Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I am a self-proclaimed, trying hard craftswoman by heart.

I remember an instance back in grade school, when a classmate brought toy puppet versions of Spike and Little Foot (characters from the animated movie Land Before Time). Everyone was crazy about the movie at that time, and I ceaselessly begged my parents to buy me a complete set of puppets of whole the dinosaur cast. My mom’s answer to me was, “No. You have to improvise and make a puppet for yourself.” She tried to veer me away from the lure of commercialism and teach me the value of money while growing up. She also intended for me to be innovative and creative by helping me out with do-it-yourself projects of different kinds.  

My introduction to graphic design and visual arts came later, when I’ve began to understand the nature of my dad’s advertising business.  Much of my toddler years were spent learning about arts and crafts. My mom introduced me to Origami when I was 4 years old, and we would fold papers the whole day to make flowers, stars, and animals. I developed a love affair with paper, and soon it bloomed to an addiction to paper dolls, stationeries, and stickers. I enjoyed frequent visits to Papemelroti where I’d buy special papers and drool over beautiful handmade crafts and novelty items. In late afternoons, I’d see my friends to exchange sheets of stationeries, a pastime more popularly known to our generation as “barter.” My amateur attempt at intricate paper crafts were appreciated by doting Tito’s and Tita’s, and I eventually ended up doing projects for my cousins. This paper craze came to temporary halt when I reached college, as my interests shifted to visual arts and design.

Now that I have a kid of my own, I re-oriented myself with paper folding and hand made crafts to pass on the same value to my daughter as what my mother did with me. We bond over boxes of patterned paper, strips of ribbons and fabric, glue, and little ornaments. I try to bring in something new to the table, and draw inspiration from generous artists who share their DIY projects on line. One of the blogs we visited is by craftswoman / barista, April San Pedro.

If clothing lines have a category for high-fashion, so do paper. April’s paperie, amply called as Artisan Design Studio, carries couture stationeries, planners, and calendars, and produces quality invitations and other decorative paper-based designs.

This 28 year old artisan opened her home-based studio back in 2008, merely paces away from the family-owned coffee shop, right under their yellow painted house. Pre-artisan days, she brewed coffee, mixed drinks, and spent quality time with her computer to design posters for their own coffee place. “It was purely a family business where family and friends would gather to enjoy afternoon talks over coffee. I oversee the operations with my sister, who is the baker in the family. I was eager to learn about graphic design because I had a bit of difficulty dealing with advertising agencies when it comes to the layout and look of our posters. Luckily, I met some friends who were in the field of graphic design. I observed how they work and attended short courses in Manila to enhance my skills and knowledge.”

It was a bold move to jump from barista to graphic designer. The latter requires a sophisticated palate, while the other is a marriage of both skills and imagination. Apparently, her trajectory to the creative world was already set in her future, even in her late teens.

I sometimes found it weird that I was not inclined to shop for clothes and shoes. I feel more enthusiastic with books and craft materials such as rubber stamps, punchers, etc. I even have a collection of Japanese craft books which I can’t translate into English, and I just try to understand it by following the illustration. Reading and learning about crafts is definitely my guilty pleasure. I can stay for hours in a bookstore and craft shops, and spend as much as others would in shopping with just a blink of an eye.  Good thing this passion grew into a business, giving me relief with a bit of return in investment. In college, I started selling personalized name stickers to my classmates. That was also when I ventured into beadwork and handmade accessories which I sold in bazaars around town.”

“I always wanted a store of my own. However, I still couldn’t figure out what it would be. I knew I wanted something related to graphic design or crafting. It may sound cliché, but I really find Martha Stewart an inspiring woman in this field. Not only because of her great taste, but also of the way she made crafting interesting and sellable to the global market.”

“My first attempt into designing was through a brand I created years back. With Tala-larawan (which means ‘album’ in Filipino), I concentrated on producing photo books on a per order basis. However, the turnover was so slow and the work was so tedious. Eventually, I figured out that I can channel the same materials, tools, and technique into different types of products.”

“I summed up my courage to open my own store and realized that dream when I opened Artisan Design Studio last July 8, 2009. Instead of just manufacturing photo books, I now concentrate more with customized paper goods such as invitations, stationeries, planners, and anything that I can be done by paper or graphic design.”

While planners and accessories sold like pancakes, her orders for custom made party invitations came in droves too. Her creativity enabled her to merge her client’s concept with her own imagination. “My inspiration will always vary, depending on the requirements of my client. I translate their ideas into designs which also reflect my style in graphic design ---- elegant, yet uncomplicated.”  

April’s design studio has seen several milestones and family events over the years. It’s like she became part of every family affair in the metropolis --- witnessing the solemn christening of a child, the marriage of two passionate hearts, and the graceful entry of a debutante into the society.

Just as her business caters to various occasions, she also involves herself in the community by organizing Christmas bazaars and sharing easy to do crafts through her blog (visit http://www.designsofartisanblog.com). The idea of putting up the Sabroso Sunday Food Market was born out of casual talks with her sister, Sandy, and fellow entrepreneur friend, Chiche Alejandre. The weekly food fair gathered families into the garden outside their coffee shop, enjoying the kitchen wonders and secret recipes of independent cooks. The food bazaar was a huge success and it inspired more food aficionados to support home-grown products and delicacies.

“Everyone has their own part in the community. Currently, I am focusing my business sense to exporting my own paper line abroad. I’m slowly starting with this by selling my designs online.  I also try to dedicate my time into touching lives of families, giving them activities which parents can do and bond over with kids. I share my ideas on improvised storage boxes and other decorative DIY crafts for their home. In the future, when I become a mother, I also want to enter into a different business that will cater to both moms and babies.”

Visit Artisan Design Studio on Facebook, or drop by the shop located beside the Yellow Hauz, V. Mapa St., Davao City. You may also call their office at (082) 303 272, or send your questions to designofartisan@gmail.com.

Here's a free and easy DIY guide to April's decorative window display.


• Recycled Photos, 4x6 inches in size (but it’s better if you’ll cut out images from an old calendar). You’ll be needing at least 36 photos, depending on your window length of your window. I used 6-7 photos per batch.
• Cutting mat
• Scissors
• Cutter
• Bus ticket puncher (you can buy this in National Bookstore)
• Ruler
• Ribbon or Crochet yarn


Cut the photo from the calendar. Make sure to use cutting mat and a sharp cutter blade for easy cutting.

Use a bus ticket puncher or the smallest round puncher. I suggest a small puncher so the holes won’t be visible from afar.

Insert the yarn starting from the back of the photo and spool it in twice.

Then pull the yarn from the back and insert it at the bottom hole this time. Don’t twine the yarn from the top. It should be loose and can be pulled easily.

Do the same thing on the next photos. I used 6 photos per line. You can modify the height of the photos too.

On your last photo, tie a knot at the bottom to lock the yarn. Then do the same procedure on the next batch of photos.

Once you’ve completed the whole set, tie them each to a ribbon.
Cut the ribbon according to you’re the width of your window.
Hang both ends of the ribbon on the top of your window and align your photos accordingly.

Learn more about crafts and home decors by visiting April's blog site at http://www.designofartisanblog.com.

Story published on my newspaper column, Metro Mom.
Pages 15 and 18, INdulge section, Edge Davao, Vol. 5 Issue 62, 30 May 2012.


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