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Hawai‘i Handweavers Hui Rides Nationwide Textile Trend

Hawaii Handweavers Hui.jpg
Courtesy Hawai‘i Handweavers Hui
Members of the Hawai‘i Handweavers Hui clean the looms and rearrange then in the Orange Room at DAC.

The Hawai'i Handweavers Hui is one of the state's oldest craft organizations. It was started by six women on O‘ahu in 1953. Weaving, textiles, macrame and related arts had a hey day in the 1970s and '80s. Now, there's new interest in textiles nationwide, and Hawai'i's Handweavers are upping their game.

Pat Steinhof is president of the Hawai'i Handweavers Hui. For nearly 70 years it was a quiet, dedicated group of textile makers and aficionados — until now.

"The need to move the looms has been driving everything, so it's been the cart before the horse all along," Steinhof said.

The Handweavers had long had a home at the Honolulu Museum of Art's school at Linekona. Then plans for their education program changed, the museum had looms to give away and the Handweavers took them. But where to put them?

"In all of the things we were looking at this summer, we knew we couldn't break even in one year," Steinhof said. "But if we could make a go of it, within a couple of years, either it would work or it wouldn't."

The Handweavers decided to paddle out and try to catch this wave. Now about 85 members strong mainly on O'ahu and Hawai'i Island, they've decided to rent space in the Downtown Art Center.

"They suddenly came through at the beginning of August with the possibility that we could move into this beautiful renovated Orange Room which is right behind the gallery," Steinhof said.

Pauline Sheldon and stalwart volunteers, moved the looms in a week ago.

The Handweavers are offering two classes in their new digs this October. One by Liz Train who led the classes at Linekona and another with Ghislaine Chock, who regularly walks away with "Best in Show." Online registration is brisk.

"DAC is making a lot of these co-operative things happen because people went on their own and now they're finding ways to cooperate," Steinhof said.

Hawai'i Handweavers are partnering with the dynamic Glass Fusion Collective for their 2021 Biennial Juried Exhibition in the DAC, opening September 29th.

Noe Tanigawa covers art, culture and ideas for Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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