This Exhibit Features Extraordinary Pottery Artisans From Sagada

Sagada Earthbenders runs from May 26 to June 16.

( When Joey de Castro opened Sierra Madre Gallery in Mandaluyong City in July 2018, he wanted it to be the "home of ceramics in the Philippines" where local and international potters can showcase their craft. The gallery, in fact, featured both Filipino and Thai ceramic artists for its inaugural exhibition less than a year ago. Continuing this tradition of pooling together the region's small population of potters, Sierra Madre Gallery is hosting two ceramic artists from SagadaTessie Malecdan Baldo and Siegred Bangyay—in an exhibit titled Sagada Earthbenders. It runs from May 26 to June 16.

Siegred Bangyay uses a traditional pottery wheel. Courtesy of Sierra Madre Gallery

Bangyay and Baldo are the last two remaining potters from the dozens of local artisans that once trained at the Sagada Pottery Training Center in the 2000s. The workshop was founded by Archie Stapleton, son of two Episcopalian missionaries stationed in the region decades ago. Now, the two female artisans continue to pursue their craft and often hold exhibitions at the Ayala Museum, BenCab Museum, Pinto Art Museum, and Art in the Park—all while running the training center and managing tourists who visit it.

Tessie Baldo is known for her glazed plates. Courtesy of Sierra Madre Gallery

Bangyay's "Message in a Bottle" features feldspar glaze with Tenmouko drip. Courtesy of Sierra Madre Gallery

Bangyay, a member of the Applai Kankaney Indigenous Group, trained under Stapleton for two and a half years. Her ceramic work features hair-like embellishments and human faces. Baldo, on the other hand, focuses on geometric piercings and glaze imperfections. The older of the duo, she worked as a farmer before training as a potter. She also runs a coffee shop in Sagada.

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Sagada Earthbenders couldn't be a more appropriate term for their show. The two, after all, dig and shape (or "bend") earth—or clay—from Sagada. Even their glazing materials like feldspar, wood ash, and crushed rocks come from their own town.

Joey de Castro also holds pottery classes at Sierra Madre Gallery.
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela Archives

"Their pieces are very rustic, it's not formally trained; it's naive and innocent, but there's a certain charm to it," De Castro said in a press release.

Sagada Earthbenders runs from May 26 to June 16 at 7/F NCC Building, 586 Sierra Madre Street, Mandaluyong City. For more information, follow Joey De Castro Pottery on Facebook.

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