11 June 2007 Personal Correspondence to Mr. McLeod (PDF)
Mahalo. Thank you very much for buying my sculptured vase. Kathy, the sales
June 11, 2007
Aloha Mr. McLeod,
woman said that you were drawn to the piece. It makes me wonder when a person is
attracted to a piece because as an artist, I also have had an experience in creating it.
Note that your piece is the first of it’s kind. The design is new and has evolved
over the years of making vases, exploring and trying to discover new expressions. The
wood is of ‘Cook Pine’, a species brought to Hawaii over one hundred years ago. It
looks like a tall Christmas tree. Although the wood is not interesting when first cut, after
letting it ‘spelt,’ the dark shades start to appear. This is what gives the piece so much
The wood is then turned and checked for thickness with a caliper; however, I take
the process one step further. I do a second check with a light. When I see light shining through the wood, I know that I’m close to its finished quality. The wood is then dried and soaked in an oil solution of my own making. After drying fully, I coat it with five coats of epoxy.
I had a wonderful adoptive family who cultivated my talent with wood and
When I heard that this piece was going all the way to Scotland, I was deeply
I’ve been doing wood working all of my life and I do it because I enjoy creating
works of art that people appreciate. On my tool box is a sign stating, “To honor the tree
Spirit.’ I believe that if I produce a work of art that people treasure, I have truly honored
the Spirit of the tree. For me, creating in wood is also an experience of shared inspiration
with the essence of the tree itself. To capture the beauty of the living wood in a piece of
sculpture that moves people in a good way is indeed a very rewarding experience.
moved for I am half Scot. I was adopted into a Hawaiian family at three days of birth and
had the gift of carving since age five but it was not until a dozen years ago that I found
my Japanese birth mother and learned that my father who was a U.S. Navy man named
Clifford Willis whose ship stopped in Honolulu where he met my mother. They were
never married. He went off to fight the Japanese in the South pacific and my mother’s
family, first generation Japanese in Hawaii, made her give me up for adoption.
provided a deep education in the culture and ways of old time Hawaii. Because of this
and because of my gratitude to them, I went on to re-create the double hulled Hawaiian
voyaging canoes, the images and all of the other cultural icons. This in turn helped
trigger the Hawaiian renaissance of the 1970s and was written up in National Geographic.
Oddly enough, when I did find my birth mother, I met an Uncle, who was 95 at the time
and had also appeared in National Geographic because of his artistry with wood and
My wife and I tried numerous ways to find Clifford Willis but so were not able to.
In an attempt to connect with my Scot ancestry, I took up fly-fishing and dreamt of a trip
to Scotland. I studied maps of your lakes and noticed a loch ‘Leven’- my English name
is, ‘Levan’ given me by an Aunty as Hawaiian culture dictates. Usually a lot of thought
and meaning goes into a Hawaiian child’s name so I asked her what the name means.
So, the story of your attraction to this piece and all the difficulties you’ve
Much to my shock, she said she did not know – it just came to her! Now I wonder if there
is a connection to Scotland – if something was breaking through?
experienced in getting it home, touched me. In fact this is the first direct contact I’ve
ever had with this side of my heritage. I feel really good to know that a part of my
creation, and life is there in Scotland with you and hope you and your wife get years of
pleasure from this Kanoa or bowl of Light.
If by chance, you should come across any connection or information about the
Willis Clan (from Southwestern Scotland) please let me know. I still hope to find my
Keola Levan Sequeira
573 Wainee St.
Lahaina, HI 96761