kapa making



Hawaiian Arts as a Home Business

As a lifelong Hawaiian artist, I was asked at various times, "Why don’t you do your Hawaiian art as a home business?"  There were a few reasons why but in 2011 it got to a point where I had to choose my day job or my side job and focus on one or the other.

 So I took a big leap of faith and went with my business.

And leap it was!  I mean, I left a full time, full benefits package, health insurance, paid holidays and vacation job to be a Hawaiian artist, in a very niche kapa market, in a down economy, on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!  Yes LOTS of faith.  Its been almost a year now and the mortgage is still getting paid and the lights and water are still on.  My years of exposure through teaching, doing demonstrations and traveling to show this Hawaiian kapa art have been paying off as people are able to find me without me having any more of an advertising budget than whatever it costs for the website.

Different and varied opportunities to express myself through my art have given me new eyes to see ways that I can expand and grow my art and art sales, without compromising the sense of cultural integrity that goes along with an art like this.

Because it is very time and resource heavy, ( I mean I have to grow my own trees and gather my own dyes from the yard!) I don’t have to worry about the market getting saturated.  And because my prime objective has always been the education and perpetuation of the art as cultural knowledge that should not be lost again the way it was for almost a hundred years,  the fact that people want to pay me to do what I do is like icing on a very amazing cake.  I feel grateful and blessed everyday for sticking with this art, for doing my best to be true to it while helping it evolve, move forward and regain a certain status among traditional Hawaiian Arts.  I am not the only kapa practitioner, there are a handful or two of us, and we all agree that learning, teaching and sharing the intricacies of this art are the most important objective.

Teaching children about kapa making at the Hawaii Festival at the NMAI Smithsonian

So why do I like doing Hawaiian Arts as a business now?

1.  Diversity in the art.  In kapa especially, there is teaching, horticulture, graphics and design, wood, stone and gourd work to create tools, the meditative/repetitive nature of pounding the bark, and the continual study of the art itself, looking backward to move forward.

2.  I’m no one’s corporate slave.  Hahaha as if I ever was, but my life is mine, the time is mine, yeah I’m a procrastinator and sometimes will be finishing a project that’s due tomorrow, 4 hours before delivery time. Yeah I’m bad that way, but I can make it work.  Also all the headaches are mine and within my power to solve them.

3.  I have never traveled so much in my life as I have since I have become a ‘known’ kapa maker.  In the next few months alone I will be going to Japan, San Diego, Washington DC and Tahiti, all to make and demonstrate kapa making at various Hawaiian events.  It truly amazes me to no end. 

If you have been thinking about doing a home business whether its art, some sort of services or a home career in online networking, I would suggest you go for it.  Of course I would encourage you to do some research, to look at your time constraints and your self-discipline level and either do not be afraid to fail if it doesnt work out, OR dont ACCEPT failure as an option!  And remember, if I can pound tree bark for a living, then you can pretty much do ANYTHING and make a home-based career out of it.  Good luck on your business endeavors!