We chatted with Arlene Florendo Barbaza—a collage artist, furniture/home accessories designer (a partner in Resurrection Furniture), and crafter (she’s 1/2 of artefact handmade)—about the handmade movement and the arts and crafts fair that takes place in 10a Alabama. (ICYDK: Hey Kessy started as a booth here!)
HK: Could you give us a brief backgrounder on what 10a Alabama is all about?
AB: 10a Alabama is actually the workshop and showroom of Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery. Three times a year, though, we organize a craft fair and invite artists and makers to showcase their handmade goods.
HK: How did you come up with the concept and who were the creative minds behind this endeavor?
AB: When Resurrection Furniture moved to 10a Alabama Street in 2011, we thought of inviting artists and makers to a small fair to launch the space and to get people to come. Inspiration for the space was Art House Tacheles in Berlin that two of the original organizers of the fair, Jetro Rafael and Robert Alejandro, visited in 2010. The other two founders of the fair are Leah Sanchez and Binggoy De Ocampo.
HK: How often are your arts and crafts fairs? What sets them apart from the different bazaars held around the metro?
AB: Our fairs are held three times a year. The 10a Alabama fairs have a laid-back atmosphere where artists/makers can show their work. It’s a non-threatening environment for first-time sellers. There’s a lot of interaction among makers, buyers, and guests who just like to hang out. As our small community has grown, we’ve realized that for many of the artists/makers who join us, the 10a Alabama fairs have become a time to socialize and bond with fellow makers/artists, even as they also want to showcase their work and, of course, make a bit of profit.
HK: Do you screen the artists and makers who want to join the fairs? If so, what kind of requirements must they or their products meet?
AB: Yes, ours is a curated fair. We pay particular attention to the quality and workmanship of the products. The items should complement our design aesthetic. That’s somewhat subjective and quite difficult to explain to those who ask what exactly our aesthetic is. For some items, we just know that they sync with our design vision as soon as we see photos.
HK: What’s the best and worst part about organizing these fairs?
AB: Many people have discovered different ways of self-expression through these craft fairs. All the wonderful art and craft at these fairs have inspired and emboldened many people to sit down and make something with their own hands. Truly, creativity begets creativity.
However, we’ve noticed that some people are now into crafting because it’s the cool or hip thing to do. And sometimes, the products they come up with are poorly designed. Just because an item is handmade, it doesn’t mean that the quality should not be top-notch. On the contrary! Some makers have also started “mass producing” handmade items. I can’t really judge if that’s bad or good, but it makes me somewhat uneasy.
HK: Since you’re also a collage artist, what advice can you give other artists and makers?
AB: You can only develop your own style if you do your art or craft as often as you can. Be at your crafting table every day. Paint, draw, and in my case, make a collage every day. Even if nothing seems to click. Even if your idea for the day is so blah. And when you make something, don’t make it for an audience. Make it for yourself. It’s essential that your work makes sense to you and your gut says “yes, I’m happy with what I’ve made.” Seeing others appreciate your work is just an added bonus.
And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of education. Not necessarily a formal university degree, but rather the continual learning (i.e. looking at the art of the masters, reading up on the history of your art or craft, being aware of current trends). Also, I find it important to learn about various forms of art/craft different from my own, as they contribute to the development of my style.
HK: What are your hopes and dreams for the Philippines in relation to the handmade movement?
AB: Hopefully, the handmade movement in the Philippines is not just a fad. If those involved in the community will continue to focus on helping makers develop their own original style and to stress the importance of high quality craftsmanship, then the movement is here to stay.
Let us know who you’d like to read about next!
Photos Arlene Barbaza, Buccino De Ocampo (Arlene), and 10a Alabama’s Facebook account