On the weekends, Soul Flower, Co. becomes a hive of activity. No matter where you look, there's always something interesting to see: new students learning the basics of leather crafting in one room, a few familiar faces making their own bags in another, and even budding jewelry-makers taking on introductory silversmithing at Studio 925.
If you happen to pass by and hear a cacophony of rubber mallets pounding against setters and hole punchers, you'll know that it's just another day at the studio.
But on the weekdays, when there aren't any workshops being held, it's fairly uneventful. It was on one such day that Patty Santos, one of our instructors, dropped by.
As one of the newer members of the Soul Flower team, I realized that I had never really asked Patty that much about herself. She's a bit introverted and I'm extremely shy, but on this quiet, uneventful day, I decided to try to get to know her a little more.
(Above: Patty Santos, instructor at Soul Flower, Co.)
Patty teaches Basic Leather Crafting, Bag Making, and Leather Lacing at Soul Flower, Co. She is also the owner, designer, and crafter at Kuwit.
(Above: Retail items under Patty's leather goods brand, Kuwit.)
When did you start working with Soul Flower?
"In 2015, when they were still based in the small studio at the back!"
I saw the bags you used to make out of wood and old books. They were really nice! Were they hard to make?
"(laughs) A bit! It was a pretty tedious process, and it was hard to find books that were so far gone that it would feel okay to take the pages out and turn them into bags. But there are still people who ask about them every now and then. Maybe if I miss them enough I can make a few more."
What made you decide to switch from making book-bags to working with leather?
"Well, I originally wanted to somehow incorporate leather into my book-bag designs. When I found out about Soul Flower, I joined their Basic Leather Crafting workshop! But that was back when they had a completely different module."
How did you end up teaching leather crafting?
"One day Pat [co-proprietor of Soul Flower, Co.] texted me and said, 'Patty, I have a proposition.' I went, 'Oh no!' I had a feeling she was going to ask me to become an instructor. (laughs) I still said yes."
What's it like being an instructor?
"I'm introverted so I still get a little nervous when I have to teach a class, but it's a way for me to socialize. And I really like what I do so it's okay with me. It's a little easier to teach because there's already a set of things that you need to say."
Do you have any new projects in mind?
"I've actually just decided to bring back the book bags! And I'm definitely going to be incorporating leather into the designs."
I want one, too (so make sure to reserve one for me)! And what about any dream projects?
"I kind of want to have my own tannery? We want the quality of vegetable tanned leather made in the Philippines to be able to compete with vegetable tanned leather from overseas."
From making bags out of re-purposed hardbound books, to making her own line of leather goods, to her vision of opening a tannery of her own, Patty's experience presents itself like Russian matryoshka dolls: just when you thought you'd seen it all, she's got another set of skills to show you.
Who knows how many more matryoshka dolls she'll have the next time I ask.
Chuu is an illustrator and graphic designer who loves drawing food and plants. She enjoys trying out new art styles and likes the color pink a bit too much.