This Sculptor Crafts Gorgeous Bags From Salvaged Wood

And these eye-catching bags give back.

PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

( If these bags look like works of art, that's because they are. Taking her craft honed in her hometown of Paete, Laguna, into the pages of Vogue Italia, wood sculptor Charming Baldemor's intricately crafted bags are that rare combination of luxury fashion, sustainable style statement, and Filipino pride.

Carving indigenous florals into wood salvaged from the most random places—antique stair steps, old railroads, trees felled in storms—Baldemor creates wearable art that champions the environment and female empowerment.

In Her Blood

Charming Baldemor only uses upcycled, reclaimed, or sustainably farmed wood for her bags, which are artfully carved with Philippine flora and fauna. 
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor
Charming Baldemor's inventive Peek-a-boo minaudière features geometric cut-outs for a statement evening accessory, which is also available in a version with full leather lining. 
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

In 1997, she founded Charming Baldemor Studios, a sculpting and painting company that offers quality decorative and functional handicrafts, as well as art pieces. “CBS (Charming Baldemor Studios) is centered on the intention to locally produce handcrafted products by combining original artistry and outstanding craftsmanship with the use of quality materials. Products showcased at the gallery promote awareness for various causes, especially women empowermentwhich is the closest to my heart, being a female proprietor myself,” she shares.

The CBS workshop also serves as a creative hub for local artists. “It serves as a space for artists, regardless of their level of experience, to share knowledge about their own media to other interested patrons of their field.”

Going Mainstream

Charming Baldemor's regal Calado Wooden Clutch is crafted from old Narra stair steps and carefully carved to mimic the embroidery of the barong Tagalog. 
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Charming Baldemor
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The carved dress by Charming Baldemor in collaboration with Reya Floresca (photographed by MJ Suayan and styled by Andre Chang) features flora and fauna endemic to Philippine rainforests carved onto an armor-like wooden vest—a couture garment “fit for a warrior queen.” It was featured in Vogue Italia
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

Since then, support for her brand has grown consistently, and recently it was handpicked to be featured in the Design Commune of Manila FAME, the country's premier design and lifestyle event which brings brands to global attention. “It seems that there’s an appetite outside the country as well for pieces that are natural, well-made, and real,” she shares. Her proudest moment so far? “The collab featured in Vogue Italia!”

A narra beam that used to support a rice mill in Laguna has been reincarnated into a wooden clutch from Baldemor's Habi Collection, inspired by Filipino hand-weaving traditions used in baskets and furniture.
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

“The Tropical Collection, for example, is evocative of our lush forests, flora, and fauna; the Habi Collection pays tribute to our native Filipino hand-weaving tradition; while the Bloom Collection showcases what I do best—realistic and intricate wooden depictions of flowers.” This year, she plans to put a quirky twist on our national symbols. “I'm thinking [of] a fusion of ethnic motifs and our local wildlife. You'll have to wait and see,” she teases.

New Lease on Life

The “Bulaklakan” collection—literally, in full bloom—focuses on a particular flower (such as orchids, seen here), with petals carved repetitively and so delicately onto narra, it's as if you're holding a freshly picked bouquet in your hand.
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

The “Bloom” wooden handbag from Baldemor's popular Busilak collection features a single flower carved onto reclaimed narra, with the grain accentuating the gorgeous detail on every petal.
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor
A leather flap and strap brings a more casual look to Charming Baldemor's exquisite carved creations.
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

What goes into turning a piece of salvaged wood into a thing of beauty? “A lot of care, and more than that, a lot of imagination. I see a piece of wood and I can already envision what it's going to be. Whatever you can do to regular wood, you can also do to salvaged wood, provided it's cured and treated properly. Sometimes it's the rugged quality of the wood that adds character to a piece. When I'm making something more abstract, I let the wood grain direct me. It makes everything flow more organically.”

An Empowered Woman Empowering Women

Baldemor continues to create decorative and functional art pieces (like her famed hollow lamp), alongside her bags.
PHOTO Courtesy of Charming Baldemor

Apart from being precious wearable art and a source of Filipino pride, her bags support her advocacy to support women in the country. “Part of the proceeds of the bags go to scholars and rescued women who are trying to get back on their feet,” she shares.Baldemor adds, “I'm a huge advocate for women and mother earth. Look at me, a female artist, literally carving my way into the industry by creating work that evokes the feminine spirit using traditional masculine materials like wood.”

You can hear in her voice how she's passionate about uplifting the lives of others. “I want my pieces to show strength, to give women a boost of confidence. Women supporting women is one of the things I really value, and along the way, I also encourage that we go about our businesses sustainably—which is why I also advocate for the use [of] upcycled or sustainably farmed raw materials, and why I expand my business as a whole to support other wood artisans from my area.”

For inquiries, custom orders, or to schedule a visit to her studio, e-mail or follow her on Instagram at @charming_baldemor.

Pierra Calasanz-Labrador is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer, stylist, and author of two poetry books (The Heartbreak Diaries and Dear Universe). A staunch advocate of pretty, Filipino finds, follow her local treasure hunt on Instagram.

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