Armed with an accounting degree, Ugu Bigyan was set to climb the corporate ladder after college. However, he left that behind to pursue business in Quezon, his home province.
Pursuing the craft
Just as his bricks manufacturing business was booming, supplying to houses, churches, and other establishments, he decided to try his hand at pottery, which he first learned in college. Bigyan is friends with another prominent Quezoñan artist, Jaime de Guzman, whose wife Anne Polkinghom is a potter. He got tips from Polkinghom who became his good friend and helped him hone his craft. Bigyan’s pottery art led to more than 15 solo exhibits of his works and numerous group shows in spaces around the metro, including the Ayala Museum.
The artist still continued his brick business, which he foresaw will be in demand not just in the country but around the world as well. This way, Bigyan gets to do what he loves while helping locals in Tiaong to find a stable livelihood through his various businesses.
With the help of his staff, the Quezoñan artist produced thousands of handmade molds of these red bricks. He wants every brick to be handmade as he wants his product to look rustic and imperfect, an aesthetic that is attractive even for the international market because of its classic look.
Aside from his primary product, which are cups and mugs, he was able to expand into selling ceramics and houseware. One of his famous works, a sungka-style piece, which is a game commonly played in the country. Sungka involves dropping small sea shells into large holes on a lengthy canoe shaped board. This piece was even seen in a video tour of the actress Bea Alonzo’s house.
Checking out his place, it is notable that there are no two of the same ceramic products. All the mugs, saucers, art pieces, and home furniture available in his shop are handmade by him making each piece unique in its own. He also uses repurposed tree branches to incorporate in his ceramic products.
“We have to follow the trend,” the artist quips when asked to comment on the arts and culture landscape in the country. This trend of creating unique and handmade ceramic products was popular by the current generation. It is simply good business practice to keep up with—or at least be aware of—the movement of what is in demand.
Sharing his space to the community
Aside from his brick manufacturing factory, Bigyan also put up his own rustic and industrial-inspired bed and breakfast just a few meters away from his work area.
A frequent traveler, Bigyan was motivated by the places he visited to design his property in Tiaong. A quick look at his humble, Bali-inspired establishment shows his taste in intricate craftsmanship and design.
What is special about his bed and breakfast is how Bigyan, despite his stature in the art community, makes sure that he is hands-on when it comes to managing his business. Aside from doing all the ceramics work by hand, he also personally cooks for his guests to ensure that the food that he will serve are fresh from the market.
He has his own Ugu Restaurant within the property just beside his accommodations where he serves traditional Quezon dishes that he cooks himself like the famous Pancit Habab and Special Halo Halo. You can also have a cup of coffee or a plate of suman at Café Ugu after visiting his gallery.
This humble predilection is an inspiration for both his staff and guests. His passion and dedication to his craftsmanship are clearly seen in every story and explanation he gives.
To continue his legacy, Bigyan was able to train pottery and ceramics making to a few locals in Tiaong so they could work for him. He also offers lessons to moms, students, and anyone interested in pottery through his workshops. Pre-pandemic, he opened his factory to show the process of making his different products for schools that conduct field trips in Quezon.
Visiting Bigyan’s place is like stepping into a beautiful sanctuary made to give peace to its visitors. Hearing his passion and dedication to his craft will make you realize how his artistry translated to the products and houses that he built.
Aside from checking out Bigyan’s place, you can also get his famous handcrafted ceramic products through his store online on Facebook and Instagram where they also showcase the works of different artists in Tiaong, Quezon.
How to get here:
Via Private Transportation/Motorcycle:
Via SLEX – Take Sto. Tomas exit and ride through San Pablo road going to Lucena. Drop off at Tiaong, Quezon
Via Bus – From Buendia, you can ride a bus directly going to Tiaong, Quezon. Drop off at Jollibee, Tiaong, then ride a tricycle going to Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Garden