Monday, April 24, 2017

Pololu Valley Adventure

Pololu Valley, Hawaii Island
Saturday was Earth Day.  With all the marches and cleanups going on here in Hawaii and elsewhere, I was reminded what a special place it is that I live.  Hawaii Island is such a beautiful spot. 

Recently, a girlfriend invited me to get up before the crack of dawn and go on a photo shoot with her. Our mission was to head out to the northernmost corner of the island to witness the sun rising out of the sea.  It is always a bit of a mystery just where it will pop up because as you know, the sun shifts positions with the seasons.  The last time I had gone up to Pololu Valley for the sunrise was a couple of years ago on my birthday.  On that day in May, the sun rose to the far left of the sea cliffs.  But on this particular day, we watched, waited, wondered....and just when we thought that perhaps we had missed it altogether, we spotted the bright glow shining down on the ocean, much to the right of where I was expecting it. 

It wasn't what I would call a "spectacular sunrise", as sunrises go.  But as with so many things in life, it is often more about the journey than the destination.  The journey for me was just getting up, getting my butt out of the house, and joining a friend for a day of unknown adventure.  We knew there would be photo taking involved since we bonded while taking a photography class a couple of years ago.  We knew there would be snacks involved because my friend is pretty much the queen of snacks! But what would fill the gaps was totally on the fly!  What a treat! All too often my days are very structured.  I sit down in the evenings and plot out just how many bags MUST be produced the following day and where they would be shipped to.  To have a day that has absolutely no expectations other than spending some time with a friend, well, it was a good day. 

A palm tree as seen through a rain covered windshield
I'o (Hawaiian Hawk)
The weather wasn't perfect.  At times we even had to escape the raindrops by hopping into the car until the dark heavy clouds passed by. But that didn't stop us!  A little rain!  Ha!  Bring it on!  Some people may have been bummed out because it was raining, but when you do something with out expectations, you just roll with it.  I must remember this and do it more often.  It was a reminder that it isn't about what you do but who you do it with that makes it memorable. 

As if to make up for the wet weather, we were gifted with the incredibly rare sight of an I'o.  (Hawaiian Hawk).  I have lived here for 24 years and had never seen one in the wild.  My friend spied it and ever so quietly waved me over.  We stood there watching it for the longest time.  I took an embarrassing number of photos, trying different settings in an effort to get a good shot.  When tourists walked past us, we would turn away and look the other direction so as not to draw attention to "our" beautiful bird.  We were leery of people not appreciating the rarity of the occasion and perhaps scaring "our" I'o away.  I was later told by locals who are more familiar with this type of  bird than I am, that this appears to be a juvenile hawk.  He was plenty big though, and just look at those talons! 

Pololu Valley is about an hours drive from where I live.  It is at the dead end of a paved road that winds its way north from Hawi.  I have hiked the valley a couple of times but for me, it is the upper lookout that I adore.  There are a couple of horses and at times donkeys that lean out over the fencing to beg a pet on the nose and a scratch behind the ear.  I always see cardinals there as well. 

On your next visit to Hawaii Island, don't bother driving for 2 hours to the heights of Mauna Kea for the sunrise.  Just drive to the end of the road to Pololu Valley and park your car. Enjoy the quiet of the morning.  Listen as the birds wake up.  Hear the waves crashing below and if you are very blessed, you may even see "our" I'o perched up in the trees watching for an unsuspecting prey to cross its path. 

a hui hou
Pololu Valley Lookout

Friday, April 14, 2017

Have you missed me?

Does anybody read blogs anymore?  I know that I haven't followed or written a blog in a very long time.  But sometimes it is just a nice venue to share things even though you have doubts as to whether or not anyone will ever see it.  

When I started my business almost ten years ago, social media played a very small part in my life.  I checked my email in the morning and again at night.  I didn't have a cell phone and subsequently never texted or emoji'd anyone.  Ahhh....those were the days.  I must admit I miss the simpler days quite often.  Now, if you don't stay up to date with all of the newest, latest apps or social media venues, it seems that you can quickly become irrelevant.  (sigh)

One thing that I DO like is that when I put something like a new bag or an idea for a bag out there on Facebook or Instagram, I get immediate feedback.  But the time it takes to keep up with all the social-ness sure takes away from the business of getting down to work! 

There are lots of things going on in the Sasaki Bags studio this year.  I ordered a supply of cork from Portugal and am enjoying working with that.  I also have some hand woven fabrics from the Hmong people in Thailand that participate in a Fair Trade platform.  I am experimenting with some different bag designs that excite me with those textiles and others. 

My journeys in life have taken me to some exotic places in the past and soon I will be trekking off to Bali on an adventure with a dear daughter.  It has been 18 years since the two of us went to Maui for her graduation gift.  I think it is time that we explore another spot on this beautiful planet we live on.  I am eager to search for some of the ikat fabrics that are woven and dyed by the Balinese people.  Perhaps I will even find some luscious batiks.  Whatever I find, I know it will forever evoke the memories of our trip together. 

I believe that when you travel, it changes you.  It adds that extra color to my palette with which my memories are painted.  I see, touch and smell things that I have never before.  I can notice the differences in cultures and people while appreciating the similarities that bond us all together.  A smile is universal, even when I don't speak the native tongue. 

So as you follow me on this journey, be on the lookout for textiles made into bags that are all a little piece of me. 

a hui hou

Monday, December 28, 2015

In October MM and I ventured over to the mainland for a couple of weeks.  Sometimes just getting away and seeing new things in different surroundings can inspire me!  While others may sit at the airport on their phones or tablets, I have my camera on me to record things that catch my eye.  Usually I am looking to see what types of bags people are carrying.  I was so inspired that when I got home I whipped up some new travel bags that I have since been expanding upon.  The collection has a duffle, a carry-on and a cosmetic bag. 

