Volcano fuels artists' inspiration


POSTED: Saturday, May 09, 2009

Iiwi and apapane (Hawaiian honeycreepers) soaring above his back yard in Volcano Village 24 years ago inspired ceramist Zeke Israel to delve into a new art form—whimsical bird masks adorned with feather headdresses.





        » Place: Volcano Garden Arts, 19-3834 Old Volcano Road, Volcano Village, Big Island

» Date: May 30


» Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


» Admission: Free


» Phone: (808) 985-7487


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site:





        » Lisa Louise Adams, handmade books

» Mag Barnaby, woodblock printing


» Pam Barton, fiber arts


» Emily Herb, pottery


» Zeke Israel, clay sculptures


» Dina Kageler, textile arts


» Liz Miller, metal bas-relief


» Ira Ono, raku pit firing (demonstration at 1 p.m.)


» Debra Serrao, collage


» Erik Wold, pottery




So enthralled did he become with the colorful masks, he began designing them after other island birds as well, including the io (Hawaiian hawk), pueo (Hawaiian owl) and nene (Hawaiian goose, the state bird). The pieces represent 30 common, endangered and extinct native species. To capture the birds' unique characteristics, Israel spent long hours researching them in the library and observing them on daylong hikes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Makalawena Beach on the Kona coast.

“;Once I sculpt the beak, the rest of the mask falls into place,”; Israel said. “;Creating the masks is a way for me to pay tribute to and perpetuate awareness of these magnificent birds, and to provide a glimpse of life in Volcano, which is a truly special place on the Big Island.”;

Over the years, Volcano has become an enclave for artists of all persuasions. “;The simplicity and privacy of Volcano nourishes us,”; said fiber artist Pam Barton. “;Most of us can't see or hear our neighbors because of the lush greenery that separates us. There are trails to hike, constant birdsong, and foliage to touch and smell in a rural ambiance that keeps us grounded.”; Living in a rainforest makes it easy for her to dampen the fibers she uses for weaving and making tapa and handmade paper.

Ideas for Chiu Leong's porcelain tea ware come to him as he tills the soil for his tea plants. Randy Takaki translates his fascination for the trees on his property into simple but dramatic wood sculptures. The glazes Eric Wold uses for his ceramics mirror the gorgeous hues he sees in nature's palette.

They are all members of the Volcano Village Artists' Hui, which was founded in 1986 to bring together the many creative residents who live in the area.

Six years ago, Israel suggested the Hui host an event that would showcase Volcano's “;artists in action.”; Everyone loved the idea and it has been held every spring since then. The sixth-annual Artists in Action is set for May 30 at Volcano Garden Arts, a farmhouse-turned-gallery owned by internationally renowned ceramist and mixed-media artist Ira Ono.

“;It's a popular family event that has drawn interest in our work from near and far,”; said photographer Mary Goodrich, who is the Hui's publicity chair. “;When visitors come to Artists in Action, they get a taste of how we live and work. Old friends keep coming back, and we make new ones every year. They are witnesses to the evolution of our work, and we are inspired by their interest and encouragement. Many of them go on to make their own art pieces after talking with us and learning about the processes.”;

Demonstrations and classes will be conducted continuously throughout the day, and original art in a wide range of media will be available for sale. Browse to your heart's content, purchase a gourmet vegetarian lunch and picnic on the beautiful grounds. Keiki will enjoy meeting Ernest, Ono's pet pygmy goat.

Highlights include Ono's demonstration of pit firing, the oldest method of firing ceramics. After doing the first bisque firing in a kiln, he places the pieces in a pit he's dug in his yard along with hapuu ferns, banana leaves and other forest greenery. He sets everything on fire, allowing the ceramics to take on new colors and character from the burned foliage.

Lisa Louise Adams will display different kinds of handmade books, explain how they were made and show people how to construct their own small accordion-style books.

Parents and kids can work side by side Dina Kageler to create bright wall hangings and table runners from cotton fabrics, textile paints and native ferns. Multiple layers of impressions yield designs that are quite elaborate.

Under the guidance of other expert artists, you can also create a paper collage, throw a pot, and fashion a work of art from fibers, clay and metal. Touched by the creative energy that Volcano artists absorb every day, even those who claim to be inartistic produce pieces they're proud to display at home.

“;In Volcano, more so than any other place in the islands, you can feel the earth is alive,”; Goodrich said. “;That's not only because Kilauea is active; it's because nature, not man, is the dominating force. We artists respect that, and thrive on the peace and beauty that surrounds us. We wake up happy and excited each morning, knowing that something somewhere near our home is going to inspire a new project.”;


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.