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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 1, 2004

Go down the garden path with classic Hawaiian quilts

By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

In the "In Royal Gardens" theme room, California quilter Bonnie Lippincott, left, and her friend Janet Heinrich admire the quilts: from left, "Red Ginger" (1956), "Rose Redwork" (1990) and "'Iolani Palace Urns." The exhibit is centered on nature motifs.

Photos by Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The rare silversword plant inspired this quilt from 1897, on display at the Mission Houses Museum.

"The Nature of Hawaiian Quilts"

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays, and noon-5 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 18

Mission Houses Museum, Chamberlain House

$6 general, free for museum members


Also: Guided tours of the house are given at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 and 2:45 p.m. Sundays, with an additional tour 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. Admission to the house tour and gallery combined is $12 (free for members).

A bright orange and gray quilt embellished with large, leaf-like designs hangs at the Mission Houses Museum, offering more than visual appeal.

Made for the Baldwin family of Maui in 1897, the quilt has a pattern that tells the life cycle of the indigenous silversword, or 'ahinahina.

"Silversword" is the oldest of 20 quilts on display through Sept. 18 at the museum's 26th annual quilt exhibition, "The Nature of Hawaiian Quilts."

Incorporating the theme of nature as design inspiration, the exhibition explores the relationship of art, culture and nature, focusing on quilt design motifs and patterns.

Past exhibition themes have included Hawaiian-flag quilts, family quilts and men quilters, said museum curator Margot Vitarelli.

"I just noticed the majority of them had floral designs," said Vitarelli, who came up with this year's theme. "That's what really distinguishes Hawaiian quilts; that they are embedded with the local environment."

Hawaiian quilting evolved out of the early interaction between American missionary wives and the chiefly women of Hawai'i. The process was inspired by early American patchwork quilt design, but using the applique process, Vitarelli said.

Hawaiian quilt designs reflect influences from many sources, including symbols of royalty, important places and personal remembrances, Vitarelli said. But designs inspired by nature were the first and most frequently used.

The historic and contemporary quilts on display also are accompanied by photographs complementing the quilts' floral designs. The vibrant photos — commissioned by the museum and taken by University of Hawai'i students Sara Fischer and Kasumi Vitarelli — include lehua, roses, plumeria and hibiscus, among others.

The quilts hang in four themed rooms, such as "Hawaiian Quilts: Lei of Love," which includes a circa-1930 golden yellow and seafoam green creation, "Lei Mamo."

"'Iolani Palace Urns," made in the early 20th century, hangs as part of the "In Royal Gardens" collection. The white quilt features a red appliqued design representing urns overflowing with flowers.

Elaborate quilts incorporating more than two colors of fabric hang in the "Western Influence in the 20th Century" area. "Bird of Paradise," made in 1920, is a white and green quilt with splashes of blue, pink and yellow.

The final area, "Contemporary Hawaiian Quilting," features modern creations by Miss Hawai'i 1967, Patricia Lei Anderson Murray and quilter Lincoln Okita. Okita, 53, of Honolulu, has four quilts on display: a set of three with patterns of breadfruit, or 'ulu, and one with a naupaka design.

Okita made the latter quilt, called "Caleb's Naupaka," for his niece's son in 1999. The light-blue quilt showcases white blossoms of the Island beach shrub with foliage in shades of light and dark green.

Throughout the 20 years Okita has been quilting, he has focused largely on floral patterns.

"That's been more of an inspiration for me," he said. "When I look at the flowers, I come up with an idea of how to design it."

Okita, a probation officer, finds quilting a way to meditate.

"It allows me to focus on one particular thing," Okita said. ... "It almost gives me a chance to slow things down in life."

Reach Zenaida Serrano at zserrano@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.

• • •

Quilt by association

From left, Junko Hirayama, instructor Mary Cesar and Akiyo Kawashima practice stitches on a quilt at the Mission Houses Museum. Hirayama and Kawashima are visitors from Japan.
Along with the gallery display, the museum offers exhibition-related programs, including quilting classes, gallery talks, lectures, hikes and youth activities:
  • Quilting Class, for all ages, with Mary Cesar, 1-3 p.m. Wednesdays; also, with Wilma Connell, 9-11 a.m. Saturdays; $7 ($6 members).
  • Explore! Create patterns from plants in a quilt-making activity for kids, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 18; free with paid admission.
  • Quilt Pattern Design Workshop, learn quilt pattern design from Mary Cesar, 1-4 p.m. Saturday; $25 ($20 members), includes exhibition admission. Reservations required: 531-0481.
  • Native Plants of Hawai'i, learn to identify and protect native plants, from Stefanie Loo Jefts of the Nature Conservancy, 7 p.m. Aug. 12; includes choice of one of two walks — Kalua'a Loop Hike, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Aug. 8, or Palikea Ridge Hike, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sept. 4; $16 (includes exhibition admission). Reservations required: 531-0481.
  • Explore Traditional Uses of Native Plants in Hawaiian Culture, University of Hawai'i and Stanford University professor Isabella Abbott speaks about some of the plants featured in her book "La'au Hawai'i: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants," 7 p.m. Aug. 19; free with paid admission.
  • Tracing Quilt Patterns Class, trace an array of quilt patterns with Mary Cesar, 1-3 p.m. Aug. 21; $15* ($10* members), includes exhibition admission. Reservations required: 531-0481.
  • Free Day, enjoy the exhibition free of charge, noon-5 p.m. Aug. 22.
  • Ho'alu'alu: To Gather the Quilters, bring your quilt to learn new techniques or just talk story, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 28; gallery talks feature guest curator Laurie Woodard and quilters Margo Morgan and Genevieve Baptist (10 a.m.), and Gussie Bento and Lincoln Okita (2 p.m.); free with paid admission.