Christiana Vardakou Blog Post about travelling to LA and Hawaii

One day in February 2019, my grandma called me and asked me if I'd like to go to Hawaii. Quite funny and definitely not something you hear everyday haha. A very good friend of hers invited us to spend two weeks with him there. I got really excited and told her that we can't miss this opportunity. We had to go! She was a bit scared, she hadn't flown so far in many years. However, my parents thought it would be really good for her, so them, her friend and I managed to convince her and almost a month later we were on a plane flying to LA.

From there we boarded on a cruise ship and it took 5 days to reach Maui, the first Hawaiian island we visited. It was probably the most touristy island in Hawaii, full of souvenir shops. (Nothing was made in Hawaii, everything was made in China). It was really sad to see that there was nothing handmade, nothing to represent the traditional crafts or techniques of the community. I really didn't like that, I was really hoping that I would be able to find local artisans and cute handmade shops.

I was really interested in finding Kapa fabric, a fabric made by native Hawaiians from bast fibers of certain species of trees and shrubs. Kapa designs consist of linear elements that cross and form squares, triangles etc.

I couldn't find any Kapa fabrics and the saddest thing was that when I asked about it people didn't even know what they were. It felt like the Hawaiian culture was completely lost. Of course, I'm sure this was also because I was taken to places that were very touristy. I couldn't drive to other areas that might have been less touristy, and I didn't have the time to explore much on foot either. We were on each island for a very short time. 

I was also interested in Hawaiian quilts but once again I couldn't find any traditional handmade ones. Hawaiian quilts have a very distinctive quilting style. They use large radially symmetric appliqué patterns. The motifs are usually flowers and/or leaves that have been stylised. Bold colours are used for the flowers and leaves, and the background fabric is usually white. The stitches follow the lines of the appliqué design. I didn't find any quilts like this either, however, I met a lady on the ship that was making one. 

There was a makers club on the ship and we met almost everyday, I took my knitting with me and managed to knit a shawl while we were sailing. That's where I met the lady that was quilting. I really liked going to this daily meet up and it was a lot of fun seeing everyones projects and progress. 

In Maui we stopped at Lahaina. There, I went snorkelling and swam with sea turtles. We also saw dolphins and sea turtles. After Maui, the next stop was the Big Island. We stopped at Hilo. There, I went on a hike to the Rainbow and Kulaniapia falls, the Kaumana Caves and I also visited Reed's Bay beach and the Lili'uokalani Gardens.  

After Hilo, we went to O'ahu, and stopped at Honolulu. There, I went on a submarine adventure with my grandma. It was a great experience, and I loved that we got to do this together. We saw sunken ships and planes, lots of colourful fish, sea turtles and eagle rays. After that I walked around Honolulu, I really liked it, the beach was beautiful and the city was very green. There were loads of skyscrapers, but at the same time lots of parks. I had some really nice food in Honolulu and in general I enjoyed my time there. 

Next, my favourite island - Kauai. I spent all day on a zodiac boat and loved it. We went to the Napali coast and again I had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles and dolphins. The landscapes were beautiful, reminding me a bit of Iceland, blue waters and breathtaking views of green mountains. 

We only had a few hours on each island and unfortunately there wasn't enough time to explore as much as I would have liked. That made me have mixed feelings about Hawaii. I felt like the Polynesian culture was lost and I found that very upsetting. I would like to go back at some point, and explore on my own terms. I'm sure that if I researched and planned and if I had more time, I would be able to find less touristy things to do and possibly even textile workshops. 

Finally, a note about cruises. I am very thankful that I was invited to this trip, and I really enjoyed seeing these islands, meeting people, etc. However, I don't think I would ever go on a cruise ship again. I hadn't been on one before and I hadn't imagined the amount of waste that is produced (so much food must be thrown away everyday). But probably the worst thing of all - the pollution. One day, I woke up really early and went to sit at the balcony of our room. The sea was brown. It was disgusting. After seeing that, I started doing research and found that the entire industry dumps over 1 billion gallons of sewage yearly to the ocean. So I am very grateful for the trip, however I am never going on a cruise ship again. 

We arrived to LA at 7 in the morning and I had a few hours before flying back to London. I arranged to meet a friend of my dad's who is an artist and has been living in LA for over 40 years now. He lives in "The Brewery" - an amazing place that consists of fourteen buildings with 'live and work' spaces. Artists, designers, musicians, dancers, writers and poets all live under one roof. It is an artist 'colony', and there is inspiration in every corner. 

The Brewery is an old beer factory, that was transformed to art spaces in the 80s. I loved the fact that the spaces aren't just studio spaces or workshop areas, they are spaces that you can live in as well. Really big rooms, high ceilings, full of light! It made me think of London spaces, with their ridiculous rents, the terrible constructions, and the tiny rooms where you can't even fit an extra piece of furniture. 

I loved the idea of living in an art and design community. Everyone constantly creates. It's so easy to get inspired or to collaborate with someone. You can easily ask someone's opinion on what you are working on, or to decide to organise an exhibition with other makers. There are four gallery spaces there and also a bar/restaurant. I kept asking myself: "Why we don't have these spaces in London or Athens?", "Why don't art universities send us to places like this?"

I loved spending time there, I had a very inspiring talk with my dad's friend that made me realise a lot of things and it was definitely something I needed. Maybe one day I'll have a studio space/ living space in The Brewery as well. 

Hawaii was definitely very relaxing, and it was great to spend time with my grandma. The most important part of the trip was these few hours in LA though. 


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