Creativity, Hawai'ian Magic, and The Importance of Family: An Interview With Lili'ulani Pickford of Same Same Co.
Name: Lili'ulani Pickford
Lili’u is a creative, spiritual and multi-faceted woman who is trying to connect with the magic of her past while bringing her historical lineage into the modern design world. As a designer and artist Lili'u blends her spiritual practice, family bonds and branding knowledge into the upcoming heritage brand Same Same Co.
Can you tell us little about yourself?
I’m Hawai’ian, Chinese and French. I was Born and raised in Seattle, WA by my single mom and older sister by 13 years and my maternal grandparents. My grandparents were the ones that instilled my Hawai’ian identity and culture and were the ones who helped me know that part of myself.
Can you tell us a little about how you came to your practice?
I’ve always been spiritually inclined since I was a child. I was always a loner and a dreamer I used to make spells for myself make little wooden fairies out of beads and fake flower petals and make houses for them or fall asleep in trees for myself. My grandparents, they didn’t have a problem with it, they just let me do what I wanted. I have always felt connected to something outside of myself that nobody else could recognize so I was kind of a strange kid. I was always interested, even as a child, where does this come from what does this mean and how does it play into our lives as humans and what’s the bigger picture. The way I deciphered the world from that child’s perspective is through reading sci-fi or fantasy novels, watching movies about witches and I was really into mythical stories those were always my favorite, and I think that’s how I got into astrology. Astrology really clicked with me. Even as a kid I always knew whether I liked you or didn’t like you. I think astrology helped me realized why I was feeling the way I was feeling and how people worked It just grew since then into other things like tarot, crystals and whatever else I can learn.
Art, on the other hand, I’ve always been interested in as a kid as well, it's always come naturally. I’ve always been an escapist, so I think that's the purpose that art served. I love my family, and I loved the home I grew up in but it was chaotic, That was my way of coping, same with being along making spells and being out with fairies or whatever. In a way all the stories and myths whether it was Hawai’ian or greek, I felt a lot of empowerment from stories, and in a way, I think that's what astrology and stories are and design, telling a story.
[photo of a hand holding a pottery pot on a wooden bench]
How does your spiritual practice affect your work?
My spiritual practice defines my perspective, and I think inevitably your perspective affects the work you do whether its design or anything else. I grew up Mormon, and that has played a huge role in how I view the world alongside with having my Hawai’ian culture its been this weird but interesting interaction I guess you can say. This strange interaction between organized white Christianity and traditional Hawai'ian spiritualism. I’ve always felt being interracial, having my physical identity and spiritual identity being interracial I feel like I have a weird yet conflicting yet somewhat balanced perspective and that comes out in my design work. Like what I did for my BFA, concerning unintended pregnancies, and how that affects women differently and their choices that stemmed from my own personal spiritual and physical experience.
When I look at your work I feel a strong connection to the divine feminine, what energies do you evoke in your creative process?
I grew up in a household full of women, and the only paternal influence well paternal presence I had was my grandfather and My figure skating coach and he’s gay so I had a really strong femme background. Even my family that I would go back visit in Hawaii were very strong women, and I think a lot of that energy came from my grandmother's side of the family their feminine presence and strength are really strong. Also growing up Mormon you’re taught that women can have this, there's this reverence around women and their spirituality and the natural power that comes from a woman spirit and how that should be protected. Unfortunately, in Mormon culture that feeds more into misogyny than feminism but growing up I was lucky to have strong liberal woman as young women leaders. That really informed me as a young woman growing up and forming my idea of what a woman was and how I wanted to be as a woman. So I had really strong influences from all sides and cultures. I was also a competitive figure skater growing up and you spend hours at the rink training alongside other women some that are older than you that mentor you and you become really close friends and this sort of family. So from that, I gained a really strong sense of sisterhood. My actual sister is a huge influence as well her being 13 years older than me was like having a second mom. It all stems from my upbringing and lineage I guess.
What advice would you have for those wanting to connect with their creativity?
