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Blog

Our little space to inspire, encourage, and share our heart for you and our company.

Luna Oscura by Brennen Cunningham

Emily Valdez

Luna Oscura: Dark Moon

This is a collection of images shot by Brennen Cunningham. He's a local boy, born on Maui, relocated to Oahu for 8 years and then moved again to the West Coast to road trip around, and finally settle in the Bay Area. Luna Oscura portrays the balance between dark and light. Featuring Kori Pilago as the model wearing YIREH streets of Gold.
We were also able to ask Brennen some valuable questions that may help you aspiring photographers keep your drive, and continue to do what you love. We are so thankful to have been able to work with him.
Ibiza Maxi in Moonstone

What do you do, and why did you start?

I do photography which I've loved since I was young but never saw as a career when I was a kid. I was working a 9-5 in the fashion industry which got me back into dabbling with photography. Having a set schedule and paycheck was nice but it lacked creativity and I found myself missing out on so many experiences that meant a lot to me. This and having friends who are talented creatives helped me realize that if I worked as hard for myself and on my skill set as I did for my bosses, I could build my own career around the things I love. I saw photography as a perfect avenue to live a creative life and do the things I enjoy; along with absolutely loving taking photos of course.

Your Photography is beautiful, when you shoot what is it that you are trying to capture, and how do you come up with shoot concepts?

     Thank you! That means a ton. haha Everything around us is so absolutely beautiful, everywhere has its own amazing character and beauty, just like people. I really appreciate the natural beauty and unique character in things or subjects and try to capture those subtleties in the most simple and intimate ways I can.
      When it comes to shoot concepts its all about the emotion and vibe. I drive a lot and look at a lot of magazines and I'll see interesting places or concepts and those sit in my bran and I think of how to use a place or do an idea differently. This is something I definitely need to work on though.

Mudra Playsuit in Moonstone

What is it like owning your own business? Any tips for those that would like to branch out and do the same?

It's definitely tough and there are a lot of ups and downs. For a long time I had my work cut out for me and now I have to be completely self motivated. I love being busy and having a lot of work to do but when I'm busy I forget to line stuff up for the future. That's something I'm really trying to work on is keeping a more consistent work flow. It can also be financially challenging at times but it's important to remind yourself of your end goal and why you started in the first place and just keep working hard. At the end of the day it's all worth it and I am so grateful to have the freedom it allows me to have.

Leena Top in White, Pantai Short in Lux

What are your go to's in your arsenal of photography gear?

I tried to put off getting a digital camera for as long as possible but finally caved. So I have my Canon 6D which I use for most shoots. It's great and works well for what I need it to do. I've loved how versatile digitals can be and the instant gratification. I've always loved the 50mm lenses but I've really started liking the 85mm lens on this camera.
     As for what I enjoy, I basically have 2 film cameras that go everywhere with me; a Pentax k1000 which I've had since I was little and a Rollei 35. Both are super simple and relatively cheap, I'm not a believer that it takes nice gear to get great photos.

Being a creative takes a lot of energy out of you and sometimes we all lose that drive. How do you stay inspired?

Definitely. It's super easy for me to get complacent or stuck and nothing feels new around me after awhile. When this happens I try to get out of what I know and get a fresh perspective. I'll go for a walk and see a cool little nook or two strangers interacting and the beauty of that will often give me a jolt.
     I've got a great group of friends who are also creatives and seeing what they're doing or talking about new projects always lights a fire in me to create more and create better. I've also been blessed with being able to travel a lot and see new things and places and this is where I am constantly able to draw inspiration from. Coming home from a trip or even a long drive always gives me new eyes and a fresh perspective.

What are your thoughts behind this set of images with Kori, what were you trying to portray?

With this project I wanted to do something a little different for the brand and I'm thankful that Emily let me explore that. I've been wanting to shoot in the jungle for awhile now. I just love the way the sun comes through the canopy and makes these beautiful pockets of light. Kori is naturally gorgeous so I just wanted to keep the looks simple and play off the dramatic lighting coming through the trees contrasting with the darkness of the shadows.

