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