Practice. People think that it all comes from talent. While it does help to be naturally inclined it all comes down to trying new things new mediums learning from different teachers from your peers putting yourself in an environment that allows you to be creative at home and outside of your home. I think its super important.
Can you talk your background with Hawai’ian spirituality?
Like a lot of indigenous spiritual practices, Hawai’ian spiritual identity has been lost due to colonialism. Right now we're experiencing a resurgence, so we're trying to come to grips with how we define it as a people. Growing up my Hawai'ian spirituality came from my grandparent's stories and Hawai’ian literature that they would have that I would read. We had a Hawai’ian natural medicinal healing book that told you how to cure different things with natural Hawai’ian plants. Basically, all of it was direct from my grandparents and whatever they told me or taught me. Because other than that we had nothing else. Especially being mainlander I didn’t have access to natural plants growing up or I didn’t have a Hawai’ian community to feed that spiritualism so I was solely reliant on my grandparents.
What is Same Same Co. and how did it start?
My mom, my sister and I are this really interesting trio. We have this weird number thing where my mom was born on a 13th, and my sister's brithday is August 5, and I’m November 8th, but she was born on the 5th and due on the 8th and I was born on the 8th and due on the 5th and 8 plus 5 is 13. We feel like me and my sister are these two parts of my mother. All three of us are creative in our own way. My mother is artistically and creatively talented in many mediums, but I think her favorite medium and her best medium is textiles. Textiles, making and designing clothes, sewing, knitting all of that. My sister her creativity comes through beauty, she’s a professional hair stylist and a makeup artist, and then there’s me the designer. I have a wide range of mediums that I’m interested in and like to work with, and my mom and I are extremely similar in that we constantly need a creative outlet, constantly making things. Were all kind of in a financial bind right now so I figured it would be a good idea to channel our creative energies into something productive that can serve us some way. At the time I was feeling inspired by my grandmother who passed last year, and she was also very creative she was what they used to call back in the day a beautician. She also sewed and knitted, and I recently found out also liked sculpting. So I thought this would be a great way to honor her and her legacy. The purpose of Same Same Co. is to carry our heritage into the modern age with style. My mom, my sister and I go to a lot of Hawai’ian festivals and see the same products and designs being turned out at these events we feel don’t reflect the highest potential of our culture. We believe our culture has so much potential for more beauty than what we’ve seen out there. We're also tired of seeing white “aloha” companies dominate the market while appropriating our culture. So we want to bring authentic heritage to a heritage brand and help other mainland families connect to their culture in a way that has style.
The thing that my Tutu was really well known for, as far as Hawai'ian arts go, was Hawai’ian quilting and it's really difficult and super time-consuming. It would take her years to finish one quilt. But she would let me quilt sometimes for her when I was little. To me, my grandmother was this really amazing mesh of an indigenous women who had to adapt to this modern and very white environment but she held on strong to her roots gracefully. She’s really the inspiration for Same Same Co. We just want to carry that on and tell the world, but also remind our own people what it means to be Hawai'ian women. To show what Hawai’ian creativity can be.
What does self-care look like to you?
It looks like more than 24 hrs in a day. Achieving balance and being grounded. Self-care comes down to a balance between self-improvement but also self-care as in like treating yourself treating your body to acupuncture, a massage, get your nails did get your hair did, go shopping, travel. Everyone has things that feed their soul and feed their body and it comes down to making that a priority in your life and making them happen. Just know that bills are always going to be there so take time for yourself.
In your opinion, in what ways can we heal the world?
I think it comes down to several things. I think first it's important to start that journey of healing yourself. That way your interactions with others are positive, and you can put that energy out into the world. From the Hawai’ian perspective, families are so so so important, and I think that is a solid way to make a difference in the world is in the way that you raise your children. Lastly, I think stories are so important and have such an impact on the human experience. When another person shares a story you feel that and you reflect on that and feel that catharsis happen. I mean that's why we love film, why people love music and the arts in general. I think that's so critical to the human experience and helps push for more self-awareness. Which I think is going to have more of an impact than putting all your energy into externally changing the world.