Alenuihaha: A channel to test the brave
Inspired by the woodblock prints of Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), our ‘Alenuihāhā Aloha shirt tells the story of the Big Island outrigger canoe paddlers brave or foolhardy enough to attempt the ‘Alenuihāhā Channel, one of the most dangerous stretches of water on earth.
Meet the artist
LLEW MEJIA created the phenomenal artwork for our ‘Alenuihāhā Aloha shirt. Weʻve been working with Llew for awhile now & just got him to do a short Q&A so you could get to know him, too.
Top Takeaways: Yes, heʻs seen ghosts, UFOs are out there, and he loves vintage Duke Kahanamoku shirts.
Western Aloha: Where are you from originally?
Llew Mejia: My parents moved around a lot as a kid, so I like to think I am from many places and not just one.
They moved back and forth between the Southwestern US and Mexico during part of my childhood, and then parts of the Midwest and ended up in Minneapolis for awhile. After that I decided to move to San Francisco and from there moved to NYC :)
WA: Does where you are from influence your work?
LM: I think it does influence my work definitely. There are a lot of folky aspects to the work I make as well as the patterns I create. They are an amalgam of the things I saw during my childhood in all of those places as well as well as the folk art I collect from all over the world.
WA: Where do you live now?
LM: NYC BABY!
WA: What do you like most about living there?
LM: I think it’s cheesy but honestly it’s the energy and the motion in the city, I also feel like it has an overall feeling of anything is possible to it. I like the fact that it’s an epicenter for arts and culture in the world as well. Small fish big pond scenario.
WA: What was the first thing you liked to draw when you were young?
LM: I didn’t really start drawing until I was a little older -- 20’s or so. But when I did it was always plants and animals and continues to be that way.
WA: Do you create any art that isn't through a pen or brush?
LM: Yeah I love creating ceramics and sculpture even though it tends to be a pretty private practice there is little to no pressure for me. I took up rug hooking for awhile because it seemed fun but was ultimately very time consuming, knot by knot takes forever...
WA: Do you like to shop at thrift or second hand stores?
LM: Yessss vintage Americana is one of the best things I tend to look for. Navy pants, old sweatshirts from the 60s-70s, undershirts, and French workwear. I also used to collect vintage Hawaiian shirts when I was in college.
WA: What's your favorite vintage aloha shirt design?
LM: Love all of the vintage Duke Kahanamoku shirts because of the details and overall aesthetics in the designs. They were and continue to be some of my favorite designs. There is a shirt called ‘From Here to Eternity’ that is a quintessential shirt from that brand with an engineered horizontal print of a beachscape, palms and lush surroundings in three or four colors. And it’s one of the most beautiful shirts ever made to me.
WA: Have you ever seen a ghost?
LM: Yeah I have actually had a lot of weird paranormal experience. Less the older I get honestly but me and three other people saw a ghost of an old man in a YMCA once. My friend was the janitor there with his family so they would come in at around midnight to clean the whole place and it was in a highrise building so there was a service elevator. Throughout the time I hung out with him while he did his work the elevator which was key operated only by his keys would randomly take us to the roof access floor number 6. This was odd since we never pressed it. But on this particular night it took us all up there and that floor had no stair access so there is no way someone could’ve been there. But it took us up, and we got out this one time and looked to our right and there was an obese man completely naked except for a towel at the end of the hallway just standing and staring past us. He had no reaction on his face and overall looked kind of vacant. We obviously freaked out and ran back into the elevator. And just started yelling hahaha.
WA: How about a UFO?
LM: Not yet but I am sure we all have we just don’t know it. Hawaii is a hotspot I have heard.
WA: Can you juggle, shuffle cards really well, do magic, ride a unicycle, or have any similar kind of wacky skill?
LM: HAHAHA unfortunately I have zero whacky skills, I can however wiggle my ears on command.
WA: Do you think you could go from your bed to the front door of your house with your eyes closed without bumping into a wall? Have you tried?
LM: Hahahaha whoah I have never even tried, I feel like I would just stub my foot everywhere and fall.
WA: What do you do just for fun, if anything?
LM: Hang out with friends mostly, since I work alone at my home with my three cats it can get kinda lonely so I do like to socialize and invite people over or go out and have some beers, watch people in a park or vintage/flea shop.
WA: Are you more of a morning person or a night person? Do you think that the hour of day affects your creative process?
Yeah I work better in the mornings but I still typically only sleep about 5 hours a day because it’s hard for me to justify not being awake and alive hahaha
WA: Do you remember what the last thing was that made you laugh really hard?
LM: Hmmmm hard to say I think I laugh a lot, probably a comedy stand up. I really like Sebastian Maniscalco. I think he’s got a good insight into humanity.
WA: What was your last paying job that didn’t involve being an artist?
LM: Most of my jobs in life have involved art in some way. I think the only one was Mcdonalds at 15 and working in a field with illegal immigrants for landscape plant propagation when I was 16-17 that was a really insane and hard working job. Very physically demanding but also working outside was very fulfilling. I would like to do that again I think I may be getting to old for that.
WA: If you could live in a past time period, when would it be and why?
LM: 1920s seem pretty interesting, there were obvious horrible things that were going on, but it seemed like a good place if you were intelligent and knew what to do to make a living you could do it easier than you could now. There are too many laws now a days heh.