 I enjoy looking back on photos that I took of my bags over the years.  I like seeing how I have evolved as a designer and that I have "periods" like any artist where I can identify what it was that inspired me at the time.  In the coming year, I expect to be making more bags with shoulder straps and less bags with wrist straps.  I will be sewing larger bags that can be taken on the airplane or to a board meeting.  The bags I will be making most of this year will be less novelty and more classy.  I still take my cues from the beach and nature, but I am not afraid of a bit of color! 

Some of the bags I will be selling this year may be in a higher price category than in years past because I am devoted to taking the time to adding details.  Details that I believe are important and set my work apart from other designers.  I am often asked by customers, "can you put an extra pocket in that bag"?  The answer is often, "Yes!"  But not without taking extra time to cut out, interface, iron, and prep it.  That means of course that it will obviously cost more.  Part of myself goes into each bag I make.  I have found that my customers appreciate that and that is why they come back again and again! 

I will be participating in several live "pop-up boutiques" and trunk shows this year.  I gave it a whirl in 2015 and although it is a bit out of my comfort zone, it was good for my business and for my own personal growth.  Stay tuned for updates on the shows I will be appearing at. 

 A hui hou

Friday, February 27, 2015

2015 word of the year

No way!  Really?  Its almost March? 
Well let me catch you up! 
My word of 2015 is "Focus".  I choose this word for a couple of reasons.  You know me!  I can't just have ONE reason!  So obviously, as a self employed worker bee (okay, Queen Bee at times) I must stay focused in order to get anything done!  I have several events this year that I plan to participate in for the "biz" and getting enough inventory and yet still keeping my regular accounts shelves stocked is quite a juggling act.  So completely imperative.  Reason #2:  This year MM purchased a photography class for me as a gift and I spent the month of January learning and learning how to focus in a whole different way!  What a great gift that was to learn something new about a passion of mine. 

I was blessed last month with having my mom come out here to Hawaii to escape the winter in Idaho.  What a treat to have huge surf while she was here!  It meant no getting in the water, but provided some spectacular shows!  Some of the waves splashed about 30-40ft into the air!  It was truly awesome! 

Mom has been helping me so much!  I showed her how to affix the interfacing and fleece to my gadget bags and she has helped to prep over 100 bags.  Go Mom!  She also has been helping me with some cleaning and organizing that gets put on the back burner when I am "focused" on work.  I got her a one way ticket so that I wouldn't feel panicky about counting down the days until she would be gone.  So we went for two or three weeks without a deadline in front of us but now the time is fast approaching that she has to get back home.  *sigh*.  Who is going to set the table with nicely folded napkins and clear out my dishwasher NOW? 

This week I had some pretty exciting news.  I was invited to ship off some bags to Oahu for a private viewing by Mrs. Ige, our Governor's wife and her stylist.  I got online and learned everything I could about her so that I could hopefully make a bag or two that she likes enough to purchase.  Here is what I learned:  The item in her closet that is her favorite is a pink dress by "Taylor" that she purchased at the Nordstrom Rack for $20.  Her favorite local designer is Jeanie Chun who designed the lace dress she wore at the inauguration.  She is on leave from her job as a school vice-principal while fulfilling her duties as "First Lady".  She likes cats.  She likes clothing that is colorful and often selects her husbands aloha shirts for him.  She is thrifty and likes a bargain.  She is quite small in stature.  I believe she is Japanese.  So over the last two days, I have made several different clutch bags (the style I have seen her carry in photos on line).  All of them are made from recycled kimonos and obis but I am also going to ship over a burlap market tote and some of my Wilcox-Sasaki bags since she likes color.  I have no idea if my items will suit her taste or that of her stylist, but I am hopeful and am honored to have at least been given this opportunity.  I will let you know if it leads to bigger and better things! 

For now, its back to the sweat shop. 
a hui hou

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Finding Joy, One Shell at a time

Last year at this time, I was still feeling so sad at the loss of MM's mom.  It felt like over the previous two years I just hadn't had enough joy in my life and everything became about work and pleasing other people.  I know myself well enough by now that I know my emotions can swing like a pendulum but in the end, I usually come back to my center.  It was around this time last year that several of my facebook friends were posting about "gratitude jars".  The idea was that you would write on little slips of paper and drop your good memories or things you were grateful for into a jar and then the following year, you would all sit around and read the slips of paper and fun would be had by dee da! 

In theory it sounded like a nice idea, but knowing myself, as I do, I knew that I would never in a years worth of Sundays follow through with writing on the slips of paper.  So, I thought about this and came up with my own idea. 

One of the things I knew had been lacking in my life was time spent at the beach.  Here I in  Hawaii and yet, life in paradise can still get so busy that you forget to stop and smell the plumeria!  So I made a commitment to go to the beach more in 2014.  In fact I talked to MM and he agreed that we could do our weekly Sunday "coffee and crosswords" at the beach instead of at the coffee shop.  Each Sunday I would take my empty coffee cup and take a walk on the shoreline, filling it up with whatever caught my eye.  I did it almost as a "meditation".  It calms me and I feel more at peace there then anywhere else. I believed that everything I found was actually meant for me.  It didn't matter if there were many other people out combing the beach because I believed that I would find everything I was intended to have.  Not every day was filled with joy.  There were days I found myself at the beach with a heavy heart.  But the beach made it better! 

When I started collecting my "gifts from the sea" I knew that I would go through it at the end of the year and give back to the sea anything that I no longer "needed".  Today as I sat on the floor, sifting through my finds I felt a full heart as I realized how much joy I had experienced this year.  I am looking forward to continuing this tradition and I trust that next year, my jar will be filled up to the brim once again with the memories I made while at the beach with the sun on my back and my fist full of shells. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Licensed Tattoo Art Bags Coming Soon!

