The very first candidate for our new dog blog segment is the one and only Gobi Dog! About eight years old, owner Rechung Fujihira presumes he is possibly part Pomeranian and Australian Shepherd. Gobi weighs about 15 pounds and loves to eat dried veal tails. Some of his favorite activities include “forgetting people and then barking at them even though he met them and became friends with them the day before.” Being cute, sometimes aloof, playful and very forgetful are some of Gobi’s traits.
Gobi was originally a foster dog and was pawned off to Rechung by Dan and Cindy. After a month of fostering him, Rechung knew that he could not give him back and adopted him right away.
A USUAL DAY AT BOXJELLY FROM GOBI’S EYES
I’m peace. SHUT UP!
Leave me loner hoo-man.
I don’t understand hoo-man obsession with doggo-me. They want to come and touch my skin. I want to relax. I wait for Rechung for home. Dried meat taste satisfactory. I stick close to masterman to keep me away from these “undesirables.” When I’m not with him, I like my safe-space. Catch me laying underneath the wooden table. Nevermind, I don’t like you. I like laying on cold floors. Reminds me of hoo-man soul. Barren and cold.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Thad Higa?
I’m someone. I wake up everyday and don’t know how combs work. 3rd generation Korean American, 4th generation Okinawan American. Ex-religious. Born in San Jose. Went to elementary and high school in Honolulu. Moved to Seattle, moved to New York. Been back in Hawaii for two years. I can do ten push ups in two weeks. Art makes me pale. I like jeans and am looking for overalls.
What did you do in the past and what are you currently doing?
I was pursuing life solely as a writer of experimental fiction and poetry. I got sidetracked making zines with a group of artists and musician friends when I lived in Seattle, and didn’t stop. Now I’m going to take it to the Guggenheim this summer.
I got into bookmaking after I finished writing this novella and was impatient with finding a publisher so I started printing, binding and selling it out myself. I smuggled it into bookstores and took it to bars to sell for drinks. It wasn’t the best story but it got me excited about bookmaking.
I’m working on designing a zine with a band Sontag Shogun, a zine that will be released as a counterpart to their album. I’m also working on a HIZAB Library collaboration with CONTACT—the contemporary Hawaii arts exhibition—coming up in April. I’m building shelves for the artist books, curating a selection of HIZAB books for perusal and display, doing a Walkabout event with Adele from 88 Block Walks, where we’re attempting to remap the mission house area through psychogeography, and trying to finish my own artist book to submit.
How did your art come about? How would you describe your work?
I like to make things. It started by making special little art objects for people I liked. Then I started keeping things for myself. I’m an amateur. I just experiment and use the stuff around me to make things. I have ideas that make me laugh, or complicated feelings that I want to take apart, then I make work from it.
I would call it something like speculative book-making. Ultracollagin’. Special curatives for curators. Counterpart-therapy through frustrating and non-therapeutic means. Stealin’n’Sewing. Word Problems. I’m figuring it out. I’m trying to bring words to life. Physically. Giving actual weight to words. I’m definitely not a pioneer in the field, but I’m trying to find my own way to both new writing and new books.
Why do you do the work that you do? How is it different from everything else?
Everyone has their own lens through which they experience the world. These projects are mine. I want to find a deeper communication to people and place through these endeavors. Or in the least, engage my time in a way that interests me. I like what I do, so I do it. If you’re true to yourself through the work you do, I believe (maybe naively) it will resonate with others.
What is Tiny Zine Hawaii?
Tiny Zines. In Hawaii. I set up a little archive library for the zines to exist at Mori in South Shore Market. People can create their own tiny zines to live in the library permanently, or have some set up to give away for free.
I wrote in my first (and maybe last) Tiny Zine email list message, “It’s an exercise of creation, and a meditation on salience, portability, intimacy, coincidences and impermanence. It will be whatever the community makes of it and whatever failures/successes I cause by poor sense of place and social interaction, and will last for a long time or a not so long time. I don’t present hallmark invitations to create with Tiny Zine. I am one direction in an open field. I present myself and my moment here today. Tiny Zine is next to nothing. This near-nothingness is the signified and the signifier. Tiny Zine is the notion of the unopened door we walk past on the sidewalk daily. It is the free access to create/pass on/find not just beauty but wisdom in this quick world. It is the practice of exposure and a permanent quest for strangeness (realness), friends, heavy entertainment and alternative routes of communication.”
How did you come up with the concept of Tiny Zine Hawaii? How did it all start?
I’ve always been into miniature things. They make me laugh, especially if they’re represented dryly, objects unaware of their own tinyness. It provides me perspective on how absurd our concerns are to some giant entity looking down on Earth. I also went small because it’s economic. You don’t need a lot of material to create 1 tiny zine.
