Ann’s journey to jewelry-making started at a very young age. At eight years old, she developed a fascination with crosses and handmade accessories. At that age, she already put value in anything made by hand because for her, that was a labor of love.
What started as a fascination later became a passion for creating accessories using beads.
These accessories she sold in bazaars upon her friends’ encouragement. In 2012, Ann discovered the beauty of metals and she self-studied the craft. With this new discovery, Ann grew more inspired as a designer and challenged herself to produce new designs every day.
“When I started in 2012, it was like a gateway to heaven for me. The awards started to come in. These recognitions brought opportunities for me to do exhibits abroad and showcase the Filipino artistry on the global stage,” shares Ann, who is an advocate of Filipino craftsmanship. In fact, the focus of her upcoming exhibits in Singapore, New York, Paris, Monaco and St. Petersburg is to promote the Filipino craftsmen as one of the best in the world.
“Creativity is a gift from God, which everyone has. What sets the Filipino artisans apart is their patience and they work from their heart and soul,” she adds.
You look at Ann’s unique pieces and you will see a stamp of nature in them — twigs, salvaged wood, mother-of-pearl, and the like. Creating pieces out of nothing and making them into an opulent functional piece are her ways of giving back to Mother Nature.
“Nature is a gift from God. Nature is gold. My collaboration with nature gives me overflowing creativity,” Ann shares. “I create and design pieces for a purpose and a reason. The pieces I create have something to do with my inspiration. Before, when I thought of a design, it always had to be beautiful. Now, my creativity has to serve a purpose,” adds Ann, who once dedicated a whole collection of lambat bags inspired by the hardworking fishermen in Palawan and the abundant gifts of the sea.
In order for Ann to produce her one-of-a-kind pieces, she employs a number of highly skilled artisans whose talent and capabilities she knows by heart.
“My artisans come from poor families in Bulacan and Valenzuela. Their talents enable them to put food on their table and send their children to school. One of my favorite stories in my journey as a jewelry designer is seeing people’s lives become better,” Ann says.
She adds, “When I am at my workshop, I am not Ann Ong. I am one with the team because without them, I will not be successful. Teamwork is very important to me. When I go to exhibits abroad, it’s like bringing my artisans there because it’s their work. It is important for me to inspire my artisans because they need heart and soul to be in harmony with my designs. It doesn’t matter how many workers I have, what’s important is we grow together in this journey,” shares Ann, who believes in the value of hard work, which she also teaches her children John, 29; Neil, 27; Anna, 24; and Paolo, 22.
“God has a reason for everything. I think being a jewelry designer is my destiny, God’s plan for me. I always believed that each and every one of us has a purpose here. My purpose is to uplift the Filipino artisans. My journey is not just for Ann Ong but also for the talented artisans here in our country,” Ann concludes.
Photos by Blair Villanueva, during her visit on last year's MANILA FAME 2015.
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