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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Interview with Kern Mattei of the Mai Kai
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Interview with Kern Mattei of the Mai Kai
pablus
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2155
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2007-08-31 12:38 am   Permalink


OK, it's not really an interview.
The guy has become a good friend and delights in our appreciation of the Mai Kai.
I asked him several questions tonight and thought I'd share his responses.
I was a bit buzzed (it's always the last one) so my thoughts might be scattered.
Send your complaints to Katie Couric.

First, what about the repairs?

They have finally settled with the insurance company they've been battling with since Wilma hit a couple of years ago. The re-builds and repairs have just now begun. They've negotiated with the thatch company in the Miami area and gotten bids on the bamboo and everything necessary to doll it up again.

What about the rotting tikis?

Wood doesn't last forever. Especially outside. So back in the day, when Bob Thornton (or Jack) got these tikis from various parts of the world, there was a mold made of the garden tikis. Almost every tiki out there. One of the guys at the Mai Kai, I think it's the cigarette vendor, took an interest in carving and then struck up a conversation with Kern who allowed him into the warehouse where these molds were. Eureka. The guy started pouring concrete into the molds and re-creating long lasting replicas of the original tikis. The paint was done through photographs and the memories that people had of the tikis.

Now there are no less than a dozen of the replicas and perhaps 20 or so. The Jet Pilot and Mutiny scrambled the numbers for me.

When you go back to the Mai Kai, you'll see some of the newness of it and wonder, as I did, about the restoration of the gardens.

Tomorrow, we'll "probe" Kern for another Mai Kai insider's story and we'll interview Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse about their new collaboration "Zoned Out Rich Girls in Rehab. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah."



 
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pablus
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Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2155
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2007-08-31 12:41 am   Permalink

btw, if you have any questions for me to ask Kern - fire away.
Except questions about Kern's tailor. He'll never tell.

Ahhh, the Mai Kai. Truly a remarkable place.


 
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pappythesailor
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Joined: Jul 07, 2005
Posts: 1564
From: Mass.
Posted: 2007-08-31 03:26 am   Permalink

Did anybody else have the same thought: That people (especially around here) would pay big bucks for Mai Kai tiki replicas??

Great thread, pablus.


 
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virani
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Joined: Sep 17, 2003
Posts: 1438
From: Volcanic area of France
Posted: 2007-08-31 03:28 am   Permalink

question to ask him : "can you give me Louise's phone number, adress, mensuration, and naked pictures if there are any ?"

_________________


 
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wplugger
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Joined: Jul 09, 2006
Posts: 161
Posted: 2007-08-31 04:50 am   Permalink

Yes it's true. To set the record straight I've done 34 of them for them so far.
I can't tell you how honored & pleased I am to do them.
Hope everyone enjoys them. I have worked very hard on them.
Here's the one I'm working on now. I will be delivering a match set for the entrance soon.
Will


 
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pablus
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Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2155
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2007-08-31 06:55 am   Permalink


Will, I'd love to meet you sometime this weekend.
You've done an outstanding job and just a very cool thing.
34 ehhh? Fantastic.

Don't you wish you could get your hands on a mold for the giant Barney West stuff?

I think my favorite in the garden is the one that is still actually the rubberized mold WITH the original tiki still inside of it.

It would be epic to see it unveiled. Or de-molded or whatever the term would be.

Will, do you have a thread in Creating or Carving that shows how you're doing these things? I'm certain if you haven't, that many would love to see the process. I know I would and I can't even carve a match into a toothpick. If you do have it please link it.

If you're there anytime this weekend in the evenings - I'm the enormous (fat) dude with the gorgeous wife and the uke.
In the lounge.
On a stool.
WIth a drink.
Or two.

Virani, The Amber Love Goddess is definitely in Lady Virani's corner on this one and has her fist ready to punch you next time she sees you. Better watch it.