I don’t remember the exact impetus behind Tiny Zine Hawaii. But it was definitely inspired by Little Free Libraries and The Sketchbook Project. Little Free Libraries are those birdhouses for book-people, where someone builds bookshelves on the sidewalks, outside their houses or shops, and people take and leave books. Sketchbook Project is a space in NYC where artists all over can purchase a notebook to fill up with whatever they wanted, drawings, writings, paintings, prints…and when they’re finished they leave it in the Sketchbook library for others to look at. Tiny Zine Hawaii is supposed to be a mix of those two, but it’s hard to keep up with it. People take a lot more than they put back.
What is HIZAB Library?
It stands for Hawaii Zine and Book Library. It’s a work in progress at the moment, in the Chinatown Artist Lofts (until I have to relocate at the end of April). The full idea is to create a speakeasy type lounge for books rather than drinks, some which can be borrowed, and other rare or collectible items for in-library-use only. The curation is unique to Hawaii. It houses local and non-locally made zines, as well as artists books, poetry (much of it experimental), graphic novels, design-heavy books, as well as a mix of interesting fiction and non-fiction books. I’m also gathering local curators, book lovers, librarians, artists, writers, publishers, to curate special collections that are exhibited for a limited time, much like paintings in a gallery. Anyone can come in, pick up a book and hang out for as long as they want (or until it closes).
Why is it important to have HIZAB Library? Why does the community need to know about it?
There aren’t any well curated public spaces in Hawaii devoted to books. HIZAB proposes a comfortable, warm lit, lounge-inevitable space designed for books and book culture to thrive. You always hear people saying that books are dying and no one reads anymore, but its not wholly true. It’s rather that the book culture is changing, and bookstores/spaces/libraries often don’t make accommodations for it. The concept of what a book is, looks like, and can do is shifting with the global shift from written language to visual language. HIZAB wants to live in that critical juncture, and I think if its done correctly Hawaii will respond to it.
What is your goal and purpose for creating this library? How is it relevant today?
I want spaces that cultivate book culture, slowness, artful thinking, and curated coincidences. I didn’t see it happening on any one else’s watch, so I’m seeing if I can make it happen. Books are an access point to anything, any topic. It’s the internet, but focused, a forced deep dive on one issue or story. People want to read. Most of us just aren’t in the habit of reading. HIZAB promotes that. It also rethinks what a community space can be. We CAN have free spaces like this. We CAN cultivate the right questions, and the right actions by communing over quality, rare, esoteric, alternative, challenging and enriching free-access materials.
What made you want to apply to the Artists in Residence program? What are you hoping to get out of it?
I want to be obliged to push my art as far as I can. Working on a 6-month residency for a show helps towards that end. I’m honing a skill of commitment—learning to take myself more seriously as an artist, while not getting locked into expectations of myself as such.
I befriended a couple of artists last year who just worked at their art all the time. They had day jobs, but filled almost all of their down time with making art. I would hang out in their studio just to be a part of that energy. It was creative energy for sure, but mostly dedication to hard work. I’m trying to emulate that work force and put pressure on myself to evolve into a better version of me.
How does it feel creating your art in a co-working space and does it affect your workflow versus working in a traditional work environment? What are the benefits?
I like the energy. It’s easier to get work done when I know other people around me are working as well. Also, it’s easy to get stuck in your own head when you’re the only person working in your own studio, so it does dissolve those mental blocks.
What do you aspire to do in the future?
I aspire for a stable location for HIZAB to operate. I aspire for grants to fund reading events and shenanigans and acquisitions of incredible artist books and curated book and zine collections from all over the world, so that they may be made accessible to anyone who walks in the door of the library. I aspire for strange books that cross media boundaries, break their own forms in sublime and impossible ways. I aspire for new forms of old stories and for raising consciousness of language, thereby raising awareness of culture, diversity of story and thought, and furthermore empathy for all humans in the absurd universe. I aspire to meet someone who to take over my social media and marketing presence so I don’t have to think about it ever again. I aspire to eclipse Irma Boom and Dieter Roth.
Stepping into Miko and the Juice, I could see right away that this place was different. The owner, Miko, has an open space where people can not only see what he puts into his smoothies but also start a friendly conversation with him. At first, I was a bit hesitant when I asked him for an interview as he mentioned that he was busy making soup and finishing up a few orders but offered me a seat. An older woman proceeded to come to the stand with a little girl holding up a $5 bill. Miko began to talk story with her as if they were old friends. Right away I could tell that this spot is going to feel like home.
