Monday, 30 June 2014

Textiles in Hawaii

Hawaii is fascinating as culturally it perches somewhere between Hawaiian/Polynesian culture and the United States of America. There are, of course, all sorts of influences, from the British to the Japanese with South America and the various Polynesian cultures, including, Tahitian, Samoan and New Zealand Maori, also playing a part. Part of my interest in Hawaii was to search out the original Hawaiian culture that preceded Captain Cook landing in 1778, not that long after landing in Australia.

I was also interested as I have been reading that intrepid adventurer, Isabella L. Bird, who travelled for six months in 1875. Her book ‘The Hawaiian Archipelago’ (available online from the Gutenberg Project),is an account of ‘Six months among the Palm Groves, coral reefs, and the volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands’ and describes her time in a series of letters home to her sister in England. They are evocative and descriptive of the land, its people and while firmly grounded in the late 1870’s intrigued me.

On the whole Hawaii is pretty much a state of the USA, however, as we ventured to Hilo on the big island and to island of Kauai, you could get a sense of that older culture. There is a revival in pride of that heritage, and you could hear Hawaiian spoken, and a more in-depth interest in those crafts that are particularly Hawaiian, such as the making of leis, wood carving and tattooing.

Of course, my particular interest was in the textiles of Hawaii and I knew that it would be difficult to find.

Can I say, there’s not a lot of textiles of Hawaiian origin to be found. Even modern clothing is, at best, made in the US and lots is made is asia and south America. There is some and I managed to find a store that had Hawaiian made traditional dresses. Quilting plays a part and Hawaii has its own particular style.

I also managed to find some hand-dyed yarn by Hanalei Strings, again in Kauai, in the lovely town of Hanalei and included some buttons made of seeds. This, hopefully, will be transformed into a pair of mittens in a new design that might eventually be intended for TSB textile.

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