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An artisan for our time Reports of an emerging colony of artisans in the Philippines led Aya Maceda to meet young British-Filipino designer-maker, Daniel Latorre Cruz. In the temperate terrain of Tagaytay, Latorre Cruz has set up a studio for a few months of the year as he splits his time between the UK and the Philippines.

text Aya Maceda | photography Tom Epperson, Kurt Arnold, Noli Gabilo

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2 . portrait

issue #17 habitusliving.com

...sensual darkness and ethereality as he suspends the Icarus of his imagination in the sky.

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aniel Latorre Cruz is only in the early stages of his career, but is already showing great promise with surface narratives that evoke emotions and explore the opulence of sustainable materials. He made his mark with the release of the Icarus lamp collection where he re-invents the myth of Icarus through fronds of handmade paper designed to represent wings that shimmer as they enfold light. Daniel expresses sensual darkness and ethereality as he suspends the Icarus of his imagination in the sky. With delicate forms he applies light and a process of shaping paper pulp with finger and thumb strokes to achieve depth and texture. Daniel shows sensitivity in his use of naturally processed paper made from recycled agricultural waste materials of the mulberry tree. A deviation from today’s technology and mass production, his process attempts to define his line of artisan roots from the Philippines and establish ownership and interpretation working with raw paper. His interesting transformation stems from many travels and influences from childhood. Born in the Philippines and raised in the English countryside of Lincolnshire from the age of 5, Daniel remembers his early years drawing and playing football amid fields of yellow rye and whistling forests. From a small countryside art school, he moved to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, a town outside London known for chair making, to study contemporary furniture design. Here

he learned from designers such as Matthew Hilton, Michael Marriott and Neil Austin as well as inconspicuous craftsmen who mentored and infused in him the value of being a designer aware of his time and the potential of design to create change. Following a natural course, Daniel moved to East London as a hungry energetic artist looking to be stimulated by the buzz of city life. Here he created objects from accessible materials such as leather off-cuts, metals, local timbers and plastics. He experimented with polycarbonate to reinterpret paper planes in his Jetset functional wall art, and created origami unicorns with folded aluminium. In between producing his own designs and prototypes, he worked as a model-maker under Hiro Takayanagi where he produced hand-cut detachable paper and card models for architect, John Pawson. From Pawson he absorbed attention to detail, minimalism and an understanding of surface, texture and the play of light. This experience formed his appreciation for working with handcrafted models rather than with those cut by machines. “They had more life,” he says, and this belief manifests in his independent work. Later, he sought new paths and a deeper understanding of working with materials. Responding to the need for change and a drive to control his own creative direction, he took a leap of faith to return to his homeland – a place he refers to as ‘The Source’. In 2004, he re-connected with his roots and paid homage to his ancestry, photo-documenting the country

previous | Daniel in his home studio in Tagaytay, Philippines. above | Daniel’s process of hand crafting the wings of the Icarus lamps. opposite | the finished icarus lamp.

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issue #17 habitusliving.com

From Pawson he absorbed attention to detail, minimalism and an understanding of surface, texture and the play of light.

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above | Tataya (Boat of Batanes) Bench Seating in Rattan, distributed by Obra Cebuana.


issue #17 habitusliving.com

and re-discovering the islands as a playground for creativity. He travelled extensively around the Northern Cordilleras of the Philppines scouring natural materials and to understand the culture and sustainable livelihood behind them. In the process, he learnt of a more organic approach that would be ingrained in his work and materials, opening his eyes to new creative possibilities. In the Philippines, he also connected with like-minded young designers to form Epoch Collaboration, a collective with a goal of preserving the country’s heritage as artisans with a new vibrancy to Filipino contemporary design. “We are always learning as designers, bouncing ideas and drawing inspiration from each other. It has given me a broader understanding of design inspirations working with natural and sustainable materials,” says Daniel, who credits the influence of Epoch Collaboration to two of his most significant works, the Icarus and the 445 chair. “I see chairs as the closest piece tangible enough to send a message across,” he says. The stackable 445 chair is handcrafted from a strong native palm abundant in the Cordilleras, and locally assembled through a traditional method of dowelled joints. The delicately proportioned chair contrasts the robust qualities of the timber used, which is flattened and smoothed to precision and waxed to enhance its exotic natural grain. With this chair he began his journey as an independent chair-maker and follows his passionate advocacy for localism in the fabrication of his products. Daniel continues his path of discovery and experimentation in both the UK and the Philippines. The dichotomy of living and working in two countries gives him a wider perspective and an innovative direction to his work, although it also comes with manageable complexities. Armed with youthful energy and idealism, he designs and collaborates around the clock in two time zones. For the freedom to work in this manner and the decision to take control of his path as designer, Daniel Latorre Cruz is one of the region’s exciting independent design-makers.

Daniel Latorre Cruz latorrecruz.com | epochcollaboration.com habitusliving.com/issue17

above | The stackable 445 chair. below | Shadow Birds light pendant with Buri and Steel rods, distributed by Hacienda Crafts.

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