As a kid in the 1980s, Rick was an active boy scout. One day, his scouting troop was invited to visit the shop of LeRoy Schmaltz, the father of Chris, one of Rick’s fellow scouts. Mr. Schmaltz showed the scouts several wooden poles that he planned to carve into tikis, and Rick’s curiosity was sparked.
In case you may not know that name, LeRoy Schmaltz is one of the co-founders of Oceanic Arts, the store that has supplied tropical décor, Polynesian art, and authentic building materials to tiki folks since 1956. Anyone who has built a home tiki bar or oasis knows of Oceanic Arts. Apparently, in the midst of running this successful and well-known business for tiki folks, Mr. Schmaltz found time to also be a proud scout dad and to inspire young kids like Rick.
It took awhile for Rick’s early spark to catch fire, though. Much later, when he and his wife were on visits to Hawaii, Rick kept eyeing the tiki carvings, started remembering his scout visit, and finally decided he could make one himself. The spark ignited and LowBrow Tiki was created.
Rick is now an experienced carver with scores of tikis that populate his backyard oasis. His garage is a full-time shop, and he’s branched into selling his carvings to others. During my visit, Rick kindly demonstrated his method for moving from initial design to chisel carve to flame scorching to create his beautiful works of art.
Rick, now a father and grandfather himself, still lives in Whittier, California, only a few blocks from where he grew up and as such, only a few blocks from Oceanic Arts. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Schmaltz would vouch that Rick has now met all of the criteria for his woodwork merit badge.