Lei Making in Hawaii


During her recent artists residency in Hawaii with our stockist Monkey Palm Mercantile, Ruth was invited to visit a local botanical garden in Kauai. A local traditional lei and jewellery maker (@kauai.treasures) looks after the garden and uses the fresh natural materials around her such as flowers, leaves, shells and seeds to make leis with. Ruth was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn the art of lei making while she was visiting.

With a vast history in Hawaii, the lei is still very much a tradition on the islands. A lei is a garland of flowers traditionally given in Hawaii as a token of ‘Aloha’, which symbolises love, friendship, celebration, honour, a greeting or farewell. They can be given or received at almost any celebratory occasion. However, as Ruth’s teacher explained, you should always make a lei with 'someone in mind’.

"The whole lei making experience really struck a chord with me. When I first started creating jewellery, it was from natural found materials - for part of my degree show I made flower and leaf garlands. Lei making was all about using beautiful local materials (highlighting its beauty and making it into a wearable 'jewel') to mark a very special and personal moment in time: a welcoming, love, a wedding, a passing.  For me, the ephemeral quality of marking a brief moment feels very poetic, like natures lifecycles.
The breadth of material used also fascinated me: flowers, leaves, shells and seeds. During the workshop we used ti leaf from Drea's garden, an abundant and very traditional leaf varying in colour from reds, to yellows, and greens. A traditional and beautiful craft still holding strong to this day. Her garden was a tropical botanical garden and felt so magical, a very special place enveloped in nature… it was dreamy day for me and my family." RT

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