About The Artist ~ Kaleialoha’s Story
Ever since I can remember as a child growing up on Ni’ihau, I’ve always been surrounded by shells. My day begins at early dawn before the sun begins to shine, before the sand gets hot. I have to pick as fast as I can, sometimes competing with the surf – and at times the ocean will not give any shells. Physical persistence and endurance is the fun part of the work when gathering these precious jewels and is an art in itself.
When I get home with my shells, I fashion them into leis styled in the traditions handed down to me by my grandmother, Tutu Kuʻuleialoha Kelley – a premier lei maker in her own right – and my mother, Healani Pahulehua Kelley. My leis are unique and have a reputation of the highest quality craftsmanship. Making Ni’ihau shell leis is a beautiful art and way of life I have come to love, one I am glad my children are perpetuating.