My Ipu Pawehe Project

In March, I attended a meeting of the Maui Hui Kapa at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.

We toured the gardens and learned about some of the different dye plants from Lisa Raymond. At the end of our walk, we came to the ipu patch and were so lucky to each receive an ipu!
After all this time, I had never attempted an ipu pawehe (decorated gourd) by the Ni’ihau or dye method. There are different ways to achieve staining on the ipu. Here, I will pour the dye into the ipu.


First, you must get a mature green ipu (make sure the stem is brown). Then you cut your design into the skin of the ipu. Cut open the ipu and take out most of the innards.


Make your dye. I collected some kukui bark at the Gardens in March but since I was not able to work on this until May….the ipu was fine, but the bark was not. And since I was in such a hurry, I used strong coffee as my dye and poured it in.

Then the wait. That’s foil and a la’amia on top to try keep the bugs out and evaporation at a minimum. As the dye levels go down, add more dye. This sat for about 3 weeks. Needless to say, it smelled.

I washed the outside and inside and this is how it turned out. The design is not very outstanding but I do like the color. I enjoyed this experiment and learned ALOT.

In this picture you see the bottom is very yellow. I cut the bottom skin as part of my design earlier….at least a few weeks before I cut the rest of the design and poured the dye. So for my next ipu pawehe, I will cut the whole design and let it sit awhile before I cut open and pour my dye. I will also try to use a traditional dye next time.

This is the finished product. Next ipu pawehe will be natural finish. Again I was anxious and couldn’t wait for the smell to disappear… I had Kent coat the inside and varnish the outside. By the way, this ipu sounds wonderful!

Mahalo Nui to Lisa and I urge anyone to support the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.….it’s a great resource!