Here’s something that I’m pretty sure we’re all missing already: art markets. One of the last times I hung out with my friends was on Komiket 2020. Having a couple of komikerx and zinester friends, I hated being unable to go to these conventions and missing the chance to support local artists. I miss the navigating between tiny stalls and the will-I-won’t-I-buy-it moments when I see something I really want while knowing fully well that I’ve gone over my budget…again.
Without physical markets, artists have resorted to selling their goods online. We had a chat with Davao-based artist Amber Trizia Seras about navigating artist woes during the pandemic, supporting advocacies through art and what made her decide to set up shop.
Hi, Amber! First off, how have you and amberclopedia.ph been doing under quarantine?
Hi! Although my shop isn’t thriving as much as I would like to, it’s only fair that it isn’t doing as well during the four to five months of quarantine. I’m not as busy as I was at the start of the year but thankfully though, my family and I are all healthy and safe. I would say I’m doing good.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to open your shop?
I grew up in a very artistic family and a nurturing environment. My parents are very supportive so I was able to hone different talents such as creating art. We’re not wealthy but they both like to make sure that my two sisters and I get to live comfortably. Around late 2018, my younger sister Cello fell ill and wasn’t able to attend classes for a while. At age 13, she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an incurable autoimmune disease. We almost spent Christmas in the hospital, but fortunately, Cello got a bit better by then.
Our parents never liked telling us their issues or showing us bills, but I unintentionally eavesdropped from time to time. However, we all knew they were struggling financially when Cello needed regular medication, chemotherapy and frequent check-ups.
When I turned 17 in January 2019, I started thinking of ways to make money to help pay the bills. Around that month, I made personalized stickers of one of my friends for her birthday. Others kept asking me to make one for them too. And this is when my good friend Nolene told me, “You can make money off of that.” I laughed it off and told her I wasn’t good enough yet. But four months later, I opened Amberclopedia.ph.
Can you explain what Lupus is to our readers who are unfamiliar with it?
Lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that mainly attacks the person’s immune system. It mimics several illnesses, which is why it was pretty difficult to diagnose my sister at first. Thankfully, one of her doctors pointed out the red rashes on her face and we were able to find out about it.
Cello can’t be exposed to the sun. She needs to wear a jacket and a mask and bring an umbrella when going out. On top of that, she is extremely susceptible to a lot of sicknesses. However, if she gets a cold, she can’t take medicine for it since she already has multiple medications for her SLE.
How is your sister? There have been accounts from a number of people who are finding it difficult to receive medication and medical services during this time.
Thankfully, she’s doing well. However, my parents had a difficult time looking for this one medication because it was thought to be a treatment for COVID-19. Turns out, it didn’t have any effect on the patients.
Aside from that, my sister is used to having several check-ups. If I remember correctly, my mother was so worried about her catching a disease that she only made Cello go out twice since the lockdown. My parents are even more worried now even though they were already super cautious before the pandemic.
I also saw how you have sticker packs whose proceeds go to non-profit organizations such as CURE Philippines. It’s quite inspiring.
Yes! I made that charity sticker pack to give thanks for a year of constant support from people wanting to help Cello. I took it as an opportunity to do something meaningful rather than just host a giveaway that would only benefit one or three people.
To be honest, I’m not at a point where my business can independently support my family of five. But giving back to the community by releasing a sticker pack is already something I can be proud of. Davao City-based CURE Philippines helps provide pediatric orthopedic surgical care to children with treatable conditions like clubfoot and spinal deformities. After two months of collecting funds for them, I’m still looking for an organization to donate to next.
Your online shop offers a selection of sticker packs, posters, totes, wallets and you even paint on clothes. Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? Do you have favorites among them?
Honestly, I don’t have just one inspiration for all of my artworks, but for sure, I love looking at the most mundane and simple things in life and then make art from that. An example is how my stickers aren’t really your basic sticker designs. They’re reflections of what a normal Filipino would do on the daily.
I tend to make my designs funny or at least amusing enough to make a customer smile. My favorites are definitely the Bisaya sticker packs. Aside from them being some of my bestsellers, they’re all super unique and I really took my time designing them. Even non-Bisaya Filipinos seem to think they’re funny too.
I saw a post on Twitter about how some artists were feeling a bit discouraged to sell their art because of everything going on. What is your advice for artists who feel that way?
I think quarantine really affected a lot of artists since art is already difficult to make money from even before this all went down. But my advice is to keep fighting and creating art you’re passionate about. Nothing should stop a creative mind.
Creative industries were among the hardest hit during the pandemic and a lot of artists have contributed protest art to a number of political campaigns. What do you think the past few months revealed about the local art community?
It’s really inspiring how we’ve come a long way in expressing ourselves. Artists of all ages coming together to make art while fighting for something is somehow art in itself. I’ve seen several artworks on Instagram shedding light on several issues recently and I would hope it gives courage for other people to speak out on these matters as much as I was empowered as a young Filipino artist.
In my opinion, I think it’s only really the beginning of young creatives being so expressive about political and social matters. To me, this only proves that art is really so much more than just an illustration.
I saw that you also do collabs with local businesses. What’s your advice for artists who also want to receive that type of commission?
Yes! I do have several collaborations and commissions from local businesses within and outside Davao City. My only advice for artists that want to do this type of work is to have faith in your art as a product. I assure you, someone or even a business will eventually see that same drive and passion in your art.
Also, be prepared to take criticisms and comments. Even if you honestly believe your art is already good, unfortunately, not everyone thinks the same. As an artist, you should really be open to other people’s ideas and comments and improve yourself from there.
Where can our readers buy your work and how can they commission you?
My stickers and posters are available on my amberclopedia.ph Instagram and Shopee online stores. They can commission me to draw personal pictures and print them into stickers or draw a digital portrait of them and print it out as an A3 poster.
Businesses can also reach out to me there for collaborations—from making original stickers, drawing promotional illustrations, designing logos, and even designing a creative Instagram filter.
What can we look forward to from amberclopedia.ph?
I am always coming up with different original designs and so you can always look forward to that. I am also currently mastering a new art style for my commissions so stay tuned!
I have been saving up to invest in making pins with my artworks on them so that might come out this year too. We’ll see.
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