A Successful Business By Design
Emma Howard at work in her studio
Emma Howard is tickled pink whenever she sees an aloha shirt pattern that she hand-painted and designed. If someone’s wearing one of her designs, she just might stop him on the street and share with him what she did to come up with that design.
With her company, Emma Howard Studio, her work is on more than aloha shirts, it’s on murals and folding screens. She does artwork on commission.
“It’s just so much fun,” says the Alaska-born artist, whose first entrepreneurial activity was when she was 6 years old. She and her brother went door-to-door in their Canadian neighborhood with a red wagon and sold perfume made of scented leaves in glass jars.
“I started in the fashion industry when I was in high school (on the Mainland),” recalls Howard. “I sewed dresses and sold them to boutiques. I made backless dresses and mini-dresses.”
Howard, a former Big Island resident who now makes her home in Kailua, has fashioned work that’s graced fabrics for companies such as Patagonia, Gordon Biersch, Dole Plantation, Holokai Grill, Kahala Sportswear, Iolani, Studio M and Island Heritage. One of her recent designs is the print for the Ampco parking lot employees’ shirts, which has coconuts, palm trees, plumerias and cars on a blue background.
The mother of four adult children, and a proud new grandma, Howard has displayed her work at the Contemporary Museum Cafe in Honolulu, CCC Gallery in California, and Studio 7 and Gallery on the Big Island.
Certified by the California School of Professional Fabric Design, she finds inspiration for her creative process from lots of research. She collects vintage clothing, magazines and books. She draws the design in pencil, then she paints it.
“Sometimes I work seven days a week, with no weekends off,” explains the deadline-oriented businesswoman.
Howard also has led workshops, teaching others how to turn their art into an aloha shirt print design.
“Some people ask me if I’m afraid I’ll teach myself out of a job,” she says. “I tell them no. I want to share what I know with others.”
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