones and liver.
Yet, Pasola maintained her buoyant spirit. “She didn’t want sad thoughts from us. Tony flew to Germany to spend her birthday with her on July 2,” says Gigi.
Pasola told her sister-in-law to keep Tony and their only son, Timone, company. “She was selfless. Her last few years were always about her concern for others,” says Gigi.
The day before she passed away, she told Tony that she wanted to go home. “I want you to stay with Timone,” she said.
When she died, Pasola’s niece was moved by the designer’s serene expression. “Tita Tes looked beautiful.” —CONTRIBUTED