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Witco? More like "...."

Joined: Mar 11, 2013
Posts: 8
Posted: 2013-08-21 12:50 am   Permalink

The never ending debate over Witco must be a tribute to its greatness.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11594
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2013-08-21 12:58 am   Permalink

Witco is the "Punk" of interior decor. It is is rough and hacked together, often absurd, it is a rebellious statement against the edict of form and function. The story of Elvis buying a roomful of it vs his dad's better judgment is perhaps the best example. For the owner, it is a proud statement of individual likes against the established rule of what is acceptable. And it was mass-produced, available and affordable - a fine example of low brow pop art.

I have also called it design-porn. Just like with real porn, folks that are timid can look at it in my book but don't have to "do it" in their living room, laughing at it, keeping a safe intellectual distance.

It is often lacking in sculptural quality because many pieces are based on 2D sketches, with the chainsaw just retracing the lines. It was looked down at and shunned as bad work by the authentically oriented Tiki makers and builders on the West Coast.

But when beholding Westenhaver's oeuvre as a whole, and seeing where it came from and how it relates to Polynesian pop and mid-century modernism of the period, one recognizes the strokes of genius that came out his scatter-shot approach of cranking out new pieces every year. He just let his creative mind ramble on and had fun with it. That's what art should be.

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Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 4812
Posted: 2013-08-21 04:47 am   Permalink


On 2013-08-20 18:17, TikiTacky wrote:
And, in a case of terminal irony, I just saw the Witco collection someone posted for sale and actually kind of liked it. Sorry for the false alarm people. Get back to your Mai Tais!

I'm no expert but that set may not be Witco.

Don't like all of the Witco line myself.
But what I do like about Witco is the natural and organic feel of the works.
Back in that era you had people doing more home craft type stuff.
Remember that stain glass Moai set or paint by numbers, string art ect..
Plus more natural things were used in the home wood, stone.
Now there is foe well everything, and most places look like Starbucks.

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Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 4812
Posted: 2013-08-21 05:53 am   Permalink

Well then you're gonna love this......this ain't Witco.
NOW ,you're really confused.
"Pets are welcome,Children 'MUST' be on leash" TD
Quote Tikidavid

HA! I knew it would not be long till a big S*^#storm blew up on this.
It is a cool set though.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 16, 2013
Posts: 630
From: Wolverhampton, UK
Posted: 2013-08-21 12:39 pm   Permalink

In fairness, if I see anything tiki Id pick it up - but the thing I foresee with Witco is if people know that it is they will bump up the price or people will be bidding hard against you if you use ebay so it's not an easy pickup to see if you like it.

I like to think if I saw something Witco for sale dirt cheap, Id pick it & try to sell it on to some who really wanted it at a better than fair price. Someone on TC recently sorted me out in a similar way, they didn't make money & I really appreciated it. That's tiki love right there

If you look at an old tiki pictures & you think 'that decor is sooooo cool!' its worth whatever you are willing to pay for it. You cant quantify the satisfaction of owning something you have coveted, maybe that's the Witco effect?

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 01, 2009
Posts: 2379
From: Tampa, FL
Posted: 2013-08-22 1:36 pm   Permalink

yeah, as a guy who makes things out of wood, I have to admit, I kinda look at what people pay for that stuff & kinda shake my head...

most of the guys I know who make tikis secretly say the same thing...

but hey, to each his own... I'd rather just make my own stuff anyway..

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 18, 2006
Posts: 172
From: Washington, DC
Posted: 2013-08-23 10:26 am   Permalink

I don't own any Witco, yet at least. I like it for the most part. It's vaguely familiar to me. Reminds me of my childhood in the early 70s and my parents bringing me to friends' parties. Friends of theirs who wore medallions and turtlenecks and had great rec rooms full of crazy stuff that happily contrasted with my parents' more traditional tastes.

Anyway, the thing about is it's a game changer. You can throw something Danish Modern, Rattan, or whatever into a conventional room full of conventional furniture and it will fit in, more or less. Throw something Witco into that same room and it is going to stick out. Witco says this room is for fun. Elvis was not sticking it in the upstairs, formal living room at Graceland.

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Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2376
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2013-08-23 11:02 am   Permalink

Through the generosity of another TC'er I recently acquired a Witco bench for what I thought was a reasonable price. It doesn't fit into my decor super well, but it's off on its own enough that it is not an issue. I look at it and it makes me smile. It is fun. And I do sit on it and use it almost every day, and I'm sure some of my guests will eventually see it and say, "wtf?" Then I'll get the pleasure of telling some sort of grand story about burnt swamp wood that's 1000+ years old and was carved by a maniac with a chainsaw. Then they'll want one too, and I'll have to tell them they are hard to get and they probably can't get one, and then I'll smile again...