Miko came to Hawaii from the Philippines about five years ago after needing a change of pace. He originally worked at a food truck in Haleiwa for $6/hour, thinking it would be good money in comparison to the money back home in the Philippines. One day, he experimented with some of the food ingredients, creating something similar to his now “Black Amanda” smoothie, which is a sweet coffee, chocolate and coconut based drink. His boss tasted his creation but didn’t share Miko’s enthusiasm.
Shaken but not stirred, Miko took his creation and sold it at the Farmers Market in Waikiki where it became a hit. Inspired, he continued to create more smoothies and eventually Miko and the Juice came to life. He obtained a regular spot in Waikiki and thrived on the new business. With this success he was able to provide remittances for his family and relatives back in the Philippines. Miko was able to send his relatives to school, pay off his aunt’s dental bill, and even provide enough for him to travel around the world. After seeing how much more income he received compared to the food truck in Haleiwa, Miko knew that he wanted to continue working as his own boss.
Everything was going so well at his spot in Waikiki until city authorities asked him to leave due to upcoming expansions to a nearby hotel. In November 2018, Miko and the Juice found its new home in Ohana Hale Marketplace. While he shared his experience of having a slower start at this new location, Miko feels grateful for the sense of family that are inherent in the marketplace community.
Despite having a change in pace being at Ohana Hale Marketplace, Miko shared that this family feeling motivates him. Miko shared that it is not in his nature to give up so easily, especially when it comes to his dream of being his own boss. Having the juice stand, Miko and the Juice, has provided the opportunity to promote a healthier lifestyle for his customers. Miko uses only natural ingredients in all of his smoothies. Even though he knows that his biggest competition is bubble tea, Miko wants to continue staying true to his core values and philosophy. “I want to be healthy and provide healthy options for people.”
Miko hopes to obtain a second location for his business in the near future and eventually go global. In the meantime, people can find him at his juice stand in Ohana Hale Marketplace and choose from sixteen different options. Don’t like any of the smoothies? Let Miko know and he’ll create a custom drink based on your needs and wants!
In a world where we’re constantly on the go while looking for new ways to make it and become more productive, it’s easy to forget to pause and take care of yourself. When you have too much work on your hands, it’s important to take a step back. Here are some tips to continue practicing self-care right from your work space:
Make a task list for the day
Often times we create unmanageable lists and become discouraged when we cannot finish even half of those tasks by the end of the day. To prevent yourself from getting anxious and disheartened, limit yourself to three big tasks a day and then three smaller tasks in the event that you accomplish the bigger tasks early. From there, create an action plan for the top three tasks so you know exactly how to get them done.
Load up on snacks and food
Because of the ongoing daily grind, many people forget to eat or skip a meal (or meals) altogether. Taking the time to do groceries once a week and meal prep will help you get back on track to staying nourished during work hours. Not to forget to mention, pre-packaged food and snacks are a great start towards a healthier lifestyle.
Drink lots of water
I’m sure you have heard this multiple times but it bears repeating; people need eight cups of water a day. Set a consistent reminder or even a water app to remind you how much water left to drink and do it. Not only does it keep you hydrated but drinking water truly has a bunch of different benefits to it. Not only is it critical for productivity and mental alertness, water takes up 85% of our brain and it helps the brain work properly. Even a mere deficiency of just 2% can cause the brain to slow down and lose focus.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
Living in a digital world today, it is easy to become distracted with social media and forget about the task at hand. To help combat that, try out the Pomodoro Technique. This work method was designed to break down work into intervals of 25 minutes punctuated by five minute breaks. You can use a simple timer as your phone to help you keep track of time or download an app. Once you get into the habit of incorporating this technique in your workflow, you will be amazed at how much work you accomplish and how much time you save!
Don’t burn yourself out trying to take on the world. When you feel your focus diminishing or you’re stuck on a task, take that as a sign to rest. For me, I try to do something that will inspire and motivate me to get work done like watching inspirational Girl Boss videos on YouTube to remind me WHY I’m doing what I do. Another thing that I practice to simply re-energize myself is to do yoga. This helps calm my mind and recenter so that I can go back to work ready to complete my tasks for the day.
Stretch it out
Sitting down at a desk or staying in one position can get exhausting and often normalize bad posture in your body. To help you get out of it, take five minutes out of your day to do some stretches. Here are some examples of stretches that you can do to maintain a good posture.
Play motivating music
Whether it’s EDM, smooth jazz or Beyonce, play music that makes you feel good and most productive. This will help keep your spirits up while working and perfect when you need a dance break or a moment to break out into song.
Using essential oils and aromatherapy everyday is trending for good reason. There are so many different oils for various individual needs, including staying focused at work, calming down anxiety and staying motivated. Take a moment to stop and smell the goodness. In the meantime, check out the different benefits each scent provides.
