Turning Hawaii into fashionable
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Gauguin, Ando Hiroshige, Al Furtado, Gustav Klimt, Frank McIntosh and Pierre Renoir have at least one thing in common: They all have their art on ICON, a line of fine leather goods from a company based in Los Angeles. ICON's permanent printing process bonds images to leather, creating a replica of the art.
Two Honolulu artists, Al Furtado of Makiki and the late Frank McIntosh, known for his iconic (pun intended) works that appeared on the Matson menus in the '30s, also belong to this elite group of artists.
About seven years ago, when she first discovered ICON Leather, Paula Sussex, owner of Sandal Tree boutiques, decided a local artist's work should appear on the handbags, shoes and small leather goods. She began scouting galleries on First Friday and doing Internet searches of local artists, looking for art that would be appropriate and adaptable.
"My idea is to give the local artist more exposure in a different media, using a piece of work they have already had success with," Sussex explained.
When she found Frank McIntosh, she knew that one of his images would work. She sent it to the folks at ICON, who agreed and set up a licensing agreement for the use of his painting "Angel Fish." The response was overwhelming, with every handbag, wallet, card case and pair of shoes selling out. The image had struck a chord with Island women.
Sussex began her search again, but this time "I wanted to work with a live artist," she chuckled. She found a live wire in Al Furtado.
Furtado is a retired commercial and graphic artist who worked for The Honolulu Advertiser from 1982 to 1995. He helped the newspaper's art department make the transition from drawing by hand to computerized graphics. He also worked as an art director for several Honolulu ad agencies. Now he has devoted himself to fine art. Furtado's original art appears at Hale'iwa Art Gallery, Village Galleries on Maui and at The Ritz-Carlton on Maui.
"When I first got a call from (Sussex) it tickled my funny bone," Furtado said. "Then I wondered if I really wanted to put my work on coffee cups or knickknacks." When he learned ICON used such artists as Degas and Gauguin, he decided to investigate further.
Furtado looked at the ICON products and was impressed. He decided to go ahead with the project. "(Sussex) wanted to get two of my best-selling local images. I let her choose them," he added.
Sussex selected "Shave Ice," a nostalgic view of Hale'iwa's famed Matsumoto store, and "The Keiki Hula Class," a charming hula line of happy keiki.
The keiki in ICON's images are inspired by family parties enjoyed by Furtado, who married a member of the famed Beamer family, Lei Becker. "If they dropped Norman Rockwell into this environment (a Beamer gathering), he would have a field day," Furtado said.
In lieu of Rockwell, Furtado is here to capture these rare Island moments. Now we can wear them.
Reach Paula Rath at firstname.lastname@example.org.