 
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The Mayor Of Exotica
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Joined: Oct 09, 2005
Posts: 392
From: Boston
Posted: 2007-08-31 08:31 am   Permalink

Hey, I got one, Pablus! Do they have Rum Barrels in yet? I may be passing thru in January, and if I need to bring my own, I will!

 
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The Mayor Of Exotica
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Joined: Oct 09, 2005
Posts: 392
From: Boston
Posted: 2007-08-31 08:31 am   Permalink

Hey, I got one, Pablus! Do they have Rum Barrels in yet? I may be passing thru in January, and if I need to bring my own, I will!

 
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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11159
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-08-31 11:49 am   Permalink

Will, you are doing a great deed! To recast the original Tikis is a great way of preserving the authentic look of the Mai Kai.

But it is also a challenge. Please allow me to offer some advice. I believe I am in the position to do so because I am the author of the "Book of Tiki" which inspired much of the understanding and revived interest in Tiki culture today (there are some people here who get annoyed by me pointing this out repeatedly, but because the book [after it's 3rd printing had sold out] has been out of print for over a year now, I cannot assume that everyone has it, and I need to convey that I have some expertise in the matter).

Please be assured that this is no critique of your personal talents, but intended as constructive and supportive advice:

The heyday of American Tiki culture lasted from the mid 50s to the mid 60s, and it survived relatively unphased into the 1970s. But when by the late 70s, and through the 80s, customers began to stay away from the Tiki Temples because of changing tastes, restaurateurs felt pressed to find ways to liven up their establishments. They thought that the happy face generation of the 70s might be turned off by the dark brooding idols that decorated their lounges. So not only did they sometimes re-name their establishments (for example from "TIKI TABOO" to "TIKI ALOHA"), but they turned to painting their Tikis in bright colors. Also, since the wood Tikis had to be varnished or painted to protect them from aging anyway, why not spruce them up with some color and make them look NEW and INVITING!? I coined the term "Tiki devolution" for this phase, because it hastened the downfall of mid-century American Tiki style. Most of the paint that you see on the Mai Kai Tikis today was applied during that period. (There is an exception to be made with all Papua New Guinea style carvings, which should have a limited, earth tone color palette).

The thing is, part of what is so cool about Tikis, is that they were intended to install awe and fear in the viewer, and that they represented man's creative urges back to the beginnings of time. They are NOT Mexican fiesta style folk art, and they do not have human features like red lipstick lips, white teeth, or pink tongues. Like much of primitive art, they are meant to look like of heavy age, and of darker times. That is what is wrong with the "Party City" look of many new Tikis today.

Terence Barrow, eminent scholar of Maori culture had this to say in 1969 about the practice of painting auhtentic Maori house carvings:
" Harsh colour detracts so much from the quality of a carving that a sensitive eye is offended."
....meaning that a well done carving does not need to embellish its lines with color, and that the color "masks" the sculptural quality of the piece. Tikis are amazing sculpture pieces in their own right, which do not need to be supported by bright color.

Now the challenge you face with Mai Kai Tiki recasts is that they are not of wood, which looks naturally dark and old, but of an artificial compound. You would need to apply some kind of texture and variation in tone to them to make them look less slick and monochrome, and maybe a semi gloss so they do not look either completely dull, but not too shiny or glossy either.

To get an idea of an authentic look, go and find photos in Oceanic Art books, that is how the original carvers of the Mai Kai's Tikis worked. Kern should have some books in the Mai Kai archive. Here are two examples from one, a Maori and a Rarotongan Tiki (imagine THESE painted, it would be as if painting rosy cheeks on the Mona Lisa!):


I am not saying that ALL color is ALWAYS wrong, either. The photo you are showing in your post above is a Tiki based on a Maori Tiki, very much like the one in this thread:
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=24081&forum=1
With all of the above points mentioned, I also want to ad these tips specifically: Please note that Maori Tiki eyes were often inlaid with Mother of Pearl, which made them reflective and shiny and gave them life and mana. So white in the eyes would be OK, but opaque black makes them look dead. And the lines in the face (and on the body) are based on tatoos, which were usually drawn in dark blue/black ink, just like you did in the mid-section of the face.