All of these tips are meant to help us all have a productive day while also preventing burn out. It’s a little reminder that we are all human and our health, both mental and physical, should always come first, not to become the world’s next billionaire. The term “work life balance” was created for a reason so keep up the good work and don’t forget to create those lists, take breaks and stop and smell the roses, (or oils).
Comic artist and illustrator Brady Evans shares a strong interest in manga and other art forms of imagery and storytelling. His work often displays narrative themes of death, humor and our place in both the natural and supernatural world. Evans received an BFA specializing in drawing from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2012 and received the Recognition Award from the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts in 2015. We caught up with the artist to talk story about his journey as an artist, experience as a freelancer and his current art series, Void, which is on display at fishcake until May 4, 2019.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do as an artist.
I do comics and illustration, but my work takes the form of different things. From books to drawings on paper for an exhibition or illustrations, I like to think of myself as working a lot with narratives and stories. Either the story is informed by the drawing or vice versa. I leave it open ended.
Was there like a pivotal moment in your life where you wanted to follow this career of being an artist and illustrator?
Both of my parents are heavily involved in the arts. My dad’s a musician and my mom creates textiles, paintings, and drawings. Since I was young, they were really supportive of me going into the arts. I recently made a pivotal shift in my art career. Last October, I decided to leave my job at the Honolulu Museum of Art to work solely as a freelance artist. For the first time ever, I was going to give my art more attention than I had in the past. I had already been sending my work and exhibiting for about nine years, in addition to studying at the university or working at the museum. With the amount of time that I spent in it, I didn’t want to regret not trying freelancing at least once and seeing how it works out. I didn’t want to make my art suffer for not putting in enough time.
You have an art show in FishCake. Can you tell me about the pieces you put in the show?
The show is called Void. It started from a series of drawings and paintings that I did for a show at ARS Cafe in 2017. The show happened right after a few people in my life passed away very suddenly and it was a response to that trauma. These drawings display various objects and forms shaping into silhouettes of people. Even though a person is missing, there’s a presence in their absence. Absences create a physical feeling. People leave an imprint in our memories and from the objects which they leave behind.
In addition to Void, I will be showing some illustrations for a book called Magic Show which is a collaboration I did with musician Gary Liu. Gary wrote the short story and I made five complimentary illustrations. I will be presenting illustrations I made for a performance/tea ceremony by Keiko Hatano.
Can you talk a little bit about your process when you’re making these illustrations?
I start with the silhouette drawing in pencil to make sure the figure is visually legible. Once I have the silhouette figure down I draw the the forms. I use plant and wildlife imagery in a lot of my illustrations in Void. Recently I’ve been looking at the Japanese painter Ito Jakuchu. He lived during the 18th century in Japan and was known as an eccentric painter. His work is extremely detailed and he did a few temples paintings where he painted hundreds of individual flowers and plants. Half of them were dead or dying. I thought it was so beautiful how they referenced death in subtle ways. These works influenced me to put plants and wildlife into my illustrations as a way to symbolize life and death.
Can you talk more about your connections to art history?
I became invested into art history when I studied at UH Manoa. As an undergraduate, I took all of the art history classes. After I graduated from UH, I was the collections manager at the Honolulu Museum for almost five years. Art history gives me a wealth of visual influences for my work. When I create work I’m never too concern if it’s original or not. All that matters is if I can fully flesh out ideas that I find interesting. I look at pieces throughout art history and take from works that I find compelling and I synthesize it into my own work.
How did you get into doing work and collaborating with Drowning Dreamers?
I know Gary the Drowning Dreamers frontman from my time as the collections manager at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Gary was a teacher in the art school. He would contact our department to use artworks for his classes. Gary happened to see my work and he reached out to me for collaboration. He felt my style of drawings would work perfectly with Drowning Dreamers and suggested we work on a couple of projects together. One of the projects was Magic Show and then Gary suggested projecting a live illustration during Drowning Dreamers performances.
While the band plays I illustrate in Photoshop to the music. I treat the canvas like an animation screening so I layer the images and colors. Gary always sends me the setlist beforehand and I have the lyrics to the songs. Before the show, I have it printed out and I look over and circle some words that are interesting to me to do a sketch to begin my live performances.
Other than that, I just let the music and the images developed from that first sketch. The songs are only four minutes long so it goes by relatively quickly. This means that I have to see what kind of marks I want to incorporate throughout the performance. So it’s been fun for me, trying those things and not watching the drawings display upon the wall. Instead I focus on the work at hand on my computer screen. It’s good to see other people’s videos of it and seeing the band get integrated with the drawings.
What’s like the biggest difference for you in terms of doing a live drawing to doing these illustrations?
