Tag Archives: Local Artist

Making Kihei

In preparation for our 70th Anniversary as Hawai`i Community College, faculty and staff have been making personal kihei to wear for the celebration. A kihei is a rectangular cloak, traditionally tapa, tied in a knot over one shoulder. You will see them being worn in my next post about the 2011 graduation ceremonies.

One of my great students at the college is Kapuailohia Van Dorpe, who offered to help me create my kihei. Kapua is the daughter of Puanani Van Dorpe, a master kapa cloth maker who is a living treasure of Hawaii. Her beautiful and intricate work is on display at Bishop Museum. Click here to see a painting of Puanani done by Herb Kane. Kapua is in the process of establishing her own clothing creations that will incorporate some of the traditional designs.

Ohe kapala (ohe = bamboo, kapala = printing) uses a carving done on bamboo, rolled with acrylic paint, and placed on the cloth. Here is Kapua’s collection of tools.

On Kapua’s couch were several ohe kapala pillows.

There is quite a process involved in creating the exact design you want for your personal kihei. Beside a wider brown border, I am placing a thin green motif that represents the maile lei.

The finishing touch was printing my own design I made out of clay. It represents two of the many aspects of my own heritage – Native American and Celtic. The right spiral represents migration, life and renewal.

Watch for Sunday’s post! You will see many different designs on other kihei as well as the finished product Kapua and I made.

If you would like to read more about the many artisans, storytellers, dancers, etc. in Hawai`i, check out this book.

Ten pages in this book are devoted to the story and work of Puanani Van Dorpe. You will understand why it was such an honor to be guided by her daughter in making my kihei.

Mahalo nui loa, Kapua!



Perhaps it’s appropriate that I am posting the story of this amazing fire artist on Fourth of July weekend! The fireworks in her studio, however, definitely are more productive than those in the sky.


Carmen Wagner is a dear friend and first-class artist as a glass sculptor. Words are inadequate for her glass sculptures and jewelry.


I had a hard time deciding between this dragon and the dolphin for the opening photo.


When Carmen was introduced to Howard Richie at the Crystal Gallery at age sixteen, she was hooked. She soon started an apprenticeship with him. “I was only paid when I made something good enough to sell,” she says.

After she inherited all Richie’s old equipment, she re-machined torches and fixed broken tools. That was the start of her workbench setup. She still uses most of her original tools.

Isn’t this arrangement of coral and fish exquisite?


She has always loved to create things, and says that when she found glass work, she knew there were few people with that skill.


Carmen surprised me at the school one day with a beautiful pair of red seahorse earrings. All of these earrings are stunning!


Her father was a Filipino immigrant and her mother was born in Ka’u. Her parents had a farm in Honaunau, but they moved to Oahu before Carmen was born. When she was three, they moved back to the Honaunau farm.


It was difficult for her to learn a trade that was dominated by men, but she was a determined young woman.


Her work can be found in collections world-wide. A set of ornaments were hand delivered by Neil Abercrumbie to President Obama for Christmas last year.


I took a shot of a photo of one glass sculpture that hangs on Carmen’s studio wall.


During the few minutes that we talked, Carmen started a new project. The term for what she does is “lamp working.” She uses bottled oxygen and propane with a pre-mix torch.


At the end of my visit, she showed me her newly created jelly fish.


Here is another view.


And finally, here is beautiful Carmen. Please check out her website for more of her art.


If you are looking for her work on the Big Island, check the Showcase Gallery (Kainaliu), Elements Gallery (Waimea), Gallery of Great Things (Waimea) and Dovetail Gallery (Kona). She is working on accounts for Maui and Oahu. Perhaps you will treat yourself to a sculpture for your home, a pair of earrings for yourself or a friend, or order something special to commemorate your visit to Hawai`i.

Click here to view a slide show of Carmen at work and more of her fragile pieces.

A hui hou!


Feral Fables, my newly published e-book, will be available for a special promotional price of $2.99 until August 1, 2010. Go here to to buy or sample Feral Fables. Use the promotional code “SL25S” (not case sensitive) at checkout.
Mahalo! (Thank you!)