It all started with a raw piece of narra. JR Queyquep was visiting his provincial home in Ilocos when he came upon wood scraps leftover from construction, immediately taken by its color and grain. With no prior experience in woodcrafting, he came back to Manila and purchased several tools, getting to work with the aid of reading up and watching Youtube videos. His first ever project was a letter holder he made for his mom. That day started his love for woodwork joining, and the former banker could not be happier. It is now a few years later, and Grit & Bevel is just over a year old, but the simplicity and sophistication of each handcrafted mirror, stool, table, dresser, or the odd hanging sofa, showcases such maturity and restraint. Bearing a deep respect for the beauty of each piece of wood, JR does not alter its characteristics, carve elaborate designs, nor does he use any nails or screws to join the pieces together. Rather, he designs his work around the shape and coloring of each item he makes, applying the intricate Japanese art of joinery to create natural fittings, grooves and locks where the separate pieces join together. He may use wood glue to strengthen the hold, dab beeswax or oil to enhance the grain, or torch the finished product to play with color, but he believes in keeping things as natural as possible. He describes what he does as collaborating with wood, seeking out its beauty while making it functional. This results in minimalist pieces that are actually as strong as they are beautiful.
What started off as a little woodworking project soon turned into a workshop, with JR at times ordering tools he needs, but most of the time customizing his own. The room is neat, tools neatly arranged on one wall, not a speck of sawdust on the floor or the surfaces of the tables, with us later on finding out that he created his own vacuum to suction scraps off the floor. Scraps of wood in varying sizes are propped against each other in the deeper recesses of his workshop, while unfinished pieces in the process of completion are hung overhead or pushed to their own corners. We later on see that he works the way he keeps shop: neat, methodic, deliberate, and with utmost patience.
JR acknowledges that joinery is tough, and that very few create furniture and pieces this way in this instant, mass-produced, modernized age. This makes learning and working harder as well as more time-consuming for him, but it is this same challenge that draws him in. He learned to make use of his hands, to anticipate how wood will move and expand, to be precise with his joineries. This results in uniquely-shaped pieces that follow the length and shape of the wood. The present-day Geppetto, he is always searching for wood that speaks to him. He works with narra, walnut, mahogany, and acacia wood, always on the lookout for scraps he can repurpose and give new life to.
JR muses that he has gone through different kinds of jobs, from corporate to business, from formally trained to self-taught, and at a young age realized he would rather work on something he could see himself doing throughout his life, even if it means working doubly hard. Grit & Bevel came to life starting off in exhibits and pop-up fairs. What was once a collection of mirrors, cheese boards, and paperweights, soon became custom orders of dressers, cabinets, shelves, and racks. JR deals with the handiwork, while his partner Joi Tinio deals with the social aspect of the business, talking with potential dealers and customers, and maintaining their social media. Now that his work is becoming more in demand, he never compromises his art and aesthetic for a quick peso.
Bearing a deep respect for the beauty of each piece of wood, JR does not alter its characteristics, carve elaborate designs, nor does he use any nails or screws to join the pieces together. Rather, he designs his work around the shape and coloring of each item he makes, applying the intricate Japanese art of joinery to create natural fittings, grooves and locks where the separate pieces join together.
In the end, he is grateful that he started off with very little knowledge and no influences, as he was able to find his own artistic sensibilities without anyone imposing or injecting their ideas into his work. He learned along the way, making countless mistakes, working on instinct, and developing the technical skills needed for his kind of work. With each piece of art that his hands bring forth, he aims for Wabi-sabi, which is a Japanese world view that accepts imperfection, befitting of his craft, the asymmetry, the simplicity, and the desire to remain as natural in all its processes. In a way, he is his own raw scrap of narra, raw and unshaped, but filled with tremendous possibilities.
Follow them @gritandbevel on instagram to learn more about their pieces.
Text- Jenette Vizcocho
Interview- Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo
Photography – M Espeña
In these times where we and all our information are accessible with just a click of a button, it is so easy to take one look at a person and decide who they are. Open up Kermit Tesoro’s social media sites and get inundated with photos of cats, carnivorous and dangerous-looking plants, Japanese rope bondage, and will you look at those shoes! Immediately peg him to be some arm of the devil, some deeply disturbed and complex individual, someone who never cracks a smile. He is bemused with the amount of attention his own person gets, how people so easily attach the names, places, and things he is associated with without room for the gray: Kermit as Lady Gaga’s Little Monster, Kermit the skull shoemaker, Kermit the anti-christ. But the Kermit that faced us is not a product of a carefully-curated life. In reality, Kermit is Kermit as you or I are uniquely you and I. He works, he has off days, he connects and withdraws from the world, he creates his pieces to please his sensibilities and yet worries it will not make any impact outside of himself.
