From handcrafted ornaments to delicate linens, these locally-made products are world class—and perfect for gifting.
Related: ArteFino launches its online store
ArteFino, the movement that “celebrates the Filipino artisan by creating an environment that treasures creativity and inspired passion,” has become the platform to showcase both our country’s rich traditions and the daring new ways we can move them forward. For the many of us, Arte Fino is the annual retail event, the place where we can find richly woven inabel blankets, delicately embroidered piña cloth and a host of other beautiful things whose origins can be traced from years of tradition. It’s also a place where we can meet with others over a cup of steaming hot barako coffee and catch up. Since its inception, ArteFino has made us re-imagine and re-visit what it means to have a product that says “Proudly Filipino Made.”
But like many of the businesses that surround them, the various brands that comprise ArteFino’s roster have had their share of challenges this year. Many of them operate at a small scale, a scale that lets they foster genuine relationships with their people and clients, but also makes them particularly vulnerable to things like a months-long community lockdown. Like many others, they shifted to digital in a bid to combat the effects of the pandemic. ShopArteFino.com now serves as the online shopping destination for many of these brands, a boon for ArteFino’s many fans.
The response has been good so far, as we are seeing a clear shift to online shopping, which was something our buyers were not accustomed to, as they were used to our big, 4-day ArteFino fair,” writes Mel Francisco, one of the founders of ArteFino, in an email interview. The website has something that they’ve been wanting to do for a long time, largely to help service the international market. “[I]t took a pandemic for us to shine the spotlight on this,” she adds. But while ShopArteFino.com is incredibly convenient and perfect for the current needs of holiday shopping, Francisco notes that many still desire to go back to the traditional, multiple-day affair. “Once we feel that it’s safe to return to in-person shopping, and now that we know what safety protocols to put in place, we’ll definitely get there.” For now, they continue to show support for the many local brands that have found growth through ArteFino. Says Francisco: “The intention is to become an omni channel platform without losing sight of our ethos, which is to promote artisanal products because each sale benefits and boosts the livelihood of communities all over the country.”
DESIGNED TO LAST
Gift: the Alona Links Necklace, a statement accessory made out of rare albino carabao horn
John L. Danao, marketing manager of Silnag, known for their accessories made out horn, bone, plant seeds and scrapped wood, shares how their fight with the virus was particularly brutal from the outset: their first-ever foreign buyer died of COVID-19, which she caught form attending a fashion show in Madrid earlier in the year. “That was really devastating for us,” he says in an email correspondence.
He goes on to share that they actually thought about closing Silnag, since many of the stores that carried their wares shuttered. The decision came down, like with so many small to medium enterprises, to their people. “Since there was a great concern for the welfare of the families of our artisans living in the factory, we decided to scale down our operations, striving with our personal savings,” he writes. He notes that since then, they were surprised to see their sales picking up, including exports. “As the health situation improves, we believe that the confidence of both retail and wholesale buyers are definitely going to increase,” he notes. “We are so glad to have made the decision to continue Silnag.”
Gift: the cheeky Inday series of statuettes that depict a mundane life during the pandemic
NVC Foundation, Inc. has long been a favorite by the ArteFino crowd for their beautiful mosaics and unique accessories made out of used Nespresso capsules. The non-profit foundation based in Bacolod helps sustain the livelihood of a number of skilled Filipino craftspeople, such as the 30 artisans who currently work in the Artisans of Hope project. In an email, Millie Kilayko, president of NVC Foundation, shares that the pandemic has moved them, like many other companies, to work from home. “We could no longer allow all the artisans to come together and report to our workshop, first, because transportation is difficult and secondly, because social distancing measures had to be enforced,” she notes. “Most of our artisans now work from home, and supervising them remotely is a challenge. But we have learned to innovate and navigate through these challenges and now we continue churning out products with the same quality as we used to when they were under one roof.”
Apart from needing more lead time for production, they’ve also tackled the pandemic with a bit of wry Filipino humor. “Our INDAY IN TIME OF COVID Series is a collection of up-cycled statuettes that features the different ways a lady, an ‘Inday,’ is coping during the pandemic—hungry, undaunted, or hopeful (with mask on),” shares Kilayko.
Form the colorful mosaics to the lithe Inday, NVC Foundation’s products make for lovely gifts, something that they hope will continue even in this challenging time. “We feel that, given the times, people will be looking for meaningful gifts, which is what we are all about,” writes Kilayko. “We have always called products from our livelihood workshops ‘gifts that give back’ because when they are sold, they not only provide continued livelihood for their makers, but also help fund programs that benefit marginalized communities in the Philippines.”
ART OF GOLD
Gift: the finely woven cotton hand towels delicately hand-painted with tropical motifs
Since 1995, Art of Gold has been producing handmade products, first focusing on fabric like pillow covers and bedspreads, before eventually expanding to woven materials, wood and metal. Like many of the brands, they’ve been with ArteFino for a long time—since the movement’s inception in their case. Theirs is one of the rare companies that continued to thrive during the pandemic and resulting lockdown.
“Fortunately, we fall under the category of exporters, so we have not stopped operations all through the restrictive quarantines,” share Jackie Moreno Caballero, Art of Gold manager, together with the group’s president, Raffy Caballero. “With our export orders and the help of online venues like ArteFino, we have been able to generate sustained sales, enough to cover most of our needs.” Despite their favorable situation, the duo acknowledge the acute difference in today’s holidays. “Looking forward to a more somber holiday season,” they replied via email when asked about their year-end plans, “and felling blessed to have made it this far! We are optimists, so we look forward to better times for all in the coming months.”
We can probably park the large clan reunions, over-the-top shindigs and Oprah-style giveaways for now. It goes without saying that they don’t quite fit into our new reality. Of course, this does’t mean that our celebrations have become any less stylish, or pleasurable. Because we are no longer going after the glitz, glamour and grandiose, we can better appreciate the finer details, savor the moment and linger in them for longer.