Making a Kou Stamp


Scientific name: Cordia subcordata


Kou Amy Greenwell Garden Big Island Hawaii


The beautiful wood of the kou tree was used for making platters and bowls. While the flowers and hard center-grooved stone of the fruit are used for lei making. 


Do not use the stones on the left (below) that are missing sections. The center stones were sanded round side down, point up. If there are seeds left in the stone after sanding, remove the seeds before using for printing. The stones on the right (below) were gathered near the shore and already eroded.  The stones on the right are used in the following kou stamp project. 


Kou stones Amy Greenwell Hawaii
Kou stones gathered from the ground

Making a Kou stamp

What you need: kou seed(s); 1 piece of sand paper, 80 or 120 grit; water based ink* (see note below) and inkpad and paper for printing. Wear old clothes you don't mind getting dirty.


Kou stamp Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii

Kou seeds. Remove any chalky surface from the outside of the dry kou seeds. Clean seeds may be found under trees in dry areas where the seeds are left on the ground for a long time.


Kou stamp making Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii

Holding the kou seed pointy side up and holes facing downward, sand the seed until it is flat.

Kou stamp making Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii

The kou seed on the right (below) has been sanded flat and is ready for printing. The kou seed on the left (below) is still rough and bumpy.


Kou stamp making Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii

Hold the pointy side of the kou stamp up and press the smooth side onto the inkpad. 


Kou stamp making Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii

Press the inked kou stamp onto the paper. 


Kou stamp making Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii



Kou stamp making Amy Greenwell Garden Hawaii

* If you print on fabric or clothing that will be washed use permanent instead of water based ink. If you print on fabric or kapa, fold a bandana or other piece of fabric and place under the area to be printed. This will give you a little cushion and protect the surface you are working on.


Now that you have made a stamp and printed with it, can you think of other native Hawaiian plants that can be used for stamp making and printing? 


In the next newsletter we will cover other native Hawaiian plants traditionally used for printing. See you then.


We would love to see your finished projects. If you are willing to share your completed kou printing project with everyone, join our Facebook group and post your picture. Mahalo piha!


Mahalo Bobby Camara for the kou seeds and kapa printing idea!




Words and photos by Bernice Akamine


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