Eco Choices Craft Workshop: Water Hyacinth Frames

Always share your story. Keep it short, simple, and make sure that it’s attached in all of your products. Don’t forget to include your contact information, of course.

I kept hearing that reminder in almost every workshop I attended. I wrote and revised the story of Eco Choices in the hopes that with a few words, people will understand what the battle cry of our social enterprise is. We’re a small business based in Cotabato City, we have a soft spot for social work, and the only reason why we started with this business is because we wanted to help provide solutions for the increasing water hyacinth problem in our part of the country.  The beginnings may be simple, but our dreams are big that’s why we’re always excited to tell people about our business and share what we know about water hyacinth crafts.

It was one of those dry and humid nights last April when I received a text message from Ian Magallona, a student from the Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He asked about Eco Choices and invited us to share what we know about making water hyacinth frames. I cringed at the thought of facing college students and teaching (introvert alert!) but I decided to give it a go since it’s an opportunity to let more people know about our business and it would be nice to teach a craft workshop again. After a few more exchange of emails, I found myself in a bus on the way to General Santos City.

I met with Ian and his group mates the night before the workshop to give them a crash course on water hyacinth frame making. Some steps were tricky, but they managed to pull it off and finish the frames just a few hours before midnight. They also gave me an orientation on what to expect during the workshop, plus a short list of topics that I should discuss during the session.

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Showing the students how to measure the chipboard.

The next day, we went to Grab-A Crab for the workshop. There were approximately 60 students in the function room, all ready to learn how to make water hyacinth frames. I began the session by telling them about my story, and why I’m into handmade products. I then told them about the humble beginnings of Eco Choices and then showed them the different products that we have. After a few more minutes, it was time to teach them how to make the water hyacinth frames.

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I walked around the room to assist those who struggled with the materials. I kept telling them that it’s okay if the output isn’t perfect since that’s not what the goal is. They were there to learn how to make water hyacinth frames and everyone did exactly that. As a facilitator, I stopped myself from imposing what the output should be, since each person’s creative process and interpretation is different. By the end of the session, I was surprised to see that some of them made 3d art on their water hyacinth frames. I also noticed that some of the students decided to save the paper because according to them, the texture is nice and they want to use it for something else.

It was a joy to watch the students go home with their water hyacinth frames. Some didn’t finish on time, but they still brought the materials home because they’re determined to finish and use the water hyacinth frames. It was a joy teaching them and learning from them.

IMG_1605To the 2nd year Business Management students of MSU-GSC, thank you so much for having me. Until next time! 🙂

Eco Choices: Water Hyacinth Keychain

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Water Hyacinth Keychain | Canon 550D

This is one of the mini projects I’ve been working on for weeks. We’ve received a lot of requests to produce water hyacinth keychains but since we were very busy, I never had the time to sit down and work on design concepts and prototypes. Finally, after a lot of edits, we can finally launch these handcrafted Water Hyacinth Keychains.

Made with water hyacinth paper, brass plated metal, and semi-precious stones. You can use these to accessorize your bags and wallets. It can also be an instant necklace once you add a chain.

Each piece is unique. No two pieces are the same. Available at Eco Choices

Flow

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The Accidental Glass Coaster | Canon 550D

You never know what to expect when you’re working with resin. Even if you strictly follow the instructions, sometimes external factors affect your output. Case in point: floral bangles. I tried to work with dried flowers and turn them into bangles, but I ended up with a bigger, and much more colorful coaster from my Alma Mater.

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Doubtful | Canon 550D

Marley is definitely not impressed with the output. Well, so was I but it was so hard to pop out the coaster. I think I spent the whole morning using up most of my upper body strength but to no avail.

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Anticipation | Canon 550D

Of course when things don’t work out, it’s best to proceed to the next task so off I went to the next item on my to-do list: production for Eco Choices. After hours in the work shop, I managed to finish a new set of accessories! I’ll post it tomorrow so stay tuned!

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Downward Dog | Canon 550D

When I finished production, I went outside to shoot. That’s Mordred, our Aspin, trying not to fall asleep during yoga.