Mahlia Maxi in Stone

Last question, any tips for aspiring photographers out there? Why they should pursue this passion?

Just shoot a lot and be critical of your own work first and foremost. Try and pin point why you like certain images more than others and do the same with what you don't like. Similarly look at other artist's work and define what you like and don't like and apply that to your work. But most importantly stay focused on what you like, have fun, work hard and enjoy what you are doing. As a photographer you have one of the most amazing gifts, to share the beauty you see in the world with the people around you, so just have fun.

Brennen Cunningham of http://www.pirateeyes.com

Photographer and Writing: Brennen Cunningham @saltyeyesofapirate
Model: Kori Pilago @korihoney
Clothing: YIREH @yireh_
Jewelry: Aoko Su @aoko_su
Styling: Emily Jaime @emilyjaime

The Details Behind Running a Small Business from Awattz

Emily Valdez

I had the honor of meeting up with Amanda from Awattz Jewelry, photographing her in her workspace, and getting to know a little more background information about the struggles and triumphs of running a small business in Hawai'i.

*How would you describe your esthetic and how many years have you had your business:

Awattz dezigns has been around since 2009.  The business began slowly as a way to keep myself busy and eventually evolved into a full time gig.  I never imagined myself becoming a jewelry designer, but sometimes you end up right where you need to be.  My designs are very color saturated, i love mixing different colors and achieving a different design.  I also make metal pieces that complement the color heavy beaded pieces. I like to have options.
 

*What does an average work day look like for you:

I usually take my time getting to the studio as I like to focus on self care in the mornings.  Otherwise life takes up most of the day and all your energy goes out into the world leaving you spent.  So i enjoy my mornings walking my dog, exercising, making a morning tonic, and spending time with my husband.  I usually make it in to the studio around 10 and start by answering email and checking social media.  The rest of the day I spend filling orders or creating new designs.  

Wow that sounds like an ideal day! It's so important to partake in self care. I find most people believe if you own your own business you just have to grind all day. So this is refreshing to hear! :)

*You are a creative, and have your own business in Hawai'i (which is extremely expenisve), owning a business is hard AF, what keeps you going?:

That’s  a great question, ha.  When things get hard I really just try to think of the alternative.  Working a 9-5 just doesn’t work for me, so I do what i have to do to be able to live this life.  Sometimes that means having a few side hustles.

Yes, 9-5's are so draining, and not good on the soul. It's inspiring to hear you'll do whatever it takes to make the business work!

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*What is the best and worst thing about being a jewelry designer?:

The best thing is the instant gratification.  When I have an idea I can make it tangible almost immediately.  That satisfies my impatient nature.  I wouldn’t say it’s the worst, but being creative can be challenging.  There are times that ideas don’t work or there are no new ideas at all.  That’s when I take a step back, go outside and let it go.  

*Do you have any help? Or are you a Solo Girlboss?

Currently it’s just me.  I do have amazing friends that help me out with photography, graphic design, and general support.  I am so thankful for that!

*Being in the fashion industry you know all about fast fashion and how big box stores can rip you off in a second and charge a quarter of the price. How do you stay relevant, and do you participate in the "annual fashion calendar deadlines:

When those things happen it pushes me to come up with something new.  I try to see it as motivation.  I have a hard time keeping up with the fashion calendar and I now realize it’s not beneficial to my brand.  Because fashion accessories can be produced so quickly, it doesn’t make sense to sit on a product for months.  So i am currently changing my brand strategy to reflect this revelation.

And this is what being an entrepreneur is all about. I have so much respect for that. Understanding what your brand is, and being able to change and adapt to whatever it is that will make it better. This inspires me!
 

+Did you take any classes for business, or jewelry making? Or was it more of a learn as you go thing? Would you suggest others to do so?

I’ve taken jewelry classes here and there, but I have not take any business classes.  I think it is somewhat beneficial to have a business background, or better yet, hire someone that can do it for you.

I hear ya on that. Hiring someone who has the passion to do the business part for you. In my experience, it's very hard to balance the creative and business side.
 

