Turning craft into a business | Success stories from Manila

Via Pexels

Given the explosion of ecommerce, it’s only natural to think that a craft hobby might become a business.

In Manila, the arts and crafts scene has exploded.

There are tons more ecommerce sites and fairs than ever before, and serious crafters have begun to monetize them by building brands and blogs to reach an ever larger audience.

It seems like it isn’t easy, but there are a couple of great stories that I like to look at when I think about crafts business success in Manila.

1. Angel Anastasio

It’s interesting to see a business evolving, because while there are stories written after there’s been great success, it’s nice to see something that’s young and just starting.

Angel is a 26 year old entrepreneur who’s balancing several roles: MA Psychology, a day job, and her crafting business 400 Lux. She started by joining a crafts fair to sell accessories but picked up crocheting on the side. “Everything”, she says, “kind of snowballed from there.”

These days she makes anywhere from 8,000 on lean months to 19,000 on better months, but with the recent feature article on her in Cosmopolitan Philippines, that’s likely to increase.

2. Alchemista

Alchemista is a classic craft success story.

It is a jewelry line that started when the founder Georgina took silver smithing classes in Australia during her masters degree in 2003.

When she returned to the Philippines, she continued to work on it and make pieces for herself. Friends and coworkers started to notice, and she eventually put up the alchemista line to focus on her business full time.

She does wax carving and works with a team of metalsmiths to create her signature chunky bold pieces and continues to be active in the jewelry scene. She has been featured in several articles and has won the 2010 Philippine jewelers competition and placed highly in the 2013 GIA Thailand competition.

Hats off to her. Knowing what goes into creating jewelry and the difficulties of sourcing raw materials, it is such an accomplishment to see someone making it in this scene.

3. Common Room

Have you been here?

There are two shops now, one along Katipunan and another in Rockwell Makati that are filled with local crafter projects. There are cards and leather goods and small pieces of furniture. On some days, there are craft workshops in the space.

A venture by sisters Roma and Maan Agsalud, common room showcases items from the crafter community to introduce them to a wider audience. They had previous experience running a small craft kiosk in Alabang town center called PopJunkLove. They wanted a bigger location though and eventually found it in Katipunan.

The 10 years that Roma spent as the chief crafter of PopJunkLove prepared her for the challenge of launching the business. She understood the crafting community and instinctively filled a need that she saw.

It’s definitely inspiring. Who knows who might be the next big business success from a hobby?


What are your stories? Ever want to become an entrepreneur?



Why buy | Cold or Hot Process Soap 

white, bar, aroma, food, produce, natural
Via Pxhere

Buying cold or hot process soap in Manila has many benefits:

#1 It’s healthier and so much better for your skin

The ingredients in today’ soap bars are often bewildering. Liquid soaps will list parabens, preservatives, surfactants and fragrances. Triclosan is often included. Pretty much all have been shown to be bad for your skin or your health.

These chemicals are hormone disruptors and some are even known carcinogens at high doses, but often big companies get away with it because there really isn’t anyone policing or penalizing them – most enforcement is after the fact. They also often allege that low doses are safe.

But think about it – when animal studies show reproductive diseases at high doses from products that you use ever single day, maybe it is better to be safe than sorry.

Additionally, people who suffer from skin allergies have found that switching to a natural bar is so much better for thier skin. The itchiness goes away and skin allergies improve.

If your skin is sensitive, switching to natural soap bars may alleviate your symptoms.

#2 Its environmentally friendly.

Natural soaps are much more environmentally friendly than what we often buy off the shelf.

Grocery store soap is made in a factory, consuming tons of energy and ingredients that extend shelf life and make it easier to ship but that are a drain on natural resources. It doesn’t stop there. Transporting the product – often across international lines – is an energy and resource intensive endeavor.

When you buy natural soap, very little or no energy is needed. Cold process soap is formed entirely through a chemical reaction and hot process soap is formed with minimal heating. Additionally, transportation and packaging are much less.

#3 It supports the local economy

Several cold or hot process soap makers are small local businesses such as Milea Bee Farm or Ilog ni Manila. They cut and produce the soap in small batches using local labor, and the profits often go into supporting the local economy.

