A Family Tradition Etched In Glass

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - June 01, 2005
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Gary Oda works on an etched-glass
vase at Arts Hawaii

Gary Oda proudly continues the tradition of hand-made etched glass from his retail store, Arts Hawaii.

Designs of plumeria, hibiscus, and fern glisten on vases, stemware, plates, bowls, business card holders and pitchers.

His clients include Macy’s, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Nohea Galleries, Island Treasures, and military exchanges. In addition to the items that can be carried out of the store, Arts Hawaii also does work on glass doors and walls for homes.

Locals enjoy giving the etched glass as housewarming, wedding and graduation gifts.

“And visitors love to bring something unique back,” says Oda as he points to the repeat orders that are shipped out from the store.

Oda, a St. Louis grad who trained at the London College of Print in Fine Arts, explains what he loves about creating.

“For one thing, it’s a unique media,” he says. “Glass plays with light, and creates whole different images. If you think about it, glass is a soft, hard liquid, so it’s a unique material to work with. It reacts with everything.”

His plans for the future include making sure his business “survives as usual” in Hawaii. He is one of five people working in the store, including the other artists, whom he trains personally.

Oda learned the business from his parents, Frank and Ethel. Frank, an artist himself, started the business in 1946. The signature store logo, which he designed, features a crown and can be found on a sticker on each item in the store. Frank also illustrated books on Hawaiiana. In fact, after the war, he did artwork under the name Frank O’Day, as many Asian people at that time used non-Asian names in order to achieve a goal. Arts Hawaii also sold black velvet paintings for more than 20 years, which were quite popular at the time.

Oda proudly says he’s so happy that he has so many loyal customers — some as far back as 1949.

The youngest of three brothers, Oda served in the Army, completed his art training in London, then returned to Hawaii in 1973 and to continue to help out at the store.

He credits his wife, Kim, and his children Lucyanna, 12, and Roneltha, 13, for supporting him when he took over the company from his dad in 1990.

“We have maintained the tradition for over half a century,” he says. “That’s amazing to me.”

Arts Hawaii is located at 514 Piikoi St. For more information, call 591-2544.

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