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A gem of a jeweller

There’s a good number of  enchanting  jewellers, but there’s only one Celia Molano, a gem of a jeweller whose way with beads and jade and pearls is stunning.

Celia’s latest exhibit was held at Private View, Salcedo Auctions, in Makati, where her jewelry lived up to the show’s title, “Enchanted Ornaments.”  Celia told me it was at a social function  in Makati in 1987  where the necklace she was wearing fascinated the well-known  painter Arturo Luz. Where did you buy that, who made it, Arturo asked, and when Celia told him she didn’t buy it but she made it, the stunned artist said, “You have to put up an exhibit in my gallery!” Celia did, and the exhibit launched her  career as a jeweller – with a difference.

Her designs are a mix of beads, jade,  pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, boar’s teeth, rope and bottles, antique amulets and Kalinga mat,  ever so gingerly and expertly put together with melted and carved gold and silver. Her customers are  art collectors,  people, who, Celia says,  “are tired of conventional jewelry, those who like rare and unusual objects and bead enthusiasts.”

Celia has exhibited in cities in Indonesia, the US, Australia and Czechoslovakia, and in select museums and art shops in Manila.  It was in Jakarta in 1987 that she discovered a whole new world of beads. People who heard that a Filipino diplomat’s wife was interested in beads, brought them to her house, still tired-looking from years of being kept unappreciated in cabinets. Celia was enthralled, she knew the beads were rare, she  bought them, and produced an enchanting  collection of jewelry. The exhibit she put up was a success.  The locals were baffled that a Filipina could produce such beautiful ornaments from items gathered from caves and rivers.

As a little girl growing up in Iloilo, Celia had marvelled over her grandmother’s  bangles and necklaces.  After finishing high school, it was not jewelry designing that she took up, but  fine arts, major in painting, at Philippine Women’s University. She attended art workshops at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. She studied painting with Kumaril Swami of the School of Shanti Niketan in New Delhi; with artist Roelijati Soewarjono in Jakarta, and Oriental painting with Dr. Teruko Haga. She held three exhibits of impressionist paintings, and  one  exhibit of glass sculptures, another fascinating episode in her artistic life.

She met Jose Molano Jr. when he came back to  Manila after a UNDP posting in Africa, where he was fascinated with African masks. When they were married, he took her along on his foreign assignments, and she loved it.  She scoured  shops and market places in Sri Lanka, India, Jakarta,  Kashmir, Damascus, Peshaar, Prague, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. From her finds she  created marvels out of beads made from  quarts, onyx, agate, jasper, ruby, sapphire, and rock crystal, among others.  

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Celia’s art pieces are intertwined with global cultures. Karen Kua-Lerma, Salcedo Auctions president, writes in the studio’s catalogue: “While embodying the elements of Filipino style and tradition, the influences of Molano’s jewelry are indeed global. With various cultural influences making an impact on her work, one can see traditional salakot designs, for example, interspersed with European faience and African semi-precious stones. This deft handling of hybrid forms and her long time love affair with jewelry have for years allowed her to create pieces that are both innovative in construction and design, and timeless in their beauty. By uniting art and antiquity, Molano provides her collectors with a refreshing take on the old and the new, the East and the West – a marriage of only the best and the most beautiful in a singular work of art.”

Art writer Rita Ledesma writes in the Private View catalogue  celebrating Celia’s show thus: “(Celia) learned that for thousands of years  (India’s) materials, techniques ,and elaborate styles had in essence remained the same and that jewelry traditionally marked every stage in an Indian’s life whether in the use of necklaces, earrings, belts, bracelets, or anklets.” Completely captivated, “Celia formally studied the craft and recognized the intrinsic connection between beads and culture. She knew then that this would be her life.”

According to Rita Ledesma “The gems created by Celia Molano are unique and irreplaceable. Like timeless jewels, they are enchanted ornaments that reveal to us the extraordinary breadth of creative imagination.”

Celia, dusky and exotic-looking with an ethnic pieces around her neck and ears,  and bangles  on her wrists,   and wearing malong-type garbs, live  alternately  in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Makati with her husband Joe, who is now retired, their  daughter Candee  and son-in-law  David, and their grandson Andrew, 24, an aerospace engineer. She does the cooking, laundry and grocery-shopping.

She does not make any jewelry in Madison, but when an idea hits her, or when she is preparing for an exhibit, she sends her  designs that are faithfully executed by  well-trained and trusted  employees in her home in Makati.

“It does not take me very long to design a piece when I am inspired. I can design a new piece upon  seeing and touching the materials.”

Is there anything else she wants to do?  “I would like to visit other ancient cities I have not been to for new ideas and materials.  I always like visiting old and ancient places because of their artistic traditions as well as their artifacts which are interesting to study.” Of these places, she pointed to Damascus, Prague and South America as where her appreciation of jewelry and culture became more enhanced.  

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Wake up, personnel at Philpost’s Customs, Domestic Rd., Pasay. Prof. Emeritus Basilio Esteban Villaruz of UP-Diliman wrote me about a bad experience that’s akin to waiting for Godot.  He received  a notice dated 25 July 2013 to claim (#-15) a package at the “misnamed” Express Mail Service (EMS). “I went  the morning of August 9, got there at 1 p.m. I was issued a number, got a number for customs — check and to pay the due tax. The notice didn’t say from whom the package was.

“I walked to the customs area, where many filled all the benches since morning under a shed.  Thankfully  it wasn’t raining,  but it was hot. Some may have had no lunch like me. I waited 2 1/2 hours, and only Nos. 76-80 were called. My number was 109.

“Many of us asked, where had the customs examiners gone? It was already 3:45. Those opening packages earlier were gone. From a window we saw people issuing receipts, but where were the goods to pay for? Who was in charge of that place? Why couldn’t he/she see the extended lull and the lines outside? What  were they wearing out our patience for? But beyond  that was robbing us hours, perhaps days — to return, some from the provinces. They were really heartless.

“I gave  up claiming my package. Whoever  sent it to me, I don’t know, I won’t miss it.  Now you can believe the bad things they’re doing at the Philpost Customs.

 “I kept my EMS claim card as souvenir.”

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com


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