Art by Keahi Raikes
Last month I went looking for a tattoo artist.  No, I am not a tattoo kind of girl, but I love the artwork!  Especially the Polynesian swirly freehand tribal look with an Asian influence.  So I went on Instagram and did a search for #HawaiiTattooArtist.  Thousands of photos flooded my feed!  I started scrolling through them and started noticing a trend.  Most of the art I was drawn to was by the same artist!  I just really liked the swirliness of his freehand work.  To me it seemed yin and yang.  Masculine and feminine.  So as people do these days, I IG'd him.  (left him a note on his Instagram).  A few days later he called me and we chatted. I loved how open he was to my idea of me using his artwork to use on a line of bags. Within days we had a contract signed allowing me to use his art and he sent me the info I needed to be able to have his prints professionally manufactured into fabric.  

Keahi Raikes is a Maui boy and when he isn't working as a tattoo artist, he is sketching new ideas he has.  He reportedly has 100's of drawings!  We have started out with a small selection.  I ordered the fabric samples a few weeks ago and they arrived today!  I can hardly wait to see how the art fits with my ideas and designs.  

I love how social media has made it possible to reach out to people who I otherwise wouldn't have a chance to meet. 

I am so very excited about using his art because it will speak to a whole different audience of people than some of my other work has done.  I am thrilled to see where this new effort will lead me into the coming year. 

You know what I always say.....Dream Big...then wake up and go work your butt off to make it happen! 

If you would like to see more of Keahi's work, follow him on IG @KeahiTattoo  or @SasakiBags to see the designs I come up with! 

a hui hou

Friday, September 19, 2014

Go make your memories

MM and I used to travel to exotic Asian destinations for our vacations.  In the past 7 or 8 years when we weren't at my parents for vacations, we stayed closer to home.  Since then, we've gone to Lana'i and Molokai and of course Kauai and Oahu. But more often than not, we have enjoyed stay-cations right here on our own beautiful island.  Our favorite spots are over in the district of Puna in the Pahoa and Keaau areas.  We have such great memories!  I was even lucky enough to take my mom and my daughter on two separate vacations to Puna where we relaxed Oceanside and enjoyed the sounds and sights of the crashing waves.  Within the next seven days, lava is expected to flow through the town of Pahoa where we've enjoyed many a meal.  Before the end of the year, lava will make its way over the cliffs into the ocean...forever changing the landscape as we knew it.

My heart is with those who are at risk of losing their homes or jobs.  Yet I am so thankful for the times that we had that are etched into my memories.

Life is way too short.  Go out there and enjoy it.  Make memories that will make you smile til your last breath.

A hui hou

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finding My Muse

 Tomorrow I go in for my second knee surgery in seven weeks.  The first one went very well and I was amazed at my speedy recovery.  So going into this next surgery I wasn't nervous at all.  Until today.  Today I started feeling antsy and just a little stressed out.   I had a list of chores to finish up so that my house would be ready for me to not scrub floors or showers for a bit. 

I also had sewing to do for some of my wholesale accounts.  But instead....I just took a break!  I decided to turn the TV off and just enjoy my own company for a change.  I put away all of my "work" and decided to play!  I spent the whole day designing and sewing this bag and it was just what the dr. ordered!  It got my mind off the surgery because I had to concentrate on creating something new.  I am really loving this bag.  It has all the features you girls keep asking for including a zip top, bamboo handles, an adjustable shoulder strap, pockets pockets and more pockets!  I even sassed it up by putting zebra print lining inside that you only see when the bag is unzipped. 

Most of all I love this bag because for today, I felt like I had found my muse!  Sometimes, I spend so much time on mind dulling orders that I forget what it is like to design new things.  I miss how that feels to make something that thrills me and that I can't wait to share! 

It is still fairly early in the evening.  I still have time to scrub the shower tiles and mop the kitchen.  I'm grateful for this day and for the distraction that I was able to enjoy.  Tomorrow I have to fly to Oahu for the surgery.  Thank goodness I have MM! 

A hui hou

Monday, September 8, 2014

Redesigning an Old Favorite

 One of the very first bags that I became known for was my hobo style bag that I dubbed my "Kealakekua" bag.  I discontinued it for a few years and have just brought it back with some design updates.  In the past, I had two exterior pockets on the burlap, but, alas, I found that girls couldn't resist seeing how full they could stuff their bags and the stress it put on the burlap ended up in fraying and weakening the fibers. 

For the past year, I have been carrying a prototype of this bag to see how it wears now that I have removed the exterior pockets from the design.  I have also added an open zipper on the top and two interior pockets that are streamlined.  One has a zipper and the other is a cellphone/pen pocket. 

I have also added a layer of fleece and a different type of interfacing to all of the burlap pieces.  So far, the prototype has not shown any signs of wear!  Yay!  (and the crowd goes wild!) 

Now I know that not all of you girls are going to dig the ruffles, and no, not all of these bags will have ruffles, but this one does....and I LOVE it!  What can I say?  I'm a girly girl at heart! 

Where can you find this bag for purchase?  Well, funny you should ask!  Just mosey on over to my Etsy store.
So there you have it!  Only you girls who actually read my blog are getting the heads up about this bag!  Lucky you! 

Have a great week!

A hui hou

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Yin and Yang of Living on a Volcano

