How May Samson left her lucrative job to establish her small business, Mirth & Yift

Art comes in different sizes, shapes, and forms. There’s mixed media painting, sculpture, or even skin tattoo. All these require certain knowledge, skills, and expertise. But for artist and businesswoman May Samson, she decided to create beautiful handmade accessories using mother of pearl and cold porcelain. 

May Samson

In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, the artist behind Mirth & Yift, shares her journey toward pursuing art after leaving a stable job, and what inspired her to work with two complicated media—pearls and cold porcelain. 

Carving an artistic path

Prior to putting up her small business, May has years of experience marketing beauty brands. “Even when I was younger, I loved making accessories made of glass beads and cotton cords, and knotted necklaces from recycled fabrics,” she says. “I started Mirth & Yift in 2018, it launched as a local brand of handcrafted costume jewelry and accessories because I told my then boss, I wanted to create something.” 

And when she said something, it means handcrafting intricate accessories using complicated medium such as pearls and cold porcelain. 

Working with pearls and porcelain

With the Philippines rich in pearls, particularly in the provinces of Cebu and Palawan, it is easier for May to find the right materials for her handmade flower-shaped pearl earrings. 

“Our mother of pearl earrings are handcrafted—shaped, cleaned, smoothed, and polished all by hand,” she shares. “No two flower can ever be alike. Some clients expect them to be. But they are not, and will never be.” 

As if manually shaping pearls are not challenging enough, May then levelled up her game by working with another complicated medium—cold porcelain. Unlike the ordinary clay used in making pots, cold porcelain is more sensitive. The water combination, humidity, and the artist’s way of kneading the clay are big factors that affect the look of the material. 

Sampaguita full tiara and simple earrings set made of cold porcelain and pearls

“I’ve been eyeing cold porcelain as an ideal material for Mirth & Yift since 2019. After several attempts trying and buying what’s available in the local market, I just couldn’t get the correct finish I was aiming for,” May says. “What’s ironic about it was, air dry clay seemed like an easy material. Easy to buy, ready-to-use variants or if you want to make your own, easy ingredients, non-toxic, no-baking needed. Easy. But it can’t be that easy. Research, lots of reading, and—probably hundreds of—videos brought me to self-learn the process, adjusted some of the steps when I wanted to, and finally able to work with the ideal consistency.” 

Using cold porcelain, May is creating made-to-order bridal hair pieces such as hair combs and tiaras. And for a tiara alone, it takes her 30 days to finish a piece. 

“Cold porcelain can get tricky. Seemingly an easy material, yes. But it has its moods,” she continues. “Kneading slowly with light strokes produces a nice feel. Knead it fast and hard and it will get crumbly. It’s also difficult to sculpt if the room temperature is hot.” 

Bridal comb

The final process

Her hardwork, dedication, and persistence is now taking off. According to May, there’s now a demand for her mother of pearl earrings, sometimes, available pieces are immediate being sold out. 

“As an artist, I commit too well. I never sleep, if I have to. I’m self-taught so my craft requires me to do a lot of research and trial and error,” May explains. “My art is very personal and unafraid to be different. The bridal pieces, like the cold porcelain, are very intricate. The earrings and pendants, I always aim for classic, polished, and simple elegance.”

May has this message for young aspiring artists: “Being young is a privilege so make the most out of it,” she says. “Have patience. Patience because like your art, everything else is a process.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (