Fun finds and fine art at Banana Patch Studio

HANAPEPE — Maybe it’s the bright, bold colors that greet you when you walk in the door to a store that’s floor to shelves to walls with fun trinkets and fine art, plus a genuinely friendly staff.  

For whatever reason, Banana Patch Studio in Hanapepe is a happy place to shop for elegant paintings and pottery or little trinkets and tiles with funny sayings.

“It’s absolutely intentional,” says artist and owner Joanna Carolan. “I think people can feel when products are made in a happy environment.”

Carolan started out as a one-woman shop after building a business of making tiles and art for island residents. Today, there are three stores with 30 employees, and her inventory now includes the work of more than 20 artists.

Carolan opened the first Banana Patch Studio in Hanapepe in 2003. Next came the Banana Patch Studio in Kilauea. Last year, next door to the Hanapepe store, she opened Aloha Spice Co., which is full of colorful spices and more art.

The spice store carries Kaua‘i Coffee steak rubs, as well as salts smoked with local guava wood.

Back at the Banana Patch, ceramics with her designs are produced in Hanapepe by a crew of artists who use photovoltaic solar cells to fire up the kilns.

One artist’s reverse acrylic on Plexiglas pieces shares a room with textiles. Kaua‘i-inspired paintings and prints are set off by monkeypod wood and copper frames.

“We have wonderful art that highlights the beauty of Kaua‘i,” she said.

Hand-painted pottery fills wide table surfaces and shelves, and trays hold handmade jewelry, some for sale for just a few dollars.

Her tile-making dates back to when she was operating solo after Hurricane Iniki had hit the island.

“People were rebuilding, so I started making tiles. When I did a job for someone, I would do a tile that said ‘Mahalo for removing your shoes,” she said.

“Once the gift stores started coming back, they started asking me to do those. I couldn’t keep up with the orders.”

Her hand-painted tiles are still popular sellers. One says, “Please remove your shoes, but no switching to better shoes when you leave. Mahalo.”

Another reads: “Born to surf, forced to work.”

The tiles are popular with tourists because they are easy to fit into suitcases, she said, but local residents also like her ceramic tiles.

“One of the things we actually do a lot of, we’ll do special tiles and pottery for special occasions. We’ve done pets, a favorite flower, for weddings, for fishermen to commemorate a catch,” she said.

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