May 28th, 2019 / posted by paularath

“Prayers for Puna,” mixed media on gallery wrap canvas, 36 x 36 inches

In my Nia dance class Friday night at Still and Moving Center, Krista Hiser set the evening’s theme as “bowls.” She talked about bowls full, not empty. And about what bowls full of joy and happiness mean to her. I found myself dancing with a full heart and open mind.

As it happens, bowls have been a theme in my art for the past few months. As I have segued from small art (the size of greeting cards) back to to large art, paintings on canvas, I am finding great joy in the subject of bowls.

Bowls have a strong connection within my family. My father collected antique Korean brass bowls, which now grace my home. One of my earliest memories of my maternal grandfather (my namesake, James Paul Jacobs), is a mixing bowl of cereal which was his breakfast after an intense workout that included running and jump rope. My mother had a dish fetish and bought exquisite bowls all around the world, from Shanghai to Ireland and Norway.

You get the drift.

The first bowl painting I did was in remembrance of my father. It echoes the beautiful shades of verdigris (gray-green) the brass has taken on throughout the years. It also contains the unusual green of my father’s eyes. It’s a color very close to that of the ocean off the reef where he once threw fishing nets, Hawaiian style.

“Blessings from My Father,” mixed media on gallery wrap canvas, 24 x 24 inches

I am easily seduced by color, especially royal blue. It was my mother’s favorite, and I can still remember one night when she walked into our living room on Portlock Road (I was about five) in a royal blue evening gown. She and Daddy were going dancing, and she whirled across the living room, reminding me of a glorious blue waterfall cascading across the room. Such beauty!

In honor of my mother, I painted “Blessings from the Sea and Sky,” trying to capture a little of the depths of the elements. Mother was among the most deep, intelligent and thoughtful women I have ever known.

“Blessings from Sea and Sky,” mixed media on gallery wrap canvas, 24 x 24 inches

My most recent bowl painting is “Prayers for Puna” (see top of blog). My cousin, Rusty Perry, has been a papaya farmer in Kapoho for 45 years. Last year’s lava flow was a tremendous strain on him, but his farm did survive. I send prayers to him, and to the other families so affected by the volcano.

And a little secret: Each of my paintings contains a tiny bit of gold leaf that I purchased in Mandalay, Myanmar. Sharing this tiny treasure reminds me of the intense toil involved as the men stood over the gold, pounding it into submission to create the impossibly delicate gold leaf. They pounded non-stop for 15 minutes, then took a sip of water, then continued the back breaking task. Blessings to those who toil to create such a delicate gift.

Paula Rath

May 23rd, 2019 / posted by paularath

Pili is located in Ward Centre, opposite Paul Brown Salon.

In 2005, I wrote a story in The Honolulu Advertiser about a new line of Polynesian clothing called Pili. In my lede, I wrote that Pili means to cling, hold tight, or bring together.

Today, in 2019, the “bring together” part of Pili has special significance. That’s because Pili is bringing a family back together through the clothing line’s beautiful boutique in Ward Centre. Brothers Herman Piikea Clark and John Kanaloa Clark have been reunited in Honolulu and are now business partners. They make an excellent match as an artist and business savvy guy.

Artist Herman Clark graduated from Punahou and U.H. Manoa, then moved to New Zealand, where he taught indigenous art education at Massey University on the North Island. Along the way, he met and married Sue Pearson, a seventh generation Norfolk Islander. They were both art majors who specialized in Polynesian print making.  Sue is now handling Pili’s design and production in New Zealand and Thailand.


Sue Pearson prepares a raised board that will be used to hand print an original Pili fabric.

Herman and Sue have been experimenting with traditional print making processes for two decades, transitioning from paper to fabric and fine art to clothing. Herman explained that the Hawaiians use a direct stamping process, employing ‘ohe kapala, or bamboo stamps, to apply the pigment to the material. On the other hand, artists from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga employ an indirect process, working with a raised board to create a relief pattern that can be built upon; wherever there is pressure, the pigment will adhere. The natural unevenness gives the print a diffused look and gorgeous soft edges.

I find it interesting that with both the ‘ohe kapala and relief methods, the negative spaces between the patterns are just as important as the patterns themselves.


Hawaiians use ‘ohe kapala to create designs. These are not “official” ‘ohe kapala, as my husband made them in a class and then used some pigments that the Hawaiians would not have used. But they show you what the bamboo looks like when carved.

