Fun, Functional, Free: Tadpole Studio
Bundit Kanisthakhon of Tadpole Studio in Chinatown serves innovative and upcycled multimedia design and artwork. Like a chef, Bundit focuses on quality ingredients to create art that is palatable to art lovers and casual observers alike. His work is fun, approachable and functional—and the materials he uses are primarily local. Many artists create art to share a story or idea, but Bundit uses art as a vehicle to explore new territory with the goal of observing reactions.
Bundit is from Bangkok but has traveled around the world and lived in Seattle, Boston, Rome, Lund, Osaka, Khon Khaen, and now Hawaiʻi.
Wherever he goes, he commits himself to using local materials—things he finds on the side of the road, in the garbage, from a construction site or at a beach. Instead of ordering materials, Kansthakhon works with local craftsmen to make what he needs.
“That is how tradition is sustained and can be passed on to the next generation,” he says. “I noticed that in Hawaiʻi it's getting harder and harder to find good craftsmen. If we are looking into the knowledge that we have here, supporting the local craftsman mean that you are dealing with a group of people that fully understand the local materials/ingredients and how it will act/react to the local climate. They will be the ones that can share this knowledge to later generation.”
Although Bundit commonly reuses items others have discarded, he doesn’t consider his artwork “green.” Rather, he strives to breathe life into items he uses and transform them into something current and relevant.
“The other day I was having a conversation with my good friend, who is a chef. He was telling me about a potato dish that he made derived from the over-cooked portion that he was going to throw away. He decided to save it and try to deep fry it. It turned out to be a hit! The potato is soft in the inside and crispy outside. A perfect side dish to have with a pinch of salt or ketchup! Yum!”
Beneath Tadpole Studio is a gated fence that leads to the Free Store Rickshaw, an urban, human-powered, mobile, free store. Unwanted items are placed in the store and left for people to take with an option to leave any unwanted items for others. The Free Store Rickshaw is a collaborative concept between Bundit, his partner Kirk Malanchuk, Bill Reardon, and Gaye Chan based off of the Free Store located at the art department of University of Hawaiʻi.
Made of repurposed bed frames, donated wheels, tires and plywood, the Rickshaw has made appearances in Waikīkī, Kakaʻako, Chinatown, and the Honolulu Museum of Art. This allows the community to be able to “shop” for items that may otherwise have been thrown away or donated.
Each project that Bundit dedicates himself to receives his undivided attention. He focuses on every detail, from conception to completion, without interruptions. It’s a slow process but worth the effort. Bundit compares his methodology to a fine dining experience. “We appreciate the time to sit down and have a good meal. We have time to enjoy the food and to converse with friends and family. We try to avoid buffet and fast food since it often gives us indigestion both physically and mentally,” says Bundit.
Working on a new project, Bundit is collaborating with the Honolulu Museum of Art to create a parking attendant booth made of donated bed frames and leftover lumber from construction sites and the Honolulu Museum of Art School. Bundit and the museum put out a call to the community for bed frames and the response was overwhelming.
Bundit integrates art with environmentally friendly practices. His commitment to breathing life into what some consider garbage is not only a great mission, it adds an element of surprise and mystery into his projects, as the audience never knows what will emerge next. Tadpole Studio is an incubator for discarded objects waiting to be transformed into something new and exciting. Old chairs can be renovated into chic and modern works of art, plastic wire found on the beach may become the stuffing of an enormous whale, and shelves of knick knacks and random articles are ingredients for a beautiful new dish that feeds the community with laughter, surprise and wonder.