Owhen the Covid-19 hit the Islands and courthouses closed, real estate lawyer Shauna Kahiapo lost all of her income in one fell swoop. To escape the resulting anxiety and stress, she turned to simple pleasures that reminded her of her childhood in Kāne’ohe: searching for food in the forest, picking flowers, weaving lau hala, sewing lei and paint.
Inspired by the new joy that ensued, Kahiapo gathered her last savings and started a new business, Hale Pua, from her parents’ garage in Waimānalo. “My undergraduate degrees were in digital art and pre-law, and I had chosen law as a ‘safe’ path,” she says. “I realized that nothing in life is safe, so might as well have fun and do more of what I love.”
The brand offers a variety of accessories, including pretty pāpale woven from lafite straw, faux flowers to dress up the edges, and jewelry strung with pīkake-shaped beads. More recently, Kahiapo has added paint-by-number kits to the mix, featuring lei and tropical flowers.
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This idea came to her when she tried to put the brush on the canvas herself. “Unfortunately, my art degree doesn’t translate into painting,” she admits. “And my paint-by-number search on Etsy just found some foreign cats and landscapes, so I decided to make my own.” She ordered her favorite lei, styled and photographed it, and digitally created the outlines.
In a time when we often feel isolated, the kits are meant to remember cherished times with friends and ‘ohana. “In Hawai’i, lei are part of our weddings, birthdays, graduations and funerals. … In the past two years, we have had very few of these occasions together,” Kahiapo explains. “I hope these kits delight others with the simple, soothing joy of painting and perhaps also remind them of a beloved memory infused with the scent of the lei.”