I always say that I am excited about things. This time is no different, I am excited, but instead I’ll say I am overjoyed and proud to present the JANA LAM Summer 2019 Collection: NATIVE.
Through most of my career as an artist and designer I’ve been a mother. The responsibilities and constraints of daily life with babies and now, full-fledged kids, has made my home the comfort zone from within which to do my creative work. As a result, most of my designs are imagined and made from impulse. They come from the tiny pop of an idea, a doodle, a wisp of whimsy, or a flash of fancy that comes sometimes in the middle of the night. When drawing new designs I have relied on my gut and my heart to bring the images in my head to paper.
But for a little while now I’ve felt a chasm opening up in me, a need to move and see, and to discover new things. I want to go places, I want to travel and be moved and to open myself up to new experiences and inspiration. This collection may be my first small step towards a new creative frontier. Those might be theatrical words, but I can’t think of a better way to say it.
To start I kept it close. . .
My designs are born from me and I was born and raised in Hawai‘i, so tropical island vibes intrinsically flow through my work without intention. Hawai‘i is my place; it’s where I’ve lived most of my life, and it’s where I want my children to grow up too. But as I mentioned before, thus far throughout the course of my journey at the helm of JANA LAM, I’ve done most of my sketching and design work from a feeling or from an idea in my head. At no point was it my objective to use my art to represent Hawai‘i in any sort of direct or literal sense. However, earlier this year, a friend floated the idea to me of doing prints of Native Hawaiian plants. I don’t think it’s the first time someone has offered up that suggestion, and at first I balked at it as I typically do. I balked because though I was born and raised here I didn’t grow up as culturally connected to the islands as some of Hawaii’s other artists and designers, and it’s made me wary of stepping into a designated place that isn’t mine to step into. But after some thought I realized that if I want to draw and create something with native Hawaiian plants, I can. I just have to do it in a way that is authentically me— make it my own. I will never be an expert in native species (or will I? hahahaha) but if I can highlight their beauty and show my appreciation for them, and pass it along to others, then it’s well worth it.
A special opportunity to visit Hui Kū Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery in He‘eia, on O‘ahu, further solidified the feeling that this was the right direction for me to go. I don’t have a green thumb but plants are my jam. I love them, I’m inspired by them, and I always want to be surrounded by them. A chance to visit such a magical place, and to learn and be inspired was a rare and extraordinary experience that I could not pass up.
My visit was amazing. So many thanks to Rick Barboza, the head of Hui Kū Maoli Ola, for showing me around the nursery and stunning me with his knowledge. When I got home I was so overwhelmed by all the inspiration I had to draw from, I didn’t know where to begin. My favorite plant that he introduced to me, was the native Laua’e, which if even if you think you know Laua‘e, you still might not be thinking of the fern that is actually endemic to the islands. The common, robust fern that you see all over the place in Hawai‘i is actually from Australia. The Laua‘e that is indigenous to Hawai‘i, is to me, even more beautiful— beautiful and elaborately patterned. I could not capture it for the life of me. So instead I started with another fern, ‘Ae: a Polypodium which we have lovingly nicknamed Polypody. It too, is beautiful and rather intricate, and it spoke to me with its spottedness (I love spots and dots, all little freckles that are prefect in their imperfection and the way they move). I’ve fallen in love with this native green, as I have with almost everything I saw that day in February. I hope that you will love it too, and that it encapsulates the beauty and individuality of Hawai‘i. My mind is open now, and the journey has just begun. . .
In addition to the ‘Ae I also fell in love with another native beauty, the Ae‘o, Hawaiian Stilt. In the past few years I’ve developed a mild obsession with birds. I don’t own any because as a kid I was traumatized by the death of my class birds when I took them home for the summer, but now the infatuation is bubbling up, and I am just beginning to learn about our beautiful native ones. Around the world the Black-necked Stilt is not endangered, but the population of the subspecies of Ae‘o, like many of Hawaii’s other indigenous birds, is threatened. The main perils of their survival are loss and degradation of their wetland habitat, predators introduced to the islands (dogs, feral cats, mongoose and bullfrogs to name a few), non-native invasive plants, Avian diseases (especially Botulism), and environmental contaminants. A portion of proceeds of all sales from our Ae‘o totes will go to Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi, a non-profit organization that is working to restore the wetlands of He‘eia (kakoooiwi.org)
The ‘Ae and the Ae‘o are the first installment of the JANA LAM NATIVE Collection. There is just too much goodness to not continue with more in the future. I hope that you will love them, begin your collection, and see in them the beauty that I am just starting to realize.
Jana Lam is a Honolulu, Hawaii based design company that focuses on products and accessories for an endless summer. Lam's beach front home once served as the production house of her handmade in Hawaii line of one-of-a-kind, hand-printed and sewn apparel and home accessories. In Fall 2017, printing and production move out of the home studio, and the Jana Lam Studio + Shop was opened in Kaka'ako.