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Tiki Central / General Tiki

When is it Tiki?

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Looking at e-bay in the past I have occasionally noticed people advertising mugs as being Tiki but on closer inspection find that the said items are obviously not. For example, I have seen a mug with a mezzo-American figure being advertised as "Tiki." I have also seen a mug with a distinct African flavor being touted as "Tiki" as well. We all know at a visceral level that these items are simply not Tiki.

However, this observation created a dilemma for me. Where do we make this distinction as to what is and isn't Tiki? Is it totally a subjective esthetic reaction or it there a fast and true rule of thumb? For instance, I have a fumanchu mug where no Tiki appears but I consider him Tiki enough to associate with my other mugs. But if I went to a local touristy Japanese restaurant and brought home one of their "happy Buddha" type mugs I would not place him among my Tiki collection, that would be just wrong to me. And consider the surfer dude and hula girl mugs if you will. No Tiki's there. But do they remain they Tiki in spirit?

Perhaps you see my dilemma?

It's like true love.....you just "know". :)

i agree. i like to decorate my bathroom.

P.S. Fonduie: You think way too much. To quote Animal House "I suggest you begin drinking heavily". It has always worked for me.


"You simply don't understand, None of you do. And I DON"T have a problem!"

(sobbing into mai-tai)

"It's not tiki, it's a blue hula chick mug and it's okay, but Inca guy mug is bad, bad, bad. mumblemumble...bad..."

(shuffles under tiki bar into fetal position.)

Actually, I think this is a very good question.
I mean, I've actually purchased some items that my wife says are definately NOT tiki. But, they were in a mug form...they had little faces on them (one was more Japaneese Kabuki, and the other Native American), and they looked like others in my collection.

In fact, a toothpick holder I recently picked up looks very much like the Native American stuff, yet has a very distinctive "Westwood" look as well. Oh, it's made in Japan, of course.

I just buy whatever makes me feel good. Usually, I'll go for the less tiki stuff when the "real" tiki finds have been poor. Hey, it's an addiction! I have to get a fix somehow.

Right now I am considering going back to a store and picking up a white mug with a gold naked lady on it. Tiki it is not...but it will look nice in my collection. It's old. It's got that pre-politically correct taste to it. Feels good in my hand...atleast parts of it do...and I like it.

And if I get it, you can bet she'll be standing tall next to my Trader Vics and other naked lady mugs.
Honestly, it looks like something you may have found in a old 50's tiki bar or the Playboy Club.

But then, there are those who say I am crazy.

My advice? Buy whatever you feel like buying and can afford without going too hungry. Because he who dies with the most mugs wins.



Deciding what tiki mugs to keep for your own personal collection is a subjective matter. I don't think there should be a firm fixed line dividing what is tiki and what is not-tiki - that line should be determined by the individual person, who can range from the beginner who has just bought their first tiki mug, to the experienced collector who has hundreds of mugs and can trace the lineage of each design style.

There will always be certain designs and styles that will be more authentic, or have more of a recognized communal "Wow, what a great mug" aura within this list, but there can be value in those mugs that are not quite so pure in tiki style.

I have several of those blue surfer mugs, and you are correct - the aesthetic they provide is much different than the other brown and green tikis that dominate my collection. But in a sense they do belong - after all, all of them have probably held some form of rum concotions at some time in their lives. I solve the dilemma by relegating the blue mugs to their own separate shelf.

Think of your collection as a constantly evolving collection. Display what is pleasing for you at the moment. As you slowly add pieces to your collection, you will have more luxury to re-arrange and discard those that mean less to you. Discard for me means sending duplicates to other lovers of tiki, never throwing them away. I've even sent several one-of-a-kind items to certain friends, simply because I felt they would enjoy them more than I would.

In the end, it all comes down to the meanings that you yourself place with your mugs. Does the blue surfer mug bring back memories of a memorable date? By all means, then definitely keep it. Does it look cheap and out-of-place? Then you might want to think about sending it forward on its continued journey to find its rightful owner.


Here is my 25 cents (more than two):

First and foremost a TIKI labelled item should ideally bear the likeness of a Polynesian godhead somewhere somehow. In terms of mugs, that means a blue surfer mug is not a Tiki mug, it's a Surfer mug that was used in Tiki Bars. Those mugs, like the Fu Manchu and others, were part of the TIKI STYLE, but are not Tiki mugs.

BUT, Tiki style certainly depends on just the right amount of non-Tiki items from the beachcomber, nautical and primitive art genre, to ad variety and mystery to those pagan idols, otherwise they look like museum pieces.
Blow fish, fishnet floats. lots of foliage, waterfalls, torches, all those are elements of TIKI STYLE, but just if they are assembled to support and glorify the effect of THE ONE, TIKI himself.
Even lounge culture items like that girl mug are OK when employed in the service of Tiki.
It's all a question of balance and degree, and personal taste.

And now to the difference between Hawaiiana and Tiki style.......


Sven is absolutely right (as usual): It's all about the sum of the parts. You could find literally HUNDREDS of items hanging from the walls of the Tiki-Ti in LA that, by themselves, are not tiki (i.e. license plates). But the collected effect is VERY tiki, and I'll kick anyone's ass who says otherwise! :)

Volume is key. My own, vaguely beachcomber style bar, has elements that are are not tiki (authentic Balinese & Sri Lankan masks) that looked a little odd at first, but as the place fills with more and more stuff, it all adds up to quality eye-candy. Thank you Oceanic Arts for filling the gaps!


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