Sunday, November 13, 2011

First Lady's Gifts For 2011 APEC Leaders' Spouses

Crafted by Hawaiian artists with island materials, and “Made Exclusively for Michelle Obama"...
As she hosted a special luncheon on Sunday in Hawaii for the spouses of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders, First Lady Michelle Obama presented each with a diplomatic gift, "representing the natural beauty and rich culture of Hawaii," the White House said. The gifts were created by Hawaiian artists, who used natural materials from the islands. Female spouses received brooches made from real orchid blooms, with the flowers being personally selected by Mrs. Obama, according to the White House. Male guests received cufflinks made of sterling silver and Koa wood, with an engraving that reads “Made Exclusively for Michelle Obama.” The gifts were presented in special boxes. (Above: The brooches and their presentation boxes)

Orchid artist Wayne Keeth "grows orchids himself, handpicks each at the height of their beauty, and then casts the individual blossoms without a mold, creating a one-of-a-kind piece," said the White House of the brooches. "This distinctive gift allows each recipient to leave Hawaii with a special and meaningful part of the islands. The blossoms were specially selected for First Lady Michelle Obama on the occasion of APEC 2011."

Each brooch was "presented in a Lauhala style box adorned with a fresh orchid blossom," the White House said. "Ubiquitous on the islands and often used to create leis, the orchid and its colorful blossom elegantly symbolizes the inherent beauty of the islands and the gracious, welcoming nature of the Hawaiian people."

The cufflinks were created with wood from Hawaiian woodturner Keith Maile from Oahu, and designer Kara Ross. (Above: The cufflinks, center, with the presentation box)
"Ancient Hawaiians had a deep spiritual connection to the native Koa forests, and used the wood of the Koa tree in many aspects of life. In ancient times it was said, “E ola Koa,” live long, like the Koa tree in the forest," the White House said of the gift.

The cufflinks were presented in a Lauhala style box adorned with a carved coconut decoration.

The First Lady's luncheon was held at at Kualoa Ranch, an historic, 4,000-acre agritourism venue that is also a working grass-fed cattle operation. Honolulu chef Ed Kenney prepared the luncheon, using organic fruit and vegetables harvested on Saturday, when Mrs. Obama visited MA'O Organic Farms in Waianea, for a tour and a roundtable discussion with the student interns who run the farm. The young farmers got a special gift from the First Lady, too. More on Kenney is here.

On Saturday night, President Obama and Mrs. Obama hosted a dinner and reception for APEC leaders and spouses, at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu.

*White House photos

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