Hawaiian Quilt Design

I find inspiration in many ways: places I’ve visited, people I’ve met, stories I’ve heard, pictures I’ve seen. Since my designs depict the joy and peace of beach life and tropical travel, I rarely find creative sparks in news headlines. However, like many who have visited Maui, I was pained to read the stories and see the pictures from the August 2023 fires. While my visit to Maui was 23 years ago, I still have many beautiful memories. As of 2019, I’ve now been to four of the islands: Oahu, Maui, Hawai’i, and Kauai. The beauty of the land and culture, friendliness of the local folks, and the relaxed island vibe had me at “aloha.” So to see the sheer loss and pain they are now dealing with as a result of the fire is heartbreaking.

Beauty does come from ashes. The need to remember all the good I’ve experienced, in Maui and throughout the Hawaiian islands, is why I created this “Hawaiian Quilt” design series. I absolutely love the Hawaiian style of quilting. The symmetrical patterns that mirror the nature of the islands speaks to me.  

To process the destruction by remembering the beauty, I challenged myself to create 9 Hawaiian quilt-inspired blocks, each following a theme based on a memory.

Here are the stories for each of the blocks…  

Bubbling Whales and Sharks

Whales have played a role in the Maui economy for centuries. Lahaina was a port for whaling ships hunting sperm whale in the 19th century. Now, boats take visitors on whale watching tours around the edges of the island.

Because whales are so integral to Maui, and especially to Lahaina, I wanted to create this whale-centric design. I’m a big fan of Hawaiian quilts, so this design is inspired by that style. Outlines of a whale’s tail, sharks' teeth, and waves are all symbols in Polynesian culture, so they make up the key components of this design. The strings of bubbles are inspired by a very unique humpback whale hunting activity…they work together to create a massive swirl of bubbles to confuse and corral the fish they are catching (If you haven’t seen video of this, be sure to Google it!). I wanted the bubbles on this piece to represent the teamwork that will be necessary for Maui to survive, grieve, recover, and thrive.

In the Shade of the Banyan Tree

While the famous 150-year-old banyan tree in Lahaina was charred by the fire, arborists are finding it still shows some life. Hopefully it’s true: what an amazing symbol for the community that will be.

And not just by rising from the ashes of that horror.

A banyan tree is a great image of grander, resilience, cooperation and unity… Its roots twisting together into numerous trunks to kiss the earth for support and sustenance, its canopy shading all below from the fierce sun, and birds and other animals finding food and safety amongst its leaves and branches.

Lei’d with Aloha

On my first trip to Hawaii, we stayed in a hotel and a condo…not the resorts that greet you with leis. Of course, what would a trip to Hawaii be without a lei, so Steve got me one to wear before we took a sunset dinner cruise along the Maui coast.

On our last trip to Hawaii in 2019, we received several leis: both at check-in to our resorts and before the luau we attended. At one resort, we joined the tradition of leaving your lei in a special place in the garden as a promise to return.

Purple orchids strung together, then presented as “aloha” to honor the recipient, is such a beautiful tradition. I hope that we can now provide “aloha” back to those who greeted us with joy and beauty.

Pineapples in Paradise

Pineapple slice instead of a pickle - with a view of the Pacific. That is my memory of our stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise on Front Street in Maui. A slice of pineapple accompanying the burger (which was also delicious) seemed to sum up the culinary pecking order in the most perfect way… The cuke isn’t king around here; it’s the pineapple that rules the islands. And I was a fan.

Unfortunately, Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Maui Pineapple Store in Lahaina were destroyed and most of their employees are impacted by the disaster.

Mountains Meet the Sea

The question: which do you prefer…the mountains or the beach?…has always confused me. Why pick? Many of my favorite places in the world are where the mountains meet the sea. Hawaii was the first place I experienced that natural perfection. I've also experienced some amazing sunrises (thanks jet lag!) and gorgeous sunsets on the islands. There's something about the the sun turning peaks and waves into "golden hour" glory that is so very magical.

Surfing Honu

This block represents the honu (turtles) that surf the waves and sun on the sand and rocks all around the islands. The turtle is an important symbol in Hawaii. As a Floridian, I especially love this since we also host nesting sea turtles and are careful to respect and protect these ancient and impressive animals.

Bright Blooming Hibiscus

Red, pink, orange, and yellow hibiscus blossoms cover most manicured corners in Hawaii…at least in the tourist areas. An icon of the islands, the flower adorns many Hawaiian logos, advertising, and souvenirs.

The plant also holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it a quintessential tropical and subtropical flower, it was also part of my grandma’s Florida yard. A green thumb, she could grow anything. I have early memories of her discussing her hibiscus with family and friends. As a result, strolling past hedges of hibiscus in Hawaii instantly evokes beautiful memories.

Peaceful Palms

Images of palms instantly remind us of tropical places. Even a photo will cause me to “hear” one of my favorite sounds - the breeze rustling through palm fronds. My husband and I spent a significant amount of time in chairs by the pool and on the beach during our last trip to Hawaii. The fluttering palms over our umbrellas and canopies did not disappoint. 

I also love the creativity and ingenuity that the palm frond has inspired throughout time. From woven hats to baskets, the palm provides both necessary resources and beautiful decor.

Waves of Conch Shells

As you can tell by the name of my company, the conch shell means a lot to me. That’s because it’s found, and used, in the many tropical locales around the world that inspire my designs. More than just a shellfish found under the waves, it’s a key part of life and culture in the lower latitudes: many places enjoy the shellfish as a part of their diet as well as use the shell for various purposes. 

The conch also has cultural significance in Hawaii. Used as both a symbol and a horn, it has traditionally been used in native Hawaiian ceremonies. We had the pleasure of hearing it several times during luau’s and resorts to celebrate sunset. 

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