The art of catching dreams

Q&A with Damgo’s Karla Quimsing

By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor

 

TWO weeks before her 30th birthday, Karla Quimsing decided she wanted to make and give away dream catchers to those who laced themselves into a part of her life, and who, in their own ways, “have taught her dreams and dreaming.”

TWIGS AND THREADS. Web-like patterns are woven inside circular twig hoops, then adorned with feathers and beads to make dream catchers, such as these crafted by Cebu-based artist and poet Karla Quimsing of Damgo. (CONTRIBUTED FOTO)
TWIGS AND THREADS. Web-like patterns are woven inside circular twig hoops, then adorned with feathers and beads to make dream catchers, such as these crafted by Cebu-based artist and poet Karla Quimsing of Damgo. (CONTRIBUTED FOTO)

Tapping into the crocheting skills she got from her mama, and gathering some yarn and frames, she ended up making a batch of 30 — which she all finished in the nick of time, right on the eve of her birthday, hardly knowing back then that it would one day bear a venture.

In December of 2014, a good two years later, Karla alongside her good friends Marliza Belgira and Govinda Trazo founded Damgo. Together they create made-to-order dream catchers out of different materials and in different styles, yet all remaining faithful to its Native American origins — a mishmash of mysticism and creativity.

Karla reveals the full story behind the craft.

A CREATIVE MOMENT. At a time when she couldn’t write poems, Karla Quimsing decided to make dream catchers instead.
A CREATIVE MOMENT. At a time when she couldn’t write poems, Karla Quimsing decided to make dream catchers instead.

Why dream catchers?

No particular reason, really. It was a eureka moment. What pushed me to make dream catchers is poetry. When I couldn’t write poems, I made dream catchers.

Have you always been into crafts-making? Where did you learn how to crochet?

I learned to crochet from my Mama who also learned to crochet from her Nanay. My Mama used to make me and my sister crocheted dresses and my Lola made curtains, bed sheets, and tablecloths. I inherited from them my skilled hands.

When was Damgo started?

Damgo was founded December 2014, just last year, yet I’d been making my appropriation of this marvelous Native American art form since September 2012. There’s three of us founders: Marliza Belgira, Govinda Trazo and me. Marliza, whom we fondly call Mommy Diday is my kids’ sub-mother and Damgo’s key artisan. Govinda is the artist behind the branding of Damgo.

SPIRITED WORKS. Damgo’s dream catchers come in various designs. Whether earth-toned or awash with color, these artworks are meaningful expressions of the creative spirit. (CONTRIBUTED FOTO)
SPIRITED WORKS. Damgo’s dream catchers come in various designs. Whether earth-toned or awash with color, these artworks are meaningful expressions of the creative spirit. (CONTRIBUTED FOTO)

Which Damgo collections are most meaningful for you?

The most meaningful ones are the ones that I did for personal reasons, but what I want to mention here are the collections that brought about meaningful partnerships.

The first was the tribute to Tacloban a year after Yolanda. This collection was displayed and sold in my poet friend’s bookstore called Bookstorm, located in the heart of the Tacloban City. We named the collection Dreamstorm, as a pursuit to replace the dreams the typhoon swept away.

Second was our collaboration with Anthill Fabric Gallery. We were given the delightful chance to use traditional hand-woven fabrics to make dream catchers. Each piece was an interpretation of my poems.

Most recently was the partnership with DMC Philippines. They asked us to join them spread the love for crafting through their Dare Your Mind to Create campaign. I named the collection Women Voices, after the personas in the poem that represent each dream catcher design.

What fuels your creativity when making dream catchers?

Our dream catchers are made-to-order. We don’t display them in stores, except for Bookstorm in Tacloban, and I guess for now, we like to keep it that way. Talking and collaborating with our clients is what we look forward to. We intend the dream catchers to be personalized. In other words, we want to make for you, not just sell. Although what we make is only an appropriation of the Native American craft, we stay true to its symbolism. We will never make necklaces, or earrings, or headbands, because that sort of desecrates the essence of the craft.

Is there someone who helps you in making it?

For now the main makers are Diday, my Mama, my daughter Isla and me. Mama taught us a lot of crochet patterns for the centerpiece, and Isla was the one who designed our signature color-stained twigs.

How long does it take to finish a piece?

It takes at least five days for us to finish a piece. The twig frame alone takes three days to dry and stiffen. Our materials are indigenous and biodegradable.

What are some of the workshops and fairs that Damgo has participated in?
Since we just started the brand last December, we’ve only participated in one fair, which is the DMC Hancrafted Fair in Makati. The first workshop we did was held at that three-day craft fair. We met crafters and dreamers of all ages: there was the 75-year-old charming woman who quit in less than 15 minutes because she was actually suffering from arthritis, there was one great BF who got dragged into joining the workshop because the GF was collecting dream catchers, there was the mother-daughter tandem who told me at the end of the workshop that they were Indonesians.

Here in Cebu, we’ve done a demo workshop with the mighty girls of St. Theresa’s College, particularly, the students of Mdm. Ruby Anne Asumbrado.

Do you also make, even just occasionally, other handmade crafts?

In your opinion, what does a dream catcher symbolize or represent?
The Native Americans consider it as an amulet, a sort of protection to perish bad dreams or energies. They hung it on their teepees and babies’ cradles. The traditional dream catcher’s symbolism is similar to that of the tiny anting-anting pouch of roots, stones, twigs and whatnots that the Aetas attach to their babies’ clothing. It’s similar to the blood the Israelites put on their doorposts during Passover.

No claims of my dream catchers being such, but I wish that my appropriation of the art form will extend the creative spirit and serenity I found when I started making dream catchers.

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