Nature can truly be an endless source of inspiration – and this is true for creative entrepreneur Feanne. She fell in love with drawing at a young age, captivated by minute details she would find on different kinds of plants. She nurtured that love as she grew up and eventually turned her drawings into vibrant wearable art that bears mesmerizing details.
Feanne tells us about the meticulous process involved in creating her luxurious hand-illustrated pieces and her tips on making both business and creativity sustainable.
How did you discover your passion for art?
“Since I was young, I really enjoyed drawing plants and animals. I took interior design in college but I didn’t pursue it. There was a point when I tried to shift to fine arts while I was in UP but I didn’t pass the talent test so I had to stay and finish it. I don’t regret it because it helps a lot with project management and both the technical and business side of a creative career. But I really just wanted to keep drawing and that’s basically what I do now.”
Feanne wearing her 'Sabong' dress with the Lyria earrings
How did you start doing it professionally?
“I had my first exhibit when I was in third year high school – it was a group exhibit with some friends. After that, I continued exhibiting and publishing my work through the years but it was only a few years ago that I started fabric print design."
"When I was in college, I already wanted to do fabric prints but back then, I didn’t have access to printing suppliers. I was able to do some t-shirt prints but it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. It took me a long time to find the right printing suppliers and even now I think the fabric printing industry in the Philippines is still young. If you’re an independent business and you’re not doing a thousand-meter print run, it’s a bit challenging to find a local printing supplier. I’m lucky to have found the suppliers I’ve worked with."
"There was a point when I tried to shift to fine arts while I was in UP but I didn’t pass the talent test so I had to stay and finish it. I don’t regret it because it helps a lot with project management and both the technical and business side of a creative career."
How did you get idea of creating wearable art?
"I focused on creating things that I wanted to wear and that’s still my process now. I get cold easily so I like things that I can use to cover myself up."
"Scarves and kimonos are versatile and very easy to wear – I can wear them to different occasions and they’re not tied down to one season or even age range."
"I have clients who tell me that they can wear my designs from now until they’re grandmothers and I feel the same way."
What is your creative process like?
"I get inspired by everything I see in nature. It may look boring to someone else when they see me looking at an ordinary leaf but then it’s details would be interesting for me. I’m more inspired when I’m traveling to the beach, for example, where I see different kinds of seaweed, rocks and shells."
Feanne wearing her Swallows kimono with our Bamboo monogram necklace
"When I see something interesting, I take some quick reference photos on my phone or do a quick sketch on the spot. Then I will do some more sketching and then do an ink illustration. Sometimes I go straight to ink, which depends on my mood, and that allows the lines to feel a bit more playful compared to doing a pencil sketch."
"After I do my drawings, I scan them and do the layout and colors digitally. Then I design a pattern, do a test print, then depending on how that turns out, I might go back to the drawing or layout and do some adjustments until I get the print right. There are some things you won’t see until it’s actually printed on the fabric such as the scale and the colors so it takes a while to develop a new product. Once I’m happy with the fabric print, then I test and see how it goes with the cut of the dress or garment that I’m making and that’s another round of iterations as well."
Feanne's picks from our Gold Coast and Monogram collections with her 'Sabong' print
What are you currently working on?
"I’m actually taking a break at the moment since I had a very busy holiday season last year. I’m taking this time to relax and doodle what I want to doodle and not worry about product development yet. I have some ideas but they’re still in a very rough stage. Right now, I’m exploring and experimenting to see what I want to do next."
Aside from silk scarves and kimonos, Feanne's drawings are also incorporated into accessories such as clutches
As an artist, do you find it essential to take breaks?
"Yes, definitely. Since this is my full-time career, it’s not just art – it’s also a business. Of course, being a business means having deadlines and quotas that I want to meet in order to make a living. But at the same time, I also need to make the creative process sustainable and that includes taking breaks."
"For January, I’ve just been doing a lot of resting, making small drawings and working out. When I’m busy, I don’t really have time to exercise so I’m taking advantage of the lull to take care of myself. I think you’ll find this complaint common among artists – we have problems with our wrists, shoulders and back because of poor posture so it’s important to take care of one’s physical health to avoid repetitive stress injuries. I do core-strengthening workouts, physiotherapy and get massages because I do a lot of detailing and it’s very tough on my wrists and shoulders. I really wish I had started working out properly when I was younger. I neglected to train my body’s flexibility, strength, and posture. It’s only now that I’ve started realizing and proactively addressing these issues because I learned that it does affect my physical ability to do my work."
"When I can afford to, and at the moment I can, I take several weeks off and make use of that time to recharge, ‘fill the well’ with creative ideas, and take a step back from the work I’ve done so I have space for new ones to come in. If you’re always immersed in the same type of work or industry, it’s very easy to get trapped in a bubble and you don’t get exposed to new ideas from completely unrelated fields."
What are your tips for artists like yourself who want to build a lucrative career?
"I’m still in the process of figuring out if this is something sustainable and lucrative for myself. I don’t think I can answer that question without talking a little bit about privilege. Any kind of entrepreneur would have to weather financial instability for several years. You need a safety net while you’re weathering your unpredictable income and figuring things out. In my case, I was very privileged to have a supportive family. They supported me through those years and they’re still very supportive of me now."
"I would say I’m mostly financially independent in the sense that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will come from, which is a reality for a lot of people. If you want to have a lucrative career as an artist, you have to be aware of how much financial insecurity you will have to weather, especially at the start of your career. A safety net, which can be in the form of other people supporting you or a day job, can help you as you go through periods of instability."
Feanne wearing her Nautilus kimono with the Kamalei earrings
"Many artists today, like myself, have to juggle a lot of roles. I’m an artist, and I’m also a business owner. I don’t have employees, so I also do everything that I can’t outsource. Bookkeeping, filing taxes, budgeting, marketing, networking, client relationships. Developing myself as a creative and as an entrepreneur. I personally pack and ship orders, deliver items to stores where I consign, and answer inquiries. If you’re an artist/entrepreneur today, you can probably relate."
"I find it very challenging to preserve the mental bandwidth needed to engage in creative work, in the midst of all these other types of work I also need to do. But my creative work is the core of what I do. Everything else depends on it. And when I nourish my creative work with deep care and attention, that care and attention naturally flows into all the other work I do around it. In my illustrations, I go very close in with the details, but I also step back and check the overall composition and flow, and how one part relates to every other part. The same can be applied to all the other aspects of my work."
Follow Feanne on Instagram: @feanne
Photography by Sheila Catilo (@sheilacatilo)