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Lei Person

Traditional Hawaiian art will get hands-on attention during Soka workshop.


Growing up in the small town of Ewa on the island of Oahu, Janine Robison was only 3 when she started taking hula classes. The rhythmic dance movements and lively music were fun, but what she loved most was the costume, especially the Hawaiian lei.

She began to watch how other hula dancers made their own lei and soon she was teaching herself the traditional art that is synonymous with the Hawaiian Islands.

"My first few weren't horrendous, but they were pretty thick," Robison, 35, said this week.

"I just kept practicing because a lot of lei-making has to do with experimentation."

While hula remains a sideline interest, Robison is most passionate about making leis, a craft she compares to composing a song.

"You need to be in a really good place when you make it, because how you're feeling comes through in the lei," said Robison, whose family has lived in Hawaii for four generations.

Robison was a student at the University of Hawaii's Leeward College when she was forced to enter a lei-making contest as part of a Hawaiian studies class.

She visited neighboring islands to find materials for her lei, and the composition combined with the unique materials earned her the blue ribbon.

"It was exciting to win but I make lei because it's something I love to do," said Robison, who moved to Burbank four years ago from Oahu.

Robison will conduct a lei-making workshop Saturday at Soka University in Calabasas.

The cost is $5 for the flowers, and participants are asked to bring their own scissors.

The class can accommodate up to 100 adults and children, but reservations are recommended to ensure enough materials are purchased.

Robison tailors the lei to the group. The younger children will either make a lei using curling ribbon, straw and flowers made of construction paper, or make one using candy. The adults will make theirs from fresh flowers and leaves. Everyone gets to take their creations home.

Robison teaches the two most common ways of making lei--kui and wili. Kui means "to string" and involves stringing a piece of thread through the flowers with a foot-long lei needle. Wili means "to wind" and involves placing flowers against a backing, usually a ti leaf.

Once the materials are assembled, it takes two to three hours to create the lei. "It's so much fun for the participants," said Earlyn Mosher, assistant director for the botanical research center and nursery.

"People get up and dance the hula and are surrounded by beautiful flowers. Plus they learn about the history of the lei."


Hawaiian lei-making workshop, 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the Botanical Research Center and Nursery, Soka University, 26800 W. Mulholland Way, Calabasas. $5 for flowers. For reservations call (818) 878-3741; for information call (818) 878-3701.

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