By Kylie Francis on April 8th, 2021
Riding the wave and upcycling wood
Angelo Alburo was pondering what to do with leftover wood scraps in his workshop when he came up with the idea of turning them into whimsical mini surfboard bottle openers. “I love beer and I love surfing, so why not make both of them into a piece?” says the native Cebuano, who grew up in the City of Talisay in the Philippines.
At the time, Angelo had already founded Halocruisers, an online business that sold skateboards made from reclaimed wood, which he bought from companies that were renovating or closing down. “After two years I had a lot of scraps after my skateboard making,” he explains.
Crafting bottle openers from leftover wood was a way to further minimize waste. This was an important consideration for Angelo, since he had witnessed first-hand the environmental pollution of local beaches and seas through harmful practices like littering and blast fishing. “It pushed me to know I could do more than surfing,” he says.
From his very own hands
Angelo inherited his interest in woodworking from his father. As a child, Angelo watched his father make the beds, kitchen cabinets and desks in their home. He soon discovered other advantages to learning woodworking. “If I wanted a toy they didn’t want to get me I’d just make it on my own. Like swords, nunchucks, those were my first [pieces of] work and I was 9 to 12 years old,” he recalls.
After graduating from the University of San Carlos with an Arts degree, he worked at several advertising agencies but felt unfulfilled. In 2015, he opened an Instagram account and was soon discovered by Tracianne Estrada, an influencer and founder of Float Swimwear, with whom he collaborated on a range of limited edition cruisers. From there, his popularity soared throughout the Philippines and he was able to quit the advertising world to focus on his craft full-time, eventually starting Halo & Co. in 2017.
Despite crediting social media for giving him access to new customers, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have flooded the market with cheap, factory-produced goods, making it difficult for artisans to compete without a hefty marketing budget. “I really don’t like sponsoring or giving influencers items, I still hate that idea of giving stuff just to get a sale,” Angelo says. He justifies the relatively higher prices for his products by explaining that “it’s not made in China, it’s made from my hands.”
A labor of love
When you purchase a bottle opener from Angelo, you’re paying for his skill and devotion to his craft. He gazes at a set of five mini surfboards that he keeps in his room, and recalls, “I was working on this and my hand was bleeding, so there’s blood on this wood, my blood. Every time I carve stuff I always hurt my hands. These pieces here have my blood in it so I’m not selling it.”
Angelo sets his prices based on how many days it takes to make the item, at a rate of PHP500 (approximately USD10) a day, roughly the average daily income in the Philippines. For Dia’s exclusive collection of surfboards, Angelo took almost two months, not only due to the laborious task of creating the items in the first place, but also because the delicate production process is affected by bad weather or stray insects.
“I have to carve [the Mahogany wood] first, because it’s almost an inch thick, so I slice it up with the blade slowly, surely, and then as it shapes up, I can sand it,” Angelo says. Following this, he gradually applies paint layer by layer, sometimes using his bare fingers, and it can take up to two days for the wood to dry between each layer, especially on rainy days. Angelo then writes or doodles on the painted wood, or experiments with new techniques, such as a recently created marbled effect. (Dia is the first in the world to receive Angelo’s marbled creations.) Finally, he spray paints the boards to achieve a glossy finish and writes a number beneath the board that corresponds to the total number of boards he has finished to date.
Occasionally a mosquito or insect will fly onto the paint and Angelo will have to scrape off days’ worth of hard work and start again, which is what happened with a couple of Dia’s exclusive Halo & Co. selection. But this does not deter Angelo, and he feels a profound sense of satisfaction each time he finishes a project. “My favorite part is when I finish my job,” Angelo says. “It’s such a relief for me because I’m so proud of myself — I did it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kylie is Dia’s co-founder based in New York City. Hailing from a family of journalists and writers, Kylie grew up with a passion for stories and a curiosity about the world. This has led her to travel extensively across the globe and she has lived in Malaysia, Zimbabwe and the United States. Kylie graduated with a Bachelor’s in Government from Harvard University and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.