With the live drawings I can’t go back. I try not to undo and to be more spontaneous. If I want to delete it, I just draw over it. I’m more okay with things just being spontaneous while the ones that I plan out, I am a little more picky about composition. In a way the live ones are more freeing because I can just make it and it’s big. I love when you project the image on the wall, the color bounces onto the other walls as well.
Have you ever doubted with your art practice? How do you get past that doubt?
Something that is challenging for me is that I’m comparing myself to other friends who are similar age but are at a different points in their career. I’m getting a little better at just talking myself out a bit and looking at what I do have and what I am able to enjoy doing.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist or someone who wants to start doing freelance for a living?
It’s important to very committed to what you’re doing. You’ll need to develop good habits and be disciplined. They’re important because freelancing offers freedom and flexibility. Also, I don’t think I am so much of a list person, but I’ve found that making to-do lists helps a lot. Even if you don’t get it done you can just start it again the next day. It’s probably good to have a nest egg and to have some money saved up because if you ever hit a dry period, you’ll need to hunker down and be frugal.
Anne Helen Petersen’s viral Buzzfeed article, “How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation” resonated with us, as well as millions of others who shared the article widely on social media. Petersen’s piece hit a nerve in its examination of the erosion of any barriers between work and home life and it got us thinking about the damage that occurs when young people spend their youth and adulthood relentlessly devoted to priming for employment.
I think it’s time to come clean, because I suspect that many of you are doing the same and we’re all, collectively, responsible for the damage this has caused. I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life relentlessly perpetuating a lie: success or prosperity is difficult to achieve, but possible if we work hard enough and work smart enough. The glaring truth is that efficiency and success are not always correlated and I know enough brilliant, but exhausted (and poor) optimization junkies that won’t be convinced otherwise.
This culture of hyper competition has deep, sturdy roots that took hold without us even noticing. As students, we were ultracompetitive, with CVs that listed more volunteer experience, extra-curricular activities, and internships in 4 years than our parents amassed in a lifetime. Not to forget to mention that we paid record-high tuition for it all as well. Many of us went back to repeat the same process, even more intensely at graduate programs with the aspiration that there were dream jobs out there. And to have any kind of a shot at landing one, we had to stand out among our peers.
We graduated with honors and aimed for jobs that would be stable, well-paying, satisfying for the soul, and in some way glamorous. We were convinced such roles, however unrealistic, existed and that we could get them if we bested the competition. What we never anticipated was that in the wake of the 2008 recession, many of us would be competing against both highly qualified recent graduates AND far more experienced workers who had been laid off from the financial crisis. To adapt, a lot of us took jobs that paid us far less than we hoped for, but we vowed that we would prove ourselves through hard work and rise through the ranks. We took on side hustles to make ends meet, answered work emails from bed, and leaned in hard, 24/7. We didn’t just drink the Kool-aid, we butt-chugged it and were left frustrated when years of hard work failed to get us any closer to a sense of financial security.
We found partners, and sometimes started families, dreaming of achieving the same quality of life and stability that our parents had enjoyed. We fed our kids and dogs the good, expensive organic shit that’s supposed make them healthier, sent the kids (often at great expense) to the very best, cutting-edge schools we could. We enrolled them in all kinds of costly music and sports lessons because we KNOW first-hand that they will need an edge to stand out in a hypercompetitive world.
To sustain the demands we’ve put upon ourselves, in the limited time available, we’ve embraced an excessive number of habits and technologies to streamline life. We devour news in 140 characters or less, Slack emojis of support to our co-workers instead of well-wishes, and catch up with friends over 5 second stories. We listen to audiobooks on the drive in to work to save time on reading and we sync our personal and work calendars across all devices, destroying any remnant of barrier between work and home life. The pace of life is exhausting and relentless, making our daily 10 minute meditation breaks that much more crucial.
One quick glance at FB or IG tells me that on any given night, my friends are effortlessly meal-prepping Michelin Star-worthy Whole 30-compliant meals in 20 minutes, in between yoga sessions on a mountaintop and weeknight $20 cocktails with the girls. We dutifully curate and craft an online narrative of our lives that intentionally mask the grittiest parts of our struggles and disappointments. We could have used social media to commiserate over shared frustrations, but opted instead to use it as a tool to boost our self-esteem, prioritizing inspo over honesty. If we allow ourselves to believe that all of our peers are cruising through life, while we’re perpetually on the grind, it’s easy to be duped into thinking we’re not working smart enough, because our hard work is undeniable.
