Arts and Crafts Life!

Turning simple plastic bags to bags of art

By: - June 21, 2023

CEBU, Philippines—Bags can be just simple bags. But Marriel Colaljo is taking bags to a different level with her unique creations.

Marriel’s bags are stylish and eye-catching. Their exterior features spiral tie-dye pattern that creates a captivating visual effect. 

The pattern is meticulously produced with an eye for detail, resulting to attractive and organic designs.

The shape and style of the bags vary, depending on their purpose and intended use. It could be a bucket bag that has bigger storage or a handbag that is perfect for any occasion.

What makes these bags extra special is that these are made with the environment in mind.

Before we go into the details of these bags, let’s first get to know the brain behind the bags.

Marriel Colaljo

Marriel Colaljo is a 26-year-old environmental-advocate designer from Cebu.

Who is Marriel Colaljo?

Marriel is a 26-year-old environmental-advocate designer from Cebu. She is known for her innovative use of plastic as her medium of choice.

Colaljo’s designs showcase her creativity and commitment to sustainability.

She is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Cebu. She took up a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Product Design and graduated with latin honors in 2017.

Marriel defines herself as an artist who enjoys working on material manipulation. This passion has manifested in her current project and a series of prior projects before.

“I am always inspired by the movement of the materials that I use. Whenever I work, I always get to know what the material is so that I can play with it.” 

In the last seven years, she has worked as a designer for multiple design companies, including that of noted Cebuano industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who discovered Marriel and made her a mentee.

“To be mentored by someone who is successful in both business and design is an honor. I am thankful because he empowered me as a young designer and opened doors for me,” Marriel said.

Right now, Marriel is focusing on launching her bag brand. She’s currently working on the final touches of her first-ever handbag collection.

“I feel really privileged to have this opportunity because not everyone my age has this privilege. I get to forge my own path as a designer and I also get to have mentors and teachers along the way. I’ve always wanted to make things out of anything and now I get to earn from it,” she said.


Using plastic as her medium is highly driven by her environmental advocacy. 

During her college days, she felt that the call for reducing and recycling plastic waste was not as loud as it is now.

This advocacy, together with her unique idea, landed her multiple partnerships with environmental groups.

And not only is she helping the environment, in using plastic, she is actually also making durable bags.

READ MORE: Saving the seas from plastic pollution

“Some of the materials I used for the bag are also plastic in form because I have to make sure that the bags are not only beautiful but also durable, and can survive the wear and tear of daily living. I want them to last a long time,” she said.

Marriel’s advocacy for true sustainability is not only limited to recycling plastics but also to minimizing the product footprint.

“I want designers to put the environment in mind whenever they make something,” Marriel said.

Her products, thus, serve as a reminder of the importance of reducing waste and embracing sustainable practices. By repurposing plastic, she encourages consumers to rethink their relationship with this material and consider alternative ways to incorporate it into their lives.

‘No bag is ever the same’

Marriel’s bags feature all of the colors in the spectrum through the use of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastics. These plastics are used daily like sando bags, bubble wraps, and wrappers.

She first started making bags in 2017 as her product design thesis during her senior year. The design of these bags has drastically changed ever since. The making of plastic sheets, however, has not changed.

“In making the plastic sheets, I first collect the plastics and segregate them by color depending on the pattern I want to achieve. Next, I wash and dry these plastics. And then, I proceed to prepare and artistically manipulate them. Actually, this is my favorite part. What I do is, I arrange the plastics to create a certain pattern that I like. Then, I heat-press it and then that’s it,” Marriel explained.

Aside from using plastics, Marriel also uses wood, ropes, metals, bolts, and screws in the bags.

“There are already efforts to reduce plastic pollution around the world and what I am doing, heat-pressing plastics is not new. So, by mixing both warm and cool materials, I am giving it a modern look. Also, the patterns I create are unique every single time. So, no bag is ever the same. It’s truly one-of-a-kind,” she added.

For aspiring designers like her, Marriel has this advice:

“Put yourself out there, that is one of the most important lessons that I learned throughout the years. If you don’t show your works to anyone or have it critiqued by your peers, it will be as it is — a prototype, a sketch, or forever just an idea.”

Marriel made sure hers did not remain as just an idea.


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