Weaving has been an integral handicraft in Cordilleran culture, be it tapestries, baskets, or backpacks. You probably see these handwoven pieces in the market and Maharlika, but rarely do we recognize the effort that goes into them. This is what Alex Foradori wants to change.
Alex Foradori, a design student, comes from Italy. Last year, he arrived in the Philippines to backpack around the Cordilleras. On his trip, he was able to connect with the local communities in order to learn and live the Cordilleran culture. As part of his university thesis, he aims to help further market the rice-straw woven products internationally.
At the same time, it is also his mission to help spread awareness of this craft. He initiated a workshop on basic rice straw weaving here in Baguio, so that people will learn the basic techniques that go into this product. Alex Foradori also believes that when people experience this process for themselves, they will feel more connected to the culture.
Of course we couldn’t miss this chance to learn a new craft, so we joined in the workshop to make woven bracelets. At the top of our head, here are the steps to creating your own bracelet, in case you have some rice straws lying around 😉
Step 1: Seven strands of rice straw are chosen, preferrably of the same thickness and length. A rubber band is tied to one end to hold them together.
Step 2: The bundle is then soaked in water for around five minutes.
Step 3: Once the bundle has been softened by the water, the weaving process begins. The bundle is divided into two groups, four on one side, and three on the other.
The process is much like braiding. On the side with four strands, the first strand on the outer end is folded over the second strand, then tucked under the third and fourth strands, the group with three strands previously now has four strands to work with, and the process is repeated.
You must also pull the strands occasionally so that the braids are tightened into place. The process is repeated until about 3/4 of the bracelet-to-be has been woven.
Step 4: The remaining strands, still divided into two groups, are then braided individually to form two “tails.”
The tails are then fastened with plastic straw.
Step 5: A rattan strand is then used to create a two rings to fasten the ends of the bracelet in place. The ring is made with a slightly more complex method of twisting and turning (it took us a number of tries to get it almost right).
Step 6: A lock, craved out of wood is fastened onto one end of the bracelet. The two braids are also fastened to create the “holes” for the lock to hold onto.
And VOILA! The bracelet is complete! Our very own, hand-made, authentic woven bracelet.
Alex Foradori had learned this technique from Jason Domling (pictured above), who at the time, was working on a much more complex project of his own.
Everyone had a great time making their own bracelets. People also helped each other out when needed. Truly, with this workshop, people were woven together. We also found that what Alex said was true. After the workshop, we did feel a lot more connected to our culture and found a deeper appreciation for this craft and the people keeping it alive.