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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Monday, April 09, 2012

entry arrow8:23 PM | The Maker of Small Beautiful Things

Part 3 of the Dumaguete Design Upstarts Series


There are some surprises that I particularly like, especially ones that subtly unsettles because they defy common expectations and reveal the all-too-human shallowness that sometimes one harbors. Think of jewelry, for example, and what easily springs to mind is a womanly sort of luxury—glistening precious stones set in elaborate design dangling from a lady’s ear, or finger, or neck. Think of jewelry makers, and one thinks of some inspired mistress of ornaments toiling away at her magic assembly table, concocting the beautiful from small things, bead by bead, stone by stone, string by string. Never mind that some of the foremost jewelers in history—Harry Winston, Louis Cartier, Sotirios Voulgaris, etc.—are male. When I first encountered the jewelries of Ray Dy, I thought the pieces—locally produced and sourced—quite inspired. And I thought the maker a female. Such sensibility in the craftsmanship elaborated that.

My mistake. I was soon proven wrong, of course. Mr. Dy turned out to be the brother of a close friend, the scion of the family that owns Dumaguete’s premier shoe repair shop. But the guy has always been of a quiet sort, always smiling and friendly—and dare I say it again, quiet. Who knew this man was capable of something like painstakingly conjured jewelry?



But like most artists passionate about their work, jewelry-making was something Mr. Dy stumbled on. An accident, so to speak. And it began, of all places, in shop class. “I started with accessories design way back in high school,” Mr. Dy remembered. “It was in my T.H.E. class, which was Electronics. We twisted and soldered copper wires, and after doing those, I would create jewelry pieces from leftover copper wires and give them to friends and classmates.”

The response must have been quite enthusiastic, because sooner after that, he was getting orders. It was, however, the only workmanlike concession he has made of this “hobby”: “Right now, I only create jewelry pieces by order,” he said. “I seldom do mass productions. I want mine to be speak for each client.”

His jewelry, of course, speaks highly of that personal touch, but their design have also come about from careful study of what came before. Great art, after all, is always mindful of tradition—and great innovation only comes about from the subtle negotiations between honoring influence and struggling to go beyond it. Of that, Mr. Dy says that among his influences, four easily comes to mind: “First is Ciara Marasigan-Serumgard of Ciara Creates. Her technique on wire-beaded jewelry is just exquisite. There’s Tina Ocampo of Celestina. She just knows how to make people fall in love with her creations—they’re elegant and interesting, and they always make a statement. There’s [the late] Elizabeth Taylor with her love affairs with jewelry. And then there’s my favorite fashion designer, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin. He knows how to make woman look and feel glamorous. And I like his technique of manipulating different kinds of textiles.” But always, even with these inspirations, there is this strong voice that impels him to do something different. “Although I do wire-beaded jewelry, just like Ciara Marasigan-Serumgard, I always see to it that I use my own style and technique,” he said.

His process springs from a certain philosophy. “When I create pieces,” Mr. Dy said, “I always see to it that they have these elements: they should be elegant, they should be interesting, they should be one-of-a-kind, and they should be intricately done. I want my creations to be a statement or a conversational piece. I should first fall in love with what I create and then deliver it to my client, who I hope will also fall in love with the piece.”

“Most of my creations are done organically,” he revealed. “I seldom or even don’t do sketches for a jewelry piece. I just let my hands and my imagination—also the wire, the beads, and the crystals—do the work. If I do sketches, it’ll be just for setting down ideas that flash in my head. I do this so I won’t forget them.”



For Mr. Day, the creation that best describes his aesthetics is the cuff he calls Serpent 1.0: “It shows how I intricately integrate the copper wire and the different kinds of beads, like lace, to become snake cuff. Every twist of the wire and the beads evokes the passion that I put into it. When I created it, the design was inspired by Tiffany lamps. It’s like Art Nouveau stained glass, but instead I used beads, with my wire-twist techniques incorporated in it.”

All this is just the beginning as he explores more and more what he can do with jewelry. “I always do my best and try to push the limits of my design as well as my techniques every time I create jewelry pieces for my clients,” Mr. Dy said. “I also love to explore and experiment with new materials and techniques—from paper to wood. I’ve explored beadwork, macramé, and even chain mail. But ultimately, I would really love to work with real precious stones and metals in the future. That’s my dream.”


(Next: Stephen Abanto as the Nocturnal Fantasist)

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