Volcanoes are interesting phenomenons.  Living on an island with active volcanoes is such an adventure.  MM and I recently drove to Volcano and spent the night in the lodge at the foot of the caldera of glowing lava.  It was truly awesome seeing the steam and red hot glow at night.  But that is the thing about volcanoes.  They are responsible for not only creation and enlarging our island, but also for seemingly random destruction.  It is this yin yang experience that can give you "chicken skin" and yet make you shudder. 
Fireplace at Volcano Lodge with Madam Pele standing guard over the flames
Right now, as of September 5, 2014, the east side of our island is experiencing a state of emergency, officially declared yesterday by our Mayor.  The Pu'u O'o volcanic vent is actively producing lava that is flowing towards the town of Pahoa, which is in the same area that was hit by Hurricane Iselle just a few weeks ago.  Unless, the lava changes course, it is expected to consume the first home in 4-6 days.  The lava is moving approximately the distance of a football field each day.  There are over 40,000 people who live in that area.  Soon the main road way is expected to be covered by the flow of lava.  
Over the past couple of days, residents over there have begun moving their livestock and making the tough decisions about what to pack up and take and what to leave when the evacuation begins.  
This isn't the first time that lava has disrupted lives on this island and it won't be the last.  However, it is sad and my heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and many belongings to Pele, the goddess of the volcano. 
In 1801, the area that is now covered by homes of the rich and famous known as Kaupulehu, was once a thriving fishing village of about 10,000 people.  Then the lava came and covered over that area.  People moved and started over. 
In 1986, on the other side of the island, near where lava is threatening homes today, was a town known as Kalapana and a town called Kaimu.  Kaimu and Kaimu Bay are now underneath 50 feet of lava rock.  The news media seemed to not be able to get enough of the images of people watching their homes burn as Pele's fingers reached out to the wooden posts supporting the houses. 
This time, the Civil Defense has promised to keep media and "looky-loos" away to give these families some privacy in their darkest hours. 
Please keep the people of Puna in your hearts and minds as they endure the prospect of losing their homes. 
A hui hou

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Road to Success

Seven years ago when I started this venture, I knew it would be successful because failure was never an option to me.  Not every idea I have is a great one, but each idea plants a seed that leads to another and with so many ideas floating through this skull of mine, eventually I have had a few that have been winners!

A successful business doesn't just happen.  For me it has taken a carefully plotted course, LONG hours, HARD work, and tons of determination.  Building a business is not for sissies!  I knew that before I could quit my "day job" that I would have to build up a steady flow of income from my bags via wholesale accounts.  My original goal was to quit my day job within four years. That meant working two full time jobs for that long!  Partly because I am an over achiever, I reached my goal of becoming completely self employed slightly ahead of schedule in only three and a half years.  (Ta-Da!) Then on to the next goal.  No time to rest on my laurels!  There is work to be done!

I have tried to balance my business with a combination of wholesale, corporate sales and retail so that I always have orders on my books.  Somedays the crazy number of orders can almost induce a state of stupor where you could see this bag lady rocking in a corner, strumming her bottom lip!  Even though I kept hearing Oprah say "dream BIG", I don't think I was capable of dreaming big enough in the beginning.  The dreams I now have would have knocked my socks off when I was first starting out!

It is funny how things change though.  Gosh, everything changes!  Looking back through my photos, I don't think I even make one thing the same as I did in the beginning!  And just as my bags have evolved, so too have my dreams.  In the beginning, I remember being so enamored by having my bags appear in retail stores!  Heck, I almost was willing to work without pay just to "see my name in lights"!  (silly, silly girl!)  These days, my dreams have evolved to the point of wanting my own store front.  I have even started a search for the perfect location....because you know, "failure is not an option"...location, location, location!  There is much to do before this particular dream will unfold into a reality, but hard work doesn't scare me.  I know there will be many changes with regard to where I sell my bags in the coming months that some people will not understand, but I do have a plan.  The road to success in my story is a long and winding road.  It isn't smooth, flat and paved.  It is more interesting and full of character with bumps, twists and turns.  But I like it this way.  Success means many things to people.  For me, it means being able to do something I love, without sacrificing my entire life to build one.  It includes having time to design and create.  It's a journey.  Thanks for following me on it.

A hui hou



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sasaki bags in Japan!

For several years now I have been selling Sasaki bags to Mango Green World Market, based out of Japan.  This week I just mailed a shipment to Tokyo.  Some of these bags will be used by the staff in one of the new restaurants in Tokyo's Disneyland.  Mahalo to Takeshi Sumita  for promoting "made in Hawaii" .

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hawaiian Pueo, the Newest Bag from Kauai Coffee

I have been waiting since August for the new 2014 bag for Kauai Coffee.  In September I was notified that somehow the shipment of several 1000 bags got wet on its ocean journey from India or where ever they had them printed up and they arrived all moldy and totally unusable.  But this week I got a call from the girls there saying the new bags have finally arrived!  (yippee!)  It is always fun to get to work with a new bag.  This bag is very special in many ways.  First off, the graphic is really nice!  My imagination is skipping around thinking of the different parts and elements of the graphic that I will be able to use.  But the Pueo is very special in Hawaiian culture.   It is viewed as a protector and as an 'aumakua in some families.

Besides the symbolism and legends associated with this beautiful brown owl a common term you will hear in Hawaii is that of people working the "Pueo shift".  Well, lets just say, it sounds a whole lot better than the "Graveyard Shift".  It is the shift of "the night owl".

Once I finish up working on my current orders, I look forward to staying up late myself and being a Pueo of sorts while making purses and totes with this new great looking bag.

Thanks for following my journey.

a hui hou

PS....for some reason, my computer is not allowing me to upload photos currently to my blog but you can see a photo of the Pueo bag on my Facebook page,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Photo Bags and General updates

Amid all the changes around here, my mailman, Bruce, delivered some fabric this week that I ordered a while back.  Some of you may know that my two passions are making bags and photography so I decided to try my hand at combining the two.  I have had some fabric manufactured with some of my photos that I have taken around the island.  This first batch is a good starting point, but mainly it has opened my eyes as to other possibilities on what types of photos would work and the idea of even adding words to the photos like "Dream 'BIG'...Hawaii Island (as in Big Island)  or 'Aloha'.  I am asking for submission for other words or phrases to use and if I end up using them, I will give a free bag to the person who submitted the idea first.  The bag will be from this line that I am creating.  I have lots of cool photos in my library of island flora including some Volcano fern shoots and other unusual plants.  Be on the look out for these as well! Here is a bag that I made out of a photo of a gecko that was crawling up a beam on my lanai:

As this year is kicking off, so far my most popular fabric has been the seahorse print that I have made some wine bags and tote bags out of.  I recently made some matching gadget bags as well.

