Celebrating the diversity, history, and creativity of AANHPI makers
In May, we celebrate AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander) Heritage Month in recognition of the diversity, creativity, and history of AANHPI communities in the US.
It’s important to recognize that the AANHPI community is not a monolith, and their challenges are as diverse as their communities. The AA and NHPI communities represent more than 50 different ethnicities that speak over 100 different languages. Asian Americans also have the greatest disparity in income inequality of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. (Pew Research Center).
This diversity reflects the long varied histories of AA and NHPI groups in the US. From the arrival of Filipino sailors in the 16th century, to the Chinese immigrants who built the transcontinental railroad, unifying the US, to the cultural and historical trauma of US colonization on native Hawaiians, and more (The New Yorker).
Craft has long been intertwined with AANHPI stories of immigration, heritage, survival, and connection. We’re spotlighting AANHPI makers from a wide range of backgrounds, to reflect on their craft and heritage.
Anna is a hula dancer, lauhala weaver, and Native Hawaiian based in Waiehu, Maui. She comes from a line of wāhine makers: weavers, quilters, sewers, and lei makers, who inspired her to create. Design and fashion are her way to connect with and share her culture and heritage.
Her brand Kūlua is a small-batch line of clothing, home goods, and accessories for the modern Hawaiian lifestyle, made on the island of Maui. The Studio Shop is located in historic Makawao town on the island of Maui where most of the goods are cut and sewn in house. Taking inspiration from her Hawaiian culture, Kūluaʻs collections use prints and fabrics to tell stories that connect people with culture and place while looking and feeling good.
Catie’s current work is heavily inspired by her Filipino heritage and core memories from her life that she carries with her each day. From her travels, to the people around her and her own experiences as a queer woman of color, Catie uses oil paint to translate pivotal moments of self identity and ancestral connection onto canvas.
Catie Lewis is a self-taught oil painter and muralist living in Connecticut. She began practicing art professionally in 2019 after moving to Austin, TX, and has stretched her capabilities across many styles and mediums since then. Catie has exhibited work through Big Medium’s Austin Studio Tour and her solo exhibition with AlmostRealThings Gallery, and participated in artist residencies in Texas and the Philippines. Apart from her personal work, she’s painted murals for both local homes and businesses and worked with corporate clients such as Google, Lexus and Herschel.
Kimberly Lim is the founder of Sun Kissed & Co, a sustainable fragrance brand based in Sacramento, CA. Her founder journey began with a personal challenge. After suffering from migraines triggered by overpowering scents, she set out to make fragrance enjoyable, not survivable.
Her cultural background and memories inspire her scents. “One of my favorite fragrances, ‘We Are Pear-fect,’ was created based on fond memories of my mom and grandma preparing a bowl of cut fruit for me. The sweet notes of ripe pears take me back to those moments of love and care. I use scent to infuse my cultural heritage into my products and share those cherished memories with others.”
For Kimberly, AANHPI Month is a time to reflect on her family’s Chinese heritage, celebrating the diverse voices that have shaped their past, present, and future. It is a moment to reflect on her ancestors’ struggles, achievements, and resilience, as well as a time to educate others about our culture and promote unity and understanding.
Mehek & Nida Ahmed
Mehek and Nida are the artists and sisters behind Chauncey and Coco, a lifestyle brand featuring noteworthy handcrafted goods influenced by their love of color and modern art. They create statement jewelry and wall art in an original style reflecting their vision, while striving to make modern design accessible to everyone.
Their family consists of a long line of artisans from India who have continually worked with their hands and chosen creative career paths. Growing up, they were always encouraged to tap into their imaginative sides, explore various artistic mediums, and learn through failure. As a result, they intentionally approach all aspects of running a small business through the lens of curiosity and gumption.
Chakriya Phal, who goes by Chatti, is a Khmer -American small business owner based in Colorado. As the owner of apothecary shop, Remy & Rose, she handcrafts nourishing, natural soaps, salves, and floral bouquets with the mission to bring mindfulness into your self-care routine. In addition to her apothecary business, Chatti owns a cut flower farm and is an art therapist. She is proud of her Southeast Asian heritage and her product line has started to incorporate herbal ingredients commonly found in her parents’ garden.
The co-founder of SHIN+NA, Haeshin Park, grew up between Korea, San Francisco and Brooklyn. Traversing these cities usually meant walking or using public transit, and a trusty tote was the ideal bag to carry all the necessities through a full day of work, play and commuting. Inspired by this on-the-go lifestyle, SHIN+NA set out to design a stylish tote bag that was functional, adaptable and sustainable, yet with a timeless minimalist aesthetic.
Both Haeshin’s grandfather and father were in the textile business in Korea. Growing up, her house always had fabric samples that her father brought home from all over the world. Like many immigrants, her father changed professions when they moved to the US, but he never lost his interest in textiles. “I’m sure I absorbed a lot of his love for textiles. To this day, I love the tactile feel of knits, and I place great emphasis on the feel of the canvas and other materials I choose for our bags.”
For Samantha Leung, the founder of HEMLEVA, her earliest memories of craft were of her mother and grandmother, who taught her to crochet. She remembers sitting quietly with them, watching their nimble fingers crocheted intricate lace patterns with nothing more than a crochet hook, a spool of cotton thread, and their imaginations. Her early exposure to craft led to a lifelong fascination and awe of artists. “I wanted to learn from them, using my perspective and experiences to shape my own vision and to create things that I want to see in the world. And to this date, whenever I create things, and when I design things, I always think of them.”
And while art, design, and making have always been an integral part of her life, this is not the path that she had planned for herself. After graduating from Drake University and teaching English at a University outside of Beijing, she decided that going to law school was not the path for her. “My new focus after returning to the US was to create something that I could be proud of, products that I could be proud of, and to do what I could to contribute to making things that would bring people joy – and here we are today.”
All photos courtesy of Kulua, Catie Lewis, Sun Kissed & Co, Chauncey and Coco, Remy & Rose, SHIN + NA, and Samantha Leung.
The Artisan Voices blog explores the histories, experiences, pivotal moments, and innovative initiatives in an artisan or maker business while celebrating craft, community, and culture.