Barney West (1919-1981) was a tiki carver during the golden age of midcentury Polynesian Pop.
West, a native of Seattle, came to the Bay Area as a boy when his parents moved to Oakland. His father was chief engineer for the steam schooner Wapama which is now part of a San Francisco waterfront museum. During World War II, West joined the Merchant Marine and served as a steward on Liberty ships in the South Pacific. During his 15 years at sea, West became interested in the native art of Easter Island, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Hawaii, an infatuation that later had a great influence on his art. West moved to an ark on Corte Madera creek shortly after the end of World War II. To set himself up in the woodcarving business, he drove spikes and laid heavy rails for a railroad crew. West’s first wood carving came from redwood pilings he floated to his home from San Pablo Bay. His first major customer was restaurateur Trader Vic Bergeron who purchased many pieces of West’s early art.
After establishing himself as a wood carver, West opened a studio in Sausalito ("Tiki Junction") on land lent to him by Zack’s owner, Sam Zakessian in 1963. The tiny studio soon became engulfed by tikis and other assorted tropical carvings and vegetation. West began his carving career with conventional carving tools but soon progressed to a chain saw. He shipped in mammoth redwood logs by rail and shipped his commissioned works on flatcars all over the country, West’s art can be found in London, Hawaii, and Cuba. West’s business thrived well in Sausalito and at one time he had five apprentices working with him.