THANKFUL HAND GEMS

KAPA: HAWAII’S FABRIC

During the many years the artist lived in Hawaii, he envisioned the smooth surfaces and tidy prints as disguising the rough-and-ready process of its creation in ancient times. Wet hibiscus bark in strips was loosely woven, soaked in water, then pounded and pounded with heavy wooden tools until the bark felted. When dry, the resulting “cloth” was almost always printed with repeats of 4” to 5” square designs, usually of flowers or leaves, but sometimes of geometric patterns with a deco feel.

 

The artist handcrafted a sterling deco-like design, then forged it to an irregular outline and distressed its surface, to suggest age.  He hand-cast a solid piece of 18 karat gold with a rough  surface, soldered it to the silver drop and drilled the gold to accept beadcord.  Treated black onyx, an 18 karat yellow gold clasp and his handmade 18 karat gold catch-ring completed the piece, secured with internally glued 18 karat yellow gold crimps.  This remembrance of times long gone measures 17 3/4" long.

 

Bishop Museum in Honolulu has beautiful examples of Kapa, the not-so-easy woman's work of 200 and more years past.  It is sometimes seen spelled Tapa.  That is simply the Tahitian spelling. Just so, dearly beloved, Kapu in Hawaiian means forbidden. A Chief might post a Kapu ball on a tall pole by a certain beach, meaning that those waters might not be worked until the sea life multiplied again.  The Tahitian spelling is Tapu, from which our word Taboo, but not accompanying environmental practice, is derived.