Shiny, Festive, Fun

An angry 2,000-degree furnace, a shadowy room, metal rods, piles of this and that strewn here and there on shelves. Out of that sooty workspace, things lovely, fragile and colorful are born. They’re displayed in the adjacent Island Glassworks gallery, a glisteningly tidy space showcasing bowls, vases, cups, light fixtures, plates, paper weights – all fashioned from blown glass. Owner Geoff Lee finds a way to make his projects unique. For instance, the cups have a trademark indentation in the base so that they fit into the hand more snugly.

Lee’s decoratively tattooed arm points to his latest project:


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Geoff Lee in his gallery, next to his featured glass waves

“I’ve been making these glass waves lately and they’ve been very popular,” he says. “I started a few years ago and was never happy with the way they initially turned out, so I stopped making them. But a friend of mine was like, give it another shot, you live in Hawaii, you like to surf, that’s something you’re really connected to. So I revisited it.”

He relished the challenge, refined the form and color of the wave, and now the perfected sculptures (the primary pieces of art in the studio that don’t rely on lung power) are being displayed in galleries around the state. His work also is exhibited nationally.

“For cups, lights, vases – you start with a bubble then you inflate it and shape it,” explains Lee of the creative process. “To make the waves, there’s no inflation. It’s simply gathering solid glass and squishing it and bending it and forming it.”

Throughout the year, Lee teaches introductory glass workshops, with a seasonal glass-blown ornament class offered on weekends through the holidays.

“Glass is not a cheap medium to try out,” notes Lee. “The class is a fun, inexpensive opportunity for people to come to the studio and design, and help make, their own ornament.”

Toiling away for hours just feet from that 2,000-degree furnace doesn’t faze him in the least, even in humid Hawaii heat. After all, he says, with a smile and a shrug of his shoulders, “If I were that uncomfortable, I would have moved somewhere else. You just get used to it.”

He leaves me marveling over all his pretty works of art, with their swirls and specks of color illuminated by spotlights, in the air-conditioned comfort of his brand-new showroom. He’s clearly more comfortable getting his hands dirty in the workshop next door.

the TICKET stub


When: One hour classes Saturday and Sunday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. through Dec. 22
Where: Island Glassworks (171-A Hamakua Drive, Kailua)
Cost: $30
More Info: 263-4527,


Hope and Thanksgiving

An infant is wheeled out the doors of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and down the hallway. Outside the unit is a waiting area where chairs are filled with the weight of exhausted bodies bearing sober, weary faces. You can only imagine what they or their loved ones are going through inside those NICU doors. Just feet away, though, faces look out from black-and-white photos mounted on the hallway wall, and their sparkling eyes and wide smiles offer a glimmer of hope.

A total of 30 photos are part of a new installation, “Wall of Hope” in the second and third floor hallways of the medical center that feature former patients ages 1 to 90 who experienced a life-changing medical condition, but emerged from the ordeal healed or with a verve for life that keeps them moving forward with their treatments and therapy. Photographed by ProjectFocus Hawaii’s Laurie Callies and Lisa Uesugi, the smiles in the photos belie the hardships recounted just below the picture. But each is a success story, like that of little Steven Ai, born two months premature. In case you don’t recognize the name, he is now the president of City Mill Company Ltd.

There are tales of life-threatening struggles with cancers, breathing complications, open-heart surgery, brain tumors. The silver lining is in the gratitude each person expresses. People who were once at death’s door are now celebrating that they can play volleyball, or the trombone, run competitively, skateboard or dance hip-hop.

Many show their thanks by giving back. Shannon Wong, born with a cleft lip, now volunteers with the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Clinic. After battling leukemia, Mari Galiher is now a spokeswoman for Hawaii’s Children Cancer Foundation. Kathleen Oakes, a breast cancer survivor, now volunteers at Kapiolani Women’s Center.

Their tribulations inspired in them compassion, and their smiles gazing out can’t help but bring the viewer a smile of his or her own, and hope for struggling loved ones, and thanks for loved ones in good health.