Experimentation led the artistic couple to try wood, styrofoam and cardboard to make their patterns. They were surprised that styrofoam offered the effect they were seeking. “You can’t get this effect with silkscreens,” Herman explained. “It’s an intuitive process, akin to monoprints.”

The resulting fabrics, I feel, have a unique hand and are quite three dimensional.

Even the windows at Pili have a sophisticated Polynesian vibe.

The Pili store is located across from Paul Brown Salon and Island Olive Oil in Ward Centre.

It is arguably the most beautiful store in Honolulu, hung with gorgeous art and the prettiest windows in the city. Currently most of the merchandise is men’s shirts and women’s dresses. Home furnishings are next up. Expect tablecloths, table runners and bedding before too long.

The store also features some exquisite dishes by Kauka de Silva. Hopefully other local artists will soon be featured as well.

The Pili store is a treasure trove of museum-worthy Polynesian art, for the home, the walls, or the body.

In the manner of fine art and limited edition prints, each Pili shirt has a number assigned to it. So you know you are wearing something very special and you are not likely to see your shirt on anyone else. The numbering also helps explain why Pili garments are priced as they are. They are in the manner of a couture garment, requiring truly hands-on fabrics and sewing. This is Polynesian perfectionism.

As the Clarks segue from selling shirts at Neiman Marcus to a sold-out pop up in Mom’s garage to their own elegant store in Ward Centre, Herman said it’s “As if we’re taking the first strokes on a wave and now we’re paddling hard and it feels like we’re gaining momentum.”

Hele mai!

Paula  Rath

May 8th, 2019 / posted by paularath

Bliss Lau, fine jewelry designer

I recently caught up with Bliss Lau while she was on a bus, infant daughter Soa in her arms, traveling between her studio and her home. It’s a whirling dervish sort of life, the life of a working mother.

While Bliss is a thoroughly NYC girl now, she was born and raised in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou.

“It’s a totally new challenge,” Bliss said. Her mom schedule involves working two full days and two half days, while also taking meetings on weekends. “As a business owner, I had to hire two people: one for my business and one for my baby. I’m really lucky that I saved for so many years to have a child.”

It’s not surprising that Bliss has made it all work. Not only is she talented and oh so chic, she is also smart and savvy.

I have followed Bliss since she was a student at Parsons School of Design. Every step of the way, from her early career as a handbag designer through her innovations as a body jewelry artist, and now a creator of exquisite fine designer jewelry, she has taken a practical, businesslike approach to her design career. Trust me, she is a rarity in the sometimes (or should I say usually) crazed world of fashion and design.

Understated elegance from Bliss Lau

Like every aspect of her life, Bliss takes many things into consideration when creating a new design. Practicality is important to her, so many pieces can be moved around and worn several different ways. For wedding rings, she often creates double bands that can attach or detach easily.

While many of her pieces are simple and sleek, others suit the women in her life who “Are the Queens of Bling and want sparkle, sparkle, sparkle,” she said.

Bliss works with a wide assortment of precious gemstones. She also does creative nail design.

As her fine jewelry business continues to evolve, Bliss has identified a new initiative, ethical sourcing. “Within six months I will form a standard of practices” for ethical sourcing at Bliss Lau Designs. “There are a lot of components to why I am taking my business on a more responsible path. I feel compelled to be thinking about how every decision I make in my business can impact people.” For example, she uses recycled gold instead of mined gold. She recently searched the world for ethical black jade, which she finally sourced from Australia. She understands that women in small communities throughout the world work in abject poverty to make her materials available, “And I can help them. My eyes are open to a lot of things now. I think of what life is like for these people and it has made me a lot more compassionate.”

It became clear to me that motherhood, and her precious Soa, has deeply influenced her views on life and hopes for the future.

Bliss models three of her rings.

As a sideline, Bliss began creating nail art about eight years ago. She designs sophisticated black-and-white motifs for Etsuko Shimatani’s Japanese nail salon in NYC. “Nail art became a part of my self expression,” Bliss explained. “It’s a little bit of luxury. It was one of the first things that I did for self-care and it made me happy during the transition to being a woman.”

Bliss is also making conscious choices regarding where her jewelry will be sold. In Honolulu, it had to be Riches Kahala. “Aunty Lo (Kaimuloa, owner of Riches Kahala) is magic and she’s so powerful. When I was thinking about who I would like to work with in Honolulu, she’s the first person I thought of. She has had a healthy business for over 30 years and she’s still there. I have so much respect for her and her team.”

