A Myriad of Stories: Celia Molano On Crafting Masterpieces

The celebrated jewelry artist tells the story behind her passion for creating stunning designs.

Ornaments have always been part of Philippine history. Step into our national museum and you get a glimpse into the glory of our ancestors’ fine wardrobe. From dazzling jewelry, clothing woven with intricate beaded patterns, to exquisite gold sashes, the pre-colonial era boasted of these storied embellishments. The colors, textures, and shapes of these pieces never fail to astonish those with the eye for the fine things in life.

Jewelry artist Celia Molano is among those discerning to see the potential of these beads and stones. When she weaves these simple materials, she is not only turning them into stunning designs. She is telling the stories, myths, and relationships of the people and their culture. As one wears them, the jewelry goes beyond enhancing one’s beauty. One brings to life the rich history and the magic that come along with these wonderful pieces.

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Celia Molano.

Weaving the Magic

The magic that blooms from Celia’s craft began at a young age. As a child, she would play with the heirloom of her grandmother, trying out patterns and combinations. What started as a blithe and playful hobby eventually developed into an earnest pursuit. However, she never had a specific market in mind when she developed her designs. “I was making them for myself and according to my tastes,” Celia explains. She is an independent artist, working only on what she envisions for herself. Perhaps, this decision together with her attitude to focus on what delights her are what makes her designs rare. She never needed to penetrate into the jewelry industry. With her natural eye for beauty and talent, it seems she simply pranced her way into capturing the hearts of fellow art and fine jewelry enthusiasts.

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Jose Molano and Celia Molano.

Bringing in the Richness of Culture

One might wonder, how does Celia create and navigate this enthralling world? She travels.

From Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, to Pakistan, she and her husband Jose Molano have explored the fascinating culture of these destinations. These are where she comes across unusual beads and valuable, excavated objects that she uses for her designs. Yet it is no easy task to weave these materials together. Celia muses, “My art requires a lot of imagination and application of the things I learned as an art student. For instance, in creating jewelry, one must have a good sense of composition, color, and balance.”

What the celebrated artist creates is quite distinct from the jewelry of today. In contrast to the sleek, minimalist, and sophisticated designs, Celia’s pieces come from the rich tradition of the origins of her materials. Among her materials include glass beads from Indonesia, excavated blue discs from Syria, and black clay beads from the Yaruba tribe in Australia. If not an imported material, Celia would incorporate indigenous designs from the Philippines. She has featured banig or mat patterns, tambourine-shaped beads, and Kalinga-inspired pieces.

There really is no limit to her imagination. After all, she would turn to nature to get inspiration. Be it rocks, trees, frogs, fish, and turtles, these natural elements bring out her creativity. “I am also inspired by rare and unusual beads that have their own history,” she adds, referring to the excavated materials from the countries she visited. When asked for anything she would like to bring to the country, she enthusiastically shares, “Ancient beads from Africa, Phoenicia, Damascus, India, and Indonesia!”

The Love of Art

While Celia has been into jewelry for a long time, not many know how she also has an affinity for collecting artworks. Yet this is no surprise, as both her practice of jewelry-making is an art in itself. Celia is no stranger to appreciating the beautiful things in life, no matter the form it takes. “When I got married to my husband, I saw that he had some beautiful paintings and African masks made of bronze and wood which he brought home from his travels,” she shares. This fascination sprang the desire to start collecting more pieces. Thankfully, she and her husband are friends with the great masters like Ang Kiukok, HR Ocampo, Arturo Luz, and Vicente Manansala. It is only natural for the couple to support them, acquiring masterpieces to add to their growing collection.

As she continues her jewelry practice, Celia is thrilled to show the world her other stunning designs. Later this year, she will have an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. “I think it will be one of my biggest ones,” she says, careful not to reveal anything out of sheer excitement. At the same time, she looks forward to surprising her friends and audiences.

Celia’s upcoming exhibit is something to regard with excitement. People will once again witness her incredible eye and talent to find rare pieces and combine them to create one-of-a-kind jewelry. Through her craft, she remains enthusiastic about life, working on her passions. Of course, it wouldn’t be fulfilling without the support of her loved ones and “[making] the most of the time you have with your family.” She may have always been kept busy with her craft but in the end, Celia still prefers “to lead a peaceful and quiet life.”

Photos from Salcedo Auctions.

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