Artisan Made Philippines


Ay nako!  It has been almost 2 years since my last post!

Yesterday, I attended an amazing launch event for Artisan Made Philippines.  Overnight my cup runneth over with the sense of Pinay Pride.  And just in time!

One of the biggest things that has been weighing down on my mind, heart and soul has been my struggle to teach my kids Tagalog and cultivate their Filipino identity.  Yes, I speak to them exclusively in Tagalog, but I know my version of Tagalog is not enough.  I myself need some immersion crash course in order to discuss more complex thoughts and feelings with them.

Thanks to Artisan Made, I came away from last week feeling connected to a vibrant Filipino-American community.  I’m feeling happier.  It’s the kind of feeling you might experience when you spend a whole day with cool cousins.  Mind you, I only knew Kristine Surla, the founder of Artisan Made when I walked in the door, but everyone felt familiar as they shared their stories of being Filipino or Filipino-American.  It didn’t matter that we were from all different parts of the Philippines or different parts of the US.

It’s a huge understatement to say that I was thrilled and inspired.  The day wasn’t about fleeting fashion trends.  It was about Filipinos and Filipinas making a difference in other people’s lives.

  • Moved by the work that the non-profit, Gawad Kalinga, is doing to end poverty and hunger in the Philippines.
  • Lost my mind shopping for beautiful pieces by Anthill – a social and cultural enterprise in the Philippines working to preserve local weaves through contemporary design to sustain livelihood and tradition.  Each piece had a story about the specific weaves and the weaver or craftsperson who created it.
  • Witnessed the inventive and improvisational culinary skills of The New York Times-featured Filipina chef, Yana Gilbuena.  I inhaled the 5-course kamayan meal after admiring her artful presentation.  I also learned that you can peel ginger with a regular spoon!  It’s work, but it means that you don’t waste any of the ginger!  Genius.
  • Discovered that “heirloom Philippine rice” exists!  Last night’s menu included black rice by Social Products — an organization that sources organic food products from Philippine coop smallholder farmer partners that empower rural farmers, women, and indigenous peoples with a more sustainable way to eradicate poverty.
  • Excited to taste and learn about Kalsada Coffee from the Philippines and roasted in Seattle.
  • And wow!  Theo & Philo artisanal chocolates.  Yum!  They’re the Philippines’ first bean-to-bar artisan chocolates.  You have to try them!
  • And calamansi liqueur?  Yes, please!  I am now on the hunt for Manille Liqueur de Calamansi.  According to Forbes, it was “conceived as a Filipino take on the Italian limoncello by president and CEO Olivia Limpe-Aw, in collaboration with restaurateur-turned-writer-and-television-host Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, launched in January 2014, is a vodka-based drink that uses the essence of the zesty calamansi rind sourced from Mangyan farmers in Mindoro, a province located off the coast of Luzon, and northeast of Palawan.”
  • And most importantly, I have secured some SoCal Tagalog play dates in my family’s future!  In fact, because of the press coverage leading up to the event, I now know that there’s a show, Kababayan Today.  And because of that show, I now know that there’s a summer school program by the Filipino Cultural School here in LA!  It’s far but it will be worth it to enroll Cedro next summer.

Maraming salamat, Kristine! Mabuhay!



4-min Daily Doodles for 40 Days


For Lent this year, I’ve decided to draw a 4-min doodle every day. Today’s doodle is inspired by my friends, Tom and Thomas, who I’ve known for 18+ years. They are 2 of the sweetest people on planet Earth. Check out this interview about their business. I love how they make time for community work despite their busy schedules. (Tom has owned a few Boston Terriers over the years in case you were wondering about the dog.)

Drawing Again!


I always need a deadline to push me to draw more than a doodle.  Tonight’s final deadline for the 2015 Communication Arts Illustration Competition was as good a reason as any… The piece is inspired by the tendency of feeling like I have no ideas when I need them the most.  It’s as if my mind were completely blank with the soundtrack of crickets in the background.  Ironically, when I want to try to relax and put my mind to rest, that’s exactly when my brain starts buzzing with no off switch within reach.

It feels good to draw again.

Inspiration in West LA

Limited Edition Mint Tins by Audrey Kawasaki, one of my favorite artists — purchased as set of 5 from GR2 // Giant Robot Gallery in West LA

Limited Edition Tins designed and signed by Audrey Kawasaki, one of my favorite artists — purchased as set of 5 from GR2 // Giant Robot Gallery

During a lazy Sunday afternoon of mundane errands, I had a serious “Ah ha!” moment.  (More like, “No duh!” moment.)  I was reminded that there is way more to my life than a 9-to-5 job and emails and agendas and deadlines and things to prove.  That everyday things can be works of art and that I am completely content simply spending time in a Japanese grocery store or Tokyo Outlet.  And it was all thanks to our old neighborhood, Little Osaka along Sawtelle Boulevard.

