Giant lei garlands for yachts say ‘Aloha!’

20 07 2014

Good morning, studio fans! Until today we’ve been hanging out at Kaneohe Yacht Club where I and my team have been crafting lei for some of the arriving boats in the Pacific Cup Yacht Race from San Francisco.

I say “until today” because the thunder-lightning-rain storm that is ripping the Islands has closed roads, etc., and we are taking a rest this morning, enjoying the waterfalls, retrieving wet pets from outdoors, and surveying the flooding and mudslides. We can hardly imagine what it must have been for the small-boat racers at sea last night. What a light show!


Here’s Jennifer, Kaneohe Yacht Club member, thrilled with her first boat lei. She and Nancy, pictured below, discovered they went to the same high school in Minnesota. Now they meet on Oahu!

We are making 40 lei, wili style, each 12-feet long and uniquely beautiful. All the plant materials are gathered and donated voluntarily. Our lei makers range from first-timers to professionals. Our team is composed of folks from Kaneohe Yacht Club, Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club that receives scholarship funds from the lei sales, and my friends. It is a fun, social activity that we do every even-numbered year.

Michele Kamakea Kalili of Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club is from a family of professional lei makers that go way back. Her father Gus Kalili made and sold lei out of his woodie along Lagoon Drive on the way to the old Honolulu International Airport back when.

Kamakea of Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club is from a family of professional lei makers who go way back. Her father Gus Kalili made and sold lei out of his woody along Lagoon Drive on the way to the old Honolulu International Airport back when.


Kathleen Sattler, my glee club sister, welcomes the break from her otherwise stressful schedule this week.

Thanks to all the volunteers on all of the Pacific Cup committees.

Carol Silva

Carol, experienced in making lei for hats, crafts her first giant one for a boat.

Nancy and Pat

Friends Nancy and Pat enjoy helping with lei construction.

Let me escort you on a fine art tour

10 05 2014

Counting the number of places to exhibit my art is like counting my blessings. All of a sudden my calendar is full. I’m excited to share my summer “fine art tour” of fresh, new work with you. If you have never viewed my paintings in person, this season offers multiple venues. Mark you calendar. My “tour” starts this afternoon, just in time for Mothers Day!

"Kalo Collage," 15" x 30" hand-dyed paper on canvas. $385.

“Kalo Collage,” 15″ x 30″ hand-dyed paper on canvas.

“Collages & A Bit of Clay at Ho‘omaluhia.” A jewel-like showcase of collages and fine craft items. 2D and 3D works by sister artists Joy Ritchey, Dorothy Brennan, Hiroko Shoultz, Barbara Guidage, Susan Rogers-Aregger (who wrote the book on paper dyeing and collage), and me! These are my two very first collages and the most recently completed art pieces of mine. At the Visitor Center Lecture Room at Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden, end of Luluku Road, Kaneohe, Oahu. Daily through June 30, 2014, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Free admission. The items may be purchased off-site by making arrangements with Susan, phone 808 395-4702, email

"Hydrangea Collage," 30" x 15" hand-dyed paper on canvas. $385.

“Hydrangea Collage,” 30″ x 15″ hand-dyed paper on canvas. Sold.









“The MAMo: Maoli Arts Month Silent Auction.” A bonus opportunity for attendees of the MAMo Wearable Art Show at the Hawaii Theatre, downtown Honolulu, up in the Weyand Room, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Please contact the theater box office for more information about the evening fashion show.

"Heliconia in Vase," 14" x 18" oil on canvas board, to the highest bidder

“Heliconia in Vase,” 14″ x 18″ oil on canvas board, silent auction item

"Red Trunks," 16" x 20" ink on canvas giclée reproduction, re-marked and re-signed, to the highest bidder

“Red Trunks,” 16″ x 20″ ink on canvas giclée reproduction, re-marked and re-signed, silent auction item

“The MAMo Native Hawaiian Arts Market.” Native Hawaiian artists and craftsmen wrap up Maoli Arts Month at the Bishop Museum, May 24 and 25, 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Entrance on Bernice Street in Honolulu. I will bring to market my inventory of original oil paintings and selected giclée reproductions. This is a chance to meet many other Native Hawaiian artists, watch some demonstrations, and support their work. $5 reduced price of admission for kamaaina (Hawaii residents) and military with valid ID gets you in to the market and all museum exhibits. This is a deal!

“Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club Diamond Emerald Anniversary.” Brunch, Hawaiian music entertainment, and silent auction. Turtle Bay Resort, Kuilima, Oahu, June 14, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  I am placing two landscape paintings–one of Ko‘olauloa and one of Ko‘olaupoko—into the silent auction. Individual tickets to the 90th anniversary party are $100 per person. Please contact president Ululani Beirne, 808 237-8856, or Francine Palama, 808 341-9881, for tickets.

"Kamehameha Highway and Kaaawa Place," 16" x 20" oil on canvas, at auction

“Kamehameha Highway and Kaaawa Place,” 16″ x 20″ oil on canvas, silent auction item


"Heeia," 24" x 18" oil on canvas

“Heeia,” 24″ x 18″ oil on canvas, silent auction item

Beginning Oil Painting Lessons by Rebekah Luke. I have scheduled my Painting I course for adults starting June 21, and extending through Oct. 25, 2014, at my physical studio in Kaaawa, Oahu. Twelve sessions on selected Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lessons generally follow those taught by the late colorist Gloria Foss. Tuition is $300. Cost of materials and supplies is additional. Those who have this on their bucket list, please email for complete details.

“Pacific Cup Craft Fair.” Come visit my booth at this event held in conjunction with the Pacific Cup yacht race from San Francisco to Kaneohe. Kaneohe Yacht Club, 44-503 Kaneohe Bay Drive, Kaneohe, Oahu, July 25, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Images of beautiful Kaneohe Bay.

"Bayfront," 18" x 24" oil on canvas board

“Bayfront,” 18″ x 24″ oil on canvas board


So many blessings! Thanks for coming along on my tour! ~ Rebekah

Copyright 2014 Rebekah Luke



From bubble charts to lists

24 06 2012

Things aren’t so bad that I have to make bubble charts. That was last week. Now I’m down to making lists, a lot of lists. Before I know it, summer will be over, and I’ll be off to Italy to see Miss Marvelous. I always seem to have a project going. I’m just wired that way.

The two or three major items are heading up the making of the boat lei for the Pacific Cup yacht race arrivals from San Francisco that tie up at Kaneohe Yacht Club at the end of July, my family reunion in August, and publishing The Chong Family Reunion in a New Millennium (working title) to coincide with the Chong reunion.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to delegate tasks and design activities  for a fun time.

The lei-making project is under control as I’ve alerted my crew to the ETAs of the boats. I’m never really sure about the ti leaf supply and the volunteer labor pool until they show up. It’s touch and go, but very exciting and very enjoyable to welcome these boats. Every two years within a week-long period we make about 50 huge leis, 12 feet long each, and the net proceeds go to the Koolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club scholarship fund.

For some reason I thought 2012 would be a good year to have a family reunion, and started the ball rolling more than a year ago. It’s been five years since all of my mother’s side of the family got together. She was the youngest of 15 children, all born in North Kohala, Hawai‘i. We’re going back to the land of our roots, as well as having some activities on Oahu. Today I just need to hear back from a committee to confirm a venue before sending out another packet of information to my cousins.

The launching point for this year’s Chong Family Reunion was the 20th anniversary of the publishing of The Chong Family History authored by my cousin James H. Kim On Chong-Gossard. It was time for a sequel. So The Chong Family Reunion in a New Millennium is the current work in progress published by my Chong Hee Books. It has evolved into an e-publication that can be viewed on the iPads everyone is getting.

I’ve discovered the main difference of an e-pub versus print on paper, in my case, is the time savings. I’ve chosen the blog software of and the blog-to-book service called Book Smart offered on  I’ll be able to format the publication up until the last minute before “delivery,” and because it is a blog, I can make corrections, additions, and other changes any time. Then, anyone who would like a hard copy can order it.

