Adding color and spice and all things nice to the 2008 ‘Aipono Awards (Maui No Ka ‘Oi’s annual fundraiser for the Maui Culinary Academy) was the introduction of a small silent auction developed by publisher Diane Haynes Woodburn, working with local ceramist Teri Gleason. The two women invited ten Maui painters to interpret the gala’s theme—“farm fresh, island style”—on one-of-a-kind ceramic plates.
The list included some of the island’s most accomplished painters, among them George Allan, Douglas Chun, Joe Fletcher, Carmen Gardner, Ronaldo Macedo, Joëlle Perz, and Andrea Razzauti. Aside from Gleason, who teaches ceramics at Kaunoa Senior Center, none of the artists had worked with glaze before. Gleason met with her fellow artists for “a crash course in ceramic painting in about twenty minutes,” she says. “I had to quickly explain a process that has taken me eighteen years to understand.”
For the rest of the artists, it was a major learning experience. Unfired glaze doesn’t behave like oil paint—and in fact changes color in the kiln. “You can’t tell what the design will look like until it fires,” says Gleason. So, even with creativity, guidance, and careful planning, the art of ceramics is innately experimental.
“Every time I open the kiln,” says Gleason, “it’s like opening a present.”
A present each plate truly became, with designs spanning eleven artists’ styles and interests. Michael Clements went boldly mathematical in crafting a blue-and-white, Escher-inspired design of intermingled chefs. Betty Hay Freeland created a soft landscape planted with taro and banana trees. Carleton Kinkade carved a fish-bone pattern into his plate, then glazed the rest with color. When the plate was fired, the bones stood out in white relief.
“Maui artists are always giving to the community,” says Haynes Woodburn. “It was lovely to give them a fun way to express their generosity. It amazed me that these famous painters were actually concerned about whether their work would be good enough!”
Good enough, indeed. All eleven plates sold the night of the awards, gleaning $3,000 for student scholarships, part of a total $17,000 raised for the Maui Culinary Academy that evening.