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Big Island jewelry artist finds new start after Kilauea eruption

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Irmalia Johnson makes jewelry, practices reiki and does crystal readings. She and her husband were in the process of building a home in Leilani Estates which was overtaken by lava. She will also be a vendor at the upcoming Made in Hawaii show on Oahu. Johnson is pictured at her Pahoa home conducting a crystal reading.

Irmalia Johnson lost her property and at least a third of her income to the ongoing Kilauea eruption, but her optimistic attitude speaks more of perseverance than loss.

Johnson and her husband, Eric, were building a home on their plot of land in Leilani Estates, right next to fissure 8. She was also a regular vendor at Uncle Robert’s Night Market in Kalapana, which shut down in May due to the advancing lava flow.

“The market has reopened (on Wednesday nights) but the income is still low,” she said. “Lots of my friends have moved away. It still feels unstable, but we’re all trying to survive. It’s nice to see everyone again, listen to music and talk story. It provides a sense of normalcy.”

The Malaysian-born artist has lived on Hawaii island for more than a decade. She says the transitions have forced her to be creative and try new things. “It’s taught me to look at ways to expand my business and share my work. I just needed to think about doing things differently,” she said.


>> Where: Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena
>> When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 19
>> Admission: $6
>> Info: madeinhawaiifestival.com

“It has sharpened how I want to manifest what I need and see more clearly what I want. I’ve never done shows outside of the island so these are new beginnings.”

Johnson participated in the Mango Festival on Oahu in June and will be expanding her business, Waipueo by Artsyfartz, by participating in the Made in Hawaii Festival, held this Friday through Aug. 19 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena.

She’ll be among more than 400 exhibitors showcasing food products, gifts, books, apparel, jewelry, crafts and art, home accessories and other local goods. More than 50 exhibitors are new to the festival this year.

Festivalgoers can enjoy onstage entertainment and cooking demonstrations by local chefs throughout the weekend. Henry Kapono and Alx Kawakami kick off the entertainment lineup Friday morning.


Johnson is excited about bringing her business to Oahu.

She works with crystals and incorporates them into jewelry.

“I’m happy to share what I love to do. I feel extremely lucky that I’m doing what I love to do. I enjoy the healing aspect of creating.”

Johnson’s artisan jewelry covers a broad spectrum from handmade earrings to intricately designed pendants featuring miniature photographs or hand-painted Hawaii scenes. She often incorporates natural elements such as seashells, sea glass, and olivine (uncut peridot).

“I started making jewelry about 18 years ago when I was in high school. At first, I was attracted to all of the colors. I’ve always liked rocks, and crystals make me feel good,” she said.

Her resin pendants feature photos of her favorite places, like Pohoiki.

The photo pendant collection dates back to 2012, she said. “I include places that I love. You can no longer get to many of those places; they aren’t there anymore. It shows you how transitional life can be. I’m happy that I captured these magical places in Hawaii. I won’t forget how beautiful these places were. We are the next generation to be sharing these stories as the lava flow creates beauty and destruction at the same time.”

Sometimes her 6-year-old daughter Wainani helps to create jewelry. When she was a mere 2-1/2 years old, Wainani would sort shells and sea glass. “She was stringing beads at a young age. I had to train her not to eat the beads. Now she can wear the jewelry that she makes.”


Johnson became interested in learning about the healing properties of the crystals that she was using in her jewelry, which eventually led to crystal readings. “Like some people do tarot card readings, I do crystal readings.”

When doing a reading, Johnson asks the person to choose stones or, if the person isn’t present, she uses a pendulum to select the stones. Each crystal radiates a different energy and has its own unique vibration, she said. The chosen stones help Johnson provide clarity on issues a person may be experiencing. “It’s a beautiful dance between my energy and their energy. The crystals can become a deeper conversation piece.”

With the world becoming more complex, people are looking for ways to find a direction for their lives, she explained. A personal reading can provide insight, and the crystals themselves can provide needed strength or energy.

“If they’re going through an obstacle, it helps them to draw strength from the crystals,” Johnson said. “They can see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Irmalia Johnson is the owner of Waipueo by Artsyfartz. She will be at booth No. 374 in the arena area at the Made in Hawaii Festival, where she will sell her jewelry and take appointments for crystal readings. Visit artsyfartz.com or @artsyfartz on Instagram to see some of her designs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of the Mango Jam Festival Johnson participated in. It was on Oahu.
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