Starting off 2019 with a local shop feature that is so long overdue. I came across @thehandmaidph on Instagram, and was glad to found that founder and maker, Mai Fianza-Sarmiento is actually based in the same city I live in, Baguio. The Hand Maid is a strong advocate of recycling and handcrafts, making market totes out of upcycled flour sacks and macrame out of old shirt yarns among other reusables. I have yet to go and buy myself one of her planter hangers and tote bags, and hopefully get to meet Mai in person soon but in the meantime, let’s get to know more about the lady who crafts and upcycles.
What’s the story behind the shop name?
Originally, I was using my mom’s DTI business name in our FB page but when I decided to post my crafts more than my mom’s stuff, I wanted a name that will let the public know that it’s handmade and made by women. So I coined The Hand Maid that sounds like handmade, plus maid for female, not exactly a single lady, but, I hope you get it. 🙂
What inspired you to start this business?
It started as a hobby. Until now it’s more of a hobby than a straightforward business. I was inspired by crafter and creative people that I discovered online, local makers at first then more abroad. I also thought that there should be other local handmade things offered and not the usual stuff we see in the market.
How long have you been making your totes and where do you get the materials?
The tote bags, around six years already! 😄 We upcycle flour sack bags that we buy at the public market, and we just love canvas! We purchase from our local department store.
How did you learn macrame and how long have you been doing this?
Wow! Macrame. I’m self-taught and its been less than a year only. I love working with my hands and when I research, I just look at the basic steps for a few minutes and discover it on my own. Create my own patterns. I am very careful that i do not totally copy another artist’s work.
What kinds of materials do you use? Are these locally sourced?
I prefer to use cotton cords and shirt yarn that I make from scratch. For the cotton cords, I’ve seen others use colored ones but I prefer white. However, for pops of color, I’d rather dye the cords on my own for a more handmade and earth-color feel.
Do you make custom pieces? Have you made custom pieces previously, and if yes, which one is the most memorable?
Yes, I would love to customize a project as long as the client doesn’t ask me to completely copy the design. That’s a no-no. I have made some for a couple of friends. The first few ones will probably be memorable but I don’t have a most memorable one yet.
What are your top 3 favorite picks from your shop?
One would be my shirt yarn macrame wall decor, two would be my shirt yarn accessories, and three would be my customized crocheted envelope purse and net bags. That’s strictly three favorites but, I’m proud of what I make.
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
Biggest challenge so far is marketing and selling handmade products in our city most especially. Especially during bazaars, the public patronizes the “tiangge” products even if there’s too many of the same choices because they’re cheaper than handmade items. It’s a continuous process of overcoming such situation by just ignoring that fact and choose relevant fairs and supporters instead. There are people who appreciate and buy handmade, we just have to feed off their support.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that I can work with my hands and create beautiful things that some wouldn’t have thought could be made from what they consider trash.
Is there anything you dislike about it?
It needs time to create and for a full-time mom like me, I need more time.
Can you share with us the process of creating these items?
Hmmm… if there is something I’m inspired to make, I consider the most cost-efficient material that can be used but will turn out unexpectedly beautiful. I clear my space and prepare what I need. I tell my child (and my husband if he’s around) that I’m going to craft and I don’t want to be disturbed. 🙂
Where do you find inspiration?
From anywhere! Items and materials I see that look promising. Nature! Instagram creatives abroad.
What are your other interests/passion?
I like doing creative things with kids (and adults) that’s why I hold crafts workshops mostly on upcycling. I am also a freelance storyteller and I am into managing events/theater productions which I did regularly before I got married and had a child. Being outdoors is also another interest, something I share with my husband who is more of an outdoor person than me because he stays out for leisure, sports and work.
Where can we buy your products?
Complete photos are in my Instagram but I also post in Facebook. I update my list of stockists in Instagram. I join select bazaars and join fairs like the Baguio Craft Fair.
Your message to customers and friends:
Thank you so much for appreciating and supporting The Hand Maid PH and I hope to find more time to create so I can have more products to offer. Also, in the.near future, will find a more permanent space so you can visit me anytime! Support local and handmade! ❤