Our obsession with efficiency hinges on the mistaken belief that it is an essential ingredient in the recipe for success. Our belief in and perpetuation of this myth is hurting us and our ability to connect with others. We’ve leaned in so far that we’re on the cusp of toppling over So as an experiment, I’d like to propose a deep embrace of the inefficient. Well, at least while at home. If you’ve worked your ass off for the last 10 years and feel like you’re spinning your wheels, taking a break and leaning OUT may be worth a try. This means quitting life hacks, app notifications, and anything by Tim Ferris. Cold turkey the moment you set foot in your house. For maximum benefit, drop social media too. No one truly needs to see pictures of your new haircut, dinner with dad, brand new end tables, or adorable kid trying avocado for the first time. Take the pressure off from constantly performing, both at work and for an online audience, and use that space to be a little more forgiving and flexible. It’s okay to be unstylish, a few minutes late, or to just hang out at home watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000 reruns with frozen pizza. In most cases, emails can wait to be returned until you get to the office. And the sun will still rise if you don’t get in 10,000 steps each day, or abandon bullet journaling for a week. Pick up a good (hardcopy) book, browse a department store aimlessly, or take a 2 hour nap and cut yourself some slack.
The hustle is grueling and only made harder with the pressures we put on ourselves. Yes, even during our down-time. Many of us have habitually competed for years so while shrugging off the yoke of optimization may feel foreign, it is something we deeply need. Success, in whatever way each of us chooses to define it, relies not just on the quality of our efforts, but also on the influence of chance, privilege, and the behavior of others, all of which are factors beyond the algorithms of optimization and control.
DevLeague is a software development and cyber security bootcamp that specializes in preparing students for a career in the tech industry. DevLeague, one of the premier technical services bootcamp in the Pacific, focuses on strong mentorship to guide students through skills development. DevLeague also values community building and fostering a competitive environment for software developers in Hawaii. I met up with Russel Chang, co-founder and Operations Lead, to gain an in-depth look into DevLeague. Here’s what he had to say about the formation of program, the current curriculum, and the importance of mentorship in professional development.
What was the pivotal moment where you wanted to start DevLeague?
Why did you choose to involve accelerated programs into the Devleague curriculum?
DevLeague seems very accommodating by offering both full time and part time courses. You’re really focused on giving people every opportunity to learn.
R: It’s all about skills development. Increasingly, we believe that skills are what people need to stay relevant in the workforce. This applies whether you’re trying to get into the software development or cybersecurity . This also applies If you are an existing employee trying to improve in your current position. Employers want to retain their employees and they do this by giving them new skills so that they can hit their business goals.
Can you talk about DevLeague as a network? Every time I meet someone who’s involved with software development or coding on the island they’re familiar with DevLeague.
R: This was deliberate from the beginning of DevLeague. It has taken a long time. Jason Sewell and I set out to build a community of like-minded developers. In the beginning, we only had five students. Then it was eight and then fourteen. It continued to grow. Now we’re five years in and we have over 200 graduates who have come out of the program. The majority of them have been successful in securing a full-time positions after finishing our program. One of our core values is giving back to foster a community. Because of this, we have graduates all over the world a that still contribute and participate. Recently, we just had graduate visit from Tokyo. His younger brother is in the program now.
What are some of the companies people went to after being involved in your program?
R: I believe Microsoft has hired most of our DevLeague graduates. Jason would probably disagree with that and say Sudokrew, his other company, has hired the most graduates. It’s probably a tie between those two companies. We have some graduates working at Apple and Amazon. Some have moved to local companies such as Hawaii Pacific Health.
How would you describe your network in Hawaii compared to the mainland?
R: Anybody who is a software developer in Hawaii is here because they choose to be. They could have gone and worked anywhere else in the world but they want to be on the islands. Our goal is to build the competitive technical workforce so that they can actually stay in Hawaii and thrive. People who attended Dev League recognize this and want to be part of the network in the Pacific. One advantage that we have over mainland is that we have smaller student to teacher ratio. This allows our students to have a more intimate experience. DevLeague teachers are very hands-on. We guide each student to understand the material. It comes down to mentorship. We share our experiences to guide the current cohort which in turn builds the following generation. If we can do this successfully, it makes for a richer experience and a better developer.
I love that you talk about mentorship and building relationships. Was there a mentor in your life that has influenced you greatly?
R: I have had many mentors over the years. One mentor that helped me the most was Greg Kim, a partner at Convergent Law Group. He took me under his wing. Greg was one of the Hogan Entrepreneur Program mentors. He bought me into the program. That is how I got connected with Rechung, co-founder of BoxJelly. Greg was instrumental in showing me how to outline information in a very direct fashion. He showed me the importance passing down knowledge through mentorship and how to guide someone else to reach their goals.
Can you talk about your experience working out of BoxJelly?
