Wanted: Young craftsmen

Wanted: Young craftsmen

by UA&P News Desk on March 18, 2011 - 4:45 pm

From Manila Bulletin, March 17, 2011, 8:43am

The number of young people pursuing woodcarving and painting in Paete, a town in Laguna known for its strong artistic heritage, has dwindled in the past decade, alarming its more established artists.

Angelo Baldemor, president of the Paete Artist Guild (PAG), expressed concern over the slow death of the century-long tradition of carving due to loss of enthusiasm among the town’s younger folks.

“There’s now only a handful of young people in Paete who know how to use tools in woodcarving since (many of them) went into ice carving,” Baldemor, a painter and sculptor, said at a gathering in the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).

Baldemor added that the reason for the popularity of ice sculpting among the young is the employment opportunities it allows outside Paete.

The guild, according to Baldemor, has for the past years sought to promote Paete’s arts and culture especially to its local youth by organizing exhibits, building galleries and offering instruction in the arts.

“PAG’s role is to encourage the youth to acquire interest not just in handicrafts, because in the past Paete has just been focused on creating crafts,” Baldemor said in Filipino, adding that the guild has found it invaluable to impart artistic discipline as well.

Sculptor Benjamin Dailo said that parents, too, need to see the lasting value of arts as a bankable profession and a vocation to encourage their children to take it up.

“We want to show to the young that an artist’s life is happy, especially that the children in Paete are inclined when it comes to art,” Dailo said.

“They’re easy to teach because it’s in their blood, and all we need is to encourage them,” he added.

A threatened livelihood

Dailo, a member of the guild, said that the artists’ goal is not to revive a woodcarving industry that has long been “dead,” but to continue a heritage.

“I think if we look at Paete as an industry, it’s already dead, but if we look at it as a culture and tradition, however, woodcarving is still alive, even though it has been languishing,” Dailo said.

Paete, whose local economy relies mainly on its handicrafts and sculptures, had also suffered from foreign interventions that brought in new technologies and mass produced their people’s works, according to artist and dentist Nilo Valdecantos.

An example was when Paete’s expertise in papier-mache was adopted by the Chinese, which eventually made their country the top supplier of papier-mache crafts in the world, Valdecantos explained.

“Paete’s distinct craftsmanship was becoming lost at that point,” Valdecantos said.

Strategies for growth

UA&P professor and economist Bernardo Villegas believes, however, that the Paete artistry and tradition can never be commercially produced for a mass market, even though its crafts have been duplicated.

“The future of Paete will be to combine the advantages of mass manufacturing. There are certain things that a sculptor doesn’t do anymore, but at the finishing level, that’s where the artist can come in,” Villegas said.

Another solution would be to look for an alternative medium in which Paete artists can be trained to create high-value pieces, Villegas advised.

“I think that should be the mission of Paete — to be precisely the Milan, the Paris of the Orient. Milan and Paris don’t produce cheap goods,” he said.

The Paete artists recently showcased their works at UA&P for the Banhay Art Exhibit.

Read story on MB.com.ph »

~Photo by Ms. Camille Diola | Corporate Communications Office

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