He is known for his high platform shoes, but it was never his intention to brand himself as such. A graduate of Visual Communication Arts at UP Diliman, he was even then as a student fascinated with taking things apart and putting them back together. This is reflective of his work to this day, where he still prefers to take found objects and repurpose them; putting actual human bones and teeth in Felmaxillary, a shoe that appears quite harmless from the front but presents the skull and gaping maw of a sabertooth tiger from the back. There can be countless interpretations just for this one shoe, is he being deliberately macabre, is he being practical, is it a critique of man versus beast? The beauty of this artist is that he allows the viewer to make their own connections to his pieces. He does attempt to pop the fantasy bubble by reminding that there is no deep-seated drama behind his work, that they, in the end, stem from his attempts at revisiting his childhood fascinations: plants, cats, science fiction stories, dark pop, music, and many-legged creatures. The footwear- some for actual wear, some as museum showpieces- are the result of his homage to his childlike wonder, and he encourages everyone to take from them as they see fit.
The journey into the world of fashion took him from weaving his own fabric at Sagada, Mountain Province, to the art of making bakya in Paete, Laguna, to creating sky high heels inspired by John Galliano, to participating in Philippine Fashion Week, to providing pieces for pop artists such as Gaga, Robyn, and Nicki Minaj.
His latest creation, Polypodis, brings alive his love for the Kraken, Ursula, Cthulhu, and Davy Jones, mixed with influences from the plant kingdom and experiences in his travels. The shoe makes the foot delicate, engulfed as it is in the eight limbs that seem to constantly move depending on which angle you look at it from. This time however, it is not meant to be worn, not produced for overconsumption, not meant for anything else but his enjoyment. He has created only two pairs, already with designated museums and artists in mind.
He does attempt to pop the fantasy bubble by reminding that there is no deep-seated drama behind his work, that they, in the end, stem from his attempts at revisiting his childhood fascinations: plants, cats, science fiction stories, dark pop, music, and many-legged creatures.
Despite how the largely anonymous internet has received him, he does acknowledge that they have helped take him to where he is now, a creator who is both loved and loathed, at times misunderstood by the Filipino market, but widely-embraced by his international audience. He is wary of the drama, of the immediate association and reduction of his entirety as a shoemaker, a fashion designer, or the product of Lady Gaga, but his eyes still widen at the prospect of collaborating with Bjork or Marilyn Manson. He is at the point where he works with the artists that he is inspired or influenced by, and is comfortable enough in his own skin to create whatever makes him happy without having to be responsible for however someone feels about it, and it is in this place of certainty that he has found his people.
Text- Jenette Vizcocho
Interview- Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo
Photography – Cris Legaspi
Jerry “The Pack Leader” Lakandula, a man of immense courage, teaches us how he copes with having Parkinson’s disease through a more positive outlook in life and finding that inner peace. Together with his family and 22 of his pets, he has found the tranquility he needs to face each day, the vigor to appreciate life, and the strength to deal with all the challenges that come his way.
Interview- Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo
Theirs is a love story that can topple over any other romantic film, but amidst that tale is another story of how forces brought two souls together to share a passion in creating beautiful art works with their hands.
A conversation with Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn makes you see pottery in a different light. Having seen its evolution, they bear witness to how trends have changed, how the older generation strives to keep up and what has remained constant in this form of art. While listening to them, one does not fall short of being in awe at how well they seem to know art and each other, often finishing each other’s sentences, or adding ideas to contribute to what one has said.
How long have you been working in the industry?
Jon (J): Since 1972
Tessy (T): For me, it has been on and off, but around that time also. And then we got married in 1978 and we started working together.
We’re curious to know, how did you two meet?
J: That’s a good story. (laughs)
T: You tell the story. (laughs)
J: in my first exhibition in Sining Kamalig, which is a very good art gallery in Taft Avenue in 1978. My very first exhibition…
J: It was in April. Tessy came because she had some interests in ceramics. I noticed her right away, but you know when you’re having your first exhibit, it’s like a nerve-wracking, horrible thing, but I managed to get her phone number. (smiles)
J: But the funny thing was I lived in New York in 1972 before I came back to the Philippines, and Tessy also lived in New York in 1972 and we both went to the same school, which was the New School for Social Research. It was kind of a hippie school.