Custom orders can be placed for Bliss Lau pieces at Riches Kahala. They have gemstones from which to choose, as well as rings to try on and metals to help you decide which will look best with your skin tone. Phone 737-3303. Appointments are recommended.

Paula Rath

April 6th, 2019 / posted by paularath

“Blessings from Sea and Sky,” a new acrylic painting on gallery wrap canvas.          24 x 24″

I have recently returned to acrylic painting.

For quite awhile I’ve struggled with watercolors. When traveling, watercolors are by far the most practical medium. All you need is a little (or even tiny) palette of paint pans, a pad of watercolor paper, a few brushes and you’re good to go. It’s easy to paint anywhere because it doesn’t leave a mess.

However, acrylics can’t be placed in a carry on, so you have to pack them in a suitcase. And woe unto you if the tubes should leak or burst. Auwe! And, yes, they can leave quite a mess anyplace you choose to paint (hotel carpet, friend’s table, cruise ship veranda) especially if you don’t have a proper palette. So, watercolors make sense.

But I really love the versatility of acrylics. I find them to be more forgiving than watercolors. The layering is exciting and varies widely, depending on how wet or dry the paint underneath happens to be, and you can pretty easily control and manage the wetness. Also, acrylics are so conducive to collage.

“Breaking Big at Shark’s Cove”,” a highly textured acrylic painting on gallery wrap canvas.

Another feature of acrylics is texture. You can add all sorts of textures to the canvas, thick and thin, smooth and rough. You can build them up in areas and leave other sections smooth. Sometimes I use a little sand I picked up on the beach, especially fun for seascapes.

By the way, both of these paintings were something entirely different in another life. After living with them for sometime, I decided they just weren’t right. So I came up with another direction and inspiration and went at them anew.

However, I left a tiny bit of each of the old paintings intact. I learned that from teacher George Woollard. He advises never to obliterate an entire painting, but to keep a bit of it to add character and depth to your new work. I love playing peek-a-boo with a painting!

If you would like to see more of my work, including a few of the “Sand & Sea” fiber art works, go to

-Paula Rath


March 28th, 2019 / posted by paularath


Lynne Koplin, the CEO of Hawaii’s own Reyn Spooner, brings a world of retail to the islands. Her fashion pedigree goes deep into some impressive brands and labels. Her background is in swimwear merchandising, but she has also worked in resort, sportswear, upscale denim and lingerie.

Koplin was mentored by none other than Anne Cole of the iconic Cole of California swimwear line. Among the brands she has worked at or headed up are Tommy Bahama, J Crew, True Religion, Marks & Spencer (London) and Victoria’s Secret. She cut her retail teeth in the hallowed halls of Burdines Miami, I Magnin San Francisco and Marshall Fields Chicago, where she worked as a 23-year-old shoe buyer, traveling frequently to Florence on buying trips. (A dream job if I ever heard one!)


Reyn’s swimwear is fashioned from Italian circular knit featuring classic Reyn’s prints.

So what brought this high powered fashion executive to Reyn Spooner? “I love being with a heritage brand that’s authentic,” she said in a phone interview today. “The consumers today want the truth, visibility and authenticity. When I first came here, I felt like an investigator, trying to find out what the company was…and what made it last so long.” She felt Reyn’s resonated with her and her long-time love of Hawaii. (She has been coming here since 1985.)

The classic shirt in Pau Sky.

Koplin shares a vision with the owners of Reyn Spooner. All feel an obligation to help the company while respecting its long history and the affection it earns from its customers.

That affection is unique in these chaotic retail times. Don’t we all know men who own dozens (or scores) of Reyn Spooner shirts and would never be seen in anything else, whether on Bishop, Liliha or Auahi Street?

In 2019, enter the women. We have all shopped at Reyn’s for our husbands, brothers and fathers for decades. Now it’s our turn.

The classic shirt dress in Maui Palm.

The Limited Edition Women’s Collection includes a classic shirt, as well as a classic shirt dress. There are tunics and bermuda shorts and, of course, swimwear: one-piece, hipsters and bikinis. Swimwear sizes are 4 to 14, while resort wear comes in XS to XL.

While there are some solids, favorite classic prints prevail, including the Lahaina, Maui Palm and Pau Sky. Spring colors are mainly blue-based, with a navy neutral, but there are also pops of pink, coral and purple.

You can find them exclusively in Hawaii Reyn Spooner stores or online at

– Paula Rath