1956 ~ 2021
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Oceanic Arts Closed Permanantly in November of 2021.
Aloha and Mahalo Nui Loa to all our many Customers and Friends.
About Oceanic Arts
Oceanic Arts owners Robert Van Oosting & LeRoy Schmaltz
"Mahalo for surfing our site!"
Our History & Adventures
Have a look at our Visitors' Photo Gallery...
Watch some fun Videos - featuring OA and the "Tiki Culture" scene...
We also invite you to visit our Project Gallery & Client History Page.
About TOP
12414 Whittier Boulevard, Whittier, California
  From our modest beginning in 1956, Oceanic Arts  
steadily supplied the Tropical Décor Trade
with Unique and Authentic Polynesian Arts and building materials for 65 Years.
Tiki Carving at OA in the early 1960's.
Moai outside Oceanic Arts' current Whittier Boulevard Entrance.
( photo: Al Evans )
Hotel Taharaa, Papeete, Tahiti - OA Tiki.
Oceanic Arts has worked with Buyers and Associates in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Mexico, and China, always on the alert for Fine Indigenous Arts, new Mattings, and Structural Materials.
( left ) A Customer explores a small portion of
OA's Showroom / Warehouse, when it was once open to the public.
In 1960 we made " The Big Trip* " to the South Pacific, and traveled over 33,000 miles in search of new items, seeking to learn more about the Indigenous Native Arts, and to set up buying Contacts.

For many years, our Warehouse / Showroom was open to the public, where guests could listen to authentic South Seas Island music while they perused our displays of Primitive Arts from South Pacific.

Among the items that were on display were vintage Stone Axes, Spears, Shields, Kava Bowls, Masks, and a 27-foot Double Outrigger Canoe from the Palawan Islands, plus many other rare Polynesian and Tropical Arts and Crafts.

Have a look at our Visitors' Photo Gallery, here on OA's "About" Page...
Watch some entertaining Videos, featuring Oceanic Arts and the "Tiki Culture" phenomenon...
You may also wish to view our Project Gallery & Client History Page.
Read about OA's History and "The Big Trip" across the Pacific
  Video Favorites TOP

Just a few of the many videos showcasing OA's amazing auction and the fantastic "Godfathers of Tiki" collectible book...

Have a look at the trailer for this fun documentary about Tiki Culture, "Plastic Paradise: A Swinging Trip Through America's Polynesian Obsession", now being shown on some PBS stations (Oceanic Arts is featured!).


Another fun "documentary" about Tiki Culture, "The Air-Conditioned Eden" (and look for LeRoy and Bob at around 13:05).

