10 Hawaii-based artists who can bring the tropics to you
A view of Waikiki Beach from above — Photo courtesy of Kait Hanson
Anyone who has visited Hawaii will tell you that the Hawaiian Islands are a mecca of talented creators that produce some of the most exquisite designs – everything from lei makers to mural painters, paying tribute to the colorful and unique details that make the 50th state so special.
While planting roots in Hawaii might be a bit out of reach, here are 10 Hawaii-based makers who can bring the tropics to your home, no matter where you reside.
1. Meleana Estes
Meleana Estes takes flower power to a new level — Photo courtesy of Tahiti Kulia Huetter
Just call her the first lei-dy; Third-generation lei maker Meleana Estes and flowers are synonymous in the islands. Growing up on Kauai, Estes learned everything she practices and teaches about crafting leis from her tutu, Hawaiian for grandmother. Today, she hosts classes and pop-ups across the state to share the traditional craft and her passion for the tropical flora and fauna found in Hawaii.
In the true spirit of aloha and in an effort to share what inspires her daily, Estes partnered with OluKai to create the limited-edition LIKO shoe collection. She identified plants grown in Hawaii that would produce interesting colors and the fabric was then hand-dyed in small batches using a 100% natural process. With two styles for women and one style for men, it’s the true definition of Aloha Anywhere.
2. Sarah Caudle Art
Sarah Caudle working in her studio — Photo courtesy of Connor Trimble
With a background in design and inspired by the sea, Caudle uses acrylics and resin on wood panels, building each piece one layer at a time in her Honolulu studio. By carefully controlling the flow of the resin before it eventually settles on its own, she is able to emulate the movement of the ocean in each of her original works, allowing you to have the ocean within reach no matter where you live.
3. Jana Lam
Jana Lam — Photo courtesy of Meagan Suzuki
Jana Lam’s goal is to create lifestyle accessories to emulate an endless summer no matter your zip code. The signature pastel hues of her designs certainly drum up visions of vibrant sunsets and the printed flora and fauna on each piece – everything from fanny packs to beach wraps, and pillows to pouches – pay tribute to native Hawaiian plants.
In her latest collab, Lam teamed up with fellow Hawaii-based small business, Plant Sax, to create fabric plant holders from some of the smaller cuts of fabrics that have stacked up over the years.
4. Live A Lei Life
Live A Lei Life leis let the aloha live on — Photo courtesy of Amanda Wong Wui
Amanda Iaukea Wongwui began making leis when she was 4 years old as a hula performer in Honolulu. When she turned her hobby into a business in 2018, Wongwui made it her mission to share the spirit of aloha with the world.
In an effort to perpetuate the culture of lei-giving in an authentic way, she combines flowers, shells and other island treasures – a combination of everything she loves – into one heirloom lei. While no two leis are alike, the love influence of the islands is unmistakable in each keepsake.
5. Lauren Roth Art
Lauren Roth has taken her work international — Photo courtesy of Marissa Phillips-Wallace
One part graphic designer, one part artist and one part color, Lauren Roth uses a unique combination of watercolor, acrylic, ink, and paint markers to create her tropical-inspired masterpieces. Inspired by the colors of Hawaii, Roth uses dreamy colors layered on textured surfaces to make her pieces come to life. Her talent can be seen on murals across Oahu and she has partnered with brands like Nautica and Rip Curl for specialty lines.
In addition to prints and paintings, Roth also sells journals, pillow covers, tees and pouches with her signature designs available online, in her namesake boutique located in Kailua, Oahu and in pop-ups across Japan.
6. Cultivate Hawaii
Cultivate Hawaii’s flour sack tea towels merge color and sustainability — Photo courtesy of Cultivate Hawaii
Founded on a passion of art and conservation, Cultivate Hawaii was born with a vow to only produce products that have been made with integrity.
Ever since the company’s launch, Merlin Edmonds has printed his simplistic Hawaiian landscape-inspired designs onto tea towels and beach bags using a bleach-free method that helps maintain the vibrant colors while reducing chemical usage.
7. Kim Sielbeck
Kim Sielbeck’s whimsical spirit lives in each of her pieces — Photo courtesy of Jen May Pastores
If the whimsical prints of Oahu-based illustrator Kim Sielbeck look familiar, it’s probably because you saw them pop up at Target this spring.She was the artist behind Joy Lab for Target’s capsule collection of patterned workout apparel, the latest of her colorful collaborations that have included names like Pepsi and LUSH.
Sielbeck’s designs have a laid-back vibe that channel the ultimate aloha lifestyle – colorful, carefree and fun.
8. Kamaka Hawaii
Kamaka Hawaii Ukuleles are almost too beautiful to use — Photo courtesy of Kamaka Hawaii
Established in 1916 by Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka, Kamaka Hawaii is the oldest family-run producer of ukuleles in the islands.
Makers of the famed pineapple ukulele, trademarked by a unique body shape and mellow sound, Kamaka runs their business on Samuel’s famous words: “If you make instruments and use the family name, don’t make junk.” It’s a mantra that’s worked – Kamaka’s wooden instruments have been lauded by the likes of famed artists like Jake Shimabukuro and Andrew Molina, as well as musicians around the world.
9. Nick Kuchar
Nick Kuchar’s prints are a retro blast from the past — Photo courtesy of Andrew Rizer
When Nick Kuchar’s wife couldn’t find vintage-style artwork she was envisioning for their new house, she had her husband illustrate some. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Kuchar brings visions of retro Hawaii to life with his brilliant travel prints and surf art under his namesake business.
Inspired by the early days of surf culture, muted colors and vintage typography, Kuchar uses a mix of acrylic washes and digital illustration to complete his trademark designs and has partnered with brands like Patagonia and Hawaiian Airlines.
10. Lola Pilar Hawaii
One print from Lola Pilar’s “Tutu’s Garden Collection” — Photo courtesy of Kristen Reyno
Driven by a lineage of creative women in her family, photographer Kristen Reyno launched Lola Pilar Hawaii, photographic artwork inspired by traditional Hawaiian quilts. Reyno’s creative process begins by sketching her designs, then gathering local flowers to bring her vision to life, and finally hand placing each flower to replicate the quilt design.
The finished print, each one taking five or more hours to complete, can be purchased in sizes up to 42″ x 42.”