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COVID Craft and Its Complexities



During the covid-19 pandemic, all kinds of stories took place, whether they were tales of a normal day or dramatic circumstances that no one could’ve imagined.

We will share three stories from three different people on what it was like during the corona virus; today, we start with the first.


Of course, these narratives are starring some of our favorite people: artists! They each have their own business creating and selling their art. If you are interested in seeing any of their masterpieces, take a look at our website where we have them showcased!



 


Peter Okumoto is a soft-spoken, but bright older gentleman who speaks with us during his visit to our store. We basically ambushed him with an interview out of the blue, but he just laughs gently and asks what we would like to know about his art. As we talk, he reveals that he had been working with porcelain since his mom started the business in ’57.


He admits that it took a while for him to love it as he does now, but his whole family was devoted to art, and now even he, as the master craftsman, hopes that his grandchildren will pick up where he leaves off. He had come out of retirement almost 20 years ago to pay for his grandson’s lymphoma, and had been working consistently ever since. He says he still dreams of being able to achieve the quality of his mother’s work, to continue her legacy. We smile because we are fully aware that his art is indescribably beautiful already.


We ask him to talk a bit more about his work with the medium, fearing that we won’t be able to conceptualize all the details, but he answers humbly.

He comments on the casting process and excitedly explains the benefit of leaded glazes. The glaze he uses is something that refines his art, making sure it can last forever, un-cracked and pristine.




Making porcelain dolls involves very specific skills, he says ruefully, and very specific materials as well. Peter currently gets his materials from the mainland mainly due to the pandemic leading many small businesses on the islands to shutting their doors.

Kilns, which are needed for firing, are also scarce. People aren’t as familiar with the porcelain-making process as they were in the past, so it’s possible that his craft will become a lost art, he says sadly.


During the pandemic, many small businesses took a hit. Trying to finance everything by oneself is a trying task even without a world-wide epidemic. Peter explains that for artists in Hawaii, a lot of their work is made for tourists who wish to take a piece of their adventure back home. When the world shut down, a huge portion of their customers were lost and Peter had to focus more on a local market, on what he could sell in galleries, and making his popular dolls. We asked if he ever got push back for trying to sell his work; he chuckled and told us that there was a reason most artists kept another job. But he loves what he does and wants others to enjoy it too.


He leaves us with heavy phrase, full of dual meaning, both as an artist always trying to improve his craft and as a business owner who has had to outlast every trial through his own power:


“Expect better things to come.”


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