Artisans take delight in serving up only the best local products

Aug. 19, 2011 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

Clothing and jewelry designer Sierra Dew shows some of her creations that she will sell at the Made in Hawaii fair at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. —Craig T. Kojima /

Racks of dresses, buckets of taro, 3,000 bars of soap and a gaggle of dragons — that’s the stuff from just four of the more than 400 vendors who will present their wares for you to touch, feel, taste, try on and take home from the 17th Annual Made in Hawaii Show.

Made in Hawaii, a three-day event, is the real deal. Products that earn a Made in Hawaii label meet a state requirement that at least 51 percent of each item be produced here. Ask most artisans and they will tell you that they go even further in an effort to produce local items.

There is food and there are crafts, to be sure. Artists’ work is also on display, with painters, ceramicists, woodcarvers and makers of Niihau shell and feather lei. The co-op of Hawaiian artists Hui ‘Ike Ku’ina, known from the Merrie Monarch arts fair, will be on hand.

Get the list of vendors and the booth layout at the door. Buy it and ship it from an on-site UPS store.

Sixty newbies will show their work at MIH this year. We talked to three of them and one old hand.


Where: Blaisdell Center and Exhibition Hall

When: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. today-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. , Sunday

Cost: $4, free for children younger than 6

Info:, 533-1292

Note: Entertainment includes Outrigger’s Kani Ka Pila Grille Talent Search and performances by Jerry Santos, Melveen Leed, Hot Club of Hulaville and Eddie Kamai in the Pikake Room.

Sierra Dew, a young clothing and jewelry designer, has earned recognition in Hawaii and beyond for her wares over the past three years, and she’s ready to take her business to the next level.

All her garments are made here, and all the printing is done by Sierra’s own hand. Her newest jewelry design, bracelets and bangles made to incorporate a polished shell, are created in brass to keep the price point down. She hand-cuts stencil patterns for her original organic cotton and bamboo fabric T-shirts and dresses.

“My fashion designer friends just laughed when I said something about smaller shows,” Dew noted. “They said, ‘Go for it! Go for the big audience.'”

She took their advice and now anticipates meeting “thousands of potential customers,” she said, with just a hint of trepidation.

Tom Purdy, owner of Taro Delight, with his taro dips. —Dennis Oda /

Tom Purdy, the mix-master of Taro Delights, has a resume that reads like a trendy novel: Roosevelt High School grad, busboy, Kauai seafood restaurant owner, Seattle radio disc jockey and self-confessed “mayonnaise addict.”

Equally hooked on taro, Purdy moved home and played mad scientist. After working with another local-food entrepreneur and honing his craft at the Pacific Gateway Center, he created a plethora of dips and spreads.

With his appearance at Made in Hawaii, Purdy is taking Taro Delights to the masses. While he usually works with three 50-pound bags at a time, he’s increased his order to 500 pounds of taro to prep for the show. Since he makes the dips himself, there will be no rest.

His prediction for best-seller: the Thai-accented Evil Jungle Taro dip. His own favorite: Taronaise.

Philip Markwart, owner of One By One, and his silkscreen T-shirts and kitchen towels. —Dennis Oda /

Denise Fleetham is stacking 3,000 bars of soap in her Rainbow Ridge Farms booth at Made in Hawaii. She is one of many neighbor island vendors who will pack it, ship it and fly it in.

Fleetham started in Olinda, Maui, with a few dairy goats. Many gallons of goats’ milk later, she remembered goat milk soap from a trip to Scotland. A couple of years ago, she put a cooking pot on the kitchen stove, used a wooden wine box to cool the mix and cut the bars with a sharp knife, on her hands and knees. The process is smoother now, she says. Best-seller: Vanilla Sandalwood.

Philip Markwart returns to Made in Hawaii every year, so many times that he’s stopped counting.

One by One designs has a waiting line of fans at this point, looking for his printed towels with their wraparound designs, neatly packaged and ready for gift giving, and his graphic T’s.

Markwart wasn’t at the first Made in Hawaii fest, but he’s been to most in the event’s 17-year history. After studying textile design at the University of Hawaii, he traveled to Japan for an art education envied by his pals. Each year he creates a new image, and this year it’s a collection of dragons — a see-no-evil dragon, a Maneki beckoning cat dragon and a dragon shirt with a zigzag tail down the back, “so my loyal fans can be ready for the next year of the dragon.”

—Lynn Cook / Special to the Star-Advertiser

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