Aze Ong takes crochet to the next level

By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

Photos courtesy of Aze Ong

She is not that traditional craftswoman doing crochet while on a rocking chair with the television set on. She does not follow a pattern from a catalogue. Free-spirited Aze Ong is moved by the light that falls on colors and makes them vibrate. From there she stiches, knots and wires the yarn.

At her ongoing show “Liwanag” at the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Gallery on Gen. Luna St., Intramuros, Manila (until June 22), she shows fantastic creations made from sacks of yarns. It was a challenge sourcing the materials.

She recalled, “Yarns are scarce in the country, especially textured types that I love. But I frequent Divisoria for the regular yarns or mercerized cotton, Quiapo, online sellers, and I ask relatives and friends in other countries to buy me yarns. After the show, I will go to Baguio to buy more.”
Even with these available resources, creation did not come easy. Ong said, “Unending inspiration usually drives people to create passionately. Even if I’ve been doing this a long time I can only make pieces during extreme emotions, either super happy or super sad. I tried to get over trauma and depression since 2012. What kept me going was expressing myself through art. I’ve been sending healing energies only to find out that I needed healing.”

She continued, “When you create something passionately, you pour your heart and soul into it. The fulfillment is felt after the piece is done. There is a form of release. Every time I finish a work in a day’s, a week’s or a month’s time, I feel a sense of purpose, a need to create again so I could feel fulfilled again. The purpose is to do something fulfilling to the self, share this with others and be productive. When I learn that people are inspired with what I do, I feel more joy. Art must have healed and saved me.”
Her exhibit was preceded by a runway fashion show. It is the culmination of past shows where she earlier presented art pieces and accessories (neck pieces, bracelets and bags). In 2011, a friend asked her to create a jacket as he was headed for a cold country, and she did one. That was the start of her exploration into clothes.

In 2012, she started “Ang Sayaw ni Liwanag,” a performance art using crocheted instruments that sounded and were inspired by rain sticks. That same year, she began doing shawls. She wore her first full dress piece called “Liwanag ng Taimtim na Paglaban 1” at a group show opening that combined performance, musicians, instruments and crocheted pieces.

In another show, she repeated this and felt “heaven and earth and its forces were curating the events. It inspired me to commit myself to make more wearable pieces that are so flexible you can wrap them around your body.”

Asked where she derived her ideas, she answered, “Inspiration comes from my experiences, my feelings and the colors. When I make the pieces, the yarns or materials are scattered on the floor in a mess. Depending on how I feel, I get the yarn. There is no set pattern or color scheme. Sometimes when I’m angry, I pick the red; when I’m sad, I pick black; when I’m happy, I pick orange or even red. There are no set standards on how I pick my colors. I just want to have all the colors of the yarns I can use.”

Her pieces reflect how she loves the different shades of violet or purple which she wants to use more often. She has also turned to brown but adds that she isn’t out to do an autumn line since it’s a season she isn’t familiar with. She interpreted her selection of brown as “maybe seeing the light of love’s nature.”
Crocheting didn’t come easy. At her Technology and Home Economics class at Assumption, she was a left-handed student so it was hard to follow instructions on counting and following patterns from a right-handed teacher. She did the project by copying the design but not following the pattern and got good grades.

She learned to make her own purses and bags using neon colors. Initially, she sketched her ideas before crocheting. Later, she was more comfortable with just letting ideas flow as her fingers move.

Ong is grateful that NCCA shouldered the fashion show, including the director, technical team, set-up, models and use of the auditorium. It’s different from previous ones because it celebrates visual arts, performance and fashion show in one.

Her only wall piece is “My BB’s Unconditional Love.” It was originally 34 feet long until it grew to 62 feet long, enough to fit two walls.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)