Cebu-based ANTHILL Fabric Gallery is changing the landscape of filipino-made crafts through the reimagination of traditional weaves.
As a social enterprise, ANTHILL works with indigenous weaving communities across the Philippines to create contemporary designs with traditional Filipino weaving techniques. Through creative partnerships, capacity building, financial empowerment, and market access, ANTHILL is helping to preserve traditional filipino crafts while also providing sustainable livelihoods for community partners.
Naturally, we were instantly drawn to one another and collaborated on a few designs exclusively for MAAARI. This blossomed into a beautiful partnership and led to an inspiring journey back to our Filipino roots.
Here, we talk with founder and “Princess Ant” Anya Lim to tell her story.
WHAT'S THE GENESIS OF ANTHILL?
ANTHILL is a fulfillment of a shared dream between my mother and I. You can trace it back to my childhood and upbringing. I grew up with bedtime stories about the different indigenous communities. My mom took us traveling to weaving communities where we witnessed first hand how our living traditions and culture die just because of the lure of instant cash and the growing gap in transmission from the old to the young. Our weaves are undervalued materials. They are perceived uncool to wear which led to poor market demand, market access and the lack of interest from younger women to learn the craft. Cultural degradation was a social issue that became our social pain.
Coming from 3 years of experience as a fundraiser for an international non-profit organization, I witnessed how programs and projects in the field can still be largely dependent on aid, which does not entirely give stakeholders a sense of ownership. More often than not, it also does not lead to sustainability. I was seeking out solutions to address this and I felt social entrepreneurship was the answer.
WHO ARE THE ARTISANAL COMMUNITIES YOU WORK WITH?
ANTHILL works with 3 direct partner communities representing the rural, indigenous, and urban sector among the major islands of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
/ Mang Abel Ti Abra comprise of about 40 mother artisans with a growing number of younger weavers. They weave traditional patterns using scrap thread bought at a nearby town.
/ The Daraghuyan Bukidnon Tribe consists of 50 households where the women weave Manila hemp or naturally dyed abaca fiber and make handwoven bracelets out of dried indigenous plants.
/ The Handcrafters of Mary Enterprise are a group of 20 mother crafters from Tisa and Gawad Kalinga Minglanilla, Cebu. They make plush toys out of scrap fabrics, indigenous fabrics and old clothes. These direct communities are part of our Community Enterprise Development Program.
HOW DOES ANTHILL ENCOURAGE THE NEXT GENERATION TO BE ACTIVE IN WEAVING CULTURE?
We implement a Master and Apprentice Program in our weaving communities where we incentivize our Master Weavers by augmenting their income to 20% with the condition that they teach a younger weaver. Young women are encouraged to continue the craft by providing enabling environments through a sustainable business. We show them how the fabrics are transformed into contemporary functional designs. We show them the growing movement of weave wearers and we introduce them to passionate and talented design collaborators.
When they are surrounded with these inspiration and validation, they start to realize the value of their skill and tradition. Weaving becomes more relevant to them. They see the value of it as it puts food on the table. Ultimately, it really is our designers and our customers that inspire our younger women to play an active role in our weaving culture, to own it, and make it a source of sustainable income.
ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE WORKING WITH MAAARI?
Definitely! MAAARI is our very first international collaboration that is co-designed, co-branded and co-produced. It really is the essence of what makes two brands partners and co-champions of culture. We are ecstatic because this partnership has been providential and inspiring for us. It is founded on shared dreams among empowered women who believe in infinite possibilities. They do not give up easily! We highly appreciate how the founders took time to understand and appreciate the value and intricacy or our slow processes and made that part of their story.
We are fortunate to work with talented women who are generous in their friendship and have pushed us so much in how else we can enable creative innovation among partner communities. We are excited for the many more dreams we will be weaving together as partners!
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