Business Monday: Create a painting with Hawai‘i Fluid Art

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Maya Ratcliff

When Maya Weaver Ratcliff began learning how to work with acrylics in 2019 she got frustrated.

“I took art classes and sucked and started to feel bad about it,” she said.

Outside of painting landscapes, animals and people, her husband, Don, found a fluid style of painting on the internet where multiple colors are poured out onto a canvas, creating an abstract work of art. She decided to give it a shot and fell in love with it.

“It allowed a non-artistic person to create something beautiful,” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff started posting her creations on social media and soon was selling her work; pieces that looked like textured stone, lava and the ocean. Out of popular demand, she began teaching in 2020 out of her garage helping people create similar works of art.


Ratcliff often worked with people who suffered from brain injuries, delving into their artistic talents as therapy. The Waikōloa woman was also hired to teach parties at the exclusive Kūkiʻo Golf and Beach Club in Kona.

In 2021, Ratcliff opened her first Hawai‘i Fluid Art studio, located in Waikōloa at Queens’ Marketplace.

“We do art that anybody can do,” she said.

Ratcliff was teaching at Kūkiʻo when a group of well-known actors approached her saying they’d never seen anything like her class and suggested she franchise.

As she looked into franchising, Ratcliff decided to take the leap. She invested her 401K, sold her Waikōloa home and spent millions of dollars to get the business off the ground and chose Kansas City, Missouri, as her second location.


Ratcliff said she chose the midwestern community because she lived there years ago, it had an art scene and the city had a different weather pattern. Like the Big Island store, it also sold art and jewelry and paintings made by local artists in the area.

The business was immediately a success.

“We started having repeat customers in the first month,” Ratcliff said.

Las Vegas Hawai‘i Fluid Art location. Facebook photo

From Kansas City, Hawai‘i Fluid Art locations have been popping up all over the country with 23 studios open across 15 states. There are 45 studios in different stages of development.

All the stores have the same feel. Walking in, it’s cozy with furniture and coffee tables. Shelving and tables are decorated with jewelry from local area artists as well as paintings. The studios have tables ready for customers to create their works of art.


The paints dry in the studio and they come to pick them up when they’re finished.

Fox Business named Hawai‘i Fluid Art one of the U.S. top franchises in 2023.

Registered in all 50 states, Ratcliff said more than 100 units have been sold to franchise.

She is launching Hawai‘i Fluid Art in Canada and Australia and is working on entering the Asian markets in 2025.

“It’s been a giant leap of faith,” Ratcliff said, who has never taken a paycheck from her business, adding her husband has continued to support her and her dream, working as the executive director of an engineering consulting firm. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the best thing.”

Hawai‘i Fluid Art now has its own brand of paint, resin and canvas. Ratcliff has hundreds of employees and several franchise owners she works with daily.

“I don’t feel successful,” Ratcliff said. “I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. It’s humbling to see myself in other people’s lives.”

With a new location recently opened in Las Vegas, the original location in Waikōloa is still staying busy.

  • Hawai‘i Fluid Art instructors teach customers how to create the company’s signature paintings. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Hawai‘i Fluid Art instructors help students pick colors and mix paint for their pieces of artwork. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Hawai‘i Fluid Art instructors teach customers how to create the company’s signature paintings. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Hawai‘i Fluid Art now has its own brand of paints and canvas. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Hawai‘i Fluid Art instructors teach customers how to create the company’s signature paintings. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Hawai‘i Fluid Art instructors teach customers how to create the company’s signature paintings. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Teresa Primiano, manager at Hawai‘i Fluid Art, teaches classes at the studio in Waikōloa. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

Teresa Primiano, manager and instructor at Hawaii Fluid Art in Waikōloa, taught a group of women visiting from Alaska in January.

“We just have a lot of fun here in the back teaching classes and playing with paints and just helping people make art and have fun and make memories,” Primiano said.

First, the students pick their canvas size. They range from 12 by 12 inches and 10 by 20 inches and go up to 40 by 46 inches.

The next step is deciding whether the painter, donning a black or purple apron, wants resin, which would give their painting a shiny top coat, enhancing the colors, protecting it and giving it a wet look.

Depending on the canvas size determines the number of colors they use. A participant can use as little as three, all the way up to seven.

After picking the colors, they decide on the art form they want to pour on their canvas: the “S” the cloud, wiggle, stone/natural and river pours.

The canvas is drenched in either a white or black base paint, depending on the look they’re trying to achieve. The students are ready for the pour after layering their colors in white plastic cups.

Primiano said the instructors help the students with this part as they help hold the canvas and tilt it back and forth to allow the paint to cover the surface.

“It gives it this fluid look, which is what we’re called, Hawai‘i Fluid Art,” Primiano said. “And then after that, you know, that’s it. You’ve got this really cool, like, abstract piece of art, super colorful, unique.”

Students can add glitter if they want.

Aislinn Martolano, visiting from Fairbanks, Alaska, was attending a mechanical conference in Waikōloa. The conference offered attendees a chance to take a class at Hawai‘i Fluid Art.

Attendees were offered a drink and there were pupus at the shop.

“You just get to pour and see what happens,” Martolano said. “[There’s] no stakes, no pressure. Just fun. I love it.”

Chelsea Riekkola who was a speaker at the conference was also at the January class.

Riekkola said she’d never heard of Hawai‘i Fluid Art and didn’t know what to expect.

“I had no idea because I had never heard of it,” Riekkola said. “And when I think fluid art, I was like, ‘Oh, is it that thing where you blow paint with a straw or something?'”

Riekkola said the art is liberating. She hopes a studio opens in Fairbanks.

“In your grown-up life, you don’t always get the opportunity to be artsy-fartsy, or do something just for fun when it’s not about your family, your kids, or your job,” Riekkola said. “It’s really fun to get together with a group of women, and everybody’s just having a good time…also, I love that you really can’t screw it up.”

Riekkola said she plans to take her creation home and see if it fits with the color scheme of her bathroom which is tiled blue. Even if it doesn’t, she will find a spot where it does.

“I can tell you I would 100% hang this up before I would hang up anything I’ve ever brought home from a ‘paint night,'” she said.

To take a class, adults cost $65 and children $35. Click here for more information on the art studios and to schedule a class.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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