I have had several people apply for the positions I have been advertising.  I am very excited about a couple of them, but it does require a training period so I have decided to just take deep breaths and to go with the flow.  At my age, one thing I have learned is that everything does work out in the end...and if it isn't working out....then it isn't the end!

Speaking of going with the flow, I have signed up for a Qi Gong class next weekend.  I contacted a girlfriend and said, "lets do this!".  I guess it is all about being focused and centered...I could use some of that!  Plus I am looking forward to some girlfriend time to connect and go grab a bite afterwards!  Sounds like fun!  Sometimes I have to just schedule in things to do that require me to be away from the "sweat shop".  Otherwise I would rarely get out of the house and do fun things.  I DO love my work....but I also want to enjoy other things that life has to offer!  Such a journey!

a hui hou

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sasaki Bags is Growing"...Change is in the Air!

Remember how I chose "butterflies" as my word of the year?  Well, you can't have butterflies with change!  A few weeks ago I made the decision to hire more help.  I am aware of my own limitations.  There are only 24 hours in each matter how many times I have tried to milk it for more.  January seemed like a perfect time to start putting feelers out into my island community.  I am keenly aware that great working relationships take time to develop.  My current seamstress has been with me for going on five years and she knows what I am thinking almost before I do!

Through the years, I have come to appreciate that there are things that are critical to producing large quantities (as in oodles and oodles) of bags that don't require skilled labor.  Some things just require someone who can follow directions, is able to display safety and common sense and can commit to getting the job done.  As an example, the order I am currently working on, consists of 900 bags.  I am making 300 of three styles.  That is 1500 pieces of burlap to cut out, 4500 pieces of fabric, 900 pieces of interfacing, 600 pieces of vinyl laminate 300 pieces of fusible fleece and enough cotton webbing to string end to end between three (YES, 3) football fields.  For me to take the time to cut all of that out is frankly a waste of skilled labor.  When you have a reliable person helping with those duties, it allows me to get some fabric zipping through the feed dogs in less time.  I am also having  someone who can do the other prep work that I had previously been doing like just ironing on interfacing! Mountains of interfacing!

  I knew this day was coming.  MM has been telling me for two years that I need to hire more help.  But you know what a "change resister" I tend to be.  It wasn't until I really thought about my level of commitment to the success of my business that I decided to take the next step going forward.    I expect there to be bumps along the road to success, but I am prepared to lead my team into new territory.  I am looking for just the right people who can take on the challenge.

I am continuing to stretch outside of my comfort zone to keep my designs fresh and fashionable.  The journey continues.  Thanks for sharing the ride!

A hui hou

Friday, January 10, 2014

Celebrating Success

What does that mean to you?  It seems to conjur up many ideas and sometimes it depends on just where you are at in your life's journey.  Just like any other "journey", I have come to believe that it is important to choose where you want to go and then start planning how you are going to get there.  There may be many paths to choose from.  Don't be afraid of picking the wrong one.  Sometimes when you are on a journey, the detours and side trips are the most memorable!  Just don't forget to get back on track to that big goal!

For me, I am able to enjoy many successes, not because I feel like "I have arrived".  But instead it is about how far I have come rather than how far I have yet to go.  Most people, by the time they reach a certain age, have had to overcome lots of trials, difficult circumstances and heartaches.  That is life!  In my world, success is when you accept your situation and figure a way to move around or beyond it.  One of my most life changing moments that I recall is during a difficult time and I was talking to my boss and she asked me if I had made any decision yet about what I was dealing with.  At that very moment, I looked at her and I said, "Yes, I have decided... to be HAPPY".  I knew that from that point on, all of my decisions would have to be based on that one big decision.  That would be my goal from there on!

Being a handbag designer is not what I ever imagined for myself.  When I was young, at first I wanted to be a medical secretary and then a hair dresser.  Those paths may have worked as well as the ones I took that lead me to where I am today.  But ultimately, the goal was to be happy!

I haven't always lived in "Paradise".  Sometimes people may think that because I live in Hawaii and own my own home and get to do what I want to do for a living that life has been easy.  I am not here to complain, but let me just set the record straight because I want to give hope to all the other women out there who don't like what their life looks like.  You may not realize it today, but you do have the power to change it.  It can get better.  With every hurdle that you overcome, I hope you celebrate your success.

Me at age 25 with my daughter
Few people know that when I was a young mom with two little ones, more than once I had to stand in "cheese lines" in Montana and Idaho for basic commodities to feed my kids. I felt humiliated and ashamed.   I looked at the other people in line and wondered if they saw me and my kids the same way I was seeing them.  I had to, on another occassion, fill out paperwork for emergency assistance and was so grateful for the macaroni that the Salvation Army gave to me, even though when I cooked it, worms floated to the top of the boiling water and I just scooped them out and prepared a meal anyway.  I was 21 years old and pregnant with my second child.  I understand what it feels like to be homeless, relying on the kindness of others and having to use a dresser drawer as a bassinet for my newborn son.  Believe me, there were many days that I felt much more like a failure than a success.

I am grateful for so many things in my life that have changed since those days.  Mostly, I think it is me that has changed.  When you figure out what things in life you really want and decide to work your butt off,
 that in itself is a success. Don't lose sight of where you want to end up.   Life is full of small things that when added up can change who you are.  They can make you "bitter or better".  When that choice is before you, I hope you choose "better".  There is room in this world for everyone to be a success!

a hui hou

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Word of the Year

Here it is, New Year's Eve 2013!  I have actually worked all day and am pretty pooped to be honest.  I doubt that I will be able to stay awake until midnight.  But I am okay with that.  I have been prepping for this New Year by cleaning my house, organizing my closets and doing lots of thinking. 
 As you all know, every year, I choose a word of the year.  For 2013, it was "Change".  It was a good word, but I do think I should have been more specific because it seems that I ended up with more "hot flashes  from THE CHANGE" and even several pockets of "loose change" than the other types of "Change" that I was seeking! 

