In the face of adversity, Ianna Engaño and Lin Bajala both experienced a significant shift in their lives when they lost their jobs. However, what could have been a devastating setback became their motivation for a new and exciting chapter.
Join Andrey, our Graphic Designer, as he dives deep into this groundbreaking studio, established by LGBTQIA+ artists, as they made the courageous decision to pursue their passion for pottery, leading to the birth of Odangputik Pottery. Read on to learn more about his insightful conversation with Lin.
How did you first discover your passion for pottery and what inspired you to start Odangputik Pottery?
"The end of an era can be the start of something new and exciting. When we both lost our jobs, we decided to go full-time and open a pottery studio. Since Ianna was born asthmatic, she chose a safer medium that wouldn’t trigger her asthma attacks. Some people have misconceptions that clay is hazardous to weak lungs, which pushes her to continue working with clay to prove that this medium is not an enemy. As for me, I can put my skills in literary arts, social entrepreneurship, and project management, where I can support the progress of pottery art in the Philippines and help low-income families through pottery livelihood programs and out-of-school youth through pottery art training."
Can you share the story behind the name "Odangputik" and its significance to your pottery brand?
"It started as a nickname way back when Ianna was still a fine arts student at UP Diliman. When she decided to continue her pottery-making practice, Odangputik became a pseudonym for her as an artist where she created artworks revolving around a slice of her life, socio-political commentaries, environmental activism, authenticity, and freedom of sexual orientation. Today, Odangputik has grown into a pottery art studio, represented by LGBTQIA+ artist-leaders. We are not merely presenting Ianna's art styles through visual presentations; we also put them into action. We go for art and beyond. The word "beyond" in our motto means breaking the walls that only enclose art inside a frame. Instead, we allow art to break free from a small box and use it to stir dialogue and bridge gaps within Filipino communities. Odangputik Pottery stays committed to its vision, which is to witness kids' dreams of becoming artists someday. The development of pottery in the Philippines is also at the heart of its mission. We come closer to our goals by traveling to different parts of the Philippines, where we introduce the relevance of pottery art and its history in the country through our workshops. A portion of our income then goes to our adopted working student-artisans and low-income communities for their career guidance and livelihood programs."
What are some challenges and rewards of working with clay as a medium, and how do you navigate those challenges in your creative process?
"For Ianna, the medium allows her to reconnect with nature since clay is a child born from the earth’s land. In pottery-making, the medium is not your master, and you are not its master either. It is teamwork between you and the clay, where you listen to its flow and allow the medium to also follow your movement. This process reminds me of the importance of humility, as the medium shows me that I won't always be in power and that I can only control what I can control. In crafting ceramic art pieces, you will not always get what you want. Sometimes, there may be unexpected outcomes; it is a trial-and-error process. Nonetheless, Ianna stay grounded by admitting that there was a mistake and taking note of that error to avoid making it again. She also tells herself that mistakes are not failures; mistakes are lessons to be learned. This is the character and culture that we emulate in our pottery art studio."
Could you share a memorable or significant project you've worked on at Odangputik and what made it special?
"Finally putting up our own art studio in Metro Manila seems like a dream for Ianna, who used to be a financially struggling student in UP Diliman, and me, an idealist who grew up in Mindanao with the desire to stop stereotyping probinsyanas. Ianna started working on a small table for her first online pottery sale during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdowns while she collaborated with me through online meetings. She lost a lot of projects back then as a freelance artist because of the pandemic, but going back to pottery-making became her answered prayer. She was astonished by how the public appreciated her art and the medium. I also left corporate life and went full-time as the pottery studio's director.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, how has your personal journey and identity influenced the ethos and values behind Odangputik pottery?
Unlike other pottery-making practices where gender can be used for discrimination, our pottery studio does not look at gender; we look at your skills and discipline if you want to take ceramic-making seriously. In addition to that, we make ourselves the living evidence that "bakla ay salot" is a hoax that needs to be buried. Our contributions to art, society, and the economy prove that there is no such thing as gay is evil.
Visibility and support for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs are vital for fostering a more inclusive business landscape. What advice do you have for other aspiring LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps and pursue their creative passions?
Whatever your dreams may be or no matter how successful you may become someday, please do not forget that not everyone has the privilege of expressing their gender identity or coming out as queer. Once you have the power to be openly gay, be an inspiration and a good representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. Being a good example does not only include being a good citizen of our country. It is also relevant to refrain from adding more injury to the discrimination that we face every day, and this starts with the elimination of internalized homophobia. Learn to accept yourself and our fellow people in the rainbow family, whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, pansexual, genderfluid, or whoever they want to be. Always look at the character of an individual and you’ll see that gender and human rights should never be narrowed down to male or female alone.
Odangputik Pottery represents resilience, creativity, and social responsibility. Ianna Engaño and Lin Bajala's unwavering determination serves as an inspiration to individuals facing adversity. Their journey reminds us that the end of one chapter can be the gateway to an even more fulfilling and purpose-driven existence. Through their art studio, they are not only reshaping their own lives but also creating a path for others to discover the transformative power of art and pursue their dreams, regardless of societal limitations. We here at Lit Digital eagerly await the impact it will have on the pottery art scene and the lives it will touch along the way.
-- Andrey, Graphic Designer at Lit Digital
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