She did it 23 years ago and has built her business up through a hurricane, overseas competition, downturns in the economy and visitor count challenges.
"I'm primarily a watercolor artist, and have been lucky to work in different media," Carolan said.
Watercolor techniques translate to the ceramic tiles she made that became a huge hit outside the door of many a
Some of her watercolor paintings of Hawaiian gods and goddesses also adorn the packaging of body lotions sold for
She has been commissioned by hotels for large-scale paintings and other artistic work.
The ceramic tiles that put her on the map greet people at the door and say "Mahalo for removing your shoes" or similar iterations thereof.
Carolan first came to the islands to visit her grandparents in 1968, and then moved here from
During her '70s-era days at
She moved back to the isles in 1990, started her business in 1991, and then Hurricane Iniki hit on
As a housewarming gift, she presented homeowners with a "Mahalo for removing your shoes" tile, and one by one the requests came for more such tiles.
"I couldn't keep up with production," she said. "I hired one person, then a second," and so on.
As her tiles grew in popularity, the whole imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery thing was reflected through local sales of cheaper tiles manufactured in
Her late father had owned a restaurant, and she thought working with food would be an homage to him and at the same time "support more sustainability here," she said. She worked with a chef to create
One of the things Carolan said she is most proud of is the smoked salts, which derive their smoky flavor from the burning of strawberry guava wood.
Strawberry guava is "very invasive" and, as a friend was working on an eradication effort, she thought, "fruit wood is good for cooking."
Nine of the company's Hawaiian salts -- either plain white or red 'Alaea combined with such flavorings as bamboo leaf extract, activated charcoal, garlic or others -- are sold in grinder-topped containers for
For the salt-averse, there is Tutu's Organic No Salt Seasoning. "It's great on salads," Carolan said. "My favorite is just putting it on an avocado."
The 4-by-4-inch tiles featuring the "remove your shoes" message or Hawaiian flora, fauna and other designs sell for
Carolan also offers ceramic house numbers, ready-made or made to order. On a much larger scale, her custom work also has included tile backsplashes for kitchens, murals and bathroom accents.
Between the two companies, Carolan employs 31 people. "I couldn't do either of these businesses without a great team."
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