Its a virtuous cycle of return back into the places we care about and are close to our homes, and I just can’t see any downside in that.

#4 It is unique and beautiful

food green clean craft dessert lighting homemade freshness design soap beauty bath body hygiene toiletries
Via Pxhere

Cold process or hot process soap is beautiful and eye catching. Some of the local soap creators make eye catching bars that can’t be found anywhere else – think deep chocolate swirls and pumpkin pie bars.

When people wander into your bathroom, they’ll often be pleasantly surprised by a beautiful bar of soap that’s often a small testament to someone’s imagination.

And, no matter how tiny, why not be surrounded by beautiful things?

Get Organized | Messy closet

Clothes on Floor by BarnImages.com CC BY 2.0

After being a pack rat for most of my life, I did an abrupt 180 one summer.

My closet was overflowing with stuff and I could barely find. I had jeans I couldn’t use and shirts I didn’t wear. Great buys I ended up never using were everywhere. It was terrible finding things; I kept thinking my closet would swallow me whole.

So I ended up cleaning it out one day, and it got worse before it got better.


Well, I wanted to do everything at once, so I emptied my entire closet out and meticulously went through everything. This meant that for a few days I slept in cocoon of clothes because I was still sorting through stuff.

The clothes closet eventually led to my being more organized in other things as well, but I never forgot a few things I learned cleaning out that closet.

#1 Things are best done one at a time.

I went overboard.

I admit it.

When I cleaned out my closet, I really thought it would be easy to do and I could  figure things out quickly.

But when I went through every piece and had to make a judgement about what to keep and what to throw away, I started to realize it was going to be a long process.

Every piece had to be fitted to see if I could still fit into it. Others had to be evaluated on whether or not I was actually going to use the thing. Sometimes, I had to battle nostalgia – yes, I did buy this to commemorate graduating from college, but I have never used it and I look terrible in it.

I should have started with one part of my closet first and gone slowly, in incremental chunks – an hour here, another there, so that I got things done bit by bit and it wasn’t so overwhelming.

#2 Accept that you won’t know the answer

I hadn’t read any organizational books but the first step to organizing is making a decision – What am I going to do about this piece?

Sometimes the answer is that you don’t know and that’s okay.

Early on, I started a pile of clothes that I labeled “Decide later”. I could still keep on going while I was thinking through things, because sometimes stopping while you think of an answer means that the entire project stops (and sometimes never starts again).

After everything was finished, I went back through the clothes and tried to decide. On the second pass, I weeded out as much as I could and then put the much smaller remainder back in my closet.

It’s okay not to know what to do with things; eventually one day you will.

#3 Take note of your feelings

People can be ruthless with their stuff when they get the organizing bug.

They go through their closet and put things in a discard pile because they are so in a rush to get to the goal, that they forget that the goal doesn’t automatically mean that they get happy.

Our stuff makes us happy or brings back memories or makes us sentimental. Don’t throw something away just because you’re trying to be organized. Treat your things with care because if you throw something away once that important to you, you’ll never get it back again.

If your feelings say not to throw something away, then don’t.

As for me and my closet, things have been good.

We’ve reached an understanding. Every few years after that first massive clean, I cleaned out my closet till finally I started to clean things out bit by bit. When I tried something on that didn’t fit or was no longer my style, it automatically went to a discard pile. If repairs had to be done, I labeled them and took them to an alterations or repair shop.

It means I almost never have to dedicate time to cleaning out my closet, and since I can automatically find what I need right away, I end up pretty fast and efficient in the mornings, not to mention happy.


Silversmithing and Jewelry Stamping Classes in Manila 2017

via Flicker by Mountainmade WV Handmade Art CC BY 2.0

Jewelry making classes can range from beading and knots to creating professional wedding rings by melting gold down into bars and setting gemstones in it. Below are 4 classes that hit the whole range.

1. Pulseras ni Kim

Pulseras ni Kim offers workshops for crafters centering around jewelry stamping. It’s a quick and easy way of creating jewelry which doesn’t require a torch, which is a major stumbling block for most jewelry makers. Instead, you cut metal sheets and punch inspirational quotes onto it.

