Manila FAME’s Craft Spots: Telling the Story of Abaca

Ever the diverse hub of craftsmanship, the Philippines is ingrained with the tradition and art of various craft forms. Generation to generation, the craft culture of the Philippines is passed down, kept thriving by the craftsmen and elevated by those who are constantly inspired by the heritage of distinct artisanship, transcribing these craft forms in a language that is relevant today.

This October, Manila FAME, in partnership with PhilFIDA, showcases the Philippines’ Art of the Craftsman through a special setting called the Craft Spots. Manila FAME’s Craft Spots is a showcase that brings to life the craftsmanship of the Philippines, featuring live demonstrations of traditional crafting techniques, taking local materials and transforming them into extraordinary shape and form. This time around, the Craft Spots puts the spotlight on the versatile abaca fiber, telling its story – from its humble roots to its journey of becoming one of the most popular and well-used fibers in the world.

Craftsmen working abaca into shapes and forms for different products

The indigenous abaca, known worldwide as Manila Hemp, is the Philippines’ premier fiber. Long before colonization, the use of the fiber was already prevalent in the country. Early Filipinos used abaca to create clothing and footwear, and weaving of abaca was widespread.

The abaca became well-known as one of the strongest materials for marine cordage, superior in tensile strength and durability. With keen interest from the U.S. and Japan Navies, abaca became an important export commodity of the Philippines.

With breakthroughs in technology and production processes, new uses for abaca continued to surface. The fiber was used as pulp for producing specialty papers products like teabags, filter paper, currency paper, and others, as well as material from non-woven disposables like linens and bed sheets. The development of the fibercraft industry in the country added another dimension to the versatility of abaca with fibercraft products such as rugs, doormats, hats, coasters, hot pads, and handbags becoming very in demand abroad.

A doily made from abaca, an example of fibercraft product
The Improved Handstripping (Hagotan) Device for the abaca fiber

Organic and renewable, the abaca fiber answers the demand for biodegradable materials and fits perfectly with the growing trend of sustainability and eco-friendliness. Its many uses – cordage, pulp and paper production, fibercrafts, furniture, fashion, and so much more – indicates an adaptability and utility that serves many needs.

Abaca remains one of the most enduring materials in the world and at Manila FAME’s Craft Spots, its story unfolds.

See the craftsmanship behind abaca, plus Philippine design and creativity at Manila FAME on 17 – 20 October 2013 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

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