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Artist: Vallabh Namshikar
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William Westenhaver

William Westenhaver was a painter, cartoonist, artisan and graphic designer, most notable for bringing Tiki designs to furnishings and ornamental accessories in America. William, who was an alumnus of Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, had been a painter who was much influenced by modern painters like Picasso, but he had to turn to being a cartoonist to earn his living.

His entry into the world of Tiki furniture was when his cousin Bob Post, who owned Western International Trading Company (WITCO), asked his help in designing and crafting tribal-themed furniture. As William had been to the Pacific islands during his time in the Navy and had a great deal of knowledge about their designs, he immediately accepted the offer. He began creating a range of furniture such as dining tables, sofa sets, bar counters, etc., with Polynesian designs and deity etchings and carvings with his team at WITCO. With the Tiki culture already popularised by certain other enterprising people, the idea of having Tiki-themed furnishings in their very home created a rage among the people, with even legends like Elvis Presley having an entire room furnished only with WITCO furniture.

William and WITCO also began to sell Tiki decorative pieces such as figures, masks, etc.. At the height of the craze for Tiki stuff, WITCO had become a household name in America with it having its presence in all of the top cities. However, the novelty of Tiki began declining slowly and with it WITCO’s fortunes also dwindled; and it ran into losses and was shutdown in 1977. William then went on to become a freelancing designer. More recently in 1990s, when Tiki made a revival in America, Ken Pleasant who was William’s grandson-in-law began carving Tiki-themed furniture again.

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William Westenhaver

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