Hawaiian artist, Constance de Bisschop, was a long time resident of Oahu and a very prolific artist who began creating charming, clay figurines for the booming tourist industry in the 1950s. She was born Constance Constable in 1905. Although it is unclear whether she was actually born in Hawaii, she lived there for most of her life and her parents also lived on the island. In 1938 she married Eric de Bisschop, a native of France. She had one child, a daughter named Yolanda, who may have been from a previous marriage. Constance was primarily known as a painter, particularly a portrait artist, but took up making figurines in the early 1950s when she reached a point where she felt painted out.
Her figurines were made of Waimanalo clay, hand painted and hand waxed. Those I've seen are marked on the bottom with "de Bisschop" and "HAWAII" and sometimes marked with a name for the piece, such as "Uncle" or "Aunt" So and so. The markings appear to have been made on the clay with a marker, after firing, so the pieces are often hard to read and not easy to identify as hers. In 1954, she designed a Menehune coin savings bank as a promotional piece for the Bank of Hawaii. The banks were molded of Waimanalo clay, hand painted and then hand waxed by workers at Lanakila Crafts, a TB rehab workshop in Oahu. They were very popular and over ten thousand of these souvenir banks were created. As of this writing, we still occassionally see them for sale on eBay auctions. Her figurines were nicely made and carefully painted to capture the very essence of Hawaii and Hula!
Constance's husband, Eric, was something of an adventurer and explorer, who spent a good portion of his life trying to prove that early Polynesian voyagers made their great trans-Pacific voyages by drifting on currents and that early Polynesians may have come from Chile. Both theories, by the way, have long since been disproved. He made several attempts to prove his theories by constructing large, double hulled rafts and trying to drift from Chile to Tahiti, and vice versa. In 1958, one of these attempts ultimately cost him his life, when his raft ran aground on a reef near the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific.
After Eric's death, Constance appears in newspaper clippings throughout the mid 1970s for a variety of reasons. Sometimes she is writing letters about various projects. At one point she is quoted in an article as a member of an anti fluoridation group, who sought to keep fluoride from being added to drinking water. She appears to have been a talented, involved, independent, productive and determined woman. In 1978, at the age of 73, she was involved in a court case over the home she was living in, which ultimately led to her eviction so that the landowner could develop several townhouses on the site. We have not yet found an obituary for Constance or any other mention of her in the newspapers after the eviction. So, it is unclear what became of her after that.
I became interested in Constance after finding three of her figurines in my Mother's Estate. I would like to thank those who assisted me with research in this project, including the Special Collections Librarian at the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawaii-Manoa and other historians and collectors of her work. There is little or no mention of her on the internet, but the archives of local, Hawaiian newspapers were invaluable. I am happy to share my findings with the eBay community, in hopes that more of her work can be identified and enjoyed by others. If anyone has conflicting or further information about Constance, I would appreciate being contacted.