Meet the talented and inspiring Robert A. Alejandro, a Hey Kessy original washi tape designer and one of the pioneers of the modern arts and crafts movement in the country!
HK: You’re a very prolific artist who dabbles in so many art forms. Do you have a specific medium that you like best?
RAA: Watercolor is almost second nature to me, but I do like creating with different media. I like to “draw” with almost anything. I don’t like to create without “drawing.”
HK: Is there anything else you’re dying to do or try?
RAA: PLENTY! Definitely sculpture—metal, cardboard, kinetic! I’d like to learn embroidery. I wish I could dress up a jeepney or a tricycle. I would like to collaborate with a fashion designer and create a line of apparel. I NEED to have an exhibition once and for all. [I want] my own publishing house with small artsy but not so fartsy books. And that’s just the beginning!
HK: Your family is known for creating Papemelroti. [Trivia: Robert is “Ro” in the name.] How involved you are with the brand these days?
RAA: It’s keeping me VERY busy. LOTS of new design and products coming up! Have you noticed the new stores? I’m very proud of what we have created.
HK: Is it easy or difficult working with siblings who are equally artsy?
RAA: Quite easy. I’m the difficult one!!!
HK: Who, what, and where do you draw inspiration for your art?
RAA: EVERYWHERE! Divisoria, Baguio public market, nature, Philippine traditional art/weaving, and traditional textile from around the world. [I also visit] Dwell, Decor8, and Pinterest, of course! Plus, the people from my organization Ang INK are VERY inspiring!
HK: You were once the host of an art show called Art is-kool. Do you still get to teach art to children these days?
RAA: Not as much as I want. I work with an NGO for more than 20 years now and I do art workshops with kids from time to time. It’s very enjoyable!!! I encourage everyone to try it.
HK: What do you love most about creating art with young minds?
RAA: It is absolutely baffling how creative, focused, and wonderful kids can be! Much, MUCH more inspiring than us boring adults!
HK: You’ve been a staunch supporter of the local art industry for many years. How do you feel about the resurgence of arts and crafts these days?
RAA: Absolutely WONDERFUL! I feel like it’s a growing family!!! Me and my friends started 10a Alabama some time ago, and one of the things we wanted was to foster an [arts and] crafts community. IT’S HAPPENING!!! (Yay, Leah, Binggoy, Jetro, and Arlene!)
HK: What are your hopes and dreams for the Philippines in relation to the art scene?
RAA: LOTS! I’d love to get Visayas/Mindanao/outside Manila into the art or crafts scene. It’ll be absolutely AMAZING! I’m willing to give workshops outside Manila to get people into creativity, new art, drawing, and creating! Can someone fund this please?
HK: What advice can you give to new artists?
RAA: Create and draw and paint and do whatever you do every chance you get! Make yourself happy and do it!
HK: How about to longtime crafters who feel they’ve lost their creative drive?
RAA: Take a break! Take a nap, [have a] movie marathon, exercise, meet up with friends.
HK: We’ve seen some of your travel sketches and they’re amazing! Where did you get the idea of doing these sketches? How long have you been chronicling your travels this way?
RAA: I thought I started 2007, when I created the book Backpack Southeast Asia and Parts of China, but I realize that I’ve been doing it even earlier. I remember during our family vacations, I would beg off one day for me to be by myself and draw. I remember doing this in India and Australia.
HK: What’s the most beautiful place/country you’ve visited so far?
RAA: I really like Mongolia and Scandinavia!!!
HK: You created an original Hey Kessy washi tape design last year. How did you come up with the design?
RAA: I knew Hey Kessy before I met the WONDERFUL people behind the store. When they told me about the project, I was absolutely overjoyed. (Hey Kessy people can attest to that!) I had to ask my sister if it’s okay [for me] to design for another store and they gave me a go ahead.
I’ve ALWAYS been a champion for Philippine design and so I knew it wanted my washi tape to be Philippine. I carefully found out EVERYTHING—parameters about designing a wash tape, number of colors, size, etc. This is so that I can make the most of the opportunity and design it properly. Designing was EASY, quick, and enjoyable. It sounds like a cliché, but really it was just a joy to do. If I remember right, I submitted the design pretty quick. The next thing I knew, Hey Kessy called to show me the prototype and I remember that day CLEARLY: It was a hundred Christmases rolled into one moment! I wanted to jump up and down joyfully squealing (I am a 52 year old man. How wrong is that?). I am so happy, joyful, and thankful to Hey Kessy. It isn’t a small thing. Having my own wash tape is part of my bucket list!!!
HK: Speaking of Hey Kessy, do you have a favorite shop item?
RAA: Aside from my washi tape, I love the calligraphy stuff! I do calligraphy, but not neat at all. Mansy [Abesamis]’s paper cutouts are to die for!!!
HK: Any last words for our readers?
RAA: It’s funny when I attend art workshops, people always recognize me as one of the “frontiersmen” of arts and crafts. I guess it comes with age. I’m humbled and grateful for that. If I can share and inspire through my art, I am very happy about it!
Photos courtesy of Robert A. Alejandro