This year went by so fast that I didn't really feel ready to completely give up on that theme, but I wanted to expound upon it.  Perhaps "Transformation" was more of what I was looking for.  But "Transformation" brings on visions of robotic transformers...and that wasn't my after lots of contemplation, I decided on a word that describes one of life's most beautiful transformations.  It is also the word I use to describe the feeling you get in your gut when you are stepping outside of your comfort zone, pushing your limits a bit beyond what most people would do.  That "little bit scared", "little bit excited" know the feeling! 
Yes!  Butterflies!  I have some goals that scare me a little.  Things I want to do but they are infact outside of that space where I feel safe and secure.  A friend told me recently that "the good things happen outside of your comfort zone".  "That is where the magic happens".   I believe that to a large degree.  You have to push your own boundaries or you will never experience your full potential.  I thought about the caterpillar all safe inside the cocoon.  Working quietly at her transformation.  Then with effort, she works her way outside of the safety of that cocoon and prepares to spread her wings. 
I am not ready to share what all of my goals are yet.  There are many.  But I just wanted to tell you to be on the look out for Butterflies!  When you see one, think of me, here in Hawaii, spreading my wings, and becoming all that I can be! 
a hui hou

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Counting Down to the New Year

The end of December is one of my favorite times of year!  The Christmas rush is over, and I can start to look ahead to the New Year.  Traditionally, it is also a time to clean the house, so I have been busy washing windows, cleaning closets and decluttering my abode.  It is also when I have to do my annual inventory of all of the "nuts and bolts" that keep my business running.  I am SO NOT looking forward to that part!  Do you have any idea how many swivel hooks, D-rings, purse chains and turn locks I have in stock?  ME NEITHER! 

As many of you know,  I don't DO New Year's Resolutions.  I do set business goals around this time of year just so that I don't stagnate and get lazy, but I don't like setting myself up for failure by promising to not overeat or the like.  I prefer to set goals and take steps to achieve them.  I pull up my sales records for the year, and analyze which accounts I can work on to increase sales to and then set myself to go about doing it! 

In place of making resolutions, for many years now, I have instead taken the opportunity to reflect back on the past year by stating what was my "best" and "worst" of the year.  Some years it seems that nothing all that remarkable has happened and it is harder to identify the best and worst.  This year, the "worst" comes to me easily.  It was having my mother in law get sick last spring and then pass away a few weeks ago.  It is always hard losing someone who is such a part of your life. 

Thinking about the best thing is a comfort to me.  I had several really great things this year. My mom came out here in the spring and we got to spend some time just laying in the sun and relaxing together.   MM and I got to go over to Kauai for our anniversary.  I adore Kauai so that was such a treat!  Then we got to go see my mom this fall and help make sure she was all set for winter.  Seeing that she is getting by better than she was last year made me feel more at ease.  Then we went to Seattle and my daughter and son in law were able to make the trip up there to see us.  It was a short visit but it meant so much to me.  So when I think about all of those things, and ask myself, "what was the best thing of 2013?", I have to just sum it up by saying "Family".  Not just my own family either, but I got to experience something special this year with MM's family.  I was so touched at how the whole family rallied together and took care of his mom so that it wasn't too overwhelming for any one of us.  What a gift that everyone came together and honored her wish to die at home. 

I hope that your "bests" outweighed your "worsts" this year.  But even if they didn't, I do hope you find comfort in realizing that no matter how bad your "worst" was, you survived!  As long as you live, there is hope for better days.  Let's make 2014 a great year! 

a hui hou

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Tribute

On Thanksgiving Day, 2013 my mother-in-law passed away.  Kikuye Sasaki was 93.  When I think of words to describe her, things like "hard worker", "kind-hearted" and "generous" instantly come to my mind.  She was married to Harold Sasaki and together raised four kids while in the early years working in the coffee fields and later at their own full-service gas station.  Her husband passed away in 1995, a year and a half before I met their son.  Kikuye retired from the gas station at age 88 to enjoy longer days in her garden, which brought her great joy.  "K", as most locals knew her, loved growing vegetables, often calling it "fun"! 

One time, in an effort to show my appreciation for a discount she gave me on some new auto parts, I went up to the gas station to work for the day.  Just as you would sit down, another car would drive up.  Ding Ding!  And off "K" would go to start the gas pumping before checking the oil, and washing the windshields.  Checking the tire pressure seemed so much easier for her since she was "low to the ground".   To reach the taller trucks, this slight woman who maybe was 4'8" on her tippy toes, would stand on a plastic milk carton container to clean the windows!  I was in awe that #1. anyone would allow this tiny elderly woman to do that and #2 that she was so willing instead of having her workers do it! 

During the months preceding her passing, I was able to enjoy many good days with her and listened as she shared stories of her youth. She wasn't much of a talker, but when prompted she would share her memories.   Her parents ran a piggery on Oahu when she was a small girl so each day Kikuye and her sisters had to go door to door with slop buckets asking for scraps to feed the pigs.  She remembered what hard work that was. 

Some of her favorite memories were of visiting Disneyland as an adult and of course going to Vegas!  She loved Vegas!  She also enjoyed crocheting afghans for family and friends when she wasn't out in the garden. 

My mother-in-law was one of the biggest sports fans I have ever met!  She always knew the names of every UH volleyball player.  She often would call us to tell MM what time the UH volleyball games would be starting so he wouldn't miss it.  She adored tennis and especially liked the "cute" players like Andre Agassi (with long hair), Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal.  It reminded me that age doesn't matter, even in her 90's, she was still "a girl". 

"Mom's" favorite color was yellow, and one year for her birthday, one of her sons rented a yellow Mustang convertible for a week to drive her to work up at the gas station.  How she loved that! 

This is a sad time for our family, losing the Sasaki matriarch.  But somehow, I believe that her passing on Thanksgiving Day was appropriate.  I am grateful that I got to know her and have her in my life for these past 16 years. 

