Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hawaiian Tiki Carving

It's amazing what a vacation will do for your outlook. 

I recently spent a week in (or is it on?) Maui - it's the only place in the world that fully recharges my batteries. 

What's not to love? 

Every day that I would leave the beach, I'd pass a small stretch of road where various tables were set up, and artists would sell their work. On my last day, I pulled over to check out the woodcarvers.  

It's there that I met Moe, a giant, gentle man with hands the side of baseball mitts. He and a buddy sat by their van, sketching and carving on small blanks of wood - Monkeypod, Milo, and Koa. 

You can read a bit more about the various woods here.

Moe took the time to explain the various imagery of his work - the names of the Hawaiian Gods and what their poses meant. Pretty fascinating stuff!

Some of the tikis provide protection, others ensure good luck. 

 Turtles were a popular subject for their carvings, too. 

This unfinished piece was carved into a log that had been infested with some sort of bug - the back side was covered with worm holes and odd voids in the wood. Moe really wanted me to buy this piece, but I was concerned it wouldn't have fit into my suitcase!

Their tools were remarkably simple - his chisel resembled a thin bar of metal, with a sharpened end. And his mallet was little more than a small log of wood that they'd shaped into a striking tool. His "workbench" was a log stump.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a picture of Moe - but here's an amazing story. 

Now you've heard about six degrees of separation, right? It's the idea that everyone is separated by just six steps or less. A friend of mine suggested that in Hawaii, there are really only three degrees. Smaller area, more connections. Everyone knows someone who knows someone.

Makes sense. 

A few nights ago, I was at a party and one of the other guests had an interesting walking stick. I went over to ask him about it - and he said a fellow named Moe had carved it. He described the carver as a bear of man, gentle and polite. Hands like bear paws. Now - tell me - what are the chances that we both met the same woodcarving Moe? 

Damn, it's a small world!

Of course, I had to bring home a piece of Moe's - here it is, spreading its protection.

The color of this wood is really incredible - deep oranges and reds. All Moe applied to this was a wiped on coat of glossy lacquer.

Yesterday in the shop, Eric, Richard and I had a discussion about tools - about woodworkers spending ridiculous amounts of money on simple things, like marking gauges or chisels. Moe's work reminds me of how simple your tools can be, and how tools really aren't a gauge of anyone's work. Its is truly a mark of skill when you can produce excellent work with the simplest of tools - tools that you understand and know how to use properly. 

Sending much aloha to all the artists I met while on the island. 


Anonymous said...

We JUST met Moe and bought a turtle from him. We wanted to learn more about him so I started googling. Same guy, same set up, same everything except we did get a picture with him. If I can find a way to post it here from my ipad I will. :) You got a beautiful piece too. What a great guy!

Wood It Is! said...

How cool - what a small world!

If you send a picture of Moe's carving to me, I'll put it on this blog... send the JPEG to:

Anonymous said...

nice post!!! we have this post of our shop. you can visit of of our site.visit

Mrs. Lusinski said...

I live in Chicago and carve totem poles... I was wondering if Moe gave lessons in Tiki Carving? I would love to learn and maybe brink a tiki back to my second grade class to share!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I hung out with Moi for close to an hour (early feb '14). He was set up close to Big Beach. Not sure about him giving carving lessons but he's super approachable. I bought a 6in x3 chunk of koa to carve at home.

Buy some of his fruit, share some green if you have, and hang loose. He'll probably show u a couple things

Anonymous said...

Mo'i, not Moe. A ceremonial kava strain coveted by past Hawaiian Kings.

Ryan Heinz said...

We also hung out with him this past February 2014. Cool dude. Spent around 400 bucks.
He told us of his largest carving he sold for 10k to one Steven Tyler who lives a couple miles up the road from his set-up.
And he wears a size 18 shoe. Don't ask how we know that

Mayte Almeida said...

Really cool guy he thought me how to use the chisel and laugh at my Cuban ascent lol

Anonymous said...

Hi I have freshly cut milo trees I have dark and light grain logs for sale anyone interested
give me a call at 808256-6061

Steve said...

Hi, I read you entry about Mo. I am currently on Maui and would like to find a quality tiki. Where did you see Moe?

Wood It Is! said...

Look for Mo on the south end of the island, near Makena. He's usually parked on the side of the road, near Big Beach, near some of the shave ice and food trucks. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Really funny reading this cause were actually the ones who sold to Steven Tyler for 10k during a golf tournament here in Maui. We also got pictures and everything.

Randal Box said...

We talked to a carver named Moe but he was set up on Honoapi'ilani Highway about 3/4 miles past mile marker 34. His sign says Moe's Poly Shack / Ice Cold Coconuts / Fresh Fruit / Hand Crafts

Super detailed work. Now my wife is regretting she didn't get contact information because she wants a turtle.

If anyone has contact information on Moe, please send it


Drmimosa said...

I met Moe in Feb 2017. I am from New Orleans and he ask me to bring him some alligator meat next time I visit. Never thinking I would be able to visit again it seems I will be getting married there next year. I would love to keep my promise to him, does anyone know how to get in touch with Moe????

Ivana Juliet said...

really cool post.