BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - One Baton Rouge designer is finally getting the opportunity to showcase his work in his home town.
Omar Girona, owner of Oakwash, crafts tiki mugs by hand. Most of his works are sold out of state through partnerships with Disney, including at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, located at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. He hopes to sell at Disney properties in Florida in the near future, as well.
“I’ve always liked tiki and I became addicted to a point where I knew I could design and create my own mugs,” Girona says. “Disney and tiki have a history together and that helped push me forward in the tiki community.”
Girona meticulously crafts each mug by hand, using only pictures as a reference and local materials sourced from Southern Pottery, a Baton Rouge ceramic and pottery equipment supplier.
“Everything I do is by hand. I don’t cut corners and I will never 3D print,” he says.
The process for each mug can take Girona anywhere from two to five hours, depending on the level of detail; from casting the mug to sculpting, sanding, glazing, and two rounds of firing in a kiln.
Girona’s mugs have gained online notoriety as well. An artist proof of his most popular design, the Liki Tiki mug, sold for $330 to a collector on eBay. On Oakwash’s online store, the mugs sell in limited quantities ranging anywhere from $100-$120.
One day, the tiki man says he hopes to have a kiln of his own in his backyard and move his operation into a workshop behind his house.
Stumbling into Soji, a popular modern Asian restaurant in Baton Rouge, to take a couple of photos for his social media accounts, Girona’s mugs caught management’s attention.
“I brought my work to Soji to take some promo shots and they saw my mugs and asked if I could do one for them,” Girona says. “That’s how the Soji mug came to be.”
Now, Girona and Soji are teaming up to bring his coast-to-coast creations back home.
"As far as I'm aware, this is the first tiki mug to be made for a bar in Louisiana by a Louisiana artist with Louisiana materials," Girona says.
Oakwash is hosting Tiki Night at Soji on Saturday, March 7. The party will be filled with tropical cocktails, free Polynesian food, and limited edition Soji Tiki mugs.
Girona is bringing 40 of his handcrafted works, which took around 150 hours combined to complete. They’ll be available on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 8 p.m. For $70, you get a mug filled with the tropical cocktail of your choice and $5 refills all night long. Junglebirds, mai tais, painkillers, and other tropical cocktails will also be discounted Saturday night.
Bringing the mug back to Soji anytime in the future nets you more deals and savings.
In Polynesian culture, Tiki is often the name given to the first man, made from the red earth, or clay. Carvings similar to tikis represent the deified ancestors and often serve to mark the boundaries of sacred or significant sites. By extension, a tiki is a large or small wooden or stone carving in humanoid form.
Many of Girona’s mugs are adorned with abstract facial features, including eyes, noses, and mouths.
"Soji is beyond excited to work with the extremely talented, local artist Oakwash! Omar has been designing and producing very high quality mugs for a long time now, and we jumped on the opportunity to join him in producing Soji’s first edition tiki mug! What has been a long time in the making, we are finally so excited to release it to the public! This limited edition mug was made right here in Baton Rouge by a good friend of ours," says Chase Lyons, Soji proprietor.
"I feel locally this will give me opportunities in my home state and will allow me to bring more tiki to Baton Rouge," Girona says.
"The tiki community is lucky to have Omar right here in our very own backyard," Lyons says.
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