Three years of crafting jewelry at the intersection of cultures

Caro Wilson celebrates its third year with a special pop-up exhibit

To put up an exhibit during a pandemic is, some might say, being a little “out of it.” In many ways, exhibits are “bubbles,” and not the kind that they have at the PBA. No. 

But exhibits are also not the kind of bubble that is disconnected and alienating. If anything, exhibits, like the special pop-up that Mark Wilson currently has at León Gallery International in Makati, are windows into a deeper consciousness. They are windows into a side of humanity that, despite everything that has been going on around us, we must not forget. 

For Mark, in fact, his pop-up exhibit dubbed as “Three,” to celebrate the third anniversary of his brand Caro Wilson, takes a peek into what it means to be a Filipino today. 

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM Inside “Three” (Manila Bulletin Lifestyle)

“I belong to two countries, both much misunderstood,” Mark says. “The misunderstanding is in image and identity. Outsiders see the Philippines as Westernized, neither exotic nor cultured. Many Filipinos, I dare say, see themselves in the same light.”

Spending most of his lockdown time in Baguio, having been stuck there when Metro Manila was put under an enhanced community quarantine in March, Mark was able to explore just what this identity should be. Baguio, like Mark’s personal heritage, is a product of two intersecting cultures. 

Making jewelry for Caro Wilson allows me the joy of expressing—via the influences, even artifacts, of the past—new and contemporary forms of adornment. I hope these capture the essence of Filipino soul and style, therefore making them of universal appeal, even for people in Seoul, Tokyo, Rio, London, Paris, Los Angeles, or New York.

Mark Wilson

Instead of writing a thesis on this, however, Mark has been designing jewelry pieces. Over the past three years, he has reimagined cultural trinkets into modern artifacts. Working with master artisans, he was able to imbue each of his jewelry with the same vision that reflects his idea of what it means to live at the intersection of two cultures. 

One of the most interesting pieces currently on display at “Three” are these earrings that feature a now-rare filigree technique called “double coil.” Seen in the Carla Inès earrings and in pieces included in his Contemporary Earrings collection, these double-coiled filigrees were crafted by hand by an octogenarian master goldsmith in Baguio. 

WINDOWS TO THE SOUL The Carla Inès earrings (Manila Bulletin Lifestyle)

Like see-through nets, each filigree design is set in 950 sterling silver frames. But the coils with the frames, Mark explains, needed to be more malleable. These were spun from pure 1000 silver before finally being dipped in 24 Karat gold. 

These earrings are just one among the various other pieces featured at Caro Wilson’s anniversary exhibit. Others also feature Mark’s playfully creative sense of combining different elements, various indigenous techniques, materials from different parts of the country and even the world, into unique and modern jewelry pieces. 

(Manila Bulletin Lifestyle)

“In terms of identity, may I say that the Filipino soul is not a Western one. It is gentle, modest, self-effacing, and full of the lightness of being. The famous Filipino smile is genuine and easy, ‘even in the face of grinding poverty,” Mark says. “‘Maaliwalas’ (the quality of freshness, airy-ness) is a Tagalog word often used in admiration of interior spaces that capture this condition. ‘Magaan’ means ‘light in weight’ but is often used to admire the character of a person easy to be with, who has the savoir-faire of getting along, and makes good company. Beyond form, I hope my jewelry captures the qualities expressed in these two words.

Apart from Mark’s creations, “Three” also features artworks from Artery Art Space, a contemporary art gallery that presents solo and group exhibits featuring emerging and established artists who explore the most progressive concepts and practices seen in painting and various media today. Artists included are Bud Omeng, Kelli Maeshiro, Danna Espinos, and Floyd Absalon

Troops and Batugan, oil on canvas pieces by Bud Omeng (Manila Bulletin Lifestyle)

“Three” is open for scheduled viewing from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays, at León Gallery International until Nov. 21. You can also view the exhibit virtually here.