There is a monthly group session at Craft Central North Edsa and you can arrange a private session with friends (an idea I love). She also offers workshops through Craft Manila.

Cellphone: 0917-519-8125
Email: pulserasbykim@gmail.com

2. Gemlab

Gemlab is a jewelry school in San Juan that was established in 1986, and continues to offer classes today. They have classes on jewelry manufacture, appraisal, design and plating for which a certificate is offered afterwards.

Their Jewelry Manufacture course is 66 hours every other day for 3 hours a day. The class size is 4 to 8 and starts from basics.

It’s pretty expensive at 100,000 for the class but it is the most professional of the classes that I have seen and they offer a more rounded curriculum, with an introduction to the equipment required and alloy composition. Projects are the basic ring, bangle, pendant, solitaire ring, dangling earrings, creolla earrings, and then a jewelry set. For the hours it offers, it is pretty packed.

To put what I wrote into perspective, a jewelry manufacture class abroad is often for at least a year (GIA in San Diego or artisan craft jewelry in Florence) and some of the more advanced projects can take 66 hours. My last 4 projects each took 2 or three weeks or about 60 hours each. Earlier projects weren’t so bad at maybe 10 to 15 hours.

The projects that they put together for the curriculum cover the essentials, but I think for gem setting it would take quite a bit more time. There is also no time for engraving or casting, both of which can really enhance the overall look of the piece.

Still, if I were doing it all over again, maybe I’d start here, in the absence of cheaper alternatives.

Also, they are pretty easy to talk to, and do respond to emails. A big plus for working people is that they do have saturday classes so they do pick up the phone on the weekends.

2. Tesda

It’s long been rumored that TESDA has a jewelry manufacture course. I see traces of it online and even my jewelry equipment supplier mentioned that an instructor of theirs comes by every so often.

However, as with many rumors, I haven’t been able to find the Jewelry II course in the TESDA Women’s Center website. Their contact information is below. I suggest calling, because when I sent them an email I never got a response.

What I’d love to do though is to see if I could get one of their instructors to offer private classes. I love the flexibility of that.

Phone: 887-7777 or 817-4076 to 82 local 278
Email: tesdawomen@gmail.com

3. Soul Flower

I’ve written about Soul Flower before here. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go because it was quite far and they didn’t offer stone setting. Still, I think for metal smithing hobbyists, they are the most reasonable and simplest class to start with.

I do love her idea of making your own wedding bands, which I think is such a personal, wonderful thing.

Metal Stamped Jewelry Resource Website in Manila: Haponesang Sunog

via Flicker by Edingburgh City of Print  CC BY 2.0


Haponesang Sunog or losely translated as the Sunburned Japanese Girl is a cute, generous, informative site.

This website has great information.

I was sucked into it when I was browsing Manila jewelry craft sites and one click led to another. It talks bout how to make circle blanks and rectangular blanks or where to buy them if you don’t want to make. It talks about metal stamp suppliers and her preparation for the metal stamping workshops that she was offering.

What I found interesting were a few pointers:

  1. The mention of a bracelet bending bar. A bracelet mandrel is used in metal forming which I’ve actually never used but which my teacher mentioned a long time ago.
  2. The advice to use a 16 oz or 1 pound hammer as lighter hammers wouldn’t impress on the metal as well.
  3. The recommendation to use 18, 20 or 24 gauge for aluminum and thicker for brass.
  4. The list of metal blank suppliers is also pretty, if you aren’t into making your own.
  5. The use of a paper cutter for rectangular blanks. I wouldn’t have thought it could take metal, so I’m surprised that such a low cost and easy hack works.

Some of this information is new to me while some of it are things that I practice myself. I’d add CKK Tools and Supplies as another really good supplier for jewelery makers because they have some serious stuff – roller mills, fantastic files, and drills. They’re expensive but they are the only carriers of jewelry supplies that I know. There may be others in Bulacan but I’ve never been so I can’t say.

In addition, the information is organized well and the writing is clear, which makes it a joy to read. I even stopped by her Etsy store, which I have not done for other sites.

