A Joy To Watch

Joy Shimabukuro smiles on the set of The Joy of Crafting.

As “The Joy of Crafting” show comes up on its 17th anniversary this October, host Joy Shimabukuro continues to charm and enlighten viewers.

It isn’t all that uncommon for Joy Shimabukuro to be out and about when a passerby catches her attention.

“Eh, you’re the craft lady,” they often remark.

After almost 17 years of hosting HouseMart Ben Franklin Crafts’ The Joy of Crafting television show, it’s all par for the course. Though she hasn’t quite managed to catch up with her celebrity just yet.

Shimabukuro films an episode with guest crafter Stefanie Tateishi. PHOTO COURTESY JONATHAN LACAR

“It still takes some getting used to,” she admits with a laugh.

Throughout the years, Shimabukuro has educated and entertained during the 30-minute segment with a zeal for crafting that continues to appeal to viewers both old and new — and longtime fans certainly have more to look forward to.

Come Oct. 20, The Joy of Crafting will air its 386th episode, having first debuted on that date in 2002.

Make no mistake: None of it would have been possible without Shimabukuro. Yet, as synonymous as she is with the program — her name, after all, though by pure coincidence, appears in the title — Shimabukuro insists she is hardly the center of attention.

“The Joy of Crafting Tour to Japan” participants gather for a photo. PHOTO COURTESY JOY SHIMABUKURO

“The most important thing for the viewers to see on the show is the craft and the crafter,” she says. “Never mind about me.”

In the early ’90s, with the U.S. at war overseas, its impact on the economy was felt in all corners of the nation, Hawai‘i included. At the time, Shimabukuro was helping her sister with a business that printed Hawaiian designs onto golf balls — a hit with Japanese visitors. But the siblings were no exception to the recession that came, and ultimately closed up shop.

Believing it might be prudent to find a job so that she’d have money for the holidays, Shimabukuro applied for and was hired as a sales associate at Ben Franklin Crafts in Enchanted Lake.

“I was thinking, ‘Then, maybe in January, I’ll go back to school and become a teacher,'” says Shimabukuro, who had already earned a degree in communications from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. “But I stayed.”

In fact, come the end of August, Shimabukuro will celebrate 28 years with the company.

“It doesn’t seem that long,” she says laughing.

Throughout the years, Shimabukuro has manned a number of positions. Today, though, she is creative director of HouseMart, overseeing promotions and advertising for its brands Ace Hardware and Ben Franklin Crafts, in addition to whatever assistance Daiso may require. She also serves as the brains behind “Keiki Krafting,” a monthly feature in Honolulu Star-Advertiser that offers instruction on simple crafts, and leads community activities for everyone from keiki to kūpuna.

Over the summer, for example, she and Ace Hardware took “Hardware Science” to public libraries, a program that uses ordinary objects to emphasize science concepts. Experiences that not only give participants — particularly younger ones — an opportunity to hone their motor skills, but also get exposed to a different way of thinking.

“They have no rules; they have no boundaries, so it’s great to see them express themselves,” says Shimabukuro. “There’s even scientific proof that you can be really smart academically, but the ones who are really smart also have some creative outlet.”

Crafts for seniors, meanwhile, are about more than merely giving them a task to complete, or the chance to work on a project to share with friends and family members.

“It’s a social thing for them usually, and it’s fun,” she says. “It’s another way of giving back to the generation that helped you before.”

All of it, of course, is in addition to what is arguably Shimabukuro’s most visible contribution: The Joy of Crafting.

life of crafting, in some shape or form, was always in the cards for Shimabukuro, who grew up fascinated with taking things apart and putting them all back together again. At the age of 9, for instance, she began amassing stamps to use for projects, a collection that has only grown to astronomical proportions since.

“Literally thousands of stamp designs,” she says.

Then there’s the fact that, after graduating from UH Mānoa, she and her sister — the same one she worked with before joining Ben Franklin Crafts — opened up their own store, Buckwheat’s Needlework and Gift Shop (since closed), named for the family’s cat, on Makaloa Street. There, they sold contemporary handcrafted country-style items and counted cross-stitch supplies, with Shimabukuro even teaching the method.

It all makes for an ideal host of, say, a TV show dedicated to sharing with viewers step-by-step instructions on how to make everything from handcrafted cards to jewelry — both of which happen to be personal favorites of Shimabukuro’s, along with sewing.

And that’s exactly what she offers with The Joy of Crafting.

On it, she welcomes guests of all backgrounds, many who are convinced to appear on the show by Shimabukuro herself. In fact, it isn’t planning for a new episode every two weeks or keeping everything organized that she finds the most challenging; it’s finding someone willing to share their talent with viewers. So it isn’t uncommon for her to stop and ask just about anyone.

“If I bump into you and I see you like crafts — ‘do you want to come on the show?’ I ask people, always,” she says.

But a passion for crafting alone does not make for the beloved program that The Joy of Crafting has become. It also takes a heaping dose of on-screen charm and likability, too.

Loyal viewers surely are well aware that Shimabukuro possesses both. She speaks with ease and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Bloopers included in episodes prove just that.

Her peers can attest to it, too. “Her personality comes through the screen,” says Cory Chagami, HouseMart vice president of operations, a longtime supporter of the show who also has appeared as a guest. “Joy is able to carry on a conversation with anyone.”

“She makes her guests feel comfortable and relaxed while the bright lights and cameras are recording,” adds Ikaika Kimura, who films and edits the program.

Both are sentiments shared by Milton Fujii, HouseMart director of imports, whom Shimabukuro credits with helping to bring the show to fruition. Shimabukuro’s talents go far beyond knowledge of crafting and keeping up-to-date with current trends, to hear him tell it.

“She also has a very bubbly personality,” he says. “I felt that she would be the perfect person to share the techniques needed to help people create their own unique finished project.

“She is a ‘joy’ to work with.” “Starting The Joy of Crafting and keeping it going all these years is a credit to her, and her love of people and crafting,” adds HouseMart owner Lynn Ushijima.

When Shimabukuro envisions her future with HouseMart and The Joy of Crafting, she knows it will include offering even more opportunities to crafters to learn and grow.

Just a few months ago, the company and Shimabukuro took a group of 25 to Tokyo — what they called “The Joy of Crafting Tour to Japan” — where they attended the annual Japan Hobby Show and learned new crafts each day. (Ben Franklin Crafts’ Craft Club members got first dibs.) Fortunately for all who might be interested, another trip already is in the works.

Shimabukuro also currently uses her show to encourage hobbyists to turn their art into a profession as well, occasionally inviting guests from banks or U.S. Small Business Administration to share their insights. Ben Franklin Crafts, meanwhile, runs a program called “My Locker,” which rents space to crafters, giving them a chance to gain exposure and sell their wares.

Then there’s the way Shimabukuro hopes that The Joy of Crafting will continue to cultivate community. The program regularly welcomes representatives from the likes of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, YMCA and others. Not the typical fount of crafters per se, but it helps organizations round up volunteers or simply share more about their purpose — and, as Shimabukuro insists, “you can always relate anything to crafts.”

“For us, that’s a way of giving back to the community because a lot of people might not know that these different opportunities exist,” she says.

“We just want to have more different people, and more community involvement,” Shimabukuro adds. “I have a lot of people who have a lot of ideas.”

“The Joy of Crafting” airs at 6:30 p.m. each Sunday on Spectrum OC16, with new episodes every two weeks, as well as reruns at various times and dates. Find it on Facebook (facebook.com/joyofcrafting), Instagram (@thejoyofcrafting) and YouTube.