What makes a Patis Tesoro masterpiece?
Mallgoers had the rare opportunity to see woven wonders from renowned Filipino artist and designer Patis Tesoro in "Busisi," an exhibition held recently at the Mega Fashion Hall in SM Megamall.
A joint project of SM in partnership with Finale Art File and curated by Gino Gonzales, the exhibition featured a selection of exquisite textile art and intricate tapestries characterizing Tesoro's approach to graphic art and textile design.
The Filipino word busisi translates to fastidiousness, while its adjective mabusisi means meticulous. In the arts and crafts, being mabusisi connotes attention to minute details. It also articulates a unique Filipino sensibility that permeates Tesoro's embroidered textiles and fabric collages.
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As a textile designer and prominent advocate for the promotion and conservation of indigenous and traditional Philippine fashion and textiles, Tesoro has worked with artisans in Kalibo, Aklan, where piña is still woven today, and in Lumban, Laguna to embroider piña cloth.
In the 1980s, Tesoro was at the forefront of the production of piña-seda (a textile that combines pineapple and silk threads) and piña-abaca (pineapple and abaca fibers). She also admonished the use of natural dyes and the farming of plants that produce these pigments.
After more than 30 years of an extremely demanding pace in the fashion business, Tesoro moved to the more rustic setting of Putol, Laguna. Here she cultivated an environment which reflected her philosophy of harmonious co-existence with nature.
"I don't throw away anything," Tesoro said, and this propensity for salvaging bits and pieces was evident in her assemblages from the shop's precious retazos (remnants of textiles).
Over the last four years she designed tapestries that combined printed cloth, embroidered nipis [a generic term referring to fabrics made from fine fibers of abaca, pineapple, maguey, raw silk or a combination of these in the nineteenth century, as well as hand-dyed materials — Sandra Castro]. Unsatisfied with mere patchwork, she guided her atelier in the application of various surface decoration. Beadwork and obsessive stitching introduced texture on an otherwise flat surface. They also layered new forms over the existing patterns.
In contrast to the flourishes of traditional embroidery on piña cloth, Tesoro's compositions of the diaphanous material produced vivid geometric patterns. Pieces of natural, sepia, and black colored piña were combined to create checkerboard, argyle, and bricks — all reminiscent of 20th century pattern design. There were also references to the triangular linework of indigenous ikats.
While emphasizing the graphic compositions, the needlework also imbued the works with a more personal stamp. A hand embroidered flower or fern occasionally emerged to disrupt the repetitive motif. The rogue patches certainly belonged to a bolt of embroidered piña. Was it for barong or a traje de mestiza created in Tesoro's atelier? In any case, the tiny peculiarities contributed micro histories within the larger story of a tapestry.