Stepping into her workshop, Mai Evangelista greets us with a gas mask over her head, and with her right hand clutching a can of spray paint.
It becomes immediately obvious to us that she wasn’t kidding about her workshop being more of a dusty garage than a fancy studio—because it literally is a dusty garage. One that houses all of her infinitely interesting, handmade creations (some of which I almost snuck home). SBTRKT plays in the background as she finishes an order to be picked up within the next hour, casually busying herself while simultaneously reminiscing about growing up as the artsy type who loved anything odd-looking. As to how Fake Alchemy began, she explains rather simply, “it just happened”.
From being drawn to unique finds at thrift shops to crystals from a Canadian mining site, she picked up on all the little signs the universe was sending out to her and decided to take the risk. After all, she was growing sick of sitting in front of a computer screen all day as a digital animator. She thought, “I wanted to create something real with my hands”, and so she did.
But creating never came easy, even for an artist like Mai, who had to learn how to make everything from scratch. She started out by spending hours on DIY projects that she may or may have not picked up on Pinterest. In the beginning, it took a couple of fails before she finally got the hang of things—kind of like the rest of us and those deceptively ‘simple’ Taste Made recipes. Mai laughs at the notion that being a maker is as glamorous as the maker’s creations, and I laugh too, with an imaginary tear rolling down my cheek, because I can’t even figure out how to make a friendship bracelet.
Through word of mouth (and the help of some very supportive friends), Fake Alchemy soon grew into a full-time business, turning Mai into a sort of modern day alchemist who creates valuable pieces out of the ordinary. Brass, for example, from her favorite hardware shop, cement that she buys for P10 a kilo, and even glass are some of her favorite everyday materials. Geared towards work that is both contemporary and bohemian, Fake Alchemy’s current best-sellers include wire-bound crystal necklaces and hand-marbled coasters cut and designed from scratch. The handmade production behind each piece means that no two designs are ever the same. Present day magic from a one woman team.
Attracting an ever-growing group of eclectic fans, response to Mai’s work has also been mixed: “I’ve been asked more than once if I dabble in witchcraft or the occult,” She bemuses, adding that she’s always been firm in her decision to add a bit of mysticism to her aesthetic. “The kind of work that I produce is very uncommon locally and I’m not scared to go beyond the norm and create things that other people might find odd.” Today, Fake Alchemy has a long list of pending collaborations with other local makers and artists, but Mai plays coy and keeps their details on the down-low. Adding another touch of mystery to her brand as per usual.
Photography by Shanne Lauron
Art Direction by Mags Ocampo