On View In The Isles


This piece by Robert Hamada was made from milo wood in Pakala, Kauai.


Robert Hamada takes artistic
cues from the inherent beauty
of the wood he’s crafting

Robert M. Hamada possesses the spirit of a wood sprite, one whose soul is interconnected with nature. When the master woodturner examines a fallen log, he sees more than just wood. He contemplates the life of the tree, its struggles to survive and the energy it invested into living.

In Pattie H. Miyashiro's new book, "Robert M. Hamada, Master Woodturner," Hamada conveys a deep reverence for wood that began in his childhood.

"I was responsible for collecting the firewood we used to cook and bathe," he says. "It was more of a joy than a chore to search and gather wood ... I can still picture in my mind, that beautiful flaky grain that appeared when I cut into my first hau branch."


Robert Hamada with a kahuna staff made of kauila wood from Kealia Beach on Kauai. Hamada says, "There is mana in kauila."

Today, after more than 65 years of woodturning, Hamada is revered for the lustrous, sizable wood pieces that have been acquired by everyone from Crown Prince Akihito of Japan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Locally, his works are part of collections at The Kauai Museum, the State Foundation of Culture and the Arts and The Contemporary Museum.

In fact, The Contemporary Museum is exhibiting Hamada's work at its First Hawaiian Center gallery beginning Friday, in a show titled "The Wood Lives On: E Ola Mau Ka La'au." The exhibit runs through Jan. 25.

The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center is located at 999 Bishop St. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and to 6 p.m. Fridays.

Admission is free. Call 526-1322 for more information.


Hamada contemplates a log before beginning work on it. Then, "at any given moment, night or day, when a form comes to my mind, the log and I are ready to work together. The wood talks to me and tells me what it wants to be." Hamada starts his work by cutting the wood down to size.


He finds the center of the wood. "I feel an obligation to the tree to turn the largest bowl possible from the log," Hamada says. "Whether or not it sells is not important. It took a long time, a long struggle for the tree to reach that girth."


Hamada shapes his piece with the gouge.


A koa bowl made of wood from South Kona.

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