To support the point I am trying to make here, here are some examples of post-Tiki period painted Tikis I photographed in the 90s:


Miniature golf Tikis. Obviously painted under the "we have to paint them anyway, so we might as well make'em colorful" motto.



Mobile home park Tiki. Already quite cartoony in its design, the paint really turns him into a clown face...(or Al Jolson "black face")



Michael Tsao with Kahiki entrance Tiki. This one hurts the most, because it is such an amazing Hawaiian Ku carving, which should not need one speck of color on it.

Now here is a Tiki at the Tropics Motel in Palm Springs. To preserve it against the elements it had to be painted, but it was kept in its original wood color. Together with the other Tikis that dot the grounds, it looks very regal and imposing!:


This is why Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, when they made a Tiki Kids Coloring Book for visitors of their Miehana Exhibit, provided only one crayon color with it: Brown.


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Bongo Bungalow
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Joined: Aug 20, 2007
Posts: 1273
From: Indiana
Posted: 2007-08-31 1:11 pm   Permalink

Humbly I agree with bigbrotiki. Dark wood tones all the way.

 
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pablus
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Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2155
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2007-08-31 1:32 pm   Permalink


They do NOT have rum barrells yet.
Nor do they have Mara Amu mugs.

Don't know what the deal is there.
Drinks are fine but - the mugs help, imo.
No self-respecting sock monkey would be caught dead drinking a Rum Barrell out of a Mutiny chalice.


 
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hala bullhiki
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Joined: Nov 26, 2002
Posts: 570
From: champaign,illinois
Posted: 2007-08-31 1:37 pm   Permalink

wow, svens insight always rules.....great to hear about the renovations too

 
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onlygoodvibes
Member

Joined: Jul 12, 2005
Posts: 3
Posted: 2007-08-31 2:10 pm   Permalink

WOW!

 
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GatorRob
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Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-08-31 2:16 pm   Permalink

I'm in agreement with Sven's post. While I am thrilled that the Mai-Kai garden tikis are getting some much-needed attention, I'm concerned about the overall effect 30+ painted concrete tikis will have on the vintage and authentic appearance (authentic from both a true sense and a Polynesian Pop sense) of the Mai-Kai. I mean no offense at all to the gentleman making these repros. You obviously have skills a-plenty that I envy. I just hope you will take Sven's advice about researching the way these tikis should look. Personally, concrete doesn't thrill me much unless you're making a Moai tiki. But I understand carved wooden tikis are very expensive and difficult to maintain in an outdoor environment, especially hot and humid Florida. But then again, take a look at this spectacular guy from the Hawaiiana Hotel in Honolulu:



When I examined him, he was sporting a thick layer of varnish to protect him from the elements. I don't know how old he is, or his brothers and sisters on the hotel grounds, but I suspect they're vintage.

So a question I have for Kern is, why not protect the wood tikis you have? Why let them rot away? I would dearly love to see the large Barney West tiki out front lose his coat of many colors. Tiki Central is loaded with incredibly talented carvers. Basement Kahuna's tiki in the indoor garden is worthy of standing alongside the best of the Mai-Kai tikis. I'm sure there are a number of talented and experienced carvers here who would jump at the chance to help the Mai-Kai preserve their treasures. (Rumor has it that a certain talented individual might someday do just that. But that's just a rumor. And one heard after a couple of Cobra Kisses and a Black Magic.)




 
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GatorRob
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Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-08-31 2:27 pm   Permalink

And while we're at it, Pablus, I'm curious to know if the thatch hut that sat near the water gardens in the front that was demolished by Hurricane Jeanne will be rebuilt. And did he indicate any time frame for the repairs? I'll be back in October and, well, I'd like it to look all pretty and all for my guests. I'm sure they'll expedite the repairs for us.

(edited to correct a dumb fat-finger spelling mistake)

[ This Message was edited by: gatorrob 2007-09-01 06:46 ]


 
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