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Bloom Forever | Canon 550D 

In case you want to know what happened to the coaster, ta-da! 🙂

Dreamcatchers

I had my first dreamcatcher in 2004. I bought it as a souvenir from a thrift shop in Boracay. I was intrigued when the shop owner said that if I hang it near my bed, I won’t have bad dreams. True enough, all my dreams since then were happy and peaceful. I then started collecting. When I started studying in the University of the Philippines, Baguio, I was given access to even more dreamcatchers since these were sold along Session Road. I had dreamcatchers of different colors, shapes, and sizes and I brought them with me everywhere I went. I made sure all of them hung near my bed. As my collection grew, I had to put some of them in other locations like the door, the window, my cabinet, etc. It was always easy to identify where my room was – just follow the dreamcatchers.

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Heirs Inspired Dreamcatcher

As years went on, I noticed that I’ve been spending most of my money on dreamcatchers. This isn’t really a problem but when you’re trying to save for something more expensive like strobe lights, flash, or  a new macbook, you begin to think about the money you splurged on something else. It was then that  I decided to start making dreamcatchers. I researched and looked for tutorials online but to no avail. Turns out my mom knew how to make them and she taught me.

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Personalized Dreamcatcher
Personalized metal accent. :)
Personalized metal accent. 🙂

I didn’t stop making dreamcatchers ever since. I explored designs, concepts, techniques, and incorporated them with some of the dreamcatchers I made. I also did some research and the more I read, the more appreciation I had for the dreamcatchers. According to an article, these dreamcatchers originated from the Ojibwe people who used to call it a “dream snare”. The Ojibwe people used willow hoops, sinew thread, and decorated the dream snare with sacred items like beads and feathers.

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Aliya Collection
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Aliya Collection

For the Ojibwe people, the legend of the dreamcatcher comes from Asibikaashi (Spider Woman). She took good care of the children and people on the land. When the Ojibwe Nation spread all over the world, it became very difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all of the children. Because of this, the mothers and the grandmothers weaved dreamcatchers- webs of magic using  willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants for the children. It was believed that the dreamcatchers filtered out all of the bad dreams and allowed only the good dreams. These dreamcatchers served as protective charms and were hung on the hoop of a cradle board and it was said that “they caught any harm that might be in the air as a spider’s web catches and holds whatever comes in contact with it” (Frances Densmore, Chippewa Customs).

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

According to another article, the Ojibwe people believe that dreamcatchers can change a person’s dream. Good dreams pass through the hole and slide down the feathers to the sleeping person underneath. The bad dreams, on the other hand, get caught in the net and disappear with the light of day.

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The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The Lakota people from the Great Plains of North America have a different story about the dreamcatcher. When the world was still very peaceful, an old Lakota spiritual leader had a vision while staying on a high mountain. In that vision the great searcher of wisdom, Iktomi, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him about the cycle of life – how we begin our lives as infants and then move on through childhood and adulthood. Then we move further into old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle. All these Iktomi said while spinning a web on a willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads, and offerings on it. However, according to Iktomi, life has many forces both good and bad. The good forces, if you listen to them, will steer you in the right direction while the bad forces will steer you in the wrong direction. Whatever decision is made through these forces can either help or interfere with the harmony of Nature. When Iktomi was finished, he gave the web to the spiritual leader. It was a perfect circle with a hole in the center. The web can be used to help people reach their goals, while making use of their dreams, ideas, and visions. The spiritual leader passed on this vision to the people. The good dreams pass through the hole while the evil in their dreams are captured in the web. The Lakota people believe that the dreamcatcher holds their destiny.

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The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The dreamcatcher has been a part of Native American culture for centuries. One element of Native American dreamcatcher relates to the tradition of the hoop. The Native Americans of North America held the hoop in the highest esteem because for them, it symbolizes strength and unity. The hoop also represents the sun, moon, and month that travel each day across the sky. These are known as the giizis. The number of points on the dreamcatcher also differ in meaning: 13 points mean the phases of the moon, 8 points represent the legs on the spider woman of the dreamcatcher legend, 7 points represent the seven prophecies of the grandfathers, 6 points mean courage, and 5 points represent the star. The feathers mean breath or air which is essential for life. An owl feather, which was a woman’s feather, means wisdom.

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

The dreamcatcher legend has many variations. Although the Ojibwe people are acknowledged as the first people to use dreamcatchers, many other tribes and native people have also adopted dreamcatchers into their culture. Despite differences in stories and legends, the symbols and meanings are universal and are carried all over the world.

The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones
The Bonita Collection : Crochet x Swarovski x Precious Stones

It’s always good to read and know more about the products that we make in order to help other people understand and appreciate these items. The dreamcatchers in this post are available at Eco Choices.