After the conference, she brought everything she learned from the Australian artist about indigo dyeing back to Hawai’i and her husband, Justin. The fractions and chemistry associated with formulating an indigo vat were intimidating, but Justin ended up being the perfect alchemist with his background in biology. The pair met in 2004 at the HCC bookstore. Justin was working behind the counter wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and Wai’ala’s mom, who was a huge Zeppelin fan, kept pointing him out. “Go talk to him! He seems like a nice guy!” (It turns out, Mom was right.)
In 2015, Wai’ala and Justin set up a makeshift indigo dyery in their tiny studio apartment in Waikoloa. They had a bunsen burner, a laulau steamer, and polite neighbors who didn’t ask too many questions about the strange smells coming from their ‘ohana. Indigo was easy to come by – growing like a weed in their backyard.
Justin focused on the chemistry and formulating the dye vats, while Wai’ala did the shibori and sewing. “It was the three of us, myself, Justin, and nature,” says Wai’ala. Nature being a third rogue artist with a mysterious, magical hand in the process. There’s a wild card element when it comes to indigo. No two pieces ever come out the same. “We both fell in love with the wabi sabi of it,” says Justin.