R: Working out of BoxJelly has been a very positive experience. We came from a different environment where we operated in partitioned areas and smaller rooms. At BoxJelly we work in a more open space. I think our students really enjoy being able to spread out. Working in the shared spaces allows our students from different classes a chance to interact. Students who are just beginning the program can work alongside those who are further along. This gives those starting the opportunity to see what they will accomplish later in the program. Working at the Boxjelly has has enabled us to achieve a degree of collaboration that we didn’t have in the past.
As a mentor, how do you help people get through doubt?
R: It’s important to focus on what the person is trying to accomplish. Everyone has big dreams. Once you identify that dream I tell them to break their goal into smaller pieces. This can be difficult. From the start, people want to sell the bigger vision. I suffer from that as well. By breaking your dream down into smaller goals, you can make them more approachable. Next, it’s important to just get started and take one step at a time and go from there. Also, remember it’s important to celebrate the easy wins along the way.
BoxJelly is is proud to announce Thad Higa as the BoxJelly + Fishcake Artist in Residence for the Spring 2019 cycle.
Thad Higa is a writer and multimedia zine and book artist based in Honolulu. He graduated from Seattle University with a BA in creative writing. He started Tiny Zine Hawaii in 2017, a project of collaborative, and experimental zines. Higa is currently working to open HIZAB Library, an alternative zine and book library in Chinatown, Oahu which houses specially curated books, artist books, poetry and zines from all over.
Aloha Got Soul is a record label based in Hawaii specializing releasing in funk, soul, jazz, and R&B music and is run by couple Roger and Lei Bong. Aloha Got Soul started as away to to pay homage to older soul/funk Hawaii musicians by re-issuing vinyl records from the 1970’s. Recently Aloha Got Soul has been focusing on releasing music from new Hawaii-based artists. Roger and Lei feel a big part of their label is forming connections with artists, both young and old, to foster a community locally in Hawaii and present it on a global scale. In addition to Aloha Got Soul, from mid-to-late 2018, the Bongs formed an online radio station called Central Pacific Time which was located at BoxJelly. Before they left we had the opportunity to sit down with Roger Bong and discuss his vision for his record label Aloha Got Soul.
Was there like a pivotal moment in your life where you decided to follow your passion?
Roger: There was a time when I was trying to work a day job while doing Aloha Got Soul at the same time. I knew that if I was going to continue doing both of them, they would both suffer. I needed to choose one or the other. It wasn’t fair to my own business if I did not dedicate 100 percent to my project. It also wasn’t fair to the company that I was working at. That’s when I decided to let go of my day job and work on Aloha Got Soul full-time. The hardest part about the decision was a leaving a job with steady paycheck. When youʻre working for yourself you have to make things happen.
If you were giving advice someone who want to be an entrepreneur, what advice would you give them?
R: Try to utilize the resources that are out there, whether it’s reading stuff or just reaching out to other independent record labels.
How did you start Aloha Got Soul?
R: I started Aloha Got Soul as a blog to document records from Hawaii in the seventies and the eighties. These records, primarily consisting of funk, soul, r&b, and jazz, are now out of print. A lot of people say that the 1970s was a period of Hawaiian music renaissance. During this time there were a lot of fusions of genres happening and a lot of underground content coming out. So, around 2010, I started a blog promoting the underground music in Hawaii during the 1970s. I became friends with a lot of artists that I featured in my blog. I noticed that people frequently were asking where they can get copies of the records on my blog. Thus, the label started out of this necessity to re-issue out of print music so that people today can hear it, own it and love it. In turn, the artists can also reap the financial benefits financially, gain new fans, and make new connections.
Leimomi is your personal and professional partner. What’s the hardest part of working as a couple?
R: The hardest part is just always being in an environment where our conversation might be about business. When we’re at the BoxJelly, we’re going to talk about business. At home we’re just trying to enjoy ourselves. Working as a couple is all about that balance between life and work.
What’s your workflow like?
R: Well I make a list of tasks to do and I try to organize them by priority. I organize each tasks with a letter such as A, B or C, with A being the top priority. B being secondary and then from there going in and adding numerals. For example, A-1 is very top priority. I try to do that every morning.
It’s actually from this book that was written in like the eighties. I just found it randomly at a thrift store. The guy who created the system was actually living in Hawaii. I remember picking up the book and turning to a page when he’s talking about swimming across the channel at Hanauma bay. This guy was writing about Hawaii. I thought that it has to be a sign.
What’s your favorite thing Aloha Got Soul has released so far?
R: My favorite thing is always what’s next. As of right now in (November 2018) Iʻm into an artist named Jah Gumby. He’s the bass player for a local reggae band called Glow the Mark. They’ve been around for around 20 years.
What inspires the vision for your label?
