Looking to the stuff of stellar remnants, artists Genavee Lazaro, JD Yu, Rosa Mirasol, Aly Kangleon, Ianna Engaño, Iori Espiritu, Jezzel Wee, Jose Solon Perfecto, and Marco Rosario find grounding in the practice of pottery, turning to the craft as a means of rediscovering one’s connection with the earth and its histories.
They take their stories in their own hands—their narratives imprinted on earthenware and stoneware sculptures and vessels—toward a greater understanding of the world and of themselves.
Using brown clay for the first time, La Union-based Genavee Lazaro illustrates the connection between her personal creative process and daily life. Working as a ceramicist since 2016, Lazaro remains attuned to surprises in her art practice. The artist looks to her works as a means of meditative reprieve finding in each piece memories of people and places, and thoughts and feelings yet untouched.
Lazaro is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, where she received formal training as a sculptor. A practicing painter and sculptor, she is most known for her whimsical imagery featuring her anthropomorphic Cactus Friends.
Also based in La Union, potter and photographer JD Yu reflects on certain relationships to create a vessel, ‘Cheers’, with which to share drinks among friends. Inspired by his immediate surroundings, his work is textured with the experience of living by the sea. Yu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from La Salle University. His photography focuses on capturing and empowering those stood on the margins of society. As a ceramicist, Yu explores techniques that encapsulate the rawness of the natural world.
Jose Solon Perfecto, meanwhile, looks to the “underrated experience of solitary dining”, presenting a series of sake bottles and cups that reflect his own hermitic practice and identity as an artist. Perfecto, also working in La Union, uses local wild clays and rice straw ash to create works grounded in the topography of the beach town. Preserving these connections to the land, he “adds to the story of any wine or spirit that the created vessel pours”.
For artist, cultural worker, and teacher Rosa Mirasol, working with the Earth is a practice in being grounded. Celebrating and honoring the earth as a life-giving resource and steadfast witness of man’s history, she creates vessels meant to carry peace and duly serve its purpose. Her creative process is a means of fostering a deep connection with her materials, the world, and her cultural roots. Mirasol is an advocate of slow and mindful living, sharing her love of pottery with various communities across the Philippines through Clay Meditation and Clay Autobiography Workshops.
Aly Kangleon’s work is “a distillation of the way [she moves] through the earth”. As she works terra cotta and stoneware into a homogenous body to create her pieces, she notes its fermented plasticity—its malleability and accessibility—as a fulcrum of the quiet ways we connect with each other and the world that surrounds us. A ceramicist and instructor, Kangleon’s practice explores the intersections of feminism, community, and care work.
“Juan bends his neck to make space for more baggage — unaware that carrying all the trauma, dilemma, and insecurity can turn any strong arms into brittle bones. Will there ever be hope for him?” Ianna Engaño ponders with her sculpture, ‘Pasa, Pasan ni Juan’. As she draws from the sociopolitical, ecological, and cultural realities of the day, Engaño warns against the pitfalls of resilience, its illusive grace weaponized to drive the Filipino people further away from true hope and justice. Engaño runs her own studio, Odangputik Studio, in Cavite, creating art under the banner of ‘KKK’: Katotohanan (Truth), Kabutihan (Virtue), and Kagandahan (Artistry).
The works of ceramicist and illustrator Iori Espiritu, in a similar fashion, explore our troubled interiorities. Presenting a series of works featuring teary-eyed animals in colorful garb, Espiritu unpacks our emotions and coping mechanisms amid all that is happening today. A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines, Espiritu has exhibited widely, both locally and internationally. She has illustrated a number of children’s books and is a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan.
Melding the handicrafts of pottery and crochet, artist Jezzel Wee reflects on the congruence of materiality and meaning in her chosen mediums. The artist writes: “Soft and hard, formed slowly and mindfully. Both organic in nature. Breathing and moving.” Wee graduated from the University of the Philippines where she now currently teaches as part of the College of Fine Arts, and is attending her Master’s degree in Archaeology. In 2017, she became the first Filipino to complete a three-year apprenticeship at Tsugaru Kanayama Pottery in Japan.
Rizal-based ceramicist Marco Rosario contemplates the places, objects, people, and memories that make us. In a series of ‘Cloud Vessels’, he encapsulates the fleeting nature of such inconspicuous encounters. “Temporary stillness and calmness,” the artist reflects. “Somehow through these vessels, those momentary feelings are kept.” After completing his studies at the University of the Philippines, Rosario worked at Tsugaru Kanayama Pottery where he developed his distinct method of shaping and firing functional glazed ceramics and wares.
Text by Gabrielle Gonzales