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Archive for the ‘Tiki and Surf’ Category

Surf rock legends The Atlantics are coming to Sydney this weekend! They’re playing Friday night at The Vault in Windsor, and Saturday night at Coogee Diggers. Check out their website www.theatlantics.com for more info.

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Robbie ‘Rat’ Toth is a tiki nut from down Melbourne way. I first met him last year at one of the Sydney Alternative Markets, and it’s safe to say we hit it off straight away – sharing a love of all things tiki and kustom kulture in general.

Robbie has a very nice collection of tiki mugs at home, but apparently this wasn’t enough for this little black duck. No sireee. You see, he had the hankering to have a go at making his own tiki mugs. As you can see from the pics he’s done a pretty damn impressive job of it!

If you’re interested in seeing the full story on his mug making, check out the thread here on Tiki Central where he covers all of his steps – both good and bad! If you’ve ever contemplated making your mugs, it’s a great insight into the process and the pitfalls for a beginner.

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Rob Walker is a Queensland based kustom kulture artist whose work continues to awe and inspire both myself and many others. Not content to stick with one medium, he creates art in a bunch of different forms, and what’s more he absolutely nails each of them. Not only does his work capture the essence of both kustom kulture and ‘50s nostalgia, he still manages to introduce a unique style in his work in a genre where there is so much overlap between other artists’ styles. We managed to tie him down for 5 minutes between bouts of creativity to have a chat with him.

So your brother Pete is a well known photographer in the kustom kulture world, and you’re obviously a massive kustom kulture nut, how did you guys get into it?
I’ll have to point the finger at my dad on this one. Cutting my teeth on his hot rod & restyling mags when we were in single figures set the scene for us. Being taken to school in his souped FJ while standing on the back seat, leaning over the front and watching the magical EK speedo he’d fitted go around, or riding on the tank of his WLA, sans helmet, (goodness, how did we survive) stoked the fires as well. Yep dad was a car nut so I guess it’s in the blood.

What are some of the cars you have built over the years?
I had a 36 Plymouth coupe and a 37 Plymouth sedan when I was 15 that I was tinkering with. I sold them off when I got my license and got into old Holdens. There were a couple of EK’s, my custom being one, FB ute and a sweet 52 Pontiac. Oh and an unfinished 48 Buick in-between.

Out of all of those, what was your favourite and how come?
Easily my EK custom. Had many a great time in that old heap, from running it down the quarter at Surfers Paradise to winning top custom at Wintersun. Sadly it didn’t live to see the custom car renaissance we enjoy now. Poor thing had more hits than Elvis and I’m sure it was possessed.

EKs feature a lot in your art as well. Why about them do you love so much?
Because they were a big part of my life at one point, from becoming a man to almost being killed in one and all the stories in between. Plus there a cool looking car, also, in my painting “summer 1962” (the girl in back of an EK wagon) I wanted to give it an Australian feel. After all, that’s where we are.

And what’s the one car you’d love to build – like what’s your ultimate project?
Well I do like the odd makes but the ultimate for me would have to be a 36 Ford 3 window coupe done 40’s style but different to the norm. Mind you the 46 business coupe I’m doing at the moment will do.

Now getting onto your art, when you did you start playing with it?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing or making something but I guess my focus on art bit hard about 95. The striping since I was apprenticed as a signwriter in the mid 80’s striping and scrolling trucks.

I find with artists there are people who are great at one medium, and those like yourself who excel at many – you pinstripe, paint, build custom cars, and make sculptures as well. Do some mediums come quicker to you than others? Do some mediums suite some moods better than others?
That depends on what my focus is at the time or the idea thats floating around. Sometimes, especially after a couple of reds I think I can get all mediums happening at once. Other times, I’m better off just sitting in front of the telly.

Now you seem like the kind of guy who always has a bunch of projects on the go at any one time. Do you find that motivation to finish them off is hard, particularly when you have newer and better ideas that come along?
I think that’s something most creative people suffer from. You’re creating a masterpiece and while your mind is off in some artistic la la land another idea will pop up and you know you just have to see if it will work. There’s many a half started project in my shed or studio and I’m sure I’m not alone there. Hello. Helloooo. Anybody???????

I’m definitely guilt of that one! Where