She called it her “lady cave”. Before it turned into the workshop it is, Mai would hibernate in this little black hole, where she’d work on art or god knows what for hours on end. She’d close herself to the world in an instant, and the only way I’d get to see her again is if I allowed myself to get sucked in her little bubble. And willingly, I often did!
I remember the first time I floated into her space. I felt like an invader, uncomfortably being stared down by lady looks in every corner. Her black hole was dark and eerie but the mysteries it kept always amused me.
I soon got acquainted to her paintings by the walls. Her guards had no name, but looked all the same: long hair, ethereal eyes, strong and delicate all at once. Honestly, they all resembled Mai, who was dark and brooding but also frail and awkward in all levels. She never admits that they are her though. She’d tell me, “I draw girls ‘cause I’m pretty good at drawing girls. And they are never realistic.” But if you ask me, every painting she’s done takes even the slightest of her personality. I mean, like in all artists, I’m sure. Which was why it was sad to see them go. With every visit I made, the stares grew lesser, until one day they were all gone – from exhibits to new homes, and to storage. She was done.
I visited her new workshop a few days ago and got to ask why she had waved her art career goodbye. “I started because I thought it would be fun! To me it’s more of the process, that’s why when I’m done I’m always dissatisfied with the output or maybe just too hard on myself. But when I’m doing the work, and I’m in the zone, I love every second of it,” she shared.
The dark and brooding Mai left along with the art. But it also got me to see her in a new light! Now, with her long hair already slightly chopped off, and with less awkward exchanges of his and hellos, she escorted me into her new space. Unlike the black hole of before, her space is now bathed in sunlight, surrounded by crystals and quarts, and rock and rubble.
I caught her at a good time! She was on break for the holidays, which meant that there was no concrete dust to go through, or tools to get in the way of a good conversation. Her brand Fake Alchemy was on pause and she couldn’t have been more happier!
I can’t believe it! Even my friends know your brand! How did it all start anyway?
I never thought it would be a brand! I thought I’d be a Martha Stewart or a crafty homemaker, not this brand at all! As in gosh! I didn’t expect it either but one customer ordered 3, then another 5. Next thing you know, I had to do 50 ordered pieces! It’s gotten crazy! Imagine! It all started with my trip to Canada. We visited a mine and I saw the crystals, and found them really cool and pretty sparkly! I thought to myself, “I don’t see this at home…I want to do this!”
Yeah! I remember that trip. You came back home with a crystal pasalubong just for me, right?
It was an agate slice! That came from the earth man! They sliced it up and saw what was inside, and it was awesome!
So you got into it! Did you ever think you would be selling?
I just thought, “hey this would look cool!” I’d research and then try to learn the method all on my own cause I wanted to challenge myself. There’s something about figuring out stuff on my own that’s satisfying.
Before it was the art, now it’s accessories?
Yeah, but now I’m trying to work on not just accessories but home ware as well. The stuff you find in my shop, you can’t really find anywhere else. I mean that sounds like a cliché but it’s true. Well not locally anyway. Every piece of item is made by my bare hands. They’re all handmade. Each piece that you touch has been touched by me, made by me, sanded and painted by me. Each item is personal to me because it was from a lot of hard work! I would burn my skin from the soldering or drop molten metal on my freaking skin! I know it’s tiring and maybe sometimes seem like it’s not worth it. But I made it, from the mold for the cement, to the act of sanding, washing and coating. After all the back pain and the lung cancer or whatever, the reward is having done it. To anyone it might just be an item, but to me it’s something. I take pride in every product you see because it’s the process of each piece and each design that matters most to me.
In history, alchemy started when people tried to figure out if they could turn led into gold. It’s very much the same for me now. In this case, I’m trying to turn something ordinary into something valuable.
With the holiday break coming to an end, this one-man team has got a lot to look forward to. More tiring days and sleepless nights are up ahead with non stop branding, production, deliveries and social media managing for Mai. But no matter how hard it may all seem for her this 2016, for sure she’ll be able to handle it. Because like she said, the process has definitely made all the hustle worth it!