The glow of embers in a beach campfire in Hawaii. The play of moonlight through the leaves of palm trees. The precision of craftsmen building a wooden fence in Japan. Bodysurfing in the curl of the wave. These are the childhood memories of artist Mark Chai that inspire his modern lamps and sculpture. Hand cut in fine woods and recycled white plastic, or fabricated in stainless steel or dichroic polycarbonate, his designs are carved into interlocking pieces of flowing curves of light and shadow that reflect and fill the negative and positive spaces.
Mark was commissioned to design a monumental sculpture and 12 hanging lanterns for the New York Botanical Garden’s Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit (May 19-October 28, 2018). The 13-foot high sculpture of stainless steel was inspired by the Heliconia plant featured in O’Keeffe’s Hawaii painting series. The wooden lanterns on Garden Way evoke native Hawaiian plants: kukui (candlenut), ‘ulu (breadfruit), ipu (gourd), ‘awapuhi (ginger), ohi’a ‘ai (mountain apple), and hala (screwpine).
In 2023, the Honolulu International Airport installed two hanging sculptures based on ancient Hawaiian mo’olelo or stories. ‘Iwa Soaring celebrates the Great Frigatebird, and Kawaihapai evokes a famous rain cloud that ended a drought. Constructed of dichroic polycarbonate, the sculptures change color depending on the light and perspective.
The Honolulu Museum of Art’s year-long exhibit, “Hawai‘i in Design” featured his delicate wood pendant lamps. Honolulu magazine named him one of Hawaii’s hottest designers, and Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu commissioned three playful sculptures of recycled materials. Mark Chai lamps highlight Vladimir Ossipoff’s Palehua cabin, celebrity Chef Ed Kenney’s restaurants Mahina & Sun’s and Kaimuki Superette, the corporate headquarters of both the American Savings Bank and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Pearlridge and Mililani branches of First Hawaiian Bank.
Mark Chai’s work has been seen in Dwell, New Yorker, House Beautiful, Sunset, Travel & Leisure, Home, Honolulu, and Hawaii Modern Luxury magazines, in the Wallpaper Honolulu City Guide, and on MTV’s “Real World.”
Mark’s art is his passion, his daily practice, and his meditation.