ABOUT KAI HYDE:
My name is Kai Hyde and I owned Hooked Gallery in Kamuela, on the Big Island of Hawaii, before moving back to Oahu a few years ago. I have been stringing Ni’ihau shell lei for 20 years, and worked as a Ni’ihau shell lei expert and restorer for the Issacs Art Center on the Big Island of Hawaii for many years. I work closely with Na Mea, and their wonderful staff, as a shell lei maker, restorer, authenticator and appraiser. I generally spend between 8 to 12 hours a day working with Ni’ihau shells for clients and museums around the globe.
My passion for Ni’ihau shells started at a young age when I first saw my tutu’s collection. By the age of 13, I had made several lei of my own. I see Ni’ihau shells as Hawaii’s gift from the sea. I am inspired by the beauty of the shells and the finished form they take. Many of the lei I make take thousands of shells to finish, each of which has to be sorted, cleaned and punctured in the same position by hand. All the leis I restore, are done using traditional designs and techniques. I love restringing older leis for museums and private collectors, because I am able to bring a piece of history back to life, that can be passed on for future generations to enjoy.
My work and background has been shown and written about in numerous magazines, Tv shows and articles, including a front page spread about my work with Ni’ihau lei in the North Hawaii News. Recently, thanks to Na Mea, I was shown on Japanese tv teaching Jun Matsumoto from the famous band Arashi how to string lei. My love of travel has taken me to work and study in Easter Island, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, London, Scotland and many other parts of the world.