The Beauty Of Hawaiian Gourds

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - March 18, 2009
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Celes Molina: A good gourd is hard to find

Celes Molina’s colorful designs hug a gourd with heartwarming images of Hawaii. He fashions flowers or fish on umeke (bowl), ipu (gourd) and ipu heke (double calabash).

“It’s like a canvas except it is a round object,” the artisan notes. “There’s more to just putting the color on. There’s the curvature, and the different sizes that will dictate how your composition will come out.”

The most popular designs are bright hibiscus, bird of paradise, sharks and manini. Molina’s work can be found at select craft fairs as well as the Haleiwa Arts Festival, Merrie Monarch Festival and the monthly Artfest at Kapiolani Park.

Born and raised in the Waipahu area, Molina left Hawaii in 1947 to serve in the Army, and then the Air Force. He started designing ipu 35 years ago while living in California.


“By doing the Hawaiian designs, it kept me close to the Islands,” explains Molina, who now makes his home in Makaha. “I used to make frequent trips to the Islands to see my parents when they were alive. But since they died, the trips were not that many. I did these local motifs because it made me closer to the Islands.”

His gourds were offered as first -place trophies to participants in the E Hula Mau competition in Southern California for a few years. Kumu hula who were on the West Coast participating as judges in the competition or hosting a workshop at the time may still have his ipu heke.

Finding the perfect gourds is a challenge, he notes, because there are other people scouring for gourds too. So persistence is key.

“If you are at the gourd farm, if you are able to find two gourds that would make a good ipu heke, then you take it,” he says. “The gourds are there. You need to spend more time looking for them.”

He personally decorates the gourds by hand, and each bears his signature ladybug.

Molina says he’s focusing on the designs he already has, and additional designs will come when he feels the time is right. “There are so many more (designs) I haven’t done,” he admits. “I have them in my mind.” For more information, call 695-8458.


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