By Sara Mayko
Meet Dee Oliva, local artist and a member of Paiko’s ohana. Dee’s ceramic pieces each have a life of their own, and her adorable animal planters have become an instant shop favorite. We treated Dee to a spooktacular picnic last Wednesday with homemade pumpkin seeds, Hawaiian kettle corn, and lots of caramel chocolate. With Dee’s animals joining us, it was like a picnic at a miniature zoo.
Dee is a ceramacist, teacher, and mentor to children island wide. Originally, she attended UH Hilo as a botany major, then transferred to UH Manoa to complete her education. Working with clay was only an extracurricular activity until one of her closest professors encouraged her to switch from botany to ceramics. Initially, Dee’s creativity flowed through her 2D pieces in drawing and painting, but embracing the 3D art form of ceramics allowed Dee to see her ideas come to life.
Her ceramic creations started out as just for fun, being able to sell them is an additional benefit. Her artistic mantra is “If you do something you love, it’s your passion, when you make money, it’s a bonus. If you’re driven and forget the anxiety or fear [of being an artist], doing what makes you happy, sooner or later something [will come out of it.]”
Animals, especially her friend’s dogs, are a major inspiration to Dee. Each pup has a different personality, and most of the ones Dee chooses tend to be quite comedic, something that becomes clear when she sees their selfies posted on Facebook. This began her extensive collection of miniature dogs, which caught the eye of Paiko’s Tamara Rigney when she spotted a couple in a friend’s terrarium.
After being introduced to Paiko, Dee started creating mini animal pots, not only of dogs, but of reptiles, dinosaurs, giraffes and more. Dee admits to being addicted to nature documentaries. When exposed to a new species on one of the 45-minute shows, she tries to envision how a plant can fit into this animal’s shape. Right now she is wrestling with the idea of an octopus.
Dee believes her pieces aren’t complete without Paiko’s touch. “1 or 2 plants can make or shape my final piece. The colors of green and grey: grass and stone fit together. It makes sense with my terra-cotta pieces,” she says, “And the whole circle of life. My pots begin with mud (the clay from the earth I use to mold,) then after it is fired another element of life is placed into it: Paiko’s succulents and soil.”
Dee describes our encounter as a magical moment: “Paiko accepts my vision and what I see when I touch clay, giving me the creative freedom to express my animal’s personalities.” To see more of Dee’s work, come by the shop and explore her curated pieces. Also you can check out her online portfolio http://antidee2.tumblr.com.