There are ukuleles and then there’s Moore Ukuleles!
As a guitar player, I’ve always had a love for the six-stringed instrument that I hung down in front of me. Not only is a guitar an instrument, but it’s also functional art. A guitar can sound good and look even better! Howard Moore III makes Ukuleles and I don’t know if they should be played or hung up on the wall, because they are so beautiful! Oh, and Howard also carves Tikis. Here is his story …
What is the Tiki scene like where you live and what brought you into the ‘Tiki lifestyle”?
Howard- The Tiki scene here in Hartsville SC, where my wife and I live and grew up, is non-existent … A land devoid of Tiki culture and influence … yet, somehow … in the mid-sixties, a Tiki found its way into my childhood home. I was only five years old when it began to cast its spell over me.
He lived high upon the upright piano, safely out of my reach, I would look up at its grimaced face and puzzle over it. I would ask my mother …
“Mommy, what is that?”
“It’s just a little man” she would say … with a kind of exasperation in her voice that now makes me think, she didn’t care for this ‘thing’ my Dad had brought into our home.
“Why is he making that face?” I would ask …
“He’s trying to use the potty” … she said.
I still have this tiki to this day … sadly, a foot is broken off.
My name is Howard Moore III, I am an art school graduate, and I attended Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota Florida in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Arriving in Sarasota at 18 years of age, after, living in South Carolina all my life, was like a dream come true. I had never seen such a beautiful place, Banyan trees, Palms and white beaches (topless beaches at that! ) … I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven. Here was a land where the Tiki culture thrived. I stepped foot in my first tiki bar shortly after arriving … The Bahi Hut … open since 1954 and still thriving to this day. I fell victim, on more than a few occasions, to the over proofed Mai-Tai’s that the Bahi Hut was famous for.
Had it not been for my childhood sweetheart and now wife of 38 years, Betsy, known as ‘The Bobbiemoth’ in my photo art … I would have probably never left that enchanted land.
Here in our home in South Carolina, we have to make our own Tiki scene. We built a screened Tiki Room porch and made a small lagoon and waterfall between it and my woodshop. I made a large stone Tiki, planted palm trees and have created a small but nice place to hangout.
My earliest influence for my art and carving was my father. He is an accomplished wood carver and Appalachian dulcimer maker, with over 600 dulcimers to his credit. He put a knife in my hand at an early age. So, I’ve been wood carving for almost 50 years now. Dad is 82 and still carves and makes dulcimers and ukuleles.
It was about seven years ago when I asked Dad to help me make a ukulele. “How much different than a dulcimer could it be”, we thought … We had no idea how much different it would be. I have heard it said, “You don’t even begin to know what you’re doing until you’ve made 50 of them.” How true that statement was, I have made 95 ukuleles as of this writing and I’m still learning. Most of my ukuleles have a tiki in the headstock. Ukuleles are difficult and time consuming … as opposed to Tiki carving, which is easier and relaxing. I also paint and draw, and the Tiki influence can be seen in much of that art as well.
Who or what would be some of your influences?
Howard- The mid-century style of art and architecture is strongly ingrained in my psyche, it is a subconscious connection that I associate with my childhood and simpler days. A kind of lost ‘Eden’ that has left a permanent imprint on my soul. Like a dream that can’t quite be remembered or like a Deja-vu that I can’t quite pinpoint. The road out of that ‘Eden’ has been long and there is no way back … All things Tiki bring this nostalgic longing to me, it’s a feeling that is hard to describe to those who have no experience of it.
What does the future hold for you and your work?
Howard- I am branching out with my art out of necessity, I have been a dental lab technician for the last 27 years, I made teeth. This involved very tedious work under a microscope, lost wax casting and working with porcelain. Enjoyable work but like so many small dental labs in the country, we were hurt bad by big companies with multi-million dollar milling machines that can crank out thousands of zirconium crowns and bridges a day for cheap … (and of course the dentist won’t be passing those savings on to us). This has been the demise of the small dental lab industry. I find myself now, at 57 years of age, embarking on a new voyage, a somewhat frightening journey to an unknown place. The ‘vessel’ of my art is all I have to carry me … will I end up ship wrecked on a desolate sand bar or will it prove to be sea worthy and take me to a land where there are Palms, Banyans, white beaches and maybe a tiki that knows how to mix a good Mai Tai … or two?
Anything else you would like to add?
Howard- Thank you for asking me to do a blog post … may you be blessed with warm ocean breezes, a full Tiki Mug and much success in your tropical adventures.
Howard’s ukuleles and Tiki carvings can be seen on …
Here is the Moore Ukuleles website
Howard also has a Youtube page where he shows off and plays the ukuleles he has made!