Tiffany DeEtte Shafto
Hawaii’s artists create with a depth and breadth that inspire me. When I look around at all the beauty and joy coming through in the creative works, my enthusiasm builds, I get chicken skin, and I want to share it with the rest of the world. It’s what led me to create Contemporary Publications. But the journey to this point has been a twisty, winding one.
In college, I loved art history and took it for every elective I could, but when it came time to make a career choice, interior design seemed more practical. Blessed with a job in San Francisco just days after graduating, I’ve always loved space planning and design—bringing different elements together and creating a harmonious environment. As my career continued into high-end residential design, I was pulled into project management; working with the subcontractors and lead carpenters, doing estimating and scheduling, and managing budgets.
After honeymooning on Kauai in 2001, my husband, Tim, and I fell in love with the Island. We felt drawing to make Hawaii our permanent home, and realizing that life is short and you better do what you love, we made the leap in early 2004. We spent our first three years on Kauai remodeling homes, though Tim always wanted to do fine woodworking (he’s always worked with his hands). And it was the discovery of koa wood that started our career in woodworking together. (In mean, leave it to Hawaii to come up with a wood that shimmers like a cat’s eye gemstone! It’s one of the most beautiful woods in the world!)
We received some affirmations during our first year of creating—awards at our first two shows and getting into galleries—and it kept us plugging along. In 2007, we decided to move where the wood was and made the leap to the Big Island where we felt instantly embraced by the amazing woodworking community. It was this community, and my husband, that inspired me. The ideas, concepts, and processes these people developed to be able to create these astounding end results—it had to be shared. In 2009, I produced, co-authored, and published the award-winning coffee table book, Contemporary Hawaiʻi Woodworkers; the Wood, the Art, the Aloha, with gorgeous writing by Lynda McDaniel.
Community work seems to be a calling of mine. I served on the board of Hawaii Craftsmen (2007-2010) and the Hawaii Wood Guild (2008-2013) and even served as president for both. A year as a director for the national Craft Organization Development Association was enlightening. Serving as the administrator for the 2011 and 2013 Hawaii Artist Collaboration has been an amazing experience. And the opportunity to prove the rich diversity of artists living on Hawaii Island and their economic and social impact while serving as the project manager for the Hawaii Island Network of Artists Research Report & Website was incredible. Add creating changing featured artist exhibits during my year as a partner in The Gallery at Hualalai in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort, and my new business, Tiffany’s Art Agency, and these experiences have given me a deep appreciation for Hawaiiʻs artists and for representing them at the very highest level.
My long writing career started at the end of a gravel driveway lined with tall trees and sun-dappled daffodils. Although it was years ago, I recall that day with the fiercest clarity: walk- ing up to the massive oak door with a hand-forged handle, tugging on its surprising weight, and entering a world of art and craft, music and writing. There, at the Campbell Folk School, I met the director who eventually asked if I’d like to learn public relations. To be honest, I should have answered, “What’s that?” Instead, I said, “Sure,” and took to it like ink to newsprint.
I wrote all kinds of things for the school: newsletters and press releases, articles and ads. Once I saw my first published article, I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since.
I’m proudest of the dozen books I’ve written. Some highlights: In 2009, I wrote Words at Work straight from my heart, a much-needed response to all the questions and concerns people have about writing today; it won top honors from the National Best Books Awards. That same year, I wrote Contemporary Hawaiʻi Woodworkers: the Wood, the Art, the Aloha, a coffee-table art book, with Tiffany DeEtte Shafto. Capturing the stories of 35 artists and watching them turn wood into wonders was even better than the view from Waikiki. (The book sold out quickly—a winning combination of talented artists, book designer, and writers.) And The High Road Guide to the Mountains of North Carolina put me in touch with so many artists, chefs, and naturalists who call those gorgeous mountains home.
I have written for major arts and culture magazines such as Southern Living, Country Living, AmericanStyle, NICHE, Southwest Art, Yoga Journal, Associations Now, American Cinematographer, Arches, Chile Pepper, Restaurants USA, and Blue Ridge Country. Newspaper articles about art, food, and business ran in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Charlotte Observer, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and washingtonpost.com, among others.
About eight years ago, I began teaching people how to write more effectively and start/ finish/publish their own books. I’ve worked with artists and entrepreneurs, as well as executives/ staff from organizations such as Microsoft, Visa, Boeing, Citibank, U.S. Small Business Admin- istration, University of Washington, and International Assn. of Business Communicators.
When I look back at that bend in the road, the road less traveled that I first took so many years ago, I am grateful that I listened to my heart and followed my imagination. Sometimes the road gets bumpy, but I sure like the creative journey I’m still on.