Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ni'ihau Shell Lei - Molokai kine

What started out as an appreciation has turned into a passion. My first exposure to these amazing shell works of art was some 20 years ago during a visit to Kauai. The size and color of the shells was almost unbelievable to me. Then add the intricacy of the work, the patterns AND the fact that they were made on "the forbidden island", it was just too much. It took me years just to find this book...remember this was before the time of =)

Over the years I have poured thru the pages. I still to this day use it as a reference for shell colors and sewing pattern names. The shells are most plentiful on Ni'ihau but are also found on Kauai and here on Molokai.

Shell picking itself is a bit of an art. For me it is done just by luck. Sometimes when I go there are huge patches of shells and sometimes just sand. It's never a bad day at the beach so no worries. The shells are very small. Kahelelani average 1/8 of an inch. It requires lots of patience...the passion is helpful too.
I started off the year with a custom order on etsy. One of the items was a 20 inch mixed shell lei. I have already started the process and thought it would be fun to blog about the project. I'm sure many people wonder why these pieces cost so much, well this is your chance to find out. The shell picking and sorting had already been done. I'll blog about that in another section. Needless to say countless hours were needed for that.

This is a photo of the last lei that I made that was on the etsy listing. The shells collected for the new lei are very similar.

Here are the collected and sorted shells.

I am starting with the single strand of laiki lenalena which you see above.

First I clip the end of the laiki shell off.

The sand must be cleared from both ends to make a path for the string.

The shells are strung on double #30 lb beading string for added strength.
Here they are...20 inches of precious laiki lenalena. They are so beautiful and shiny and have a lovely feel in your hands. The Hawaiian word laiki means rice. As you can see they are about the size of a grain of rice. Lenalena is the word for yellow.

A hui hou kakou !

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