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Shangri La Stories

Stories from the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design

Stories from the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design

Interpreting Shangri La: One-of-a-Kind Works from the Hawaiʻi Potters’ Guild

From an idea born out of our #8x8_shangrila_23 exhibition earlier this year, Shangri La has had the pleasure of embarking on another collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Potters’ Guild (HPG), a ceramics studio with over 50 years of history in the Hawaiʻi arts scene.

Shangri La recently commissioned vases from HPG’s artists to be used as centerpieces and vessels for floral arrangements during our events. This personal touch embodies the importance of celebrating Hawaiʻi arts communities and supporting local artists. Shangri La’s events and convenings are a way for us to bring people together from our community to have transformational experiences and conversations surrounding art, nature, and place. We hope these works from HPG help spark your next conversation!

Read on to hear more from the HPG artists about their inspirations and processes!

Daven Hee, HPG Instructor:

After our visit [to Shangri La], we were tasked to make 15-20 little vases that were going to be used when there was a special event/gathering going on at Shangri La. The participants were nervous but determined to make their forms. They did research on Islamic art and also relied on images and information that we got  from our visit. The process from start to finish took about two months. Some feedback I got back from the participants was that they were surprised and proud with what they made.

Daven Hee, 2023

Deborah Cox:

The visit to Shangri La was so incredibly inspiring. I actually studied History of the Middle East and Islam when I worked toward a BA in Political Science from LSU. Seeing the artifacts and incredible displays was amazing. Everything from architectural pieces from Moorish Spain to the beautiful glass was awe inspiring.

I created three vases and [below are the] pieces that specifically inspired those vases. The glazes I chose were very much an attempt to recreate the colors that saturated the artifacts I admired.

Deborah Cox, 2023

Gilbert Chun:

The inspiration for my work was Shangri-La itself. It was truly a memorable visitation to see the beautiful architecture and works of art with the flora and fauna of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. That is why I chose to glaze my pieces with Oribe, which is a greenish/blue glaze. The other inspiration in particular was the entry way rug, with it’s repeating pattern. My pieces were thrown on the wheel, then carved out by hand.

Gilbert Chun, 2023

Gemma Yamamoto:

On our tour to Shangri La I was struck by the light, starting immediately upon our arrival as we exited the late morning sun and entered a large dark foyer with wooden screens and colored glass windows. I imagined what the room must look like with the hanging lanterns lit as we descended into the [Qajar Gallery], low lit, but with vibrant ceramic and glass pieces. Then, we meandered on to the white stone bathroom adorned with botanical species. The light constantly changes at Shangri La. 

I wanted to make pieces that reflected that light. Daven suggested we begin by opening our sketch books and drawing. Then it was on to the making, which can be a lengthy process of trial and error. My resulting pieces need more time to work out the representation of light in ceramics but not all was lost as I learned much in the doing, both about technical ceramic information as well as Islamic art. 

Part of the learning by doing was the opportunity to let my mind wander as I tried to emulate the geometric surface designs. Working with paper trying to make sense of the the geometric shapes, I remembered much of our mathematical knowledge comes from the Arab world. From there, I began to think about the Moors y Christiano festival in Spain celebrating the repulsing of the Moors. And that brought to me some of what the Moors introduced to Spain, oranges for one! and a recent newspaper article on how Spain, in drought, is bringing back the irrigation systems the Moors built!

Gemma Yamamoto, 2023

Bradley Chun:

It was wonderful to visit the museum and see the beautiful works of art. [Below are] some of the artwork that I had in mind when creating my pieces. I thought the blue and green colors stood out for me and the shapes of the lamps and vases were also on my mind.

Bradley Chun, 2023

Bernadette Chan:

I started ceramics at Hawaiʻi Potters Guild in 2016. I was really drawn to ceramics because the process did not come easy to me and I like a challenge. I was fascinated that you can make functional pieces using a lump of clay.

During the private tour with Nahed, ideas of making a particular vase came to mind when I saw artwork that resonated with me. When I saw the carved shutter in the bedroom, I knew I would throw a double wall vase and carved the pattern on the outside wall and glazed it with a matte turquoise.

Nahed explained the Polychrome Cut-Mosaic Tile Panel (Copy of Masjid-i Shah Panel)  with a cryptic geometric design encodes the repeating message “May it be blessed” in Kufic script, I knew I would alter the vase to flatten 2 sides so I can use the message on the vase. I picked 2 floral patterns for the other 2 sides of the vase. The Clay body is Porcelain and I sprayed with a thin coat of glossy white glaze to get the white finishing look.

The idea of the vase with a circle pattern came later. I took a photo of a framed art piece  in the dining room because I felt it was different from other artworks and I really liked it for its simplicity. I copied the circular pattern and put a border around the circle just like the border on the artwork. I used underglaze for the pattern and sprayed with a clear glaze.

The vase with the star came from an artwork in the courtyard. I loved the pattern with  colors of indigo blue and turquoise. I used underglaze for the pattern, put a clear glaze on top, waxed over the clear glaze and sprayed with matte turquoise glaze. It came out better than I expected.

Bernadette Chan, 2023

Tiffany Wong:

I was very inspired by cutouts and inlays in the furniture and architecture that had a beautiful way of adding patterns and textures to form. For my pieces I wanted to use patterns that I saw [at Shangri La]. The fact that these vases needed to hold water presented a challenge though because I wanted to do something with a cutout. Daven had a great idea to make a double walled vase to make that possible. For the other piece I basically used a section of a post I saw in the garden. The pattern was simple enough for me to replicate and thought it wouldn’t take away too much from a flower arrangement. I used two slabs to make the inlay look as the walls of the vase.

Tiffany Wong, 2023

Keep your eyes open for these one-of-a-kind works at all our future events. We can’t wait for you to see them in action!

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