T: I was taking pottery and he was taking music, so we didn’t meet right away.
J: I never became a musician, so I got it wrong! It’s funny that we met 6 years later. The end of the story is we got married 6 months after. (laughs)
T: It was fast. (laughs)
“Let’s just say the aesthetics of pottery, or of any visual arts, is that we have the added dimension of function. Not only do you have to drink or eat from it, all the principles of design and composition, they’re also there. And you also have to put some feeling or emotion to it, that’s the hard part.”
Can you describe the art and the pottery you make?
T: I make all kinds of pottery. We do a lot of functional works. Jon likes functional things. But lately I’ve been doing flowers, cactus and corals.
J: Our techniques are based on traditional Asian techniques from China, Korea, and Japan, but we try to adapt it to contemporary style. We also have western influences. I went to school in Barcelona and Tessy went to New York for some time. And then we both love functional works. We think it is very important, but we also do sculptures. In the past years, we’ve done a lot of sculptural works.
Who are your usual patrons?
T: Collectors, people who need mugs and plates, but they want to use handmade things. They don’t like the commercial stuff.
J: People who don’t want to use ordinary, factory-made, heartless stuff.
T: We have people who collect little by little. They buy this and that until they have a whole collection that they can use everyday. And there are some art collectors who buy when we make sculptural things.
Describe the pottery theme here in the Philippines and what do your patrons usually look for?
T: We were doing our pottery on our own before. And then there were probably two or three people doing pottery like Jaime de Guzman and Nelfa Querubin. In the early 80s they started the Crafts Council in Design Center so we have the “Potters Guild”. And then we met other potters and then there was a whole movement of pottery at that time. At crafts, it was headed by Arturo Luz of the Design Center Philippines. People kept on asking us to teach them how to do pottery and we were busy just doing our own work and then finally we said, “Okay we’ll teach”. We started teaching in the mid-80s. We started here, so people came here just from nearby places then suddenly people from Manila heard about it and they come all the way from Manila to learn pottery. Suddenly there were too many people we didn’t have any more space and so we moved to Alabang. After that, we moved to Makati. We were teaching for maybe 18 years?
J: More than 20 years. There were a few potters when we started but it was always interesting because there were a few galleries where we can exhibit in those days. But we had very successful exhibits. There were many collectors even then. But now, people are really exploring the whole thing. There are many young ceramic sculptors and potters nowadays. There are many exhibits. We get a lot of attention. There’s also a Southeast Asian group of potters who are very close. We have a lot of friends from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It’s really an exciting time, especially for the young ones.
T: Yeah, there’s really a pottery movement all over the world now. It’s like everybody’s having residency, and seminars. Potters are going around the world.
J: Yes, and because of social networking. We have a tight group on Facebook. It’s interesting that we all know each other now. There’s a core group of, let’s say, 200 people around the world and we’re like family.
Can you just give us a run through of the pottery process?
J: Well, you start by getting your clay. We make our own clay. It’s almost direct from the ground. There’s a whole process of grinding and drying and we blend together different kinds of clay to get different textures.
T: It’s really hard work just to mix clay.
J: Yes, it has to be mixed.
T: There’s no ready mixed clay. Well, there is, but it’s not really good.
J: But we’re very lucky in the Philippines because we’re blessed with all kinds of clay. It’s a long process, we have to make then dry it. There’s finishing…
T: … and firing
J: There’s a preliminary process, and then we apply glazes. The shiny coating on the surface is glass. We make the glazes and then there’s second firing. So the whole process takes about a month, usually.
T: Yeah, it’s a long process.
How do you set your standards in the work that you do? How do you say that what you have done is a good piece?
J: First of all, there’s craftsmanship. You have to know how to do things, but that doesn’t guarantee that what you do is good.
T: When you make something, you’re never entirely happy about what you do. You always think that it could’ve been better.
J: Let’s just say the aesthetics of pottery, or of any visual arts, is that we have the added dimension of function. Not only do you have to drink or eat from it, all the principles of design and composition, they’re also there. And you also have to put some feeling or emotion to it, that’s the hard part.
“When you make something, you’re never entirely happy about what you do. You always think that it could’ve been better.”