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White Devil

Joined: Jun 26, 2009
Posts: 0
Posted: 2013-08-23 2:26 pm   Permalink

Witco isn't merely ugly, it's over-the-top, in-your-face UGLY. Sven, the expert, is spot-on: it's the "punk" of tiki. There's no place for it in my house, but having seen Sven's home video and how he incorporated it into his spread, I have a lot more respect for how it can be utilized in context.

Still, I'm glad I can confine it within the pages of "Tiki Modern" and surround myself with good taste.

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Joined: Mar 11, 2013
Posts: 8
Posted: 2013-08-23 7:03 pm   Permalink

If Witco was a punk rock band it does have the purity of a Ramones or Sex Pistols but also seems to have some "punk lite" in its line with mass appeal. I bet most of us would proudly and prominently display that bedroom credenza or world wall hanging.

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Ragbag Comics
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 24, 2009
Posts: 206
From: The shores of Lake Michigan
Posted: 2013-08-24 10:25 am   Permalink

I am amazed at the polarizing effects of Witco... some of it I absolutely adore. Yes, there's the "rugged, rough-hewn charm" factor, and the fact that some of the designs are just flat-out WILD. Tacky? Probably, to most folks... but it's a reflection of the time period in came from.

Tiki and Exotica was not about exacting reproductions or accuracy... it was about creating a general feeling of "other-ness," which was coupled with an over-arching obliviousness about other cultures. It was all about atmosphere... Witco has buckets of atmosphere. Seeing it in a book or on a computer screen doesn't do it justice at all... there's a great deal of heft to these pieces and they have a presence when experienced in person unlike anything else.

In this era of pre-fabricated beige and bland, non-threatening "tasteful" decorating, I love the fact that, once upon a time, you could go to a JC Penney's and BUY a llama bar or a Mainlander fountain and that was not seen as a particularly odd thing (I admit, the Witco bug has bitten so strong I actually had a DREAM once about walking into a small-town forgotten Sears store that still had Witco for sale...oof.)

Some of my personal affection for the stuff comes, too, from the fact that it is such a dominant feature in the classic places left here in Chicago; I will never forget the first time we walked into Hala Kahiki in River Grove and just being completely bowled over with all this wild and wonderful stuff (it wasn't 'til Sven's book that we really knew EXACTLY what the story was with it...) I still kinda feel that way every time we go there, no matter how frequently we head out that way and settle into our chairs (and our CUPS...)

However... the conquistadors, the carousel animals, the wooden soldiers, the SUPER 70's mod stuff... not my thing. Even a lot of the furniture, I'm not wild about (though, the bars are a different story..)

It's funny how just a subtle shift here and there can make a person love something or detest it.

For me, with the Witco I love vs. the Witco I don't, it is entirely the aesthetics of a certain time period; I love mid-60's design style... the mid-to-late 60's Witco is like the Tiki equivalent of jazz or Modernist cartoons. By the early to mid 70's, with the super mod "flower power" kind of stuff, I absolutely detest it (and so did a lot of other people, apparently, as that's about when they closed.)

To each their own.. I feel like our Witco works perfectly in our home, though at 20 pieces of it in a 1400sf home, we're likely reaching critical mass.

We still had room for this guy, tho... and we'd been wanting him for a long dang time!


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Pele Paul
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 26, 2008
Posts: 714
From: San Dimas, ca
Posted: 2013-09-03 8:41 pm   Permalink

finally got my first Witco item!!!! Im so excited !!!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 16, 2013
Posts: 630
From: Wolverhampton, UK
Posted: 2013-09-08 2:00 pm   Permalink

Having posted on this thread earlier, I got to wondering - what Witco do I actually like?

I scrolled through the 'Show me you Witco thread' & copied the photos I liked.

Rather than put them all on to here I set up a Flickr album so you can peruse them if you like:


I was surprised to find I like a couple of pieces that had leopard skin / bright orange backings but I think it was more about the wood on them for me. Anything bright orange would definitely be carefully covered (so as not to damage it) & I would probably view the leopard skin suspiciously to see if I liked it.

The cat would be an ideal gift for my cat loving sister (which I thought was kind of cute but totally non tiki)

Are these 'Good Witco' or 'Bad Witco'? Discuss...


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Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Nov 23, 2006
Posts: 6161
From: Sun City Lincoln Hills (NorCal)
Posted: 2013-09-08 8:13 pm   Permalink

I have never been a Witco fan and didn't know the connection to Tiki. Before my Tiki days I did always think that Witco World Map was great looking, but never knew who made it. Learned about Witco once I got into Tiki, but still didn't care for it. However I do appreciate the collect ability of it and also the relationship to Elvis. Never say never...I now own that Witco Map!!!
"Oh waiter, another cocktail please!!!"

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