Rest in Peace Kikuye. 

A hui hou

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sasaki Wine Bags

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity that popped up.  I was contacted by a company in Sonoma who had discovered my bags and wanted to get together for coffee and "talk story".  For quite some time I have basically turned down such requests just because I am so very busy with all of my other wholesale accounts that I am not looking to take on any new ones.  But for whatever reason, I really wanted to meet this husband and wife team.  Where it will ever go, is not as important as the sharing of ideas that we had that day. Sometimes, it is just really nice to meet nice people! 

 It is sort of funny because when I first purchased my  embroidery machine years ago...that started me thinking of making things to sell...even before my shoulder injury!  I used to embroider all of my designs on a piece of fabric that was large enough that I could make a wine bag out of it.  I didn't want to just make practice embroidery designs.  I wanted to be able to give them as gifts or maybe even sell them so all of my beginning designs were made into wine bags!  Later on, I went on an embroidered Christmas stocking craze and made personalized stockings for the children of all the people I worked with at the hotel. 

Since meeting with my new friends from Sonoma, I have had wine bags on the brain again.  The other day, I took a few hours and just rummaged through my fabric stash to see what I could come up with that would be good for the holidays.  I think that wine bags can be "re-gifted" without any guilt.  I try to make them beautiful to make the gift of wine seem even more elegant and special, but I also want to have the recipient reuse it and if that means "regifting" it...that is fine with moi!  It is the gift that keeps on giving! 

I created a basic design initially and have stuck to that pattern, but have had fun working in different textiles.   I have used coffee bags, decorator prints, kimonos and obis!  I like to add some sort of hardware on many of the bags that I make so started out just suspending an O ring from ribbon.  That has evolved into a D ring that I suspend a charm from.  Right now my favorite charm is the little glass vials that I fill with kona sand, shells, and Kauai sea glass.  I have also filled some bottles with gold glitter and added a rolled up message of "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas". 

So far they have been selling very well so I have even created a section for "Wine Bags" in my Etsy shop. 

a hui hou

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Everybody has Something

It is Saturday morning.  I've had my first cup of coffee and MM and the cat are still snoring away.  A few months ago, after 5 1/2 years of working seven days a week, 12-16 hours a day, MM confided in me that he thinks I am working too much.  YA THINK?!  If you have been following me for awhile, you know that a few years ago my "word of the year" was balance.  As you can see, I am a work in progress!  But I do listen to MM.  He is my rock and though he doesn't say a lot, when he does, I try to listen to him.  With that in mind, since sometime in the summer, I have been taking one day a week off of work.  I admit, that my mind often strays back in that direction, I have a lot on my plate!  But I have been loyal to the commitment of not physically working on bags one day a week.  No cutting fabric.  No sewing burlap. What a concept!

Kikuye Sasaki
 November 10, 2013
enjoying her garden
I don't actually "take the day off" though, and you won't find me at the beach on my day off.  At least not now.  For the past eight months my mother-in-law has been experiencing congestive heart failure.  I am lucky enough to be part of a family who has all pulled together to lighten the load of caring for her at home and feel honored that we are able to help fulfill her wish to be at home.  She is 93 and is such a sweet and kind woman.  So a couple of days a week, MM and I pack our bags and head up to her house. If she isn't having a good day I just sit by her bed and read the paper to myself, dust, vacuum, or even prep hang tags for my bags.  Some days she even recounts her stories of being a young girl whose family ran a piggery and she and her sisters had to go door to door to collect slop from the neighbors to feed to the pigs.  But on a good day, we sit outside and just let her look at her garden.  That is where she finds the most peace and joy. That is still "quality of life" in my book!  The things you see when you sit very still!  Butterflies, pheasants, wild pigs, and birds!  I like to take my camera or use her ipad to take photos that later can be played back for her when she is in bed. 

When you are involved as a caretaker, other things in life take on a different level of importance.  I can appreciate how a company may have been "too busy" to place an order in advance and they may want 80 bags next week.  Or is it that they just didn't respect me and what I do enough to order in advance?  Hmmm...interesting question!  I have a crude saying (CRUDE ALERT!)  "I don't just pull these bags out of my butt!  I actually have to MAKE them!"  I am committed to my career but I also have a life.  I have a husband, a yard, and I have a family member who I help to look after.  I have to consider what constitutes an emergency.  I may have just been up all night wondering if this is my mother-in-law's last night on this earth.  When I come home, I do my best to shake off what I may have been dealing with and I jump back into work mode but EVERYBODY has something that they are dealing with in their life.

I have learned that concept more than once in my life and because of it, I try to live a life of compassion.  I do try to consider what others may be going through.  If somebody cuts me off in traffic, instead of getting peaved, I truly try to imagine just what that person's mind may be preoccupied with.  Are they on their way to the hospital?  Did someone they love just receive a diagnosis of something dreadful and their mind isn't where it should be?  Could they be hurrying in to the grocery store to frantically grab an item that was a dying request of a loved one?  Yep!  I have been that person and I know that I am not unique or alone.  Rather than to assume people are just "jerks" I prefer to assume that most inconsiderate people have something consuming their thoughts and affecting their actions.   

So right now, even though the 2013 Holiday season is kicking off, I admit to you that my production level is a bit lower than some years.  I carefully schedule in all of the jobs that I have taken so that I don't let anyone down.  I promise to always do my best, but please don't begrudge that I take one day a week off.  If I tell you that I can't take on an extra project, I am not being a diva.  I am being human and understanding my own limitations.  "Everybody has something" going on in their lives.  For is LIFE itself. 

a hui hou   

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, Tote Bags Stacked up to the Moon...

Just to keep the blogging momentum going, I thought I would show you what I have going on this fall. Or atleast some of what I have going on.  A girl can't share all her secrets, ya know! 

