Alexander Calantes recently launched his streetwear-inspired rug business. (Submitted)

Whitehorse artist starts streetwear-inspired rug business

Alexander Calantes first saw rug tufting about a year ago when he was scrolling through Tik Tok. Immediately, he was hooked on the idea of making his own.

“I want to pursue my ambitions and dreams,” said Calantes.

Calantes pursued the project to the creation of Manila Verse Rugs.

“I’m an artist. I love doing art and making something new,” the 22-year-old said. “I started researching about investing in equipment and ‘how do you do this?’”

The rug tufter is no stranger to the visual arts. He’s dabbled in painting and sketching, usually focusing on the finer details of his subjects.

“I love detailing. I want to see my work more detailed because it makes me feel satisfied and happy,” he said.

But Calantes wasn’t too quick to pull the trigger on buying a tufting gun – high startup costs made him cautious.

“I was so scared to invest in it because I wasn’t sure if it was going to work,” he said.

‘I did pretty good for my first time’

About three months ago Calantes took the plunge and he’s not looking back. Now, with tufting gun in hand, he can sew yarn at speeds of 40 stitches per second.

“I started playing with the gun and as I took it slowly, I got to see all the mistakes I was making,” he said.

Calantes went right to work setting up a tufting space in his home in Whitehorse. He built a frame to hold his fabrics and found a projector to help with tracing his designs.

Then, like a tattoo to skin, he put yarn to cloth. Following his lines as the tufting gun buzzed away, Calantes made his first rug – a depiction of the red akatsuki cloud from the Japanese animated series “Naruto.”

“I did pretty good for my first time,” he said.

Calantes designed his first rug with a tufting gun — the akatsuki cloud in the top right — about three months ago. (Submitted)

Calantes designed his first rug with a tufting gun — the akatsuki cloud in the top right — about three months ago. (Submitted)

Despite his beginner’s confidence Calantes hit some hurdles.

“I got a little frustrated that first time because I used the wrong fabric,” he said. “The usual fabric is expensive so I went to Wal-Mart and got similar fabric but it didn’t work.”

He said the material he used was too stiff, so the needle didn’t go in consistently, causing problems.

“I had to grab the actual fabric to remake it again and it actually worked,” he said.

Manila Verse Rugs founded

Now that he has some experience under his belt, Calantes is starting his very own business – Manila Verse Rugs.

A Google search for rugs yields your typical Aztec and Persian-inspired floor coverings. Those with a little more of an adventurous side may even find something shag.

What Google doesn’t show you is rugs that look like trippy lighters with melting smiley faces, a Snorlax resting in roses, or a pink AK-47. If that sounds more your style, Manila Verse has you covered.

Calantes doesn’t want to be put in a creative box, taking inspiration from anime, streetwear fashion, and his home in the Philippines.

“I love just doing art and making new stuff,” he said. “I’ve been thinking of a lot of ideas.”

Calantes first announced to the world that he is starting his own business on Facebook on April 8. He said the amount of love and support he has gotten since then is overwhelming.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “That made me really motivated to push more and be a better artist and be better as a person too.”

For now Calantes is living with his parents and tufting away in his home workshop, but he has bigger goals for Manila Verse.

He soon hopes to land a bigger work space to increase production and educate himself on the craft.

“I want to pursue my ambitions and dreams and make new things no one will think of doing.”

You can follow Calantes and his tufting journey on Instagram @manilaverserugs.

Dylan MacNeil is a freelance writer based in Whitehorse.