Technique 26

cowrie burnishing


A textural finishing technique with both conditioning and aesthetic outcomes was the (seemingly uniquely) Hawaiian practice of burnishing a finished kapa with a leopard cowrie or some other large smooth shell. Rubbing the fabric in circular motions both aggregated loose fibres into the surface, or rubbed them off, and loosened up their lateral flexibility to make the cloth supple and soft.


  • Hiroa, T.R. (Buck, P.H.) (1957). Arts and crafts of Hawaii. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press



Entry created on 28 August 2020