Besides keeping my stores stocked up for the holidays, in August I accepted a corporate order for 825 bags that is due in the spring.  Shown is about 200 of the 275 tote bags that are being made for this group.  They ordered 3 different designs of bags.  Work is progressing nicely and I am right on schedule to reach my target completion date.  I have also begun prepping 275 vinyl laminate lined swim suit bags that will be part of a 3 piece amenity set given to each couple in attendance of this incentive group.  The colors are bright, tropical and festive.  The sets look great and I will be proud to have my name on this project.  But it is lots of work.  A project of this size doesn't just fall together by itself.  I ordered 1200 yards of fabric, a plethora of coffee bags, 1000's of yards of cotton webbing and a box load of magnetic snaps.  That aside from the 550 cord ends, 275 cord locks, 275 swivel hooks 13 bolts of vinyl laminate,  500 yds of cording, 100 yards of cotton canvas, 6 bolts of stabilizer and 6 bolts of fusible fleece.  Ouch!  You should have seen that credit card statement! 

I love working with this group though.  This is the third project that I have collaborated with them on and they trust me and I them, which is a really good place to work from. 

Due to my heavy work load that I take on, I only accept a limited number of corporate orders each year.  I try to be aware of my limitations as a small company and always want to produce and oversee quality work.  If I were to take on every job that presented itself, I would have to hire many more people and I would not have the quality control that I choose to keep. 

I often hear, "You are going to have to hire more help."  I guess that would depend on the direction I choose to lead my company into.  I am not saying "no" to that suggestion, but often people don't realize that more bodies can also be more headaches.  More time managing, less time working.  The bigger my business gets, the less time I have to sew.  Much of my days are spent ordering supplies, shipping products, preparing invoices, marketing, meeting with clients, delivering products and then I get back to the studio and say, "now...where was I?"  I am lucky to have one trusted seamstress who has been with me for 4 years.  We work well together.  I respect her and value her.  She knows that I insist on her putting her family before work.  I remind her that the work will be here but one day her family (kids) won't be.  I wish I would have had an employer tell me that when I was young and trying to "do it all".  In turn, she gives me her all when she is working.  What more could I ask? 

I also have my trusted MM.  He often cuts out fabric for me when I really need to streamline my production process.  What a big help that is!  He set up an area outside that can accommodate the large 60 yd rolls of fabric with a cutting table.  That way we can both be working in different areas and we meet up for lunch or each at our own comfy chair for a rousing game of Words With Friends.  (He always beats me BTW). 

So there you have it.  A peek into my life, such as it is today.  A hot cup of Kona coffee.  My old scruffy cat by my feet and a "To Do" list an arms length long.  I'm ready to roll! 

a hui hou

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Being True to Myself...Again!

Sometimes my customers pick up the phone and call me out of the clear blue Hawaiian sky!  It is so nice when I have an opportunity to chat with customers.  I think about the designers who are "too big" for that and wonder if one day I will no longer answer my own phone.  Doing what you love isn't a bad way to spend your day.  I have to admit something though.  It almost feels like a dirty little secret!  Being a self employed maven doesn't come without a dose of stress.  It seems that the more stores I have added to my "ohana" the less "self employed I feel and the more it feels like I am working for someone else.  Someone with their own opinions on how I should run my business, what fabrics I should be using and what prices I should be charging.  You would be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of people who feel compelled to tell me how to make a bag!  ("If only it was leather...if only it had the burlap on the bottom instead of the top...if only it was just like Vera Bradley!...)  Would you ask a hibiscus why it wasn't more like an orchid?  Some people would!  But wouldn't it be better to accept each for their own beauty? 

As much as I respect others opinions, I also have to be true to myself.  I believe that the whole reason why Sasaki Bags has experienced the growth that it has over these past six years, is because I make things that I love and would personally use.  When I start straying away from that, in an effort to please EVERYONE on the planet, well, I believe it is a "lose, lose" situation. 

I have been asked,  "Can you make diaper bags?", or even "Can you make a bag for doggie poop bags to fit inside?"   Although many of my bags were born from the great minds of my customers, I have found that sometimes, my answer has to be "not at this time".  The reason?  For example, diaper bags.  Yes, I am a mom.  But my kids are 30+ years old!  I am not familiar with all of the current doo-dads and do-hickeys that the modern mom wants to carry. It needs straps carefully positioned to attach to the new stroller designs and hooks and such for all sorts of things for the modern baby.   Also I believe that a great diaper bag must have oodles of pockets and I would want it to have vinyl on the inside so that I wouldn't be caught "crying over spilt milk".  I COULD do all of that, but my pricing would have to be too high and I couldn't mass produce them due to the time it would take to make them.  It isn't cost effective for me to design a bag that I only make a few of.   So I admit, I have recently purchased diaper bags from companies who specialize in just diaper bags.  I invite you to do the same. 

My experience has been that when I start saying yes to too many styles or types of bags, I don't have the time to perfect any of them.  At times I enjoy making a custom request because I learn something each time I make a bag.  As many of you know, I am a goal oriented gal.  With that in mind, one of my new goals is to be listed as one of the top bag sellers on Etsy.  (just puttin' it out there!) To do so you have to have over 1000 sales.  I have been studying the top sellers and found something interesting.  The shops that sell the most, are concentrating on their Etsy stores, not on wholesaling to all of the brick and mortar stores.  Also, they have a very limited number of designs.  One gal strives to make the best iPad and laptop bags out there.  Another is famous for her coin purses.  That is all she makes is 1000's of coin purses. 

Now, mind you, I love variety and don't have plans to eliminate my tried and true designs.  But I do believe there is a lesson in there somewhere that I could learn from.  Do something, do it well and don't second guess your gut.  I know I will make mistakes.  I only hope to live long enough to make some doozies!  ha!  But that is how each of us grows, by seeing what works and what doesn't for us.  Listening to our OWN voice before that of others.  Being ourselves. 

a hui hou
A stepping stone I made out of hypertufa with the Japanese images for "Peace".