The pandemic has pushed artists to seek connection, creativity | News, Sports, Jobs


Huelo artist Jan Maret Willman (right) chats with Haiku’s Darla Palmer-Ellingson in front of her abstract expressionism piece, “Wind Sister – Her Beautiful Mind,” at a Maui Open Studios event Saturday at the Sacred Garden on Kaluanui Road. Willman’s work is featured in the Wertheim Contemporary Gallery at Harbor Shops in Maalaea. On Saturday, artist Haiku Lalenya L. Vann also showed her work at the Sacred Garden. The Maui News/MATTHEW THAYER photo

HAIKU — Brooke Auchincloss smiled Saturday afternoon as artists and art collectors mingled around tables lined with her handcrafted vases, bowls and sculptures, each unique and different from the next.

“It’s amazing, it’s wonderful” Auchincloss said sailors were coming in and out of her outdoor carport she set up for the annual Maui Open Studios event. “It’s amazing that people can experience art and walk around, and also see their neighbors and support other people on the island.”

Open Studios wrapped up its third and final showcase this weekend, which featured artists located in the backcountry regions – South Maui was weekend 1, and weekend 2 featured all the west, central and east Maui, as well as the north shore areas.

Signs were posted around Haiku and Makawao on Saturday and Sunday to help drivers navigate the self-guided tour of participating artists’ studios and exhibition spaces.

Off Kokomo Road on Saturday afternoon, Auchincloss had set up a few tables to display its vases, bowls and goblets created using the Japanese technique of “raku” which involves heating pottery to a temperature of approximately 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and then rapidly cooling it with water.

Brooke Auchincloss on Saturday afternoon explains the raku kiln technique she uses to make her pottery, which was on display at her Haiku home for the Maui Open Studios event. His work is also featured at the Maui Hands Art Gallery in Makawao. The Maui News/DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

This process is done in a raku kiln, which Auchincloss made herself.

“You can learn anything on YouTube”, she said laughing. For Auchinclos, the COVID-19 pandemic has given him time to acquire and practice these new artistic skills.

“It was nice to have time to really focus and spend time and focus on his art,” she added.

Removing pottery pieces while hot and quickly placing them in metal chambers containing combustible materials, such as feathers, sawdust, or horsehair, creates unique patterns and textures on the outer layers when the materials burn, she said.

“It’s magic” she added. “You never really know what you’re going to get. That’s what I love about it.

Jennifer Owen is selling one of her pottery pieces on Saturday. The Maui News/DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

Managing hot weather, fire and propane are useful tools that she may have acquired through her experience as a hot air balloon pilot in upstate New York, where she was at the time the youngest driver in the country at only 15 years old.

“Who knew my whole life was preparing me for this?” she said laughing.

Auchincloss shared her location over the weekend with fellow ceramist Jennifer Owen, who, after 17 years as a full-time professor at the University of Hawaii Maui College, retired in 2018 and devoted more time to creating salt-fired pottery in his small Haiku studio. .

Owen can also be found teaching ceramics once a week at the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center because “I love teaching and didn’t want to give it up completely.”

The hui had temporarily closed during the pandemic, but reopened last summer.

“People were so grateful to take ceramic classes throughout the pandemic,” she says. “Classes were immediately filling up with waiting lists because people were so grateful to have a creative outlet when they were otherwise stuck at home seeing no one.”

And it was a “gift from heaven” for artists and makers who already had the space and supplies to pursue their passions, such as working with clay, dye and a potter’s wheel.

“We’ve been isolated so we’ve spent more time in our studios so I felt really grateful to have a creative outlet in place already,” Owen added. “I wasn’t miserable during the pandemic, you know, I had a place to put my energy.”

On Saturday afternoon, the sculptor-artist mingled with guests and answered questions about her work, which is inspired by nature and architecture.

Owen told The Maui News the event was a great opportunity for artists and collectors to connect one-on-one.

“It’s really fun to see who buys your pieces, especially if you put a lot of effort into it, and to see them go to people who really like them,” she says. “I always feel like my most successful pieces come to life when I’m done with them, like I’ve given them a life of their own, so when someone recognizes that and wants to put it in their home, that really makes me feel good and I think people realize that and find one that speaks to them.

Venues the artists used over the weekend ranged from galleries, home studios, backyard spaces and other larger exhibits, such as the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center on the Baldwin Avenue where Bo and Tia Brady’s custom shirt printing works were on display.

Sacred Garden in Maliko has also hosted painters like O. Borden, Jan Maret Willman and Lalenya Vann, all of whom have very different styles and use multiple mediums.

“People in my opinion yesterday, compared to all my previous experiences, were much more willing to be more intimate and personal – it was really lovely because everyone wanted to stop and talk and hear about the art and more about my story” said Willman de Huelo on Sunday. “I think it can be a testament to what has happened in recent years. People are starving for that connection with other humans and they are eager to get out there and do things.

Describing his style as “emotive abstract expression,” where she draws ideas from the natural environment, the universe and internal energies, Willman hopes that art will evoke calming and joyful emotions.

“I believe that I am a channel and have been given this gift of channeling expressions of beauty and expressions of love and emotion to the surface, so my goal is to create things that when people look, they may not see something they can relate to, but they will feel something that touches their heart,” she says.

Although it’s not her first exhibition – she spent much of her career in Colorado – it was the first art exhibition without her late husband Thomas, who died a few months ago after 35 years of marriage.

“I am left here to serve a purpose and my belief is always in my heart that I am charged with sharing joy, love and beauty through my art and my being”, Willman said. “I know he was here yesterday and today, and people who knew him and were here said they could feel him, and I could feel him nudging me and pushing me to go talk to people. … Somehow, he’s always pulling me out of my shell.

Although life’s ups and downs have evolved Willman’s work over the years, the heart of his inspiration has always remained the same: Maui.

“As soon as I got here it was like a straight match, so I channeled Maui for many years through my job,” she says.

While many artists have pieces on display in galleries and studios around the island, artwork is also for sale online. Visit for participating artists and resources.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]

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