“AWAKENING” at the Honolulu Museum of Art, aka The Art Academy

A Kewl Way To Make Lei

By Heidi Leianuenue Bornhorst heidibornhorst.blog

My friend Lexi Hada contacted me about a volunteer opportunity. When Lexi calls you know it’s going to be a FUN and interesting time!

We joined some fellow volunteers, including some famous Lei makers at 9:00 a.m. at Linekona.

Lexi and Kaylee

I was so impressed with the Volunteers and staff joining with the Artist Rebecca Loise Law and her bouncy fun entertaining husband Andy.

Just being in Linekona is a gift and it brings back memories of other art projects, Classes in Art, wood shows, teaching and learning moments with art and our Honolulu Community.

Rebecca and Andy had asked for flowers which they would dry (in an upstairs room with newspapers spreadout on the floor)

We had brought big bags of floral gifts, tasty treats, and lei that we made to share from our gardens.

The Laws and HoMA worked with the Honolulu Botanical Gardens for a collection of great florals from Foster and Koko Crater Botanical gardens, including Quipo, which is a huge, stout trunked tree from South America, and is related to the African Baobab. The big, winged seeds of the Quipo which we’ve used as intriguing decorations over the years were strung into giant lei for the Awakening art show.

Cup and saucer plant on copper wire for exciting art show Awakening

We were given various dried flowers to work with:

Phalaenopsis orchids

RAINBOW SHOWER flowers

Cup and saucer

Cook pine needles

Sandpaper vine 

Strands of super fine copper wire is used for stringing. We would carefully poke through the flower, like using a lei needle, or wrap the plant material with the fine wire. We spaced out the flowers by making an artful twist in the wire.

Sandpaper Vine

It sounds tedious but the time passed quickly, it was fun to learn a new style, which I likened to Lei making. Andy Law (husband of the artist) came bouncing into the room, and talked to us about the process, Life and gardens in England, Wales, and Scotland. 

Three hours sounded like a long time to volunteer but Andy kept us entertained and the process was fascinating. I was so busy crafting and learning, visiting with the other volunteers and seeing their workmanship, that time flew by.

I congratulate the Honolulu Museum of Art staff for nurturing us volunteers; from free parking, snacks, and working together on such an engaging Floral Art project. There were several staffers to greet and orient us volunteers and Volunteer coordinator Kaylee Clark stayed with us in our lei making session, encouraging us, and sharing about art exhibits and other events at the Museum.

Clark stayed with us in our lei making session, encouraging us, and sharing about art exhibits and other events at the Museum.

Awakening is a year long exhibit in the upstairs L-wing. The Laws have produced these kinds of floral exhibits and art work previously but this is the first time in Hawaii. They brought dried materials and continued the process of gathering and drying flowers from Hawaii.

The main volunteer tasks for this project were cutting and bending of wire along with stinging of flowers. Flower donations came from volunteers. Flowers used each day varied on availability. The process was collecting, drying, and then a 3-day freeze. HoMA tried to keep each day different, as there were a lot of repeat volunteers and they wanted to keep the experience new and interesting. Approximately 250 Volunteers helped from August 16- September 16, 2022.

Andy and Rebecca arrived in Hawaii in early August 2022 and will stay and coordinate the assembly and opening of the art exhibit, which will be up for a year to enjoy.

They have had similar floral exhibits all over the world, including England.

​Artful friends Marin Philipson, Debbie Choo, and Patty Mowat joined Lexi and me.

Amazing long time and Awesome lei makers Joyce Spoehr a HBG Retiree and active volunteer, Iris Fukunaga who still works at HBG (Honolulu Botanic gardens) and Dyanne Taylor a Master lei maker, famous for her tiare bud lei, is another City Parks and Recreation retiree(and fellow surfer) who Volunteers at all the fun plant and lei events. My Friend and great gardener Rosemary was there too. It was so fun to have the master craftswomen there, as we all learned this new technique.

I had so much fun making my lei, first with Phaleonopsis or Butterfly Orchids, then one with red cup and saucer and then with the Lavender cup and saucer. I had never noticed before, working with this as a fresh floral, the different shapes of the dried petals.

Loved the garlic vine flowers for a strand too. This is an old fashioned kama`aina plant that we do not see too often these days. I love the striking lavender color when it is fresh, and it dries very nicely. Seems like the petals are tough enough to hold up

As we completed each long strand (sixty inches measured by the length of our worktables), the lei strands were gently laid into big, long floral boxes, with the layers separated by tissue paper.

The process, of drying the flowers first was something like how botanists and taxonomists, like at the Bishop Museum or National Tropical Botanical Gardens, or even Kew Gardens in the U.K. make dried Herbarium specimens of plants to document and study.

Such a process and so many Na lima Kokua (helping hands) putting the art exhibit together.

As we were wrapping up, the artist herself joined us and we bedecked her with lei and floral gifts. Slender and dressed in black, Rebecca Louise Law looked amazing and happy with our floral adornments. She spoke a few quiet words thanking us.

Rebecca Louise and Andy Law

I thought about what a wonderful team she and her husband Andy make, him warm and bouncy and super enthusiastic, and she reserved and artistic.

Another amazing thing that happened was that the Director of the museum, Halona Norton-Westbrook, joined us to say mahalo, and spoke briefly with us volunteers.

I was talking with my neighbors on their sunset stroll and found that Julia Weiting was also volunteering. Every time she went, they gave her different florals to work with.

I was so inspired after about what I could make next! I also thought a lot about the process and which other flowers or foliage we might incorporate. A fresh style of lei making! A quick and fun one to teach keiki, a way to decorate homes or papale!

I am so excited to see the completed exhibit, called “Awakening.” Its opens to the public on Saturday September 17, 2022, and continues to be on display until September 2023.

Rebecca Louise Law: Awakening

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