By Sara Mayko
Paiko’s reknowned ‘haku lei master’ Ann Kadowaki’s holiday workshop is just around the corner and we wanted to introduce you to this busy bee! Ann invited us to her happy place at Lyons Arboretum in Manoa where she actively volunteers as the Vice President on the board. We explored the arboretum as she named off the various plants of Hawaii and chatted about her haku talents, inspiration, and future European garden travel plans –for the time being she’s kind-of booked!
Born and raised on Oahu in Pauoa Valley, her inspiration is drawn from her childhood. Both sides of her family were actively involved in the local flower culture. Her dad was an orchid grower and her uncles were commercial rose farmers. In fact, her first job was on a rose farm where she cleaned and bundled the flowers. “I was horribly slow because I was so OCD about maintaining the roses. They had to be perfectly in line, no odd ones out.”
Here are some questions we posed to the ‘haku lei master':
When and how did haku-making become your passion? How did you become involved in the art form?
I think I always loved plants and flowers. Flowers especially. I used to make ‘weed bouquets’ — little weeds that have little flowers on them. I would cluster them together in little bundles and stick them inside a rock. My Dad used to grow orchids and when they were blooming, I would collect the little buds. I used to think they looked like ‘chick’ heads and they were intriguing. He would spank my hand for plucking them. But I love flowers.
Where do you source your materials? What typical plants and flowers are found in your lei?
Usually my yard or my friends’ yards. Sometimes I buy them locally depending on what I am making. Most of the time, my lei friends and I gather from each other’s yard. A lot of us make little arrangements too in our other jobs. For Hawaiian table swags, I love to use a whole head of Ti. I love using the Song of India for its color and to brighten the piece. Also, Miniature Beef Steak leaves, given that name because they are red in color, can be included. I use Box Wood which is an ovoid type tree for filler. Depending on what I’m making, I love using different colors like reds or browns.
What is a Hawaiian table swag?
Hawaiian table swags are gigantic Haku lei, laid on the table. Normally I have this workshop at Lyon so I pick my materials here. I may have to go on some raiding sprees for my Song of India.
What type of method is used to create your Hakus?
I use a winding method. It’s the easiest to teach too. I find it difficult to braid.
What began the collaboration between Paiko and you?
God, that was a funny one! We are the current lei makers at the Punahou Carnival. Previously it was the Kapuna making the lei since the 70s. I enjoy making lei, learning more techniques and meeting people. We have a network of lei Goddesses in the booth at the Carnival. One year we were talking story and there was an overwhelming amount of lei orders. Sweet young Tamara came to the booth and asked to speak to a lei maker in the back and the crew asked me, I guess because I’m the bossiest [laughs.] She explained about her workshop and her earnestness was appealing. I was so tired but I couldn’t say ‘No’ with her 2 friends peering behind her. I gave her my email address, we corresponded and I stopped by the shop to understand. It’s a charming place!
Ann teaches a lei workshop once a year at Punahou school to mothers and students. This year she brings her knowledge and enthusiasm to Paiko to teach a different type of student.
On December 16th she will be hosting our ‘Holiday Table Swag’ workshop where you can dress your holiday table the Hawaiian way with a lush table swag crafted from local foliages and berries. Make sure to sign up via our RSVP website or calling the shop for more details before its too late!
Photographs by © Sara Mayko 2014