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Kristine Peñafiel Salviejo brings psychedelic, modern vibes to nostalgic, artisan-made objects, giving life to a new wave of Filipino-American design that appreciates consciousness, history, and experimentation.

A Fil-Am fashion designer originally from the east coast, Kristine Peñafiel Salviejo works on a wide range of projects between New York, Los Angeles and Berlin with the likes of Nike, Alexander Wang and Barney’s NY and started her own home textile line in 2016. Her collection is influenced by her nomadic lifestyle and intended to uplift Filipino makers and highlight their age-old skills.

We love her play on obscurity, spirituality and history.  We love her support of Filipino artisans and communities. And we love her endless search for meaning, quality and versatility in simple objects. MAAARI sat down with Kristine to learn more about her work and get the story behind her op-art inspired rug.

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WHAT IS KRISTINE PEÑAFIEL SALVIEJO?

It is a space to share my personal exploration with others.

WHAT INSPIRES THIS WORK?

  1. To motivate myself to keep learning
  2. To teach others about a sort of obscure culture 
  3. To expose younger Filipinos to the wealth in culture they already have
  4. To respectfully put “handicrafts” / “crafts” in a new context
  5. To help support small communities
  6. To set an example for the future
  7. To give beauty to your home! Which I believe is the most private expression of yourself! Think about it - you live in it everyday, with objects that have a longer lifespan than your clothes!

WHAT'S YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?

It depends on what I’m doing. Generally, I would say it’s a mixture of inspiration, research and embracing limitations....and throwing in humor (mostly for myself).

I have to admit my best ideas have come out of moments of frustration or cynicism and then trying to make the best of it.  If it’s knitwear (my “day job”) it’s always about a reaction to an emotional feeling and then how to translate it to a texture. Sometimes it’s the feeling then finding related images then developing swatches.

With Home, it’s more about how to take what already exists and how to enhance that, whether it be through color, materials and then styling. For example, if you only see the blanket at the market, it will always/only be seen as a souvenir handicraft. Sometimes it starts with the questions - where do I want to travel next? What is a place I don’t know much about?

WHAT'S IT LIKE COLLABORATING WITH ARTISANS IN THE PHILIPPINES?

It takes a village, literally

It takes a village, literally—from my momager to my kind relatives to the weaving communities. It’s quite rewarding to find and meet the weavers in person, for one. Secondly, they are all older women and have been carrying on this centuries old tradition; so while I feel I want what I want, I am also humbled by their talent and story and try to respect their methods of doing things.

they are all older women and have been carrying on this centuries old tradition; so while I feel I want what I want, I am also humbled by their talent and story and try to respect their methods of doing things.

I can plan all I want, but the instant I meet with the artisans, everything changes due to loom limitations, time, material accessibility and even local terrorism!

The communication can be difficult, as these weavers are in remote areas - no email, no WiFi, barely any cell phone service. I can understand Tagalog and some of them speak English, but some only speak a particular dialect that I cannot even understand, so luckily I have been able to rely on some clever and generous family members for this - Bless them!!! It takes patience all around.  

WHY TRADITIONAL FILIPINO TEXTILES?

My exploration of filipino textiles bridges a fascination with seemingly novel objects, materials and obscure patterns with my desire to lift this mysterious veil on the Philippines. A lot of my American and European friends really don’t know much about the Philippines, so I think of this as a fun way to tell these stories. 

Growing up Filipino American, My childhood was filled with really unusual souvenirs like banana and/or pineapple fiber shirts, compressed capiz shell objects (To this day I still think they look like dried skin flakes), planters made of recycled tires, wood carvings and fine jewelry.

A lot of my American and European friends really don’t know much about the Philippines, so I think of this as a fun way to tell these stories. 

My grandma used to give me over-the-top pearl necklaces; one of them made of all imperfect, misshapen pearls. I had never known pearls could come out like that. One necklace had slightly misshapen pearls and the other was made of pearls to imitate coral....which is sort of a twisted concept to me.

To my family, all these goods were nostalgic, but to me, they were so out of context as a New Yorker.  it truly speaks to the variety of natural resources that come out of the Philippines.

The food gifts were always dried bananas and mangoes, tamarind candies, dried fish, and coconut and rice deserts which now I realize really demonstrates the versatility of the coconut! And all the ways you can manipulate materials!

To my family, all these goods were nostalgic, but to me, they were so out of context as a New Yorker.  it truly speaks to the variety of natural resources that come out of the Philippines.

TELL US ABOUT THIS RUG.

There’s a couple names for this pattern - binakol and kusikus, which translates to “whirlwind”.

The pattern dates back to the 1400’s from the Northern Philippines, Ilocos. The purpose of the pattern is spiritual, to protect from evil by confusing spirits.

The wave like movement of the pattern (at some angles) also supposedly protected boats + fisherman in the same way and helped guide boats to shore. There’s a couple names for this pattern - binakol and kusikus, which translates to “whirlwind”.

The pattern dates back to the 1400’s from the Northern Philippines, Ilocos. The purpose of the pattern is spiritual, to protect from evil by confusing spirits.

It’s a flat woven piece which is traditionally made of cotton. This pattern definitely has this optical illusion vibe, I love a trick of the eye -- anything that messes with perception -- so you could say this pattern plays with the eye and plays with representations of art/time (Think: 1400’s vs. 1960’s).

I also love that it has a very mathematical appearance but has a spiritual purpose.

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