Vibrant Hawaiian flowers were drawing attention as a woman held a mirror by her tilted head deciding which looked best in her hair. Plumeria, hibiscus and gardenia in colors of pink, red, yellow and white with customers noticing how real they looked. Every state has their own symbolic flower, but Hawaiian flowers are a pleasant image in a paradise setting.
Ane Hafoka, originally from New Zealand moved to Maui, Hawaii where she met her future husband in 1992 and learned the family’s tradition of making flowers by hand. His family is from Tonga and the matriarch taught Ane how to mold polymer clay into flowers using her hands and adding final touches with light fingertip strokes. She graciously shares the meaning of each flower so the right choice is made for any occasion. She told me the custom of women wearing a flower behind the left ear to signify being “taken” began hundreds of years ago because there were no wedding rings. Looking around Hawaii, it is still in practice today, even if a ring is worn. The flowers have many more uses than wearing in the hair. Christmas trees are decorated with lots of flowers clipped on branches as a holiday expression and men wear rows of white gardenias on lapels for weddings.
Throughout Maui, tourists flock to her long tables with rows of flowers and admire her work while engaging in lively conversation. She also has a large following of returning guests who seek her out when they return to the island and companies buy hundreds of the flowers for Hawaiian conventions. She has plenty of work to keep her busy throughout the year including specialized custom orders.
Many handmade items are becoming a lost art, but Ane’s love of flowers keeps this Hawaiian tradition alive.
Ane’s schedule and contact information can be seen at www.leipuaflower.com