26 Apr '17
CHRISTMAS IN APRIL
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CHRISTMAS IN APRIL
By Haylee Watson
When I got the chance to design a hat last spring for the Hui 2016 Collection, I decided to base my design on a space which always inspired me, The Blue Room, in ʻIolani Palace. I was inspired by the room's intricate designs and bold royal blue and contrasting golden hues. About a year later, a man named Brian Mikami messaged me and said he received The Blue Room Slaps Wind for Christmas from one of his sons. He was super stoked about the hat because he had done work on The Blue Room. Brian upholstered and restored much of the furniture in The Blue Room. In fact, the final chair that he upholstered for the room was dropped off at ʻIolani Palace on Christmas morning in 1991!! After sharing his awesome story and a brief history of ʻIolani Palaceʻs Blue Room, he invited me to come check out his workshop near Kapahulu.
Kauwila, Lily, and I went to Brianʻs workshop and man, did we get the coolest history lesson! Brian showed us pictures, invoices, and even letters he saved from when he was working on The Blue Room furniture. He showed us pictures of special knotting techniques he used, horsehair that was in the furniture from the original Palace furniture, and even a picture of the couch that had a bullet shot! He began discussing the process of upholstery for the pieces and told us about a traditional technique called spit tacking. A spit tacker would load tacks in their mouth and spit them out onto a magnetic head of a hammer, then they would hammer the tack into the upholstery to hold down the fabric. He said some professionals would take out all their teeth to make the process quicker, and some who accidentally swallow tacks, would quickly eat bread so they wouldn’t slash up their insides or tear a hole when it came out the other end. We also got the chance to see and touch the silk fabric he used to upholster the Blue Room pieces. Amazingly the silk fabric was all hand-made for the Palace by Scalamandré, an American fabric company who did prints for The White House and castles throughout Europe. Later on, Brian was kind enough to give us a piece of that fabric.
We would like to give a huge mahalo to Brian Mikami for sharing a literal piece of history, as well as sharing your detailed craftsmanship and process. It was like Christmas in April! Not only did we leave with new insights and a silk piece of history, we also left with Brianʻs inspiration. We were reminded to never let your craftsmanship skill down, and were reaffirmed to do what you are passionate about, and just enjoy life. ALOHA SERVED DAILY.