Herman Mossman Tachera explains that making feather art work is tedious, calming, rewarding and, beyond creating an object, is a spiritual process. “Your heart and soul are into it and that is translated in one’s work,” he says.
After years of studying under his mentor, Paulette Kahalepuna and Mary Louise Kaleonahenahe Kekuewa, Herman received their blessing to teach this art form to others. This system is part of the tradition of creating feather art as much as the physical technique. The artist says, “In this process, you are learning and perpetuating Hawaiian feather art.” Both the finished work and the creation of it are part of the Hawaiian heritage.
In the studio, traditional pieces – like the lei – and contemporary pieces – like the headband – are juxtaposed. Traditionally the lei was worn only by women of royalty, but the artist encourages both men and women to wear it today. Headbands came later in the tradition. When the missionaries came, they introduced fabrics, which were incorporated into the hats. Although both objects stem from a different moment in time, spiritually and in technique, the process of creating the two are much the same and, for both, the process is a repetition of knotting one feather after another onto a base material. Making a lei requires 30-40 feathers per inch or 24-40 painstaking hours of work. It it no wonder why one may feel attached to their work, not just as an object, but because, through the process, it becomes something sacred. Tachera stresses that the body and spirit as a whole happens in creating these objects and others have experienced this transcendental energy.
On my first entry into Tachera’s studio, I could feel the spiritual energy and noticed the positive reaction from strangers and students, however it is the artist’s own energy and warm encouragement that unified the space.