You mentioned that you also teach. Who are your usual students?
T: Oh, we have all kinds of students. We have children, we have mothers, we even have grandmothers. We have doctors, and professionals.
J: All kinds of people. People who want to work with their hands. And over the years, there were, maybe, 10 or 20 who became full time potters.
Where do usually get your inspiration from?
T: I look around. I observe natural things, flowers, corals, and cactus. You know, whatever thing that has an interesting shape or possibility that I can work on.
J: As for me, I study Asian or South American works. But I also love contemporary abstract art. Those are the two strong influences of what I do.
Do you have a hard time letting go of the pieces you make?
J: Sometimes, but rarely. Once or twice a year something comes out that makes me really happy and I don’t want to part with it. Sometimes, we keep them. We have children also so we keep it for them. But sometimes we sell it, too, because you’re only as good as your last exhibit. Generally, we’re not attached because so many things can go wrong in pottery-making. In all the stages of the process, something goes wrong and we just toss it.
Do your children also make pottery?
J: Our second daughter. She won the Shell art award for a sculpture.
T: The Shell National Students Art Competition. She made a bust out of clay and she won.
J: And then she stopped. She said it’s too hard. She knows how hard work it is so she became a painter.
T: Yeah, she’s a painter now.
J: But they could. All of our daughters grew up in the workshops, so they can work with clay.
T: They can make if they want to.
What are your plans? What do you see doing in the next 5 years?
T: I don’t know. Our work is just slowly evolving, but we’re just constantly working. It depends also on the demands of the market.
J: Yeah, it’s hard when you’re doing something for more than 40 years. Everything changes. The market changes, the aesthetics changes. You know when there are lots of young people coming up and sorts of challenges the ideas of the older generation? So the challenge for us is to try to keep up, but at the same time, we want to preserve what’s the core of what we do. It’s kind of hard but it’s fun.
“Yeah, it’s hard when you’re doing something for more than 40 years. Everything changes. The market changes, the aesthetics changes. You know when there are lots of young people coming up and sorts of challenges the ideas of the older generation. So the challenge for us is to try to keep up, but at the same time, we want to preserve what’s the core of what we do. It’s kind of hard but it’s fun.”
Do you have any challenges when creating something?
T: It’s really hard when sometimes you have so much ideas and it doesn’t come out the same as what you were thinking.
J: We’re known for being very traditional, but you always have to push the limits and you have to force yourself to do it. You’re never content. We’re hoping the next thing would be the best one we make. It never ends.
T: Yeah, we’re never happy with what we make.
J: There’s no retirement for people, I guess. (smiles)
T: We’ll work until we can’t work anymore.
J: You can not master pottery in one lifetime. We’re continuously learning new things.
Text- Dane Raymundo
Interview- Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo
Photography – M Espeña & Cris Legaspi
Almost everyone knows that Boracay is the quintessential place to be during the summer. In fact, there is little to no surprise when people answer “the beach”, “the sand” and “the nightlife” when asked what’s the first thing they think of about this beautiful island. After all, these things make the place extra famous. Extra famous, but never limited to just that. Boracay is an island in Aklan that boasts of a gazillion of other activities to do and places to visit, just waiting to be thoroughly explored.
On your next visit, why don’t you go on a trip to Crown Regency Resort and discover their 30-meter Oceanarium? Or for the adrenalin junkies, you can try skipping the White beach for a less mainstreamed, Bulabog beach to test your kite-surfing skills at Greenyard Kite School and complement the physical activity with a healthy diet at their vegetarian restaurant, Bougainvillea Resto? Or why not try unlimited jam sessions with a live band while savoring the best mojito at Red Pirates bar? If you truly want to experience the beauty of the island, a hike to Mt. Luho will take you to a breathtaking view of the island. And when you finally feel the fatigue kick in, there’s no better way to relax but at Mandala Spa.
There’s nothing more exciting than exploring and transforming a familiar place into something new by dusting it with less familiar, or better yet, unfamiliar experiences.
Rajo was first exposed to the idea of fashion in the form of his grandmother’s personal seamstress. During those times, it was the norm to have one live among your household, the convenience of whipping up outfits for every occasion under one’s very own roof; and Rajo grew up watching his lola and her seamstress discuss fabric, length, and design to the most minute detail. He surmises his first piece was a collaborative effort with Manang Charing, resulting from suggestions at what he thought would improve on his grandmother’s dress. At the age of eleven, he knew that fashion had its hooks sunk deep within him. He would go on to design many other dresses for his grandmother, for his friends during prom season, each transaction confirming his resolve to clothe people in outfits that made them feel their best self.
