Issue 17.3: June/July 2014

On the Case

Story by Michelle Lee
Photos by Matt Mallams

“You can tell a lot about a person by their phone case,” says Stefan Meinl, a graphic artist and manager of 3RDi Galleries. One might wonder, then, what the image on Meinl’s own iPhone case—two cartoonish tiki-men running on a beach clutching a surfboard—says about him. “Dennis Matthewson,” chuckles Meinl. “I just love the vintage Island feel of his pieces.”

Matthewson is one of more than twenty local artists whose work 3RDi (pronounced “third eye”) has been printing on scratchresistant, aluminum-plated cases for iPhone, iPad and Galaxy devices for a little more than a year now—images by some of the Islands’ most talented artists, like Wyland’s cetacean ballets, Lance Fairly’s tropical idylls and Colleen Wilcox’s colorful North Shore tableaux.

In addition to playful Poly-pop, erupting volcanoes and frolicking dolphins, some of the art on 3RDi’s cases honors Polynesian culture, like Brook Kapükuniahi Parker’s “Aha Ula,” which depicts Kamehameha I. Parker’s original painting hangs in the room where the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs meets in Washington, DC, and 3RDi is the only place where you can get that image on a phone case. In fact, 3RDi holds exclusive license to print all its art— including some non-Hawai‘i imagery like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album cover—on cellular devices and tablets.

3RDi prints the cases in-house at its office on Ke‘eaumoku Street, not far from its two retail locations in Ala Moana Center (with a third at the Navy Exchange at Pearl Harbor). At its core 3RDi is a place where local artists are embraced and celebrated. “Artists can be a little quirky to work with, but fortunately for us everyone here possesses a kama‘äina kind of mentality,” says Meinl. “As long as they are able to continue doing what they love, everybody wins.” And much as he loves Matthewson, Meinl gets to swap his phone case on daily basis. His current favorite? “The next one,” he says. “It’s always exciting to see a new design; I don’t know what it’ll be yet, but it’ll be my favorite, guaranteed.”