It’s just as much work, however, as a printed publication, if not more, especially during the learning curve. I’ve experience that challenge already, and now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Meanwhile, I continue to check off items on those lists!

Copyright 2012 Rebekah Luke

The story of the boat lei

21 07 2010

Every two years in July about 50 sailing yachts compete from San Francisco Bay to Kaneohe Bay for the Pacific Cup, “the fun race to Hawaii.” It’s organized and hosted by Pacific Cup Yacht Club in Northern California and Kaneohe Yacht Club in Hawaii. The boats have handicap starts and sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and across the sea to arrive around the same time, hopefully, and in time for the parties ashore on Oahu.

Delicate Balance arrives at Kaneohe on a cloudy afternoon. Two boat lei welcome her.

Many years ago I became the volunteer chair of the Boat Lei committee for KYC. I’m affectionately known as the Boat Lei Lady! A boat lei is a giant 12-foot garland of fresh, tropical foliage to greet and honor the vessel that carried her skipper and crew safely across the ocean.

Some call it a bow lei because it is attractive draped over the front end of the boat. Because most of the Pacific Cup yachts tie up stern to, we renamed it boat lei. It may be fastened anywhere as a decoration. The custom of presenting the lei has become a Pacific Cup tradition.

It takes many hands to make the boat lei for this event. The finished products are beautiful works of art and much admired. Event organizers inform the racers, family and friends they may pre-order the lei so it’s ready for their favorite boat when it arrives.

Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday my crew made 45 boat lei! Many thanks to Michael and Bobbi for the promotion in California and for handling the sales from the e-store. That was a big help. Thanks to Kaneohe Yacht Club for lending the workspace. And, of course, mahalo (thanks) to all the lei artists for their remarkable team effort. Some KYC members also pitched in, and we are grateful for their contribution.

Haleaha finishes her 12-foot lei made with variegated Song of India clusters and red ti leaves

How do we make the lei? And how are we able to make so many? I’ve been asked. I will tell you! But first a little history and a funny story.

LITTLE HISTORY. In the early years I worked with  members of Hale Kuai Cooperative, a Native Hawaiian organization, to design the basic lei. We wanted cut foliage that would hold up in the sun, rain, trade winds, and salt air and look pretty for at least a couple of days in the elements.

We settled on lai (say LAH-EEE, leaves from the ti plant), lauae (say LUH-AU-AY , a fragrant yet sturdy fern … Phymatosorus scolopendria, syn. Microsorium scolopendria), and multi-colored croton leaves. Our friend Kapa showed us how to use floral wire to bind the foliage; she learned the use of wire from her kumu hula. And Aunty Havana, who is a master at making hat lei, showed how to combine everything into lovely creations, once she figured out how to translate small to big. The lei became a product of the Co-op.

Green and red ti leaves. When picked from the stalk, they are called la‘i.

In more recent years, I have partnered with Koolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club to supply the boat lei. Volunteer members and friends gather the plant material from their gardens and from the mountains, donating the material and their time to the project. Other members and friends, who are artistic and enjoy lei making, work professionally as floral designers for a few days and assemble the lei.  The net proceeds from the sale of the lei provide scholarships for Native Hawaiian club members and/or their children.

Clover's lei

FUNNY STORY. The very first year of my boat lei experience, we made the lei fine, but I had not given any thought to delivering the lei. I was so involved in providing a product that it did not occur to me that the boats would arrive at any time of day or night, 24/7. OMG! It was too late to organize any shift work.

Pekelo's lei. Yellow-and-green croton and red ti provide accent color among the other greenery.

DH (Darling Husband) has a sailboat moored at the yacht club. He and I monitored the ETAs, and for an evening arrival, we would catnap on his little Mugquomp and wake up as the radio crackled to announce a boat had crossed the finish line. As we climbed out of our bunk and put on our jackets, for it was cool and a little rainy, we were fascinated and impressed by the radio conversation between Iwalani of the Escort committee and each arriving yacht. In her very calm, reassuring, professional, and gracious way, Iwalani gave the information and instructions on how to enter and come down the channel (with coral reef on both sides) to the dock at night. We had enough time on foot to greet the boat with a big lei.

