Bertoia in Hawaii

by Celia Bertoia

I have been promising my sister Lesta a visit at her new home in Maui for quite some time. With the wicked winter we've experienced at the foundation headquarters in Montana, Maui began to sound especially attractive. Always making the most of any travels, I reached out to CEI Hawaii in Honolulu to see if we could coordinate a Bertoia presentation.

The Evening Begins...

Kathy and Michael Yasui of Corporate Environments International, Honolulu, were excited to plan a midcentury modern celebration in honor of my visit. CEI is a commercial design/furniture enterprise with offices throughout the country. In early February, they gave me a warm welcome to the islands.

A fragrant lei of gorgeous flowers was my first indication of the friendliness and generosity of the islanders.

The Guests...

A crowd of about 80 mid-century modernism fans, including architects, designers, and furniture restoration experts, were an educated audience for the presentation. One of the more famous attendees was Chris Lee, formerly the head of Columbia/TriStar.

Most were familiar with the Bertoia chairs, many knew of Cranbrook, and some had probing questions about Sonambient.

Although I hadn't thought about or researched it, Honolulu has really a remarkable sampling of midcentury modern architecture. Because Hawaii became a state in 1959, the modernist movement was in full swing. There is an effort to preserve and restore the modernist landmarks all over the island. Who knew?

A Midcentury Modern Celebration!

Delicious tropical treats and a special selection of fine whiskeys satisfied any palate. Plus, shortly after my talk, about a dozen professional dancers in slinky shiny costumes took over the floor. They danced to midcentury music, and even the Hawaii Five-0 theme song to top off a festive evening.

They danced to midcentury music, and even the  Hawaii Five-0 theme song to top off a festive evening! Photo by Courtney Matsuki.

Kathryn Danish of Knoll managed to time her sales trip to coincide with my visit, which was also excellent. Kathryn covers northern California and Hawaii as sales manager; an ambitious role. We had a delicious breakfast at the Moana Surf Rider, overlooking the white sand beaches of Waikiki. I always have plenty to talk about with Knoll reps, and Kathryn had lots of ideas of her own. 

While neither the Bertoia family nor the Foundation have rights or royalties from the Bertoia chairs, they are an iconic pillar of Harry's work, and an important part of the legacy. We still tell of the chair history and watch what goes on.

After this festive and educational evening, new friends will be waiting for the next Bertoia celebration event!

The rest of my week was a personal tour throughout Maui with highlights including the Bamboo forest, hanging out with the Green Sea Turtles, and Humpback Whale watching; all fantastic.

It was wonderful to see my sister and her adult children as well.