The Coconut Economy: Lake Tiki


It goes without saying that the Moai are a talented bunch of people. Some are so talented that they use their skills to make a living as artisans. This forms the basis of the economy of the Islands of the Fraternal Order of Moai which we call The Coconut Economy.

The holiday shopping season is upon us so we have been asking them about their work and today we are hearing from Dave "Lake Surfer" Hansen at Lake Tiki in Wisconsin. You have probably seen his work on display at events like The Hukilau and the Hot Rod Hula Hop.


I carved my first tiki in 2001. It was something I wanted for myself and I had no idea how to get one. So I got a mallet and chisel and got to carving. I continued carving through that year and presented my work to local surfers that fall at a party. The crew loved them. That was when I came up with the name "Lake Tiki." I surf on Lake Michigan and when I wasn't sliding waves I was beachcombing for the first material that my tikis were created from... driftwood.

In the winter of 2001 I turned to the internet to do research on tikis. It was then that I discovered the website Tiki Central. I showed much of my work and was inspired by other carvers there. My first attempt at selling my art was at two arts and crafts fairs near my city. Both attempts bombed, but no surprise there. 99.9% of the general public doesn't understand our obsession with tiki. It was after hearing of my lack of success that some online friends of mine from TC suggested that I give this Hukilau event a go. They said that I would do well with my work. Of course that was the year of Hurricane Jean, but I did do well in spite of that and was inspired to push my work to the next level. I've been going strong since then.

However if someone out there is considering a similar business to Lake Tiki, don't quit your day job. Carving tikis and tiki decor is not something that you could consider a "career move" in this part of the country. There isn't a steady flow of income. I work 2 other jobs as an artist to pay the bills. I would love to make carving a full time job as it is an enjoyable past time. But the reality is that the isn't much of a demand for tiki art, especially in the Midwest.

Doing art shows and events have their ups and downs. There are countless stories about good and bad, and really bad shows and events. I try to learn from all of them, no matter what the outcome. But out of it all I get feedback about my work which is wonderful. I find out what people like and don't like.

I love to meet new people at events, see old friends and talk about tiki! It is a real honor to me when someone purchases one of my creations with their hard earned money and takes it home to display.

My roots will always be here in the Midwest, and I think that the local Fellow Moai appreciate that there is a tiki carver that is right here in their part of the country. Being in the Fraternal Order of Moai allows for closer friendships and I enjoy meeting the people who purchase my art and encourage custom orders. It is always fun to take someone's idea and turn it into a piece of art.

I hope that in the future the Coconut Economy becomes a popular place to look for and purchase some of the best tiki themed creations there are!

As far as tiki carving goes... always keep the bandaids around and make sure you have good insurance. Tools need to be sharp to do the job and with sharp tools you are bound to cut yourself in some way! My scars are a roadmap, and I can tell you what I was working on when I got a certain scar!

Every year I like to change things up, when you do a show people don't want to see the same things you did last year. Last year I had "The Island Collection" which focused on tiki from other parts of Oceania besides the Hawaiian Islands.

In 2009 I am presenting the "South Pacific Secrets Collection." The detail in these pieces will be over the top. They will not be the "run of the mill" type tiki carvings. Every square inch of the surface will be carved in some form. They will have the appearance of a hidden away idol or carving, found in the back of an old hut or a lava tube. A secret that no one else has discovered yet. I hope to capture the beauty and mystery that is the South Pacific in these exclusive pieces.

I'll be vending at all the big events in 2009. The Hukilau, Hot Rod Hula Hop, and Tiki Oasis to name a few. I also want to continue to attend and vend at more art shows and West Coast events such as the Forbidden Island Parking Lot Sale and the Tiki Farm Parking Lot Sale.

Aloha and Mahalo!

Dave Hansen
Lake Tiki

Lake Tiki originals are available online from the Coconut Economy, just go to: and click on Tiki Carvers for more information.

Update: Lake Tiki will be participating in the first ever Worldwide Online Tiki Art Show and Party. Click on the poster for details:

Keep the torches burning,

— Tagata Maori Rogorogo

No feedback yet

Free Blog Theme and Blog Templates