Yaring Kamay 4 brings together artisans from Baguio, Benguet, La Union and weavers from Aklan, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Ilocos Sur.
The works in this exhibition show creative productions that use a variety of materials and are crafted by hand using techniques and designs that have taken years to master. Yaring Kamay 4 will run until February 28, 2015.
Handcrafted objects that serve functional and decorative purposes have become an accessible art form. Some artisanal work, like weaving, carving, and basket making in Northern Luzon keep its weavers, carvers, and basket makers producing on an “as-needed” basis year-round.1 This meets the domestic demand for objects used in ceremonial occasions as well as for daily use: like baskets to carry crops, carry rice to wedding celebrations; loom-woven fabric to make blankets, wrap skirts, or garments for death rituals; bamboo instruments to play during ceremonies; or a gusi (stoneware jar) to hold rice beer during weddings.
Works by other artisans – in stoneware pottery, handmade paper, shifu weaving, and stone and wood craft – exhibit how current creative productions can be drawn from age-old technology.
The artisans participating in this exhibition use different materials drawn from nature – clay, bamboo, rattan, plant fiber and pulp, reclaimed wood, and stone. They make new forms, create designs, and craft objects that bring to light a distinctive style unique to its maker. They are sometimes experimental or playful yet still refined and precise.
The challenges facing artisans today do not make it easy for them to keep at their craft. Raw materials – like rattan, cotton thread, clay, bamboo, wood, fiber plants and others are becoming more difficult to source and acquire.
Many artisans can only produce in limited numbers since they usually have other jobs they cannot give up because these provide for their daily household needs. They are farmers, vegetable gardeners, carpenters, small-scale miners, office employees, and others.
For small, backyard weaving operations, income from products developed as souvenirs and “indigenous mementos”2 are dependent on the highly seasonal tourist market and ever-shifting consumer tastes. Lucrative sources of income like gold-panning or the wagwag (secondhand clothing) trade have also drawn away many of our best artisans in the Cordillera region of northern Philippines.
Fortunately there are still many artisans who find ways to continue their craft, knowing that being able to produce a beautiful and functional object is ultimately its own reward.
The first Yaring Kamay exhibition organized by the Baguio Arts Guild was held in December 1988 at the Hyatt Terraces Baguio. The Sanctuary Gallery continued to hold the craft show with Yaring Kamay 2 and 3 in 1999 and 2000.
Through these exhibitions, the Sanctuary Gallery aims contribute in the effort towards making artisanal work vibrant and sustainable by providing a venue for artisans to exhibit their works and to connect them with viewers who genuinely appreciate and value their work. (ERLYN RUTH ALCANTARA, 11 November 2014)
1Albert Bacdayan, “Baskets among the Tanulong and Fidelisan Peoples of Northern Sagada,” Basketry of the Luzon Cordillera, Philippines, LA: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1998, p. 46-47; B. Lynne Milgram, “Making and Marketing Contemporary Baskets in Ifugao Province, Northern Luzon,” op. cit., p. 53