*What would be a valuable piece of advice, in your opinion, to give a young woman looking to start a business?

Do it!  There’s so many more avenues that are available for young entrepreneurs. But, it s not easy.  Owning your own business requires hard work and hustle.   

So, so much hard work and hustle. That cannot be stressed enough. It is not easy, but in the end if you're passionate about it, its worth it.
 

*What is your biggest inspiration moving forward with Awattz?

I am really inspired by all the amazing creatives in Honolulu.  I love collaborating with friends and that always pushes me out of my comfort zone.  And that’s where the magic happens!

*Any Awattz styling tips? Your jewelry is very bright, and fun, whats your favorite way to style your beautiful creations? 

Actually, about 90% of my wardrobe is black and white.  I rely on my jewelry to make a statement.

Designer: Amanda Watkins @awattz
Dress: YIREH Ibiza Maxi
Photos: Emily Jaime

The Pantai Short

Emily Valdez

If you've followed our story for a bit, then you know that the Pantai Short was our very first style ever. This was the short that started it all. In 2013 I met this amazing family who needed some help getting their business off the ground again. I drew up this short, showed it to them, and worked on the fit until it was what I had imagined. I ran (well actually scooted) around Bali for months in search of fabrics for these shorts. I was set on certain motifs, and they were a lot harder to find than I thought. I became so good at saying the phrase "Do you have this motif" in Indonesian. Long story short, when all was said and done I ended up with 32 prints in this short! I opened up our online shop and they started selling like hot cakes! We would sell out of one print within minutes! I couldn't keep up. So this was when I began looking for our factory, and designing more styles to build off of the esthetic on this short. Not to worry though, we took good care of the family we started with, we helped them buy their first car, which had been a dream of theirs for decades. Made, our first manager, had always wanted his very own driving business and he could now drive his family to the temple for their Balinese ceremonies. We also still visit them every year and bring lots of gifts, and share a lot of meals. It's crazy how a single short can change the lives of so many. My life, their lives, and all of the others that I've had the privilege and honor of working with. So cheers to the Pantai Short! And Cheers to the new collection we just released of this short, in some of our "vintage" and favorite YIREH prints to date, truly meshing together the seasons of YIREH. Hope you like it!

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Welcome to the Fam,
New Shorts...

When it started...

Streets of Gold

Emily Valdez

The collection, Streets of Gold was inspired by my travels through Thailand. I first went to Thailand in 2011, where I remember visiting a few markets that had amazing fabrics. Davin (my husband) and I decided to take a last minute trip in 2016 to Northern Thailand in search of what I had seen 5 years previously. What we found was even better. We stumbled upon a little shop hidden in the corner of the Market with piles of vintage Hmong fabric, all hand embroidered. It took me hours to search through the heaps of material, but I knew I only wanted the very best, most detailed pieces to incorporate into my collection. These pieces are so special to me. They reminded me of my spontaneous 19 year old spirit adventuring through Thailand, when I thought I was invincible, and never let anyone tell me who I was besides my God. To where I was now, 24 at the time, a little wiser, but somewhere along the way lost a part of that 19 year old courageous soul. So this collection was my reincarnation of that. I decided to shoot it in Portugal to give it an extra sense of adventure, and really create the essence of a free-spirited, strong woman, who has a lust for life and curiosity towards the world. It's fun, it's bright, it's colorful, it's meaningful, it has history, it's a little risky, but it's brave. As I write this I hope in someway this collection inspires you as well, to be exactly who you are, and never let another person tell you otherwise. 

Travel Portugal Pt. 2

Emily Valdez

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Portugal

We are reminiscing on our Portugal trip this week in honor of the release of our Streets of Gold collection (coming next week!!). Streets of Gold was shot throughout the streets of Alfama by the one and only, Casey Liu. The photos below however are a little more personal. I took these snaps during the duration of our stay on our many adventures, and of a few random walls, doors, and colors that inspired me. I hope they inspire you in some way too, or just make you laugh, or smile. :)