By Lara McGlashan
Maui native Judy Bisgard is a multifaceted artist. Her four decades of work span a vast array of media, including basket weaving, etching, printmaking and painting, and Bisgard often draws inspiration for her art from the island’s flora. Her affinity for foliage, philanthropic bent and connections within the community make her the perfect leader for the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center’s annual wreath-making mission.
The first item of business is collecting the materials. “We used to cut and gather things for two whole weeks, and a couple years we even had to take a four-wheel-drive vehicle up the volcano to get [the cuttings] we wanted!” Bisgard says. “Nowadays three or four of us just spend a couple days collecting. A lot of it is just knowing who has what in their backyard and getting their permission to cut some of it.”
Once the media have been collected, friends and volunteers join Bisgard over a weekend and get their art on. The group gathers, glues, twists and twines together flowers and branches and nuts and berries, creating holiday wreaths to sell at the Hui’s annual open house. All wreaths begin with a store-bought circular base made from straw, vines or wire, but after that it’s up to the individual.
“It’s interesting that the personality of the person comes out in the wreath,” Bisgard says. “Some people like to make tight-knit wreaths … others more whimsical wreaths. Some people like to use just one thing while others like to use lots of stuff and cram in everything they can find.”
According to Bisgard, you can make a wreath out of anything. “Whatever you have in your yard will work,” she says, adding that the best foliage for a longer-lasting wreath is anything evergreen. “Cypress, cedar, yellow juniper, even magnolia leaves. Anything that is tough and that will dry well — tree ferns and ti leaves, berries and even pomegranates. Avoid things that wilt and delicate flowers like ginger that will just turn brown and fall apart.” Other enduring ingredients include seedpods, kukui (candlenut) seeds and macadamia nuts.
When all is said and done, the group creates anywhere from 100 to 200 wreaths, a labor of love that nets the Hui several thousands of dollars each year. But after 40 years of wreath-making, Bisgard is hanging up her glue gun and is passing the tiki torch on to Briana Welker Mabbutt.
“Briana knows a lot about plants and her father is an artist,” says Bisgard. “I will try to help her source materials and introduce her to people who can help. I know what everyone has in their yard! My hope is that the tradition will continue, and that a younger generation will get involved.”
For more information or to take a class: Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center, 2841 Baldwin Ave., Makawao | huinoeau.com | 808.572.6560 | IG @huinoeau | FB @hui.noeau