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~ A Brief History of Oceanic Arts ~
( above ) Oceanic Arts owners
LeRoy Schmaltz & Robert Van Oosting,
late 1950's.
“The World’s Largest Supplier of Tropical and Polynesian Décor” started in Whittier, California, in 1956, when Robert Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz met in college, where LeRoy was carving Palm Frond Masks for an art project. They decided to work together, and would often take the fronds down to the Rio Hondo River to carve them, and to “tube down the river” in sbetween making Masks. (They eventually sold thousands of a modified version of the Palm Frond Masks, at 500-per-order, to the Builder’s Emporium home improvement chain. Their wives would even help stain and paint the Masks.)
( above ) LeRoy carving our First Tiki, in 1956,
in the San Gabrial River bed.
A year or so later, LeRoy and Bob met Robert Carter, who was importing Tapa Cloth, Canoes, and Tikis from the South Pacific, and selling them to Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron. Eventually Bob and LeRoy did a lot of carving for Carter, concentrating on items like New Guinea and New Caledonia Tales (pronounced "tall-eez"), and Taboo Panels made of 2” thick Sugar Pine slabs. Their other carvings included the Tahitian Support Posts for Trader Vic’s, and Don-the-Beachcomber’s. Soon LeRoy and Bob had carved a good number of authentically-styled South Sea Island Paddles, Shields, and Mask Patterns, which they then reproduced in smaller quantities in hardwoods and sold to many Polynesian & Tropical-themed Restaurants, as well as to Carter for his projects.
  "The Big Trip" TOP
In 1960, Bob and LeRoy both set out on “The Big Trip”, traveling to the South Pacific to meet the people and explore the cultures there, and study their Arts and Crafts.
Starting from Hawaii, LeRoy and Bob went on to Tahiti (and its outer islands), before continuing west on a journey that would take them across western Polynesia and ultimately to New Guinea at its farthest point.
While they were staying in Tahiti, Bob and LeRoy took a boat trip to the French Polynesian Island of Huahine, attempting to locate some of the old Whale Blubber Pots. They rented a small motor boat, and hired a young Chinese man who spoke Tahitian and knew the island. When they landed, half-way around the island they visited a school -- where some of the five-year-olds started crying! Scared by the first White people they had ever seen, in a time long before the instant-media of today.
Later, they had raw fish at The Chief’s Place, where The Chief even had a refrigerator – though there wasn’t any electricity.
To get back to the Tahitian island of Raiatea, LeRoy and Bob had to charter a fishing boat – which got lost in a violent squall that the boat’s navigator led them into, when he failed to properly figure deviation on the compass! The storm was so terrible that they found native families anxiously waiting on the docks for their return, amazed they made it back alive.
FLIGHT TO FIJI, "A La Flambeau"...
Waiting for the arrival of what would be, in 1960, the first commercial flight for Fiji to leave the New Fa’a Aerodrome in Papeete, Tahiti, Bob and LeRoy spent a good part of the day sitting under Coconut trees on the tarmac (choosing the Coconut trees without coconuts – as falling coconuts are a problem). They watched the local festivities until it grew dark, when finally the plane, a T.A.I. DC-6, arrived – with one of its engines on fire and spurting sparks...! They eventually took off again, rising past gallon-cans of kerosene lit on fire to serve as “runway lights”, into the night on a heading toward the Fijian Islands. Some time later the crew awakened them during their flight, to let them know the port engine was on fire again
Fortunately, the two young Oceanic Arts founders landed safely in Fiji, next stop in a journey that would take them on to New Caledonia, to the Australian Outback, and from there to exotic New Guinea (“From one end to the other!”).
On the flight from Port Moresby, New Guinea, north and west to Wewak, LeRoy and Bob found themselves locked inside the cabin of a DC-3 with several Kanakas (Natives) with leprosy, all of them mostly naked.
The two sets of travelers sat on wooden crates, staring at each other, as the tropical storm they were flying into grew more vicious by the hour. No doubt everyone aboard was saying their prayers while the plane was tossed around by the turbulent wind and rain!
The people at the aerodrome were concerned, unable to make radio contact with the DC-3, and thought the plane had gone down in the storm. They ran out to the plane as it landed, hugging the Pilot and Co-Pilot upon their safe arrival… We were in Wewak.
In the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, Bob and LeRoy stayed in a small “hotel” in Goroka, amongst the jungle trees. There was a white Cockatoo in a nearby tree which had eaten all of the tree’s leaves off. The bird would sit on a bare limb staring at the two young American guests, and as soon as they would get up to leave, he would flip upside-down and scream, “Help! Help!” (Bob says it was hard not to love that bird.)
The photo above is from our 1960 South Pacific trip, taken in Chimbu Village, near Goroka, Territory of Papua, New Guinea. On the left is Mr. Robert Van Oosting, and on the right is Mr. LeRoy Schmaltz, partners of Oceanic Arts.
OA’s founders flew back to Australia, and while in Darwin they stayed at the Victoria Hotel (owned by Victoria Bitters Brewing, Ltd.), where, at around 7:00 p.m., a lady of about 80 years sat down at a piano in the Grand Hall eating area. The more she played, the more she drank, and the more she drank, the more she played… It was announced that dinner that evening would be “a surprise”, and when it finally arrived, Bob and LeRoy discovered what the “surprise” was. As they dug into the meat, they discovered roundish bones – the "surprise entrée" was Goanna snake!
