October 16th, 2014 / posted by paularath
Coral polyps shot by Shera Mercer.

Undersea shot of coral polyps . Photos by Shera Mercer.


Alohi Kai's artistic interpretation of coral polyps.

Alohi Kai’s artistic interpretation of coral polyps in a pendant and earrings.

This is as much a love story as a story about jewelry. When it comes to Shera and Joe Mercer, it’s impossible to separate the romance from the art.

It’s also about serendipity. A lot of things conspired to bring about Alohi Kai, a chic and elegant new jewelry line by Shera Mercer.

First, Shera had to meet Joe. Although they were both living and working in London, they met halfway around the world, while scuba diving in the Indian Ocean. Scuba diving is a primary passion for both of them, although personally they come from opposite sides of the earth and professionally they come from widely different fields.

Joe is a clinical pharmacologist  (although originally trained in marine biology) who was born and raised in Bath, England.  Shera is a consultant in social and health policy, whose  last job in London was with the BBC as head of customer strategy in a social care program for the  elderly and disabled. She was born and raised in Hawaii (Punahou class of  ’86) and previously worked in such far flung locales as Japan, Mexico, Seattle and Dubai.

One of several shark designs by Alohi Kai.

One of several shark designs by Alohi Kai.

Shera believes sharks are widely misunderstood by humans.

Shera believes sharks are widely misunderstood by humans.

Shera first began creating jewelry while a student at Punahou. She took jewelry classes there, as well as drawing and glass blowing. She also tried sculpture and ceramics, and loved every single art form. Then she went off to college  in Boston, followed by graduate school and travel. After school, consulting took over her life.

Jellyfish are another source of inspiration for Shera.

Jellyfish are another source of inspiration for Shera.

A box jellyfish for the wrist!

A box jellyfish for the wrist!

It was marrying Joe that brought her back to jewelry. The couple, who share all the excitement of newly weds, were married in England.

Joe said “My mother waited patiently for 50 years for me to get married and I wasn’t going to disappoint her by getting married anywhere else,” so a Hawaii wedding was not in the picture. But Shera wanted to have something tropical at their wedding, so she dusted off her silversmithing tools and cast silver cowry shells for each wedding guest as a gift to take home and treasure. This project, along with the couple’s shared passion for all things related to the ocean, rekindled her passion for jewelry.

Shera added semi-precious stones to make this shark sparkle.

Shera added semi-precious stones to make this shark sparkle.

Shera and Joe didn’t have to go far to find inspiration for their jewelry lines. Shera has been shooting spectacular underwater photographs for many years, in places as varied as the Maldives, Hawaii, England, Mexico and the Bahamas.

Shera really loves sharks and often dives with them. She longed to have a shark pendant, but couldn’t find one anywhere. Her first jewelry “model” was a shark. Shera firmly believes that sharks are totally misunderstood by humans. “It’s a privilege to swim with sharks and dolphins. They swim right up to us, and if they stick around with us, that’s an honor,” she said with unabashed glee.

Sea urchins also inspire designs by Alohi Kai.

Sea urchins also inspire designs by Alohi Kai.

Swimming with dolphins is a grand source of inspiration.

Swimming with dolphins is a grand source of inspiration.

Alohi Kai means “brilliant ocean” or “ocean brightness,” and it is  light that both feeds the ocean and enables man to experience what the ocean has to offer. It is also a portion of Shera’s Hawaiian name, which is so long and unpronounceable I won’t even try to spell it here.

Shera employs the labor-intensive wax casting method in creating her jewelry lines. She begins with one of her undersea photos, followed by a sketch. She then carefully carves and sculpts the figure in wax. Wax models are then cast in silver and some are made into molds. A single design can take her two weeks to carve.

Alohi oyster pearl

Although Alohi Kai jewelry has only been on the market for a few months, Shera has been prolific in creating new designs for the past few years. There are currently four collections:

  • Pelagic: sharks, dolphins, jellyfish
  • Reef: corals, urchins, oysters
  • Endangered: black coral, scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Hawaiian Monk Seal, Orange Cup Coral, Oceanic Blacktips and Lemon Sharks
  • Men’s (in process): sharks, jellyfish and, very soon, cuff links

Alohi fish

Shera is introducing colored gem stones into her line because, she says, "women want color."

Shera is introducing colored gem stones into her line because, she says, “women want color.”

Alohi Fish in Reef

Just in the course of our interview, I learned a lot of fascinating things about the ocean around us. For example, did you know that bubbles are not round; they are flat on the bottom? So Shera is creating a whole line of bubble-related pieces. Here’s the first:

A bubble pendant by Alohi Kai.