It would not be a straightforward road into the industry, however, as with everyone that goes through their pre-adult insecurities, Rajo Laurel, before he became Rajo of House of Laurel, could not begin to imagine himself making an important impression in fashion. He kept the desire of creating clothes at bay and instead pursued a degree in Business.
But his conviction at working in fashion strengthened, and after he received training in New York and London, he began designing everything between ready-to-wear, to classic pieces, to debutant gowns, to wedding dresses. Among his memorable designs are those he created for his siblings’ weddings; but he will always relish the first and last dresses he made for his grandmother, her practical approach to clothing the very vehicle that led him toward the relationship he has cultivated with fashion.
Now twenty-three years into the business, he asserts that he does not create just clothing, but something more of an armor, something that elicits joy in the wearer, that plays up the strengths, and shields the insecurities.
Being a fashion designer in a country that has started importing fast fashion clothing from bigger companies, Rajo admits that working against foreign giants is a daunting task. But he believes in Filipino ingenuity. With the lack of our own fabric industry, local fashion still takes off and gains recognition. To Rajo, one of his best achievements is being part of Rags2Riches, an eco-friendly, ethical line of upcycled handbags and home interiors which was created to give livelihood to local artisans. These projects ring true with his desire to uplift our country as worthy of dominating a global fashion industry.
Now twenty-three years into the business, he asserts that he does not create just clothing, but something more of an armor, something that elicits joy in the wearer, that plays up the strengths and shields the insecurities. This is the personal touch that large-scale productions cannot even begin to capture. In every piece of clothing he creates, he hopes to have the wearer realize the beauty they always have had to begin with. With all these years of experience under his belt, he finds that editing one’s aesthetic is a continuous process, his designs leaning more and more toward minimalism, the desire now to create simple yet timeless pieces, something to utilize in countless pairings, something that the owner would be proud to wear over and over.
Our hands have given us the unique advantage over every other earthling; the opposable thumbs that we possess has made the invention of the wheel possible, has made the exploration of the atom and outer space a reality, and perhaps a big feat for us all, the ability to manipulate a device that has lead you to this editorial. In this issue, we turn our focus to hands: ones that create, shape, invent, and heal. We all know Rajo Laurel, a household name in the realm of fashion. What we may not know is the story behind the first item of clothing he created, and how he continues on this journey to help people love their unique shapes through fashion. John and Tessy Pettyjohn are renowned potters whose aesthetics may change, but whose sensibilities stay the same. Their works have traveled the globe, and they with it, but they always bring their craft home, even putting up a small apprenticeship in their workshop. Another well-known name is Kermit Tesoro, who has maintained the air of mystery around him despite the museums and A-list celebrities that have fought over the works of art we would otherwise call footwear. Each handcrafted pair is re-birthed and repurposed from unlikely materials, from old tires to pulverized teeth. Get to know JR Queyquep of Grit&Bevel, a self-taught craftsman who practices the art of joinery. He follows the shape of each piece of wood he utilizes, never exercising his will over its inherent beauty. Meet Jerry Lakandula, better known as the Pack Leader. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a debilitating condition that slowly lessens his functions starting with his hands, he and his family decided to devote their lives in rescuing, rehabilitating, and training dogs and their owners, his own pack growing and growing into an unlikely mix of canines big and small.
We visited Boracay island but veered away from the party lifestyle. Instead, let us take you to Red Pirate’s Pub, famous to the locals, where they make a mean mojito. Put those hands to use and go kite surfing with the gang at Greenyard, after which have some of the best food in the island at the school’s Bougainvillea Lounge. If relaxing is in your agenda, Mandala Spa’s massages will take care of you. This garden sanctuary will trick you into believing that you are the last person on earth, the thousands of tourists in Boracay fading away as you receive treatments fit for royalty in their private rooms. Visit Crowne Regency hotel where you can try surfing and skim boarding, or swim among and look at- but don’t touch!- the marine life in their in-house aquarium.
In a time where hands have been used to intimidate, violate, and destroy, these individuals’ decision in using their hands for what they excel at: creating, celebrating, and maintaining our humanity, have given the world a lot of good.