Hawai‘i Walls 2023: Learn the Story Behind Artist Jana Lam’s Tropical Dreamscape
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of her whimsical mural and the cool new accessory collection that inspired it.
Fashion and lifestyle designer Jana Lam may be well-known for her artistic talents—nearly every piece she creates starts with an intricate hand-drawn illustration. But that didn’t mean that she knew her way around the mural world when she took on her first wall piece for Hawai‘i Walls (formerly Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i) back in 2020.
“I was like, what have I done?” Lam says. The excitement she had felt when signing on turned to sheer panic about a month before the deadline. “I was like, why am I doing this? How do I even get the drawing onto the wall?” she recalls with a laugh. “We had no idea what we were doing, but it turned out to be the greatest experience. Our whole team got to work on it. And by the end, I was hoping that we’d get to do it again.”
This time around, for the festival’s return after its three-year hiatus, Lam and her team were ready and tackled the project with aplomb. The front façade of the Kalihi Foodland made for a fitting locale—Lam recently created an exclusive art print for the local grocery retailer. And it took their smaller crew of just three, including printer Kellie Hirata and seamstress Stephanie Kaji, a week to complete.
“It’s kind of a whimsical dreamscape,” says Lam. “I’ve been calling it a Lam-topia.” The cheery checkered background went on first. “Our whole team really loves checkerboard right now—we just came out with a new collection with it.” Coincidentally, the repeating squares made for a natural grid on which they could plot out the rest of the mural.
“We paid homage to the history and background of the Pālama and Kalihi areas with the coconut and kalo,” she explains. Polka-dotted mushrooms and a sweet Hawaiian land snail add a dose of playfulness. Lam couldn’t help but include some breezeblocks, a personal favorite, in the skyline. And of course, a few of her brand’s signatures, including tropical flowers and a rainbow, made it in.
Spending the week in Kalihi turned out to be an adventure in itself for the artist, who wasn’t that familiar with the neighborhood. “It was fun to explore the area and check out all the spots,” she says. “We ate at Alicia’s Market and Foodland, and I’m planning to come back to try Bob’s Bar-B-Que.”
Most importantly, Lam was thrilled to contribute to a project that would bring joy to the local community. “It was so awesome to see it happening and watch the whole place transform,” she says, recalling how drab walls one-by-one sprung to life with color. “Almost everyone passing by would say thank you so much for doing this. I was tearing up as I was walking through it all, especially where there were lots of kids, realizing how it’s going to make people happy.”
And Lam hopes that it is as inspiring for others as it was for her. “I hope that kids, and adults, see that this is something that they can also do, that it gets people involved in art and beautifying their community.”
See Lam’s mural at Foodland, Dillingham Plaza, 1505 Dillingham Blvd. Shop her designs at janalam.com and at the Jana Lam boutique in South Shore Market, 1170 Auahi St., (808) 591-8411, @janalam. And check out the mural maps for the rest of the Hawai‘i Walls 2023 projects on @worldwidewalls.
SEE ALSO: Hawai‘i Walls 2023: Our Favorite Murals