R: The difficult thing about being an entrepreneur is having that daily inspiration or motivation to keep doing what you’re doing. For me, I always think about a lot of the older musicians and as time passes, they’re getting older. Soon we won’t have the opportunity to re-release their music and preserve this piece of history. Also, Iʻm really inspired by community aspect. I get the opportunity to make connections with people around the world and locally through music.
Define being based in Hawaii?
R: Being based in Hawaii makes you very resourceful. We’re kind of isolated living on an island. We have to work with what we have. Honolulu has the vibe of a really big town.
Describe your experience working at BoxJelly?
R: The best part of our experience was that we had the opportunity to be a connected with online radio stations all around the world. We saw ourselves as part of a community with stations such as Worldwide FM in London, Red Light Radio in Amsterdam, and The Lot Radio in Brooklyn. These networks became an inspiration for us to do something similar in Honolulu. So in January of 2018, we launched an online radio station called Central Pacific Time. Around that time, we also met Rechung. He really dug what we were doing and he offered to bring us into the BoxJelly. For us, it was validation that we had a great idea. Here’s this guy who believes in us and our mission. He was willing to support us and help us foster this community. In March, we moved in. We had people coming through doing shows on the radio station. The experience has been a open and freeform place to work.
If you had to match a song to capture BoxJelly’s vibe, what would it be?
R: I couldn’t do just one song. It would have to be a whole mixtape. There are so many different things happening in BoxJelly. You have entrepreneurs and small businesses working out of the space. BoxJelly is connected to the Fishcake store and Morning Glass up front. It’s just a big mixture and it’s always thriving.
Designer Rumi Murakami, long time BoxJelly resident Atelier, is creating clothing that merges high quality, timeless design with functionality and comfort. Taking inspiration from Hawaii’s tropical climate and growing urban environment, Rumi keeps her designs clean and cool. She aims to create clothing that is wearable without sacrificing style. She and Matt Bruening recently teamed up for a runway show at the Hawaii State Art Museum where their collections were turning a lot of heads. This week, she’ll be launching her online store. We had a chance to sit down with Rumi to talk about the show and her design practice.
You had show at the HiSAM in November 2018. Could you tell me about what inspired the work?
Rumi: The name of the show collection is Paper. Matt Bruening approached me about doing the show. Aly Ishikuni, co-founder of Art+Flea and Mori, got approval from the museum and we held it there. For this collection, I tried to think about using the fabric like paper, so I tried to stay really like angular, square and simple. Nothing too literal. I like things that have a little more subtle message.
In addition to that theme, I want clothing and fashion to be accessible to everyone and I think the museum during First Friday was a good venue to show the people that fashion is a viable business in Hawaii and that it doesnʻt need to be about aloha wear or ocean culture.
What is your workflow and how do you project manage?
R: I’m much better if I have a deadline otherwise I can drag the process. I think with a lot of creative processes, it’s hard to tell when you’re done. Typically for fashion when you’re dealing with a collection, you have your theme and your fabrics. I enjoy the process of being limited to the fabrics. By that I mean picking out fabrics and trying to stay within the theme and again, try not be too literal with the theme either.
In the end, people have to wear these clothes so they have to make sense This is where I feel like art and design kind of go their separate ways. I don’t consider what I do art really. It’s definitely more design because it’s got to be functional. It has to be practical, it can’t be so weird that it’s distracting or you can’t move around in it.I want the clothes to be easy to wear but,I also want to offer something a little different and possesses a timeless quality. I also want everything to have pockets. If I can get a pocket in there, there’s going to be pocket there because it is necessary.
Has being in located in Hawaii influenced your designs?
R: Absolutely. I’m originally from northern California originally and so everything was lines and really tailored and layers and buttoned up colors. The environment and the culture has forced me to simplify my designs. We’re in a tropical climate and because of that we’re casual. I want to make tailored separates work in this climate. I still do some of things that I did in California, but it took me years to understand even how to dress myself here and what works and what doesn’t.
What do you want your viewer to understand about your work?
R: I think it’s important that the person who is wearing the clothes feels good. I use really high quality fabrics and natural fibers like cotton and linen. I want my work to come across as quality and really well fitting clothes. Clothes are supposed to feel good and make you feel good, right?
Do you have any advice to anyone who’s an aspiring designer?
R: Just keep working, keep doing, and keep producing. Even if you start small. Even if it’s a couple t-shirts or a couple pairs of shorts. Whatever it is that you’re doing, just start small and keep working. It takes a lot of hard work and you have to persevere. Talk to as many people as you can. When someone asks you what are you up to, reply like you own it. It took me a while to finally say that I’m a clothing designer. You have to say it, claim it and put in the work.
Establishing yourself takes time. Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to. You have to establish your reputation so people trust you. This means as a designer, you have to be in it for the long haul.