DH and I were very short on sleep that year. Someone later suggested that we arrange for the Leis and Trays committee to deliver the lei. Brilliant! That committee is much larger and greets the boats with Hawaiian music, lei and mai tais for the captain and crew. Why not the lei for the boat too?


The style of the lei is known as wili (say WEE-LEE), meaning to wind. We wind by hand—one must have strong hands to tug—using wire instead of a natural twine or raffia traditionally used to make a hat or neck lei. Wire allows us to put the work down and makes it easier on our hands. Our lei are 12 feet long, but shorter lengths make lovely bouquets, wreaths, and table decorations. Allow enough time to gather & prep the materials and make the lei. It takes about two hours to make, excluding time to gather.

Each artist has his/her “line,” so do not worry that your lei does not look like someone else’s. It won’t. The variables are selection and placement of the plant material as well as the available supply of the greenery and flowers. Here is the basic way to construct the lei.

Ti, lauae, and red ginger combo

Materials to make one 12-foot lei:

1 kaau (which is 40) each of ti leaves, lauae, croton leaves. Be sure to leave about 4 inches of the stem on. The stems provide the slightly stiff backing for the lei. Do not strip the mid-rib from the ti leaf.

A few tropical flowers—such as, heliconia, red ginger, bird of paradise, bougainvillia clusters—with 6-inch stems to intersperse throughout the lei (optional)

One 24-gauge paddle wire from the floral supplier or craft store. One paddle is enough for one and a half lei, or approximately 18 feet total.

String to tie on the finished lei to the boat

Gloves (optional) to protect hands from croton stains

33-gal. plastic trash bag (optional)

Ululani's lei


Work surface such as a table or floor, hand clippers, scissors, spray bottle of water

Step 1. Gather and prep materials by sorting by color and size, cleaning, and bundling.

Step 2. Pick a palette of 3 or 4 types of leaves if you have a wide choice. Include ti and lauae in your palette.

Step 3. Take the tip of a large ti leaf and turn it under to meet the stem, shiny side out, bending it in half but not creasing it. Fasten the tip to the stem with the wire, winding it around the leaf 5 inches from the ends. Begin winding about 5 inches from the beginning of the wire, securing both the ends of the leaf and the wire together. Grasp the two ends of the leaf and the end of the wire with one hand (if you’re right-handed, use your right hand), and wind the wire with the other hand, going around about 5 times. Be sure to pull the wire taut. This is the start. You will use one continuous length of wire and not cut it until the end (unless the wire accidentally breaks).

Step 4. With the tip of the ti leaf facing up and pointing toward you, place a lauae leaf on top with stem pointing toward you. Wind the wire around 1/2 inch down from your start 3 times, again pulling taut. Next add some croton in the same way, 1/2 inch down. Then add another ti leaf. This grouping forms your pattern.

Step 5. Repeat Step 4. Alternate placement right and left, if you wish, to cover the sides. With each addition, come down about 1/2 inch. Remember to pull the wire taut as you wind so that your lei does not come apart.

Keep the width of the lei the same by checking the sections you did earlier. If your lei is getting wider (this is common with beginning lei makers), allow less material to show or leave more space as you add. Just be sure your wire is wound every 1/2 inch, catching all the stems. From time to time, turn your lei over to examine the back. Hold your lei up with one hand and give it a good shake to make sure it is secure. From time to time, spray the lei with water to keep it fresh.

Step 6. After the lei is the desired length, end it by winding the wire around itself about 10 times. Snip wire with scissors. Tie string with a square knot to the lei at 4 or 5 points as a way to fasten the lei to the boat.

Step 7. Keep the lei cool until ready to decorate. A cold air-conditioned room is ideal. Mist with water.

Step 8 (optional). For transporting or brief storage, roll the lei into a wreath and place in a 33-gallon plastic trash bag. Leave an opening for the lei to breathe.

And that’s the story of the boat lei. Enjoy your creation!

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

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