For as long as she can remember, designer Kitiya Palaskas has been obsessed with American tiki pop culture from the ’50s and ’60s. “I love everything about it,” says the Melbourne-based artist. “The music, the outfits, the patterns, the vibrancy of it.”

It’s a major source of inspiration for Palaskas whose obsession is part of a larger interest in all things kitsch, from tacky souvenirs to retro iconography and memorabilia. “There's something so playful and imaginative about that world,” she says. “I'm inspired by old signage on buildings, tacky window displays, elaborately decorated desserts – anything that draws me back into that kitsch theme. I can't seem to get away from it.”

Palaskas uses paper art, embroidery, fibre art, textile design and collages to create in-demand looks for a series of high-profile clients, including fashion brands Sportsgirl and Peter Alexander, musicians Lily Allen, the Wombats and Young Cairo, and clients such as Lego, We Love Sundays and Cocobella. She also designs acrylic jewellery and accessories and is this year publishing her first book, a craft manual due in September.

Another influence was her parents. Palaskas’s Greek father met her Thai mother on a bus in Thailand in the ’70s when he was working as a photojournalist. Palaskas was born in New Zealand and she and her parents travelled the world, living in England, the United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea and around Australia.

“Because my extended family is spread all around the world, it was the norm for us to move around,” says the artist. “I've picked up a lot of styles and techniques from the things I’ve seen in various countries over the years.”

A prime example is her use of bright clashing colours and patterns in her designs. “There’s lots of beautiful and amazing colours in the traditional arts and crafts of the Papua New Guinean people,” she says.

Palaskas settled in Melbourne four years ago, but travel is still an important part of her life. She’s spent a lot of time in tropical climes and travelling through America where she visited “legit” tiki bars, the spiritual home of iconic cocktails such as the Mai Tai and the Zombie, a cocktail made of liqueurs, fruit juices and various rums.

The tiki influence extends to her favourite drinks. At home Palaskas has turned an old ’50s sideboard into her own tiki bar. It’s where she keeps her mugs, souvenir bamboo platters and her 500-strong swizzle-stick collection sourced from bars, vintage shops and other collectors. She even sells her own versions of tiki swizzle sticks in her online store.

Palaskas’s favourite cocktails are two tiki classics – the Zesty Piña Colada and the Mai Tai. A good blender is a must. “One of the nicest parts of drinking a drink like a Piña Colada is the texture of the ice,” she says. Palaskas believes a tiki cocktail is not the real deal without an incredibly elaborate garnish, one of the elements she appreciates most. “It could be a tiki mug with a bamboo toothpick in it with slices of fruit and a beautiful orchid and a maraschino cherry,” she says. “Something elaborate like that, with a slice of fruit on the side. Then you can set some of them on fire. I love how extreme the garnishes can get.”

Kitty Palaska’s Zesty Piña Colada
Makes one serve. Approximately 1.8 standard drinks.

90ml unsweetened pineapple juice
60ml Pampero Blanco white rum
30ml coconut cream
15ml fresh lime juice
1 fresh pineapple wedge
1 maraschino cherry
1 cocktail stick
1 decorative drink stirrer

Combine all liquids in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake for 30–45 seconds.
Fill a short glass with ice. Strain cocktail into glass.
Slide pineapple wedge and cherry onto cocktail stick to garnish. Top off cocktail with a fancy drink stirrer.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with World Class.

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