Ken Holewczynski began drawing as a child and the pursuit of of art has been a life-long passionate pursuit. A voracious reader of MAD Magazine, CARtoons and Warren’s line of horror comics, it’s no surprise that after spending several years working at an engineering firm, Ken jumped into publishing comics during the black and white comic explosion of the mid-1980s.
Along with publishing his own work with now Marvel editor, Mark Pannicia, Ken also worked for Chicago’s NOW Comics, Evanston’s First Comics, San Jose’s Slave Labor Press, Caliber Press in Livonia, Michigan and Toronto’s Vortex Comics. Favorites projects from that time include his adaptation of the silent classic, Nosferatu and an original series entitled Orlak, both with writer Rafael Nieves. Ken began inking and eventually penciling then inking numerous issue of Dean Motter’s Mr. X. Picked up by Dark Horse Comics, the issues containing the majority Ken’s inking work were reprinted the in the hardbound book, The Brides of Mr. X. Eventually the boon of the black and white comic craze died down, Ken turned his interests to the emerging industrial music scene. These were the days of Usenet and dial-up modems. The internet was barely a force and communication was still largely done through the mail and fanzines.
With frequent trips to Chicago’s Wax Trax! Records starting in the early 90s, Ken was inspired to start the underground industrial label, Arts Industria, which released over a dozen international compilations over the course of ten years. Although Ken was composing music and contributing to the label’s output, the publishing bug was still there and he simultaneously started Arc magazine, covering electronic and industrial music. Ken still regularly dabbles in music to this day with a small array of synths.
This musical and comic book output landed him a job for short period of time at Reactor in Chicago, where the company was tasked with producing new games for the upcoming new gaming system - the Play Station. Reactor was known for a Mac-based CD-ROM game entitled Spaceship Warlock. Sony was interested in having the game and Reactor be a part of their initial offerings. Unfortunately Reactor fell apart and never produced a game for Sony. However work on a different Reactor project, Ken found himself participating live on a segment of one of HBO’s notorious early shows.
In the 2000s, Ken worked at a toy company, designing packaging for die cast cars, re-issues of classic car model and monster kits, circling him back to his childhood interests and preparation for his next artistic phase of life. Ken’s fondness of craft cocktails and a chance trip to Hala Kahiki and Three Dots and a Dash tied together many of Ken’s interests. From the drinks, to the decor to mid-century style and the mystique of it all grabbed a strong hold of Ken’s imagination. Ken was friended by David Krys who runs the Lowbrow Aloha, an artist event in Chicago that runs three times a year at Hala Kahiki. Ken started vending with only a few items to offer. Like the new kid in the tiki cafeteria Ken sat on the side lines and met many new and lasting friends at Lowbrow Aloha. Ken pursued his first mug design under the name of House of Tabu with a voodoo inspired mug produced by Muntiki. The 500 mug endeavor was successful and in 2018 Ken contacted John Mulder of Eekum Bookum to produce more intricate Tiki mug designs. Over the course of their mug collaborations, John’s moral and technical support gave Ken limitless possibilities. John simply stated the down to earth realities of being a true artist “If you can draw, you can sculpt” he said. With that kind of encouragement from a respected friend, Ken went out and purchased a kiln. He branched out into sculpting, mold making and glazing without prior training or knowledge of ceramics. Ken’s wife, Lori, had a ceramic painting hobby back in the 90’s which was hardly a glowing endorsement to start a business! Yet the pair figured it out by utilizing Ken’s long career working with different mediums, fueled by a passion to make his artistic ideas a reality.
During the time of teaching himself ceramics, designing dozens of Tiki-themed glassware and Tiki mug production, Ken and his wife immersed themselves in the Tiki scene. The people, the places, the Tiki events and the tiki cocktails snowballed Northern Indiana Ken into returning to his love of magazine publishing. Ken continued on and created Exotica Moderne, a magazine featuring many contributing writers and artists who enjoy Tiki. The articles written cover specific artists, places of historical information, personal reviews of bars, bartenders, home bars, entertaining at home with food and drink recipe ideas from Tiki Lindy and the exciting cocktail culture of the Tiki scene. Published quarterly in full color, Exotica Moderne has become the print source for all who are interested in Tiki.