I decided to wander into GR2 and was immediately inspired by the current Stories group show.  Galleries and museums can often be so alienating but I love the shops on Sawtelle.  The art scene here in West LA feels authentic yet approachable and even fun.  Always inspirational.  I love checking out what other artists are trying.  Edwin Ushiro‘s graphite on vellum drawings are amazing.  And I am totally in love with Jeni Yang‘s paintings on wood with laser cut embellishments.  My favorite is her Nuke piece.  I couldn’t stop staring at it.

Just as I was about to leave, a little stack of  Audrey Kawasaki tins caught my eye.  I couldn’t resist.  Audrey Kawasaki is one of my favorite artists.  And just when I thought my modern Asian-American art adventure was coming to an end, who happened to be the cashier but none other than Eric Nakamura himself!  Founder of Giant Robot.  I was completely awestruck.  I tried desperately to think of something intelligent and thought-provoking to say as I paid for my tins.  Instead, all I could think of was, “Uh that’s a cool watch in the display case…  It’s on sale?  Can I take a look at it?”  I’ve bumped into famous people both in NYC and in LA and I usually have no problem chatting it up.  “Excuse me, are you Henry Thomas?… OMG, I loved your work in E.T.!  Wow!”

Oh well.  I was never a very good extemporaneous speaker.  Next time I run into Eric Nakamura, I’ll have my speech prepared about how inspirational his work has been — both in the art world and in the Asian-American community.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to say my somewhat silent thank you via this blog post.

Love is in the Air!

Danny + Arlene Yoo

Rather than re-use our excuse, “Why I Haven’t Blogged in a While,” I’m going to  say, “Love is in the Air!”  Valentine’s Day is around the corner and to top it off, my sister is pregnant!  Not only is she pregnant, but she is due to give birth in a matter of weeks!  Knowing my sister and brother-in-law, my hunch is that this baby girl is either going to arrive early OR right on time.  3-3-13 is coming up fast!

I am excited for Arlene and Danny.  It goes without saying that they are going to be wonderful parents.  My niece is going to grow up so loved.

In Honor of Filipino World War II Veterans

Our long overdue tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who fought side by side with American soldiers during World War II.  We also feature Mr. Greg Villanueva, a Filipino guerrilla fighter who is still awaiting the benefits promised to him by the US government 67 years later.  Special thanks to Mr. Villanueva for sharing his story with us and to his family for welcoming us into their home.


Japan Day 2012 Art Contest Submission

© 2012, Original Art by Ardith Ibañez Nishii

Decided to interrupt my job search with an art contest submission for Japan Day 2012.

When I decided to create a piece commemorating the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry trees to the US, I knew that I wanted to use a graphic style inspired by travel posters of the early 1900’s.  The first cherry trees were planted along the Potomac River in 1912 during the era of ocean liners and passenger railways.  I love the simplicity and elegance of the illustrated vintage posters of that time.  I thought this would be the perfect way to unify the four themes of “Cherry Blossom(s)”, “New York”, ”Japan”, and “Central Park”.

I first created a skyline of famous architectural landmarks from both Tokyo and NYC, including a silhouette of buildings overlooking Central Park — an oasis of trees and ponds.  In contrast to the heavy two-dimensional style of the city scene, I wanted the blossoms to have a light, translucent feel to capture the magical look of a cherry tree in full bloom.  Of the 12 varieties planted in 1912, I specifically used the Fugenzo blossom for its pale pink color and the fact that the original gift of 2,000 trees in 1910 were Fugenzo trees.  (Let’s ignore the fact that those trees had to be burned due to a massive bug infestation.)  The red sun shining on the cityscape represents Japan.  I added the brush stroke to create an organic, Zen-like feel while the overall craft paper texture also aims to add warmth and a tactile quality.  I knew from the get-go that I wanted my piece to be on craft paper to enable the whitest white to pop.  Hence, “JAPAN DAY 2012” is the only 100% white element on the page for better visibility.  To add playfulness and whimsy, the location and date of the event are written on banners derived from antique posters.

If I had given myself more than a day to do this, I would have tried to do an actual gouache painting on paper rather than use Illustrator and Photoshop.