25 Creatives to Watch

The artistic pioneers and visionaries creating a buzz in the design industry.


Drumroll please -- here is RL's first-ever roundup of individuals and groups who are currently making their mark in arts, crafts, architecture, interior, product and graphic design. 

Sittings Editor: Sunshine Selga Funa. Photography by Cyrus Panganiban. Interviews by Katherine Lopez, Dagny Madamba, Paula de Guzman, Tala Singson, and TJ Zialcita.

Read the original article (“25 Creatives to Watch”) in the July 2014 issue of Real Living Magazine. To download a digital copy of Real Living Magazine, visit Summit Newsstand at

Azel Gorne, Isa Afable, and Io Regalado Vgrafiks Design + Branding

The Vgrafiks team has definitely come a long way since landing its first client: Unilever. Since then, the team has expanded from two to 12 members, and is looking for more creative individuals to join in. Accounts manager and designer Azel says that their future plans include coming up with workshops and putting up a school.
Willie Garcia Interior Designer, co-founder of Junk Not!

Nothing goes to waste with Willie’s green design practices. Aside from employing sustainable measures in her projects, Willie and Junk Not! Eco-Creatives Initiatives co-founder Fiona Ting recycles paper and foil packs and turns them into bags and accessories.
Yas Doctor, Angela Taguiang, Iori Espiritu, Fran Alvarez, and Pergy Acuña Artists and crafters, Speculiars

The best ventures in life are indeed found when a person is doing something she loves. This is evident in Speculiars, a group of five bespectacled girls who met at (INK), an association of artists centered on creating illustrations for children. “We were all members and we were all into crafts,” says Pergy. They then formed the group and joined bazaars, where they sell their handmade masterpieces.
Zyrael Fortes, Don Dalmacio, and Gabriel Villegas Artists
98B COLLABoratory

One of the group’s most remarkable efforts is the revival of Escolta through a monthly bazaar called Escolta Market. It features handmade and vintage items that are locally produced. “Aside from the market, gumagawa kami ng Escape Project, which is an alternative venue for artists to present their work outside the gallery and commercial spaces,” relates Gabriel.
Andrei Salud and Sheina Tobias Screen-printing artists, Hocus
[email protected]

The art of screen-printing is alive and kicking with Hocus. This duo have known each other when they were still studying graphic design at the Mapua Institute of Technology in Makati. “I started with stenciling, pero may mga details na hindi na makukuha sa stencil,” says Andrei on how he and Sheina decided to do screen-printing. Their produce prints on fabric, pieces of wood, and paper to make postcards and posters. Aside from screen-printing, Hocus also collects “old stuff” and restores old bicycles.
Arlene Sy Illustrator

Arlene has loved drawing ever since she was a kid, and painting is also one of her hobbies. “I always just dabbled in different kinds of creative work, until I decided it was time to pursue art more seriously. About four years ago, I saw how artists everywhere were sharing what they did with the world, thanks to blogging and the Internet. I decided this was a good time to return to my first love,” she says. Watercolor is her favorite medium, which suits her “feminine and ethereal” style.
Catherine Reyes Architect, co-founder of KATHA Magazine

Cachi founded bi-monthly online magazine KATHA in 2013 together with four of her friends who are also architects. KATHA (a Filipino word that means “creation”) features works by different artists and designers, as well as up-cycled DIY projects, which, for Cachi, is the best part in working for the online magazine.
Celina De Guzman Artist

Celina or Celdee admits that her parents originally wanted her to take up nursing in college. She was also considering interior design and culinary arts, but having passed the talent test at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Fine Arts prompted her to focus on art. She uses lead, ink, and wash as media, drawing on paper first and then coloring them digitally.
Charisse Reyes Industrial Designer
[email protected]

Barely 22 and already making a name for herself, industrial designer Charisse Reyes comes armed with the tools of her trade. Charz works as the graphic and furniture designer of Space Encounters (hyperlink:, and isn’t fazed by the challenges she encounters. “There’s a first time for everything na makikita mong totoong furniture and I’m really excited for that,” she says.
Dan Matutina, Berns De Leon, Joanna Malinis, and Raxenne Maniquiz Artists, Plus63 Design Co.

Plus63 Design Co aims to push the design community forward, with focus on branding. “Mas malaki yung nai-input ng design studio ‘pag branding,” the group says. Future plans include working on mission-driven projects and conduct talks and workshops to share more information on Filipino design.
Ebony Paguia Crafter, Hands Love Papers

Paper crafter Ebony Paguia impressively whips up delicate and dreamy paper cutouts. She took up photography at the College of Saint Benilde and interior design at the University of Santo Tomas. Ebony started with the craft in 2013. “I wanted to do it for a long time and when I tried it, I knew there was something to it that appealed to me. Maybe because, it was very challenging,” she says.
Isabel Villar and Mark San Diego Entrepreneur and furniture designer, Edition Lifestyle

Isabel and Mark’s home store, Edition Lifestyle, offers furniture and décor that boasts artistic flair, good quality, and reasonable price. Mark, a furniture designer, says his design style is edgy, and is now experimenting with metal as material for his pieces. Isabel says, “We want to change the concept of metal as something cold.” Isabel adds, “It also fits his style. You can do a lot of edgy designs with metal.”
John Vigilia Interior Designer

A versatile designer, John caters to a wide range of clients—he can work on a cozy family home, or an upscale condo unit at a prime location. He had worked for the prestigious Budji Layug + Royal Pineda design firm for six years, and his projects had also been featured in Real Living and Elle Decoration Philippines. At present, John is very much excited about an ancestral house in Tacloban that he’s tasked to renovate.
Kimi Manuel Interior Designer
[email protected]

Slowly establishing her reputation, young designer Kimi Manuel admitted that Interior Design “was definitely out of my comfort zone”. But she still pursued her degree in the University of the Philippines-Diliman and worked under one of Real Living’s go-to designers, Kristine Neri of Abode and Co. She recalls designing Calea, a household name bakeshop in Bacolod, as her “happy project, happy client” during her stay with Kristine, and considers it as one of her favorites.
Kris Abrigo Artist
[email protected]

This freelance artist has produced a substantial body of work and has collaborated with different artists and home stores like Urban Abode ( and Heima (

He is also part of Thursday Room ( together with fellow artists from the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Mary Velmonte Artist, Takatak Project

Mary’s fascination with a papier mache toy horse led her to Paete, Laguna, where a realization dawned on her. “If this craft dies, ito na ang dapit-hapon n’ya!” She then founded Takatak Project together with her friends to resuscitate this dying craft, and now, Takatak Project is known for its colorful papier mache figurines.
Mikko Sumulong Craftpreneur, I Try DIY

“My mom taught me how to make stuff,” says Mikko who grew up surrounded by relatives who are into DIY projects. In 2011, when she moved back to the Philippines from the States, she worked as a human resources staff for a while, before deciding to pursue what she really loves. She then founded I Try DIY, and, together with a team, she conducts various DIY workshops—from sewing to pressing flowers, among others.
Niccolo Jose Sculptor and furniture designer, Studio 10.10

One of the challenges that Niccolo encountered when he was starting out as a furniture designer and sculptor was finding recycled wood for his pieces. He would use 100- to 300-year old wood from rundown houses, and he even went to the University of the Philippines Los Banos to learn more about tropical wood. Human anatomy plays a big role in his works, as he studies his clients posture and pressure points on the back whenever he designs pieces for them. Together with his team of in-house architects and artisans, he is designing interiors and furniture for the Green Canyon resort-hotel in Clark Pampanga that is set to open in September.
13 Lucky Monkey Artists

13 Lucky Monkey is a duo composed of sculptor Noli Coronado and art director Dante Dizon (not in photo). The duo makes metal rings, with the skull as its staple element. “Ipinanganak ako para maging sculptor,” says Noli, who was a toy sculptor before 13 Lucky Monkey was born. He also trains two apprentices in their studio in Makati. “Gusto rin naming makatulong sa iba,” adds Noli.
Liza Morales Crespo Architect, Ecotecture

After working in New York for more than a decade, this LEED ( -certified architect returned to the Philippines and started her own firm Ecotecture, where she continues to apply eco-friendly measures that have always been central in her architectural practice.
Robert Crespo Entrepreneur, Philippine GeoGreen

Robert’s Philippine GeoGreen offers sustainable products for industrial, commercial, and residential spaces. These products include the Solatube (, which uses natural light from the sun to illuminate interiors. Apparently, the Crespo couple not only share one roof, but also the same passion in caring for the environment.

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