When I did my first clothing collection, we already knew that we would showcase a customer fave print of Lei Hulu (feather lei) in the collection. But I decided to take one piece
of feather from that lei print and make it into a pattern I call “First Cut”. You see awhile ago, my Kumu Hula tasked us with creating our first Lei Hulu for hula. So I brought my bag of feathers down to Aunty Paulette Kahalepuna’s shop on Kapahulu, all of my feather ready and prepped, cut into the “first cuts” of the feather, which is then used to make the lei. Here I was thinking, we’ll I’m crafty, I’ll be in and out of here in no time! But as I was going through the process, I was struggling, my feathers were going every which way, spaces and gaps riddled my lei. I was so frustrated. So my hula sister, Kau’i Ontai, looks and me and says “Ke, just keep going”....and so I did. Finished that lei Hulu, perfectly imperfect, with all of my hard work and good mana weaved into it. I was so proud of being able to do that beautiful lei Hulu myself.
I use that story as an analogy to the story of Kahulale’a. Many people only see the beautiful product in the end, that beautiful Lei Hulu. But to get to that, you have to start somewhere, with those little Lei Hulu’s, those little bits and pieces that one day you can weave into something beautiful. And along the way, we all need someone to cheer us on, to believe in us, to tell us again and again “Just Keep Going.....”
KUILEI’S CROWN FLOWER
If you remember awhile back, we talked about how many of the prints this year would be inspired by my Grandma, Theresa Kuilei Kamahele Marzo. Our second print in this collection is Kuilei’s Crown Flower, in remembrance for the crown flower plants that grew in front of her home in Maku’u just past the long luau table and chairs that many Sunday pot lucks were enjoyed on. .
I don’t know when they came to be, who planted them lovingly, probably knowing all the joy it would bring to all of us grandkids. One day they were tiny plants, and the next they were these full grown trees complete with their tiny miracles of caterpillars 🐛 that blossomed into butterflies. Those butterflies would greet us everytime we pulled up to her home, with those gorgeous wings welcoming us back...
. But then I thought...
So Kuilei’s Collection it came to be. A celebration of a person and a place that are so connected in my memory that one cannot be remembered without the other...
Kuilei’s Crown Flower for my Tutu’s crown flower plants that grew majestically at my grandparents home in Maku’u, Puna, Hawaii Island.
KUILEI’S PUA MELIA
The inspiration behind this print is my grandmother, Theresa Kuilei Kamahele Marzo. My Grandma Marzo, lived at the base of those majestic Maku’u cliffs in Puna with my Papa Marzo. It was heaven there, a place where all of their 8 children and all of us grandkids would gather every weekend, weekend after weekend... down at the ocean all day, from day break till sun down, losing track of time, our parents yelling at us to come back up from that kai when the ocean started to turn dark. When we did, we would all settle in to that old yellow house, all spread out on the punee on the balcony and eat, laugh, talk story....
Right beyond that balcony and just past the laughter of us cousins, there was a grove of Pua Melia (Plumeria), always blooming in all of the colors of a warm Hawaiian afternoon: yellows of the sun, reds of the sunset, and pinks just beyond that tinge of the sun setting, and just when our sun and sea salt drunkenness was wearing off, we would make our way to that grove of trees and pick our pua Melia of the day and string those beauties up into lei. How spoiled were we to have an endless supply of beauty to keep our hands busy....
My heart smiles when I think back to my childhood, to those weekends at Maku’u...salted air and pua Melia scented breezes whispering through the rails of that balcony...
And so, Lovingly, the inspirations for a large part of this year will be guided by the memories of my grandmother and the land she lived, loved, and raised a big Hawaiian family on....
.....We all have them. People who you will never hear about in history books, not celebrated in song or script.....But to our own history their impact is immeasurable. If i do nothing but celebrate those that have touched mine in my own small way, then I will find joy and success in that work. Inspiration and stories from my grandma’s life are endless, and I hope to touch upon a few this year. I hope that I will tell them well.
Kuilei’s Pua Melia, for her grove of Pua Melia in Maku’u, Puna, Hawai’i