CEBU, Philippines — Preserving and protecting traditional crafts these days is a growing challenge.
But James Gabriel Geverola Mamalias, 30, from Argao, Cebu, continues to live his passion of paying homage to the past.
Creating more opportunities for people in his town and helping preserve Filipino traditional crafts are his goals as a Capiz shell furniture artisan.
“I believe this is my way of preserving one of our Filipino identity,” Mamalias says.
“Whenever I visit our place in Argao, my goal is to provide jobs thru our products. Create more simple designs with wood and capiz shells that can be made by hand so women can work,” he adds.
Capiz shell furniture making
Capiz shell, or windowpane oyster, is locally known as “lampirong.” This kind of shell has been used as a glass substitute in the Philippines. It is also used as home decor and handicraft.
Artisan Mamalias creates his handcrafted product with capiz shell and wood. “I’m designing furniture pieces using these two main materials.”
How it all started
During his high school and college days, Mamalias worked as part-time helper in their family-owned furniture shop in Barangay Mandilikit in Argao together with his father and some local woodworkers.
“The capiz shell and wood window making started in our shop around 2005 as we are commissioned by Aboitiz Foundation to supply capiz windows to restore the old Gabaldon school buildings in Cebu,” he said.
During his graduating year as a Mechanical Engineering student, he started to post their products on social media and gained clients’ attention, both local and international.
He was inspired by the works of famous Cebuano Designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who is known for his “unique designs integrating natural materials through innovative handmade production processes.”
Moving towards innovation, Mamalias did not only limit his designs to doors and windows. He started creating more designs such as lamp partition panels and mirror frames and other custom-order pieces.
Mamalias’ products are handcrafted by Cebuano artisans in their manufacturing site located in Argao but the packaging and warehouse is located at 18 Garnet St. Gemsville, Corner Camagong St, Lahug Cebu City.
His message to aspiring and fellow artisans
Mamalias wants to inspire fellow artisans with his works.
He has these words to say to aspiring artisans: “There is no perfect timing to start something your craft. If you have that great idea, decide to start now. It’s Ok to fail. And it’s part of the process. We learn the lesson and will try again.”
Quoting Steve Jobs he said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”