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Meet ‘Pita’ from Huahine’s Maitai Lapita

Peter Owen

Last week we introduced you to the new Maitai Lapita Village on Huahine. Isn’t it beautiful? Now that you’re familiar with the hotel, we’d like to introduce the resort’s conceptor, Peter Owen, in a new series we’re calling “Passionate About Polynesia.” We often meet many inspirational people that share our love for Tahiti, so we’ve decided to share their stories with you! Once you hear Peter’s, you’ll see that he’s absolutely one of those people.

His Story

Just like the ancient Lapita people, Peter also makes his own distinctive pottery. His pieces, which are on display in the hotel lobby for guests to enjoy and purchase, are as unique as Peter’s own life story and his passion for where he lives and what he does.

Pronounced “Pita” by the locals (which is actually the Polynesian word for “pottery”), Peter is a California native who first visited Tahiti with his parents in 1970. Although he was only twelve years old, he fell in love with the islands and promised himself he’d return someday. During that time, Peter was also developing an interest in pottery. He began training with a potter at age fifteen and continued to pursue his passion until, at age nineteen, he moved to Tahiti and set up his first pottery workshop.

In 1984, after living in Tahiti for seven years, Peter and his wife at the time, a native Tahitian named Ghislaine, decided to move to the island of Huahine. Their shared dream was to live close to nature, so they built a house on a coral reef in the middle of the lagoon and Peter set up an adjacent overwater studio to continue his pottery making. Their son, Manutea, was only two years old.

His Pearls

Living over the water inspired Peter to start a new hobby – one that ran in the family. Ghislaine’s parents owned a pearl farm in the nearby Tuamotu Atolls and her father, Jean Tapu, was a pioneer of the Tahitian pearl industry. With his help, Peter started his own pearl farm. He initially operated out of the house, but after six years of welcoming visitors into their private home, Peter decided to move the pearl farm across the lagoon and opened it to the public.

Peter now owns and operates the only pearl farm in Huahine. We’ve personally been there and we think it’s definitely worth a visit. Once there, you’ll learn about the cultivation process, watch the staff at work, and browse the small boutique where Peter also sells his pottery.

His Pottery

Pottery Piece by Peter OwenBy becoming a pearl farmer, Peter not only discovered his second passion, but in fact, pearl farming has even had an influence on his pottery. While tending to the oysters, he discovered a muddy clay at the bottom of the lagoon. This clay – although unable to be shaped and fired into pots – proved to be a unique and successful glaze for his pottery. It creates a beautiful blue color and adds an interesting decorative texture to each piece. Peter’s son, Manutea, now 30 years old, works in the studio and paints each piece with the Polynesian designs you see in the photograph to the right.

His Influence

As Peter will tell you, “The most important thing for me has always been to create a harmony in blending different cultures, lifestyles, and art.”  And he’s accomplished just that – rather successfully, in fact. This harmony is evident in everything he does. It only makes sense that a man like Peter would be the driving force behind the Maitai Lapita Village.

Peter still lives in Huahine with his new wife Maheata, who was also involved in the development of the hotel. When he’s not making pottery or working at his pearl farm, he’s often seen passing through the hotel grounds where he’s happy to greet guests during their stay.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ella W. #

    What a great story, thanks for sharing. I guess I’ll just have to visit Tahiti to buy some of his pearls and pottery ;)

    July 12, 2012
  2. Nixon #

    Hey! I merely wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great info you’ve got here in this post. I will likely be coming back to your blog for much more soon.

    July 24, 2012
  3. claudia.caputi #

    this was very interesting.

    July 25, 2012
  4. Milton #

    this was a really excellent post! I always like reading this blog. thanks.

    September 19, 2012
    • Al #

      Can anyone tell me how Jean Tapu is doing? Is he still alive? He worked with my father – Dr. Leon Rosen- starting in the 50’s and was a close family friend. My mother is Marquesan and we live in Texas now. Since my dad died a few years ago we have not been in touch with Jean. Thank you.

      January 17, 2013
  5. I’d also like to know about the whereabouts of Jean Tapu. In the ’80s I worked with Al Giddings the underwater filmmaker and we worked with Jean several times filming his underwater pearl farm. He was a very gracious man and a joy to know. I’m wondering if he is still alive and where he lives.
    Many thanks for any info,
    Terry Thompson terryt(at)taosnet(dot)com

    June 9, 2013
  6. Julia Nerney #

    Awesome to see a picture of you! I have always held you and Ghislaine in my heart. So much time has gone by. How did that happen? Would love to say hello to Ghislaine. Tell her hello for me! Julie ( Julia) julianerney@yahoo.com

    July 31, 2015
  7. Jackie Seifert Collins #

    Aloha Peter, This is your cousin, Boo. I live in Lanikai, (Kailua) Oahu now and also fell in love with the Polynesian culture many years ago when we lived in Pearl Harbor and I went to Punahou. I always knew some day I’d be back for good. I loved reading this and seeing pictures of you and Manutea. He was just a young boy when I last saw him, and remember taking him to the airport from your folk’s house in Groveland. If you’re ever out our way, we have plenny room for guests and would love for you to stay with us. Melanie lives about 20 minutes away from me, in Kaneohe. They bought their place here a year after we did, about 15 years ago. Jeff still talks about working on your pearl farm that summer. He stays in touch with your cousin Rick.
    Me ke aloha pumehana, Boo
    808-226-1700

    February 5, 2017

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