The Grey Market Experience

“The side trips and unexpected detours quite often lead to the most interesting people places, and opportunities”

– Tina Seelig.

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This  quote came across my mind when I’m wandering around Cubao before going home.  The place very much reminds me of my childhood memories. I vividly envisioned my five year old self hopping into those giant tea cups at the (now defunct) Cubao Fiesta Carnival.  But when I started working, I would pass by Cubao Shoe Expo whenever I need to heighten my creative juices.

A few months ago, I was looking for an inspiration for my next blog entry when I chanced upon this store named, “The Grey Market”. The nostalgic yet homey vibe enticed me to step inside. There, I was welcomed by the owner and his daughter, Carmela Crespo. The place was filled with various paintings, carpets, books, cards and other home decors. The item that struck me most was the intricately designed cards made by Carmela. Like her, I’m also a fan or Moroccan art, which is evident in the cards that I purchased. (See photo below).

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Being an artistic person and an advocate of the “Handmade Movement”, I really believe in the work of an Artist. If doctors are meant to ‘save lives’, then artists (including me) are meant to create and ‘bring beauty to the world.

As Shakespeare said, “To each his own”. This statement is applicable when it comes to appreciating one’s artwork. Our tastes differ and we cannot like the same thing. Yes, we cannot please everybody. Our masterpiece may seem irrelevant to others. Artworks are subject to criticisms or even ridicule. Lately, I’ve learned that aside from encouragement, being bullied can also be a source of motivation.

Though  Carmela is a decade younger than me, I realized that young people do have wisdom. I was reminded to appreciate one’s craft. In my support for the ‘Creative Industry’, I commit to dedicate to feature artists and their craft here in my blog.

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To know more about Carmela and her works, I asked her the following questions:

What’s your background?

I am currently studying Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, Baguio.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

It’s important to accept that you can’t always be the best. Being around artists most of the time, it’s easy to find myself wondering why I can’t pick up a skill as quickly as they can, or why I can’t think up ideas as creative as theirs. Comparing my work to others’ is an unfortunate habit of mine, and is the toughest deterrent to creating more art. Knowing that there will always be someone better than me can be discouraging, but I’ve learned to accept that every artist has a different identity and every audience has its own taste. Not everyone will enjoy your work, and that doesn’t always mean it’s bad. Criticism should be used to improve, and instead of comparing your work to others, be confident in your work and view them as a separate thing.

 What role does the artist have in society?

Aside from “bringing beauty into the world,” artists actually have very practical roles in society that most people tend to overlook. Almost everything used on an everyday basis – cars, appliances, clothes, etc. – are designed by or made in collaboration with artists. Film, music, entertainment – artists. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why so many artists feel discouraged for choosing the “most useless” career there is, because so many people forget that that it is in fact them who have molded the world that we live in. Artists’ skills are often neglected because society tends to forget that art can be incorporated into every aspect of life and for a lot of people, isn’t just a hobby.

 How has your practice changed over time?

 Art used to only be a hobby, but ever since pursuing it as a possible career path, I’ve gotten better. Since becoming an art student my skill and technique have developed, and it’s exposed me to so many new people that have contributed to a lot of my improvement. A huge part of who I am as an artist today is influenced by my friends, because they’ve introduced me to different insight and ideas from which I often take inspiration for my work.

What art do you most identify with?

I enjoy any kind of art from the 1960s, especially the Pop Art and Psychedelic movements. Indian and Moroccan art also interests me, as well as those inspired by Hindu and Buddhist teachings.

What work do you most enjoying doing?

Definitely traditional painting. Working with the usual paint is still the most enjoyable in my opinion.

 What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

Honestly the strongest memories are those of me being bullied. I’m over that, and I’d like to think that it has positively affected who I am today and inspired a lot of my work.

 What themes do you pursue?

Self-identity is a very important topic to me, so building one’s character is a common theme among my original compositions.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

My family visited the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto earlier this year, and along that walk there was an old artist selling his work in a little kiosk that he had made. We bought some prints, and he confidently told us that he made all the art that he was selling. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak very much English so we couldn’t make much conversation, but I did tell him that I was studying art and that meeting him that day was really inspiring. He told me to keep doing what I was doing, and I guess I realized that I want to turn out like him, confident and content in pursuing his craft.

What is your dream project?

Among the many dream projects, one of them would be any sort of collaborative work with my friends; films, storybooks, visual art, music… anything that would be able to combine our work without sacrificing our individual identities as artists. Also, an advertising campaign as memorable as Volkswagen’s in the 1960s (pitched a la Don Draper of course).

Professionally, what’s your goal?

As of now, I don’t really have a solid goal in mind but I want to make sure I never have to sacrifice my art for any kind of “real” job.

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