David at the Bamboo Door cocktail bar in Sheffield contacted me to see if I’d be able to create a door-sized Tiki head for them ~ “Of course!” I said, then set about thinking how to do it….
I toyed with the idea of carving it from one solid tree trunk split down the middle (so it had a flat back), but I could see it being so heavy that it would be unmovable; there was also the issue of the timber moving, cracking and twisting in an indoor space that would often be pretty hot.
By luck, and through a friend of a friend, I found a place pretty local to me that made heavy doors from 48mm thick plywood ~ perfect for this project, as I could build up the Tiki head in layers .
I drew the design David wanted on the ply and cut out other pieces for the nose, tongue etc.
Once I’d built up the layers to the desired thickness I started to carve the head into the familiar shape. I didn’t glue it at this stage because I wanted to cut out the middle of each ply sheet to make it lighter: it was hard to judge exactly where to cut until it was all rounded off.
Once at this stage I started to work on the eyelids and cheeks, followed by the lips and teeth. It wasn’t the best wood to carve, and I had to keep my wits about me with the grain sometimes ~ otherwise big sections would tear or splinter out.
I shaped the nose and tongue before gluing them into position, and glued and screwed the layers of ply together for his head. A dab of filler here and there where the ply had caused problems, and he was looking good. The eyes and mouth were cut out as they will be fitted with lights once in the bar.
To ensure that the paint went on well, I applied a couple of coats of gesso.
Now it was on to the fun part! I’d hoped to be able to spray the head but couldn’t find the right colours anywhere ~ not at a reasonable price, anyway. I painted him in the midst of all that damp weather, and the low temperatures in my workshop meant each coat took an age to dry. It soon came together though, and I was pleased with the final result.