In any case, it’s good to see another good resource for craft jewelry makers in Manila, and it’s nice to see information being shared.


4 Soap Making Classes in Manila 2017

via Pixabay


Making soap is easy and surprisingly fun.

There are tons of online guides and great books on it, and when I started I read tons of stuff to make sure that I was doing it right and to counter check with other sources since I noticed some inconsistencies. In fact, my own comprehensive guide on soap making developed from my notes.

Still, sometimes it is pretty comforting to have someone sit down with you and go through it step by step. People get especially nervous around lye and have several concerns handling it for the first time.

There are classes everywhere for aspiring cold process soap makers, no matter where you are based in Metro Manila.


Craft Manila is located in the Pamana Building on Pasong Tamo in Makati. They’ve tons of classes, which run the gamut from book binding to jewelry making.

Their soapmaking class is taught by the proprietor of Simoy ng Harana, an online shop of scents that have been featured on Real Living (the best interior design website in the Philippines), and is Php 5,500 with a maximum of 8 participants.

While the most expensive of the classes I’ve found, it’s got a great track record and is centrally located, so you pay for convenience and expertise. They’ve partnered with Rockwell Malls and other well known companies to teach workshops on just about anything so these guys are pretty legit.

I find them really responsive on email while usually other businesses are more comfortable on cell or private messaging.

Email: hello@craftmnl.com.

Quezon City

Negoskwela has a plethora of courses for people who want to turn their crafts into a hobby, and I wish they were located somewhere easier to get to. People who are crafty who’d love to develop their talents but have got work might have a hard time getting here.

They’re located in CMLI Bldg. North Ave. Cor Agham Rd Diliman Quezon City and their day long soap making course is Php 2,800. I like their thrust of empowering people through entrepreneurship.

Email: info@negoskwela.ph
Landline: 924-5111 and 208-7211 to 13
Sun: 09253685306| 09253685307 | 09253685308
Smart: 09088124223
Globe: 09175118019 | 09175117925


We’re getting further and further afield here. The Organic Artisan Lab runs Manila Soap Making, Cosmetic and Body Care Workshop on Facebook and are one of the most active presences on the web.

Their soaps look absolutely delicious, and they’re at 04 Asogue St, Tugatog, Malabon City. Their website and video tutorials are on the web, if you’d like to check them out. 

Email: theorganicartisanlab@gmail.com
Sun: 0922-814-1867


Soap Central is also pretty active on Facebook, and is at the LaRychean Building at 176 Tunasan Road in Muntinlupa. If you’re from the South, this is the prefect place to start. I think they are a great resource, and they are open every day till 6pm.

If you are thinking about taking the class in 2018, they’ve got you covered: they’ve already released the schedule for the year. They have classes on formulations for Php 2,500 and hands on cold process soap making for Php 4,500. they’ve got a free soap mold for those that sign up a month early, so sign up early! 🙂

Landline: 519-6974
Sun: 0932-880-5668
Smart: 0999-882-9080
Globe: 0917-519-9830

Jewelry Studio Rental in Manila

Turquoise and silver rings by Mauro Cateb CC BY-SA 3.0


There were no silver smithing studios or classes in Metro Manila when I first started looking in 2014.

So I’m grateful – really I am – that when I started looking again, I actually found a silver smithing class in Metro Manila.

There is now one option for us desperate, passionate silversmiths instead of none, although of course the hours long drive to get to Soul Flower’s does kind of drive you nuts by the time you get there.

The only metal working class in Metro Manila is tucked into a 18 square meter room on Malingap Street in Diliman’s Teacher’s Village and is run by Soul Flower, a partnership between 2 friends.

They offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for silversmithing as well as other craft classes.

I’m excited.

I’ve trained as a metalsmith for a year aborad, and I do so love the work. I haven’t had a chance to get back to it since I’ve been preoccupied with other things, and have only lately started picking it up.

Will let you know how it goes.



Studio 925

Unit 2h, No. 22 Malingap Street, Teacher’s Village, Diliman, Quezon City

Hours: Mon – Sun / 11AM – 6PM

Email: hello@studio925.ph

Landline: +63 977 805 28 06