A Way with Wood  (January 11, 1973, Expressweek)
by BMC

1-11-73.jpg (4636 bytes)Running a household of children and a small gift shop was time-consuming enough as it was.   Never did Corit Alejandro think for a moment that she would still be involved in creating little decorative items that would take up the majority of her waking hours.

    The need and the incentive presented itself when the imported items Mrs. Alejandro acquired for her shop started getting scarce and prohibitive in price.  The idea of producing them herself gained more impetus when her husband took a crash course in ceramics.  Armed with this plus an artistic background acquired from having taken up Architecture in college having recently combed through books and books on the decorative arts, Corit Alejandro experimented on figurines and wall plaques.

    Today, she has fashioned her own technique which she guards with stubborn humility.  "You know how we are here in the Philippines about imitating things," she says rather amusedly, while admitting that she herself took her inspiration from imported items.

    She says that her technique involved a process similar to that of papier-mache but will say nothing further.  She uses molding compound for some figurines and wall decor which results in products that are similar to ceramic but do not require baking.  But her most ingenious works are wooden items that combine techniques of ceramic, decoupage, and Corit's secret formula.  Most of them have a wooden base with the main figures such as flowers embossed at varying levels.  They are much lighter than ceramic or molding compound and fortunately can serve as the original from which molds can later be made.   As works of art, they cannot be duplicated, hence the higher price they command.   Mrs. Alejandro, in fact, refuses to part with some of her original wooden plaques.

    She recognizes the fact, however, that the market for such items is limited.  The plaque take better to an antique finish which she says used to be refused by customers on the premise that they were "dirty".  "Tastes are slowly changing however," she observes, "and people who have gotten used to the 'dirty' look are beginning to demand for them."   

    Helping Mrs. Alejandro with her creations are daughters Patricia, Imelda, and Peggy.  While household helpers and the one full-time carpenter they employ work on molds and the painting process.  They have no such workshop for this work, any place will do.   One encounters them sitting over the living room table, even in bed while working on a particular item.  It gives them the feeling that it is really not work; rather, a profitable way of expressing one's artistic bent.


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