Creative links: New and established artists open their doors for SOKO’s annual Artists Studio Tour

  • Photographer Kathleen Carr poses at her studio in Captain Cook, which will be open to the public this weekend for the fifth annual Artists Studio Tour. (Elizabeth Pitts/West Hawaii Today)
  • Malia Barreras-Float is one of 20 artists showcasing their work for the fifth annual Artists Studio Tour this weekend in South Kona. (Elizabeth Pitts/West Hawaii Today)

CAPTAIN COOK — Malia Barreras-Float and Kathleen Carr are opposite sides of the same artistic coin.

Barreras-Float, a colored pencil and henna artist, is the sponsored youth artist this year for South Kona Artist Collective (SOKO), and Carr is a photographer and a longtime member of SOKO. Their mediums and artistic experiences may be different, but together they are part of a bigger picture — the Kona art scene.


The art of SOKO, Barreras-Float and Carr will all be on display this weekend as part of the fifth annual Artists Studio Tour. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, SOKO artists will open their studios to the public to showcase their work. Twenty artists in 10 studios in South Kona will make up the trail along Mamalahoa Highway for art enthusiasts to follow.


At the far south end of the tour is the studio of Barreras-Float, shared with artist Linda Purcell Satchell and hosting artist Pamela Colton Thomas. Working side by side, Purcell Satchell sees the potential in Barreras-Float’s drawings.

“Her technique is amazing. You can see her skill level and her talent is really apparent,” Purcell Satchell said. “She’s self-taught largely, which kind of amazes me.”

Barreras-Float, a junior at Konawaena High School, picked up drawing as an elementary school student at Kona Pacific Public Charter School, where she said she was required to draw every day. Watching drawing tutorials on YouTube also helped her become the artist she is now.

“Pretty much as long as I can remember, I’ve loved drawing,” Barreras-Float said. “It started with crayons, and then I moved on to colored pencils.”

For the Artists Studio Tour, Barreras-Float’s drawings aren’t for sale. Instead, she’s offering the community her talents as a henna artist. She has set up her henna business — the medium used in temporary tattoos — previously at farmers markets on Kauai and in South Kona.

“My nanny, when my mother was pregnant, she was experimenting with henna and had done her first maternity henna on my mom’s stomach of a whale,” Barreras-Float said. “And she moved on to making it her primary business, and that seemed like, for her, to be a pretty successful business. And so far, as an easy side job.”

While some of her peers at Konawaena may not be focused on their future careers, Barreras-Float is committed to improving her talent for art. She said through years of practicing, she has seen her attention to detail improve, and drawing now seems more effortless than before.

“That means to me, as an artist, you’re hungry,” Purcell Satchell said of the young artist’s dedication. “You have to do it, it’s like food. It’s a thing you need to do, creativity, it’s not really an option. I see that in her, it’s part of who she is.”


Barreras-Float’s sponsorship is part of SOKO’s initiative to support the local youth artists on Hawaii Island. While Barreras-Float found a love for art at a young age, SOKO photographer Carr took a bit longer to find her talent.

“I was in college and I changed my major every year, and then I was finally an art major,” Carr said. “My senior year, I took a course in fine art photography and I realized, this is it. This is what I want to do.”

Carr was one of the founding members of the Artists Studio Tour. Her studio, located north of Barreras-Float’s, will be open this weekend. Her studio will also be hosting fiber artist Shelley Hoist.

“It’s always inspiring to be in a group of artists, even different mediums, because you kind of get inspired by what other people are doing,” Carr said. “And then you want to be your best as well to be a part of this group. There’s a sense of camaraderie that we’re creating this together.”

Carr’s photography features landscapes of Hawaii Island and its wildlife, which she captures while snorkeling. Some of her favorite spots on the island to get a shot are Liliuokalani Park and Gardens and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hilo and Honaunau Bay in South Kona.

“What’s really important to me is the health and well-being of all life on our planet,” Carr said. “So I try to convey the beauty and treasure that nature is in my photographs.”

Carr traveled the world as a photographer before settling down on the island, and it was her frequent subjects, dolphins, that helped her realize she needed to live and work in Hawaii.

“I was diagnosed with cancer in 1990, and I did a meditation to see what was important to complete my life. And the first thing that came to mind was swim with dolphins,” Carr said. “Someone said to come over here and swim with wild dolphins. And it was just a major change in my life because they just helped me get my joy and juice for living back.”

One thing that has never changed for Carr is her love of photography. Like Barreras-Float with her drawings, Carr’s art is an outlet for creativity.


“I’ve never gotten bored, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else,” Carr said. “Photography for me has been such a creative expression.”

Info: Directions and brochures for the fifth annual Artists Studio Tour are available at, the SOKO Facebook community at, and on Instagram at sokoartists.

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