The weather in Darwin was well over 100 degrees with humidity to match, and a walk outdoors soaked one’s singlet in a matter of minutes. One day, LeRoy discovered a large pond on the outskirts of town. Native boys who had Aboriginal mothers and Australian fathers were swimming and playing there, and it reminded the young travelers of their childhood days skinnydipping in the Whittier rivers back home. The boys there were 10-to-12 year olds, having great fun, and so friendly and happy-go-lucky that the next day Bob and LeRoy went back with their swimming trunks.
It didn’t bother the locals at all that the newcomers wore trunks while they swam around naked, and they shared stores about how, when the monsoon arrives the saltwater Crocodiles get washed up from the ocean, into the streets, and ponds… Later that day, when LeRoy and Bob were swimming about half-way across the pond, they both felt “bites” on their hindquarters. Suddenly the local boys nearby behind them began yelling, “CROCODILE!” and hastily swimming away. Bob and LeRoy are sure they set the Unofficial World Swimming Record making it to shore. When they got there, the native boys stood there laughing and pointing at them. They had swum up behind the two newcomers, pretending to “bite” them with their fingers, pinching their behinds.
A good joke, but sometime later in the same area, while LeRoy was walking down a jungle path he noticed a very real Crocodile – one that looked to be over 8’ long! And, apparently this big fellow had indeed come from the same pond he and Bob had been swimming in earlier. Needless to say, LeRoy reports high-tailing it out of the vicinity, post-haste
Finally the last stop on “The Big Trip” was New Zealand, and from there LeRoy and Bob were on their way back to California. After 3 1/2 months and 37,000 miles, by Air, Boat, Motor-Scooter, Jeep, and Hiking-by-Foot, Bob Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz were headed home with literally only $1.50 in their pockets. But what a Trip it was! An unforgettable adventure filled with a lifetime of wonderful memories…; it would help to lay the foundation for OA’s Import / Export business in the coming years.
In addition to the months LeRoy and Bob spent immersing themselves in the Arts and Crafts of various indigenous Polynesian cultures, the business purpose of The Big Trip was to set up Buying Contacts. While they were in New Guinea, LeRoy and Bob established Contacts to ship Primitive Arts back to them in Whittier, California, and back in Fiji, they also found a casket-maker who made them wooden shipping crates for the many artifacts they had acquired.
Subsequently many crated prime artifacts arrived, addressed to: “Dr.s Schmaltz & Van Oosting, Under Her Majesty’s Service”. They even received a human skull in one of the crates – with an arrow hole in it (which can now be found at the legendary Mai Kai Polynesian restaurant, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida).
  Back Home, to "The Green Barn" TOP
( above ) Our first shop, "The Green Barn" in Whittier, California,
It was an old walnut-packing building. Here from 1956 to 1964.
Back home in the early 60’s (after Carter moved to Westwood), Bob and LeRoy continued to base their business in Whittier, California, renting a huge tin walnut-packing building left over from the 1920’s that they affectionately called “The Green Barn”, where they would have many great experiences and build upon their lifetime of fond memories. It was a place and a time when they could leave Tikis and Giant Clam Shells on their old wooden dock and they knew no one would steal them. (Of course, the Clam Shells were selling for only $1.25-per-inch of width in those days…)
Not all their experiences were great, however, as when they tore up The Green Barn’s former stable-area floor planks and, after repeatedly washing the scent of 30 years of horse urine away (or so they thought), carved New Guinea Abelam Heads and Figures on them, and sold the carved panels to a Polynesian Restaurant in Hollywood. They went to visit the job before the restaurant opened – to find that the eau-de-stable was still there, and being circulated by the air conditioners. The Artists report making a hasty retreat before the Owners got to the door first
The Green Barn’s view was fantastic – they could see all of Los Angeles in those days, and there in the yard, under the old Eucalyptus tree, it was great place to carve -- until a Right-of-Way Agent notified Bob and LeRoy that they were in the fast-lane of the new 605 Freeway, and had two weeks to vacate the premises (a complete surprise, as their then-landlord failed to tell them anything about it)!
"UPTOWN ABALONE" - '64 - '74
( above ) "Tikiizing" the front landscape of our second shop -- "The Abalone Shell Block Building".
It was inlaid with crushed Abalone shells. OA remained at this 1,500 square foot location from 1964 to 1974.
So in 1964, in a week’s time, Bob and LeRoy moved out of The Green Barn, and into a 1,500 square foot concrete block building (embedded with Abalone shell) that they found near uptown Whittier. Their 1,500 square feet was supplemented by a garage, and some out-buildings they added to store bamboo poles and thatch, and they thrived there for ten years, until their business outgrew the property.
( above ) Our third shop in Whittier, from 1974 to 1990. New offices were built in this 300' long building,
which had a railroad siding that was used a few times. We used to ride our Dirt Bikes inside.
