Text by Angela Casco
Additional Photos by Noel Pabalate
Whether one knows who Agi Pagkatipunan is or not, it’s likely that he or she has seen and marveled at his works.
Pagkatipunan’s dining table has been used during the Miss Universe 2016 competition here in the Philippines. At the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, his wooden wall mural is on display. In Carcar, Cebu’s Chapel of Bishop Camomot, his furniture provides a seat for mass attendees. At the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s newly-opened College of Architecture building, his works grace the lobby and the auditorium.
Such is the visibility of this Rizal-based creator. A former architect, Pagkatipunan combines design with functionality in his wood creations. His years of experience have helped him achieve a kind of acquaintance with the material that allows him to create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces.
In Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Home’s visit in what serves as both his workshop and home in San Mateo, Rizal, the so-called wood wizard shares his creative process, his works, and his inspirations.
“My works are always an accident,” he says. “I don’t follow a fixed plan when I create. I only have a material to use.”
For him, gathering whatever piece of wood available comes first before the actual design. It’s part of the design
principle he abides by—form follows function and function follows form.
“I can’t design first and find a material later. I’ve tried that before but it just doesn’t work,” he says. “Instead, I’ve learned that the artist should be the one to dictate what should happen to a material and not the other way around. Whatever the material dictates, that’s where I try to find what I can possibly do with it.”
As he only uses old wood from demolished ancestral houses, all the more that his principle works. “The market does not sell the kind of material I use, which is old wood,” he says.
Each piece of old wood is unique. No two woods are the same in terms of color or hardness. These different qualities, according to Pagkatipunan, helps bring character to a creation.
“When I create a piece of furniture, I don’t just use one type of wood,” he says. “Sometimes, I use up to seven.”
Likmuan, for instance, features six different types of wood: ipil, yakal, molave, balayong, kamagong, and dao.
He credits his preference to use old wood to his upbringing and a personal desire to make something out of nothing.
“It’s the material closest to my heart as I grew up living in a home surrounded by nature here in Rizal,” he says. “What I also use is repurposed wood, which is something many might deem useless, but to me, that’s what makes the material more interesting and worth keeping.”
Outside his all-wood home, surrounding an expanse of work tables with apprentices busy tinkering with projects, stacks of wood in sizes big and small occupy all corners.
“I keep on collecting pieces of old wood and leave it for as long as I like. I’d always say, ‘One day, I’ll be able to create something out of it,’” he says. “Sometimes, when I have a creation that I can’t seem to finish, I’d set it aside and get back to it after weeks, months, or even years.”
With knowledge and experience in architecture, Pagkatipunan says he’s able to work better in his current occupation—sculptor and furniture maker.
“That’s how I learned things like proportion, time management skills, and ways to go about furniture creation,” he says. “Since I also collaborate with architects and interior designers when working on furniture for clients, I’m able to understand easily what they want to do.”
Even when dealing with clients, he sets himself apart by following an all-important, self-implemented rule—no commitments.
“I don’t ask for a partial payment. I never say how much a piece costs,” he says. “That might be difficult on my part, but I choose to do things that way.”
On how he keeps himself creative, Pagkatipunan says his only son, Inno, is an inspiration.
“Inno had a heart problem and survived three operations as a child,” he says. “It’s him who has pushed me to continuously create.”
His son has fully recovered and is following in the footsteps of the father by helping out at the workshop on weekends and taking up fine arts at the University of Sto. Tomas.
“It’s important for me that I feel happy at work,” Pagkatipunan says. “I feel that through making functional art, I’m able to express myself better.”