While living in Leicester, England, Ann Asakura visited the Victoria & Albert Museum. She was ashamed that she didn’t know that the brown paper sheet on display was a Japanese stencil, katagami. Questions flared: who, what, where, when, how? And never ceased.
Returning to Hawaii in 1973, Asakura met Reynold Choy in a ceramics studio. Together, they launched a holiday sale at Choy’s Kaimuki house called “Hum Sup Hands”, Cantonese for hot, sweaty hands, but also a saying frequently tossed about by 1950s teenagers. After seeing the yearly large turnouts, they realized that there was a deep interest in Asian Pacific crafts. Others shared the need to know.
Choy and Asakura co-founded TEMARI, Center for Asian and Pacific Arts in 1979. They selected the temari ball, a Japanese folk toy, as the school’s symbol because it’s made by hand and round like the globe; woven into a myriad of patterns as infinitely distinctive as its makers.
In Choy’s home, TEMARI offered its first class, “New Wave Kimono”. Those first students unearthed heirlooms from their grandparents’ tansu wooden chests. They refashioned kimono into modern-day clothing, while learning to respect its construction and surface decoration techniques. This initial class was significant because at the time it was considered bachi or bad luck to cut a kimono – a symbol of cutting one’s family ties.
Barbara Stephan, who had lived in Tokyo, was a critical influence on TEMARI’s early curriculum. She asked her former teacher, Kunio Ekiguchi, to teach Edo Period crafts and her friend, Hisako Sekijima, to demonstrate a unique perspective—baskets as containers of space. Stephan’s Japanese language proficiency and prodigious research skills enabled TEMARI to host many more intensive workshops taught by Japanese artists and craftsmen, many recognized as National Cultural Treasures.
In 1982, TEMARI began a three-year long project to study Hawaiian kapa, bark cloth. At the project’s conclusion, its Hawaiian language advisor, the late Aunty Edith McKinzie, named a group of students, Na Hoa Hoala Kapa, The Friends of the Reawakening of Kapa. Today Na Hoa, led by Moana Eisele and her assistant Kamala Du Preez, continue to share their skills and knowledge throughout our Islands, forge ties at the Festival of Pacific Arts hosted every four years by a different Polynesian nation, and serve as resources for the Bishop Museum and Smithsonian Institution.
TEMARI’s teachers have inspired hundreds of students who have in turn shared their knowledge with thousands more. Karen Matsunaga, taught sashiko and then published the definitive textbook on this ancient needle art. Karen’s mother, Edith Watanabe, inspired after taking Ekiguchi-Sensei’s workshop, authored two booklets on Edo Anesama paper dolls. Victoria Gail-White produced a line of marbled silk scarves and garments. At age 94, Lorraine Tokuyama is still teaching and creating with sashiko. Former student, the late Elaine Costello and her daughter, Lue Zimmelman, converted their family’s TV repair shop into Nui Mono, a popular retail store that offers clothing and jewelry made by local designers.
TEMARI has always focused on not just providing a venue where people can make things or buy art, but where they can also understand and appreciate the cultural significance behind each craft.
The late Bud Morrison, a bamboo artist, walked into TEMARI 31 years ago and asked, “What does kadomatsu mean? What is it used for?” The present popularity of kadomatsu, literally “gate pine” in Japanese is a testament to Bud’s efforts to learn its origin and significance. Morrison shared what he had learned. TEMARI then began working with hundreds of volunteers to make kadomatsu. The revival of this plantation era holiday decoration ensured prosperity in the coming the New Year. The estimated 18,000 Plantation Kadomatsu and 3,000 Corporate ones for hotels and restaurants made by these faithful volunteers was a critical income source for TEMARI. Now you can buy Kadomatsu in your local grocery store or big-box retailer, most likely made by folks who were Bud’s students.
Micronesian lei making, or mwar-mwar, is another example of how TEMARI introduced a culturally significant object and observed its evolution into a vital resource for lei makers. Lynn Martin, a former Peace Corps volunteer, shared what she had learned while stationed in Micronesia. One of her first students was Bill Char, a well-known and respected lei maker. Char then taught dozens of classes on how to make lei with only petals and stems. This lei style is now a familiar offering in Chinatown lei stands and neighborhood florists.
Before online marketplaces like Etsy or other craft fairs, TEMARI created opportunities for local artists to sell their wares. Its inaugural Trash and Treasure (T&T) in 1981 at its 10th Avenue location was just a plain old garage sale–where faculty cleared their studios, traded goods, and one person’s trash became another person’s treasure. For 35 years, T&T has maintained a jurying process, where artists are invited to create high quality, one-of-a-kind and limited edition crafts.
In 2005, long-time T&T Chairperson, Jan Kawabata, organized a new fair, “BOLTS of Fabric and Fun”, coined by TEMARI Board President Grant Kagimoto. Kawabata added a series of Textile Talks ranging from Textile Conservation to Peruvian Weaving. “BOLTS…” Is a valuable selling venue for all things related to the production and decoration of textiles. Approaching its 11th year, “BOLTS…” will once again attract serious collectors and fanatic fabric “addicts”.
Throughout its 37 years, TEMARI has hosted dozens of festivals featuring hands-on arts activities, performances, and talk-story sessions to reach 30,000 keiki and their families. By gathering residents and visitors of all ages, TEMARI aims to create a place where people can learn through doing—opening doors to new cultures, their rituals and arts. The first Children’s Day Festival was held at the Waikiki Aquarium 32 years ago. Keiki enjoyed kabuki face painting, sumingashi ink marbling and gyotaku fish printing. More festivals followed, focusing on different subjects such as, Makana Aloha (Gifts of Love), A Piece of Cloth and Kapa/Washi/ Paper. Each new festival yielded the same result: Children and adults eager to learn more about Asian and Pacific crafts.
That passion and curiosity is still going strong. TEMARI’s most recent festival, “Boro” (Japanese for rags) was organized to support the Honolulu Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Remaining Remnants”, curated by Sara Oka. Attendees crowded demonstrators and waited their turn to weave slippers from rag strips. Hui O Laulima, a women’s organization dedicated to perpetuating Okinawan culture, were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to their nuno zori activity.
TEMARI’s teachers, students and volunteers share a universal passion for learning. While TEMARI no longer has a physical home, it is still committed to increasing knowledge, creating opportunities and exploring many cultures. This year the inauguration of the Joyce Wright Visiting Artist Fund has revived our Visiting Artists Program. TEMARI still has limitless opportunities to teach “without walls” at the sites of our partners: Lyon Arboretum, fishcake factory, Honolulu Museum of Art School, the Spalding House Museum and the Hawaii Japanese Center in Hilo.
Like the threads that form temari. the people of TEMARI create a richer, more colorful community. when they are woven together in hands-on workshops, at marketplaces for local artists, and at free cultural festivals for all ages.
TEMARI, Center for Asian and Pacific Arts, is a 37 year old non-profit organization that perpetuates traditional Asian-Pacific folk arts and encourages contemporary adaptations through education, enterprise and special events.
• Increasing Knowledge
• Creating Opportunities
• Exploring Cultures
For more information: Please call 536-4566, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org