Bob and LeRoy again moved Oceanic Arts in 1974, electing to stay in Whittier, where they bought a 15,000 square foot building on one acre of land leased from the Southern Pacific Railroad. They even had their own railroad spur, which they used to ship Rattan to Mexico City. On clear days they could see Los Angeles, and even Catalina Island…
They did a lot of carving there, including a 24’ long Mahogany Outrigger Canoe for the Las Vegas Tropicana, and a 32’ long by 10’ high carved wooden sign for the Getty Corporation’s Mammoth Mountain Inn. They also designed and carved a 4” thick by 18' wide by 18' high Tympanum for the front of Marriott’s World Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C.
During this time, Oceanic Arts supplied all of the décor for Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort Hotel, including over 100 signs (one of them being the 9’ by 9’ Entrance Sign). A huge project in itself, which included the fabrication of large Bronze Escutcheon Plates inlaid with Capiz Shell, Ash Urns, many Tikis and carved artifacts, such as carved Tifa Drum Lamps (and many other décor items), Oceanic Arts also supplied many items for Disney World / EPCOT Center’s Norway, France, and Canada areas, including a 5’ diameter, 35’ tall authentically-designed Totem Pole.
( below) Overview of Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort Hotel
OA supplied all of the décor, including the 9' x 9' Entrance Sign.
( right ) Marquesan Ceremonial Bowl, Carved from Jellutong wood.
Polynesian Village Resort Hotel, Disney World, Orlando, Florida
( left ) Maori Canoe Prow,
Carved Mahogany
11' long x 5' tall x 6" deep
Inlaid with polished Pahua Shell,
it took three of our carvers
three weeks to carve.
Polynesian Village Resort Hotel,
Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Disney World Polynesian Village Hotel was a fantastic job to supply, and among Bob and LeRoy’s most pleasurable memories was working with Walt Disney’s personal staff.
About this same time Oceanic Arts opened a Decorator Showroom in Oahu, Hawaii, working with Vince Buono to supply and install tropical décor to many Hotels and Restaurants for Inter-Island Resorts and AmFac Resorts. OA also supplied most of the décor to Vince Buono for the many creative projects he did for the Coco Palms Hotels.
Other noteworthy Oceanic Arts projects included the design and painting of old-time canvas signs for Hilton Hotel, and furnishing décor for the newly-styled Don the Beachcomber’s Restaurants, for their multiple locations in Santa Rosa, Marina Del Rey, Dallas, and Houston locations.
Many new carvings, tropical lights, and various other items evolved from these jobs, and Oceanic Arts’ work for these renowned clients led to supply & installation engagements for hotel chains like the Mariott’s Kona Kai Restaurant, the Kon Tiki Ports, and many others. In some cases, Oceanic Arts designed the interiors of certain restaurants, as well as installing the décor.
Oceanic Arts was asked to supply and install their Polynesian Décor for many different kinds of projects, which also multiplied to include most major apartment buildings on Lakewood and Rosemead Boulevards – spanning Bellflower to Pasadena. At one time OA ran a crew who helped install their décor in many Polynesian-themed restaurants around the country, from Colorado, to the Tur Mai Kai, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
PanAm Airlines engaged Oceanic Arts to create the décor for the InterContinental Taharaa Hotel in Papeete, Tahiti. OA did so, but declined to do the installation, as at that point Bob and LeRoy had decided to close down their installation operations and concentrate their time on importing and wholesaleing décor.
When the Décor Trade slowed in the late 1980’s, a supplier called “Sea and Jungle” closed their doors, selling Oceanic Arts two truckloads of various décor for $600. They even gave Bob and LeRoy their office chairs, source-books, and – their Customer List. This last item helped to get Oceanic Arts started in the Movie Supply and Rental business.
Ultimately, the two young tiki-carving entrepreneurs from Whittier, California were supplying the tropical décor for installations around the world, from displays of thousands of Pink Murex Shells for the Pago Pago Intercontinental Hotel in American Samoa, to Outrigger Canoes for the King of Bahrain.
Oceanic Arts Today TOP
OA remained at the Southern Pacific Railroad property location until 1990 -- when the city of Whittier condemned the entire area for a new shopping center. They moved to their present 10,000 square foot Warehouse location on Whittier Boulevard, purchasing it a few years later, and also lease an additional 7,000 square foot warehouse nearby.
( above ) Oceanic Arts' present Warehouse in Whittier, California.
Loading Dock and Main Office Entrance.
( Entrance Moai carved by Guy Wilson. )
From Oceanic Arts’ modest beginning in the mid-1950’s, when Bob Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz started working out of a family-owned garage, to their current combined 17,000 square feet of Showroom and Warehouse operations of today, it’s been an ongoing whirlwind of almost constant activity, with LeRoy and Bob working six days a week.
But they will quickly add that they’ve been having so much fun that it seems incredible they’ve been going for over 60 years now, all made possible they say by a great Employee Team, and the Best Customers in the world (and when they say "the world", they really do mean “the World”). Mr. Van Oosting and Mr. Schmaltz say they’ve truly been blessed.
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Visitor Photo Gallery TOP
( left, above, and below )
Photos © J. Hirschfeld
( above, below, and right )
Photos by Johnny Curtis
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