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During the early part of 2020 I was fortunate to relocate to Maui as part of my spouse's new job in Wailea. Shortly after arriving I took on a part-time job at the Maui Quilt Shop. Marilyn, the shop owner, hired me for my quilting background, but also is a fan of kumihimo and was very encouraging as have Mizu and Kay. They provided support the encouragement I needed when launching my new business. But just as I began working Covid hit and for three months Quilt Shop work stopped, so I took this time to braid using glass beads from around the world. It helped me focus on designing braids and helped me find the "artistic voice" in the world of jewelry design.
Simultaneous to this, as a member of the Keawali'i Congregational Church in Makena, Maui I was exposed to the beautiful Po’o and Haku Lei given to our pastor at each Sunday Service. These lei immediately became my inspiration in my kumihimo braiding with glass beads. The first Po’o below captured my imagination and subsequently led to the braid below it. This opened my eyes to the possibilities of merging kumihimo art with Hawaiian lei making.
Those Po’o Lei made with fresh flowers, leaves and straw were provided to us by Jodi of ioki_honeygirl (Instagram account) each Sunday for several months. Her small business on Maui designs the most incredible lei and I’m forever grateful to her for these pieces that kept my eye and heart for creative kumihimo motivated during the Hawaiian Island shut down. She would drop off Po’o Lei and other unique pieces of flowers, grasses and leaves all woven and designed for the pastor and the alter. Here is another design Jodi created that I will be looking at replicating using glass beads in the near future.
So now with dozens of designs and many new braids added each week, the inspiration from the beauty of Hawaii continues. You will see in my designs inspiration from Orchid and Ginger flowers - which I have now rethought using glass beads. Some newer designs were inspired by natural shell lei done so exquisitely by Ni’ihau artists. However, unique color combinations can be created using glass beads which are not found in nature. Here is a small sample of these necklaces.
My hope is to expand what current fashion designers on Hawaii can use to showcase their amazing talents using colors and textures. They too are inspired to create from the rich cultural history across the Hawaiian Islands. Materials used by Akalei reflect a new way to play with design textures of Hawaiian Lei.
Mahalo Nui Loa