Sharon Rose DADANG-RAFOLS
Sharon is an artist based in Dumaguete City in the Visayas Region of the Philippines. She actively exhibits and performs in the Visayas and in Manila. However, her art practice is sewn in the fabrics of society—in education, tradition, even livelihood, beyond aesthetics. She is a member of Amnesty International, Philippine Community Organizer’s Society, KASIBULAN (all Filipina artists’ organization), Mindanao People’s Peace Movement, among many others.
From 2006 to 2012, Sharon served as an Education Peace Officer for the Silliman University’s Justice and Peace Centre, where she is tasked to strategize policy advocacy with urban poor, farming and fishing communities; and modules for education, training and development for community empowerment.
From 2013 to 2015, Sharon was part of Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) with placement at Community Service Department, Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kampala, Uganda, East Africa. As Training and Communication Advisor, she developed training manuals with modules on Community Service, Counselling and Social Re-integration; designed training programs on Training of Trainers, Team building and Advocacy; developed communication strategy through popularising CSP in social media; among other assignments.
From 2014-2015, Sharon was the Director and Art Coordinator for Lumago Design in Valencia, Negros Oriental. It is a center for upcycling projects that caters to community women who are living in the dumpsite of Dumaguete City. Part of her task was to train Korean students to integrate and understand the plight of poor communities surrounding Dumaguete City.
The conversation below focuses on her latest endeavour, a continuation of her story–a story of constant commitment to creativity, diversity and sustainability.
What are you doing at the moment?
“At the moment, I am the designer and owner of a small business named Shaoi Arts and Crafts. This small business is inspired by the peasant women who makes extra money through weaving bags and baskets made of a local plant called “pandan”. These women live in the hinterlands of Negros Oriental particularly in the mountain sea side town of Pisong, La Libertad. For now, I am collaborating with their livelihood organization through buying and marketing their products and giving their designs a little bit of a twist to provide the taste of the local and international markets. Aside from designing in my own business, I also design and make products for other entrepreneurs in the city; I do hand-painted wood boxes for handmade soaps and oils, hand-painting of textile bags and making women beauty accessories using upcycled materials.
I am an art teacher, a visual and performing artist (my latest performance was Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler in Silliman University LUCE Theatre), a consultant for community and social enterprise development, art therapy facilitator for women survivor of rape and domestic violence, Trainer for Peace Education and Conflict Transformation and many more.”
When did you start doing that?
“After my two-year volunteer work in Uganda, I have been offered to work for Lumago Designs for a 10-month transition work, owned by a Korean school. Lumago designs made me re-establish my connections in the local communities and the local market of Dumaguete City. While with Lumago, I reorganized some women crafters from the dumpsite of Dumaguete City to continue the production of accessories made out of upcycled materials as a livelihood to augment their income. I have created a partnership program for the Korean school with the local community to serve for the exposure of my Korean students on the realities of the urban poor communities around Dumaguete City and to study some concepts on upcycling in fare trade and social entrepreneurship. During the ten months, Lumago focused in expanding its designs by consistently joining local bazaars to promote the products in the local market. During these times women were encouraged and empowered to participate in marketing and not just merely producers of the products. Women were also able to understand the challenges in the local market with regards to competition and pricing. Women were empowered to be their own trainers and to share their skills to other women who are interested to engage in the same livelihood.
During this transition period of Lumago designs, personally, my passion for designing and creating products has been enriched through the partnership with the women crafters and my passion to serve more women communities was also highlighted through finding more and more women and women’s groups participating and expressing interests in the livelihood projects I am trying to establish.
When the project ended with Lumago, I was thinking of pursuing further studies in development work but I have not found any good scholarship yet, so I was thinking of what to do next.
One day, I took the opportunity of tapping some women weavers of Pisong, La libertad and made small order of bags from them for a conference in Silliman University to lessen my husband’s worry with the preparation of their kits for the conference. During the conference, the bags made a big hit that I got more following orders.
In that occasion, I did not realize I was already making some business. Some participants were already ordering wanting to make them as presents for Christmas.
I was so motivated and inspired by the results of that event that I finally decided to register my brand name at the Department of Trade and Industry, Shaoi Arts and Crafts.”
Who are the “members” of Shaoi Arts and Crafts?
“At the moment, Shaoi Arts and Crafts is a sole proprietorship and is working with at least six women weavers from Pisong La Libertad Livelihood Organization that comprises forty-five members.
Recently I have also been engaged with the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) of Dumaguete City who are starting to build their social enterprise by creating upcycled materials to sell in the market. There are about ten members of the core group (out of thirty five members).”
How is Shaoi Arts and Crafts doing at present?
“Shaoi Arts and Crafts is a very young business. I am still promoting the branding through bazaars and trade fairs. I frequently use social media for customers outside of Dumaguete City.
At the moment, I have been offered a space at the Florentina Homes Hotel to showcase the women’s products and surprisingly, I have made regular sales and can send money as payments for the women weavers almost every weekend. Production and orders are starting to grow due to the influx of mostly Chinese tourists.
In the local market, we are consistently joining the Bazaars organized by the Department of Trade and Industry and so far we have earned more than what is expected.”
How do you envision the future for this group?
“Shaoi Arts and Crafts at the moment is a single proprietorship. Eventually if funding and or external support is available, I hope to expand this company to particularly serve the community of Pisong La Libertad and the YATTA Group and extend to other women groups in Dumaguete City who are waiting to be tapped.”
Presentation of prospective buyers Department of Trade and Industry
Design Workshop with Lumago Crafters
Social Endeavour Training for YATTA