A bubble pendant by Alohi Kai.

Alohi Kai jewelry is currently sold at Riches Kahala in Kahala Mall and at Nohea Gallery in Ward Warehouse. Check it out online at www.alohikai.com

- Paula Rath


Alohi Manta Ray

Alohi Hammerhead

Alohi Kai’s hammerhead shark pendant.

October 13th, 2014 / posted by paularath

Sakraida Holiday Sale

Ready, set, shop!

Here’s an ideal opportunity to buy holiday gifts by local artists and artisans at really reasonable prices.

Nine talented friends have hui’d together for a pool party at the beautiful home of Linda Spadaro. You’ll find fabulous glass items, unique jewelry, small paintings, prints, note cards, handbags and ceramics. All are one-of-a-kind and of the highest quality.

Hope to see you there!

- Paula Rath


October 10th, 2014 / posted by paularath

TAG Sale October

This is another terrific opportunity to find the perfect Halloween costume or accessories. And if you aren’t familiar with TAG’s Brad Powell Theatre, it’s an opportunity to familiarize yourself with one of Honolulu’s hidden treasures.

I often attend TAG’s plays and they are almost always clever, witty and off the wall. They are willing to take a chance on little known works, as well as controversial plays and subject matter. The last play I saw there was “Vanya and Sonia and Masha & Spike” by Christopher Durang. Director Brad Powell and his entire cast did a fabulous job of engaging the audience and making us belly laugh.

There is a volunteer at TAG whose name I have never gotten, as she is so humble and low key.  She is amazing. She takes the reservations, works the box office on performance nights, and bakes the most scrumptious desserts for sale (for only $1!) during intermission. I think it’s safe to say that TAG simply could not run without her. She needs to be nominated for Volunteer of the Year – or perhaps a special Po’okela Award for support behind the scenes –  if only I knew her name. Do you know her name?

- Paula Rath

October 8th, 2014 / posted by paularath

CHAI Indigo Workshop CHAI Studio is holding two indigo tie-dye workshops this Sunday, October 12. The first is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the second is from 2 to 4 p.m.

Attendees at this DIY workshop will be guided by CHAI owner Amerjit Ghag. They will make their own scarf while learning how to use all-natural indigo dye to create interesting organic designs.

All materials will be provided for the workshop cost of $20. Light refreshments will also be provided.

Amerjit said India is believed to be one of the oldest centers of indigo dyeing, dating its use to 3300 BC. Other centers include the far-flung nations of Ghana and Japan.

Today we know indigo as the dye of blue jeans, but in ancient times it was associated with political power or religious ritual. Indigo plants were once quite rare.

Amerjit has learned a great deal about India’s indigo through numerous buying trips to small Indian villages. She works with long time indigo experts to design many of CHAI Studio’s exclusive textiles – curtains, bed linens, duvets, table mats and napkins, even clothing. She brings together their generations of dyeing expertise and her sophisticated design aesthetic. During the workshop, learn more from Amerjit about indigo and the natural dye process, as well as India’s indigo legacy.

CHAI Studio is located in Ward Warehouse, at the far Diamond Head end, across from Menchie’s. For more information, or to register for the workshop, call (808) 536-4543 or visit chai-studio.com

- Paula Rath

October 7th, 2014 / posted by paularath
Don't worry - I wasn't this close to the seal - I zoomed in a bit on him.

Don’t worry – I wasn’t this close to the seal – I zoomed in a bit on him.

I have added a new workout to my weekly regimen. Rather than swimming laps in the pool at the YMCA, I now drive down to Waikiki at about 6:30 a.m., walk around Kapiolani Park once or twice, and swim “laps” at Kaimana Beach. It’s so therapeutic!

It’s good for body, mind and soul.

When I arrive at the park, before 7 a.m., there are very few people walking and running, so I can just proceed at my own pace and think my own thoughts. When I get in the ocean at about 7:30 a.m., I’m usually the only one swimming. Sometimes there are a few swimmers going out to the wind sock and back, but I’m the only one swimming laps from sea wall to sea wall. After 8:30 a.m., however, plenty of swimmers and stand-up paddlers descend.

While swimming along the reef, I even get to see little tropical fish in the ocean. And last week there was a lovely monk seal lounging on the sand. The monk seal was carefully cordoned off, with signs to keep curiosity seekers away. Yet, even so, a Japanese visitor got within three feet of the creature before being warned off. Auwe!

How fortunate we are to have the ocean and the beach so easily within reach. Perhaps I’ll try my walk/swim at Kailua Beach next. Or perhaps a little holoholo to Malaekahana?

- Paula Rath