Meleana Estes gathered stories from her grandmother and others on the art of making the islands’ traditional garlands.
In the 1990s when Meleana Estes was a teenager attending Punahou School in Honolulu (President Barack Obama’s alma mater), she had a steady job picking the fragrant yellow flowers from the pua kenikeni trees that bloomed in her grandmother’s backyard.
“I think she paid me $10 per day,” Ms. Estes recalled during a recent phone interview. Her maternal grandmother, Amelia Ana Ka‘opua Bailey, was a seamstress and costume designer by trade, but stringing flowers, vines and other plants into leis, the garlands synonymous with Hawaii, was her passion.
“Because she learned her signature wili
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