Capturing the true essence of Maui in an open-air setting, the Art and Craft Fair at Ma'alaea Harbor, located in the Harbor Shops in Ma'alaea, offers a variety of island art, woodcarving, tapa, apparel, crafts, jewelry and much more. This is a face-to-face place where visitors and locals alike can go to get bargain-priced one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts and meet the artists who make them. It is a breathtaking setting in which to spend the day, eat great food and see some whales--all in one convenient location.
"You can find the arts and crafts fair open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the big room overlooking the Ma'alaea Boat Harbor," said Charline Ratcliff, public relations manager for the Ma'alaea Art and Craft Fair.
"There is an overall sea theme at the fair--the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium is next door and the Pacific Whale Foundation starts their whale watches at the Harbor Shops," said Ratcliff, an author, artist, photographer and vendor at the fair.
In the midst of a lively presentation showcasing the diverse work of the local artists at the Ma‘alaea Art and Craft Fair, Charline Ratcliff exhibits her many talents. “I’ve been an avid crafter since I was a small child,” said Ratcliff, who began making her famous soy candles at the age of 13.
Photo: Cindy Schumacher
In the midst of a lively presentation showcasing the diverse work of local artists, Ratcliff exhibits her many talents and entrepreneurial flair.
"I've been an avid crafter since I was a small child," said Ratcliff, who started making her famous soy scented candles when she was only 13 years old.
One of Ratcliff's favorite media is glass.
"I purchased a small kiln, taught myself how to fuse and slump glass and have enjoyed adding the sea glass accents to my water color paintings," she said.
Her attractive line of sea glass charms and pendants are also available at the fair.
Concerned with reusing and recycling, Ratcliff also developed a line of bottle cap magnets and necklaces.
"In addition, I collect unusually colored glass items that are being thrown out, and I will re-purpose those into jewelry or other items," she said.
Among Ratcliff's many talents is her writing. Never intending to be a writer, she excitedly declared that it happened "quite by accident!"
"While sleeping, I experienced an extremely vivid dream which seemed to center around the Egyptian queen, Nefertiti," she said.
"When I awoke the next morning, I wrote the dream down, which became the prologue, and then the first three chapters just 'flowed out.'"
Hence, Radcliff has found herself to be a popular author on Amazon with great reviews on her first novel, "The Curse of Nefertiti."
One reader said, "Her tale is woven with likeable and believable characters, powerful visual imagery and a talent for combining the past with the future to create a masterful novel."
Ratcliff is equally excited about her children's storybooks, "The Princess, The Toad and The Whale" and "The Further Adventures of The Princess, The Toad and The Whale."
"I choose to write storybooks that appeal to young children's imaginations, but at the same time, reflect their reading ability and help their reading skills to grow in a fun manner," she said.
"I am also available to mentor and help others with their writing skills," she noted.
Ratcliff discovered the Art and Craft Fair at Ma'alaea Harbor in 2011.
"I visited the fair after my whale watching excursion and I loved the heartfelt energy of the place," she said, noting the view was pretty spectacular, too!
"Two years have passed since my first visit, and the genuine aloha feeling, hard work and love that go into each piece the crafters make is still a thrill to see and be part of," she said.
Ma'alaea Arts and Craft Fair owner Maggie Harjunpaa, also the representative of all the local crafters, agrees with Ratcliff.
"Our fair is a much-needed venue for the local artists to show their crafts and talents," she said. "We are like a family here; a creative 'ohana where visitors can watch artists in action."
Speaking of family, the husband and wife team of La'a'ula and Tau Veatupu head the lineup of artists at the fair's entry. Tau, from a line of woodcarvers, has been studying and working as a woodcarver his entire life.
"Starting from childhood, I was instructed by my grandfather and father," he said, noting that, beginning in 1978 in Honolulu, he and his brothers set in motion a revival of the art of tiki carving at the International Market Place.
In 1996, Tau moved to Maui, where he met his wife La'a'ula, currently a master in the art of tapa.
"Fabricated from the inner bark of the mulberry tree, tapa is dried beneath the sun, soaked in rainwater and hand-hammered with a wooden mallet to a precise thickness. Then, it is melded together with tapioca root starch," explained La'a'ula.
"Tapa designs are applied using inks and dyes, which I prepare myself from various tree barks, plants and charcoals," La'a'ula said. "Tapa was the sole Polynesian textile for clothing and coverings also presented at celebrations, ceremonies and commemorations."
Visit the Ma'alaea Art and Craft Fair, open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and meet Ratcliff, Harjunpaa, Tau, La'a'ula and the array of amazing artists.
"Come and talk story and watch the beauty of creating things in person," Ratcliff invited.
Along with the regular vendors, guest crafters are also sure to pop up on any given day.
Admission is free.