Artisana Island Crafts - Breaking the Mold


Artisana Island Crafts traces root to the 1970s when Anita Feria built Anaware. Anita was decorating her house and was unsatisfied with the ceramic pieces that were available and decided to make her own. What started as a hobby conducted in her converted studio-garage with one assistant quickly grew into a company that would craft and sell delftware – the classic blue-and-white pottery that was developed and produced by the Dutch – to the Netherlands itself. Anaware’s list of accomplishments was impressive, including product lines designed with National Artists Ang Kiukok, José Joya, César Legaspi, and Vicente Manansala.

Decades of being one of the leaders in ceramics were followed by a gradual decrease in demand. Mary Ann Colmenares, Anita’s daughter who had taken over at this point, realized that they could not rest on their laurels, and so she opted to break the mold.

Mary Ann started incorporating other indigenous materials into their ceramics, most noticeably pandan leaves. Artisana broke away from traditional pottery by adding woven pandan leaves into the product itself. They did not restrict themselves to just utilitarian features such as handles on pots, but actually incorporated pandan weaving as part of the aesthetic design. They also wove baskets or placemats and would attach porcelain pieces to add flair. This melding of organic fiber and inorganic pottery breathed new life into Artisana’s product lines. The products proved to be a hit and Mary Ann rebranded Anaware to Artisana, to mark the shift from a purely ceramic-producing company to one that is open to new possibilities.

This change not only revitalized the company, it expanded work to the communities that supported it. Artisana now employs far more than just expert potters and artists, but weavers and other crafters as well. This was especially beneficial during the pandemic lockdowns as the weavers continued to work from home.

The weavers are primarily women and this profession allows them to earn a living without depriving their families of their presence from the home. Artisana employs weavers in ten communities all over Negros, from Calatrava in the north to La Castellana in the south. And as the company expands, they expect to build, grow, and add to these communities.

Mary Ann recognized the global opportunities the pandemic presented to Artisana. As people stayed home, they took greater interest in improving the quality of their living space. Artisana was there to provide them with items to organize and beautify their homes, thus delivering on the company’s slogan, “a basket in every home, a placemat on every table”. This allowed Artisana to keep their workers employed at a time when it was needed most.

Artisana was no stranger to the Internet and had made full use of its features to increase reach and address new buying preferences. Exporting their products internationally early in its history, Artisana was not hesitant to embrace any innovation to stay competitive.

This is shown in how they are now taking part in the Association of Negros Producer’s (ANP) 2021 Negros Trade Fair. Hosted at the ANP’s new headquarters, The ANP Hub, the Negros Trade Fair is, at the same time, going virtual.

Artisana is not afraid to reinvent itself. What initially could appear as obstacles, Artisana quickly perceives as opportunities. They don’t just cast the mold for others to follow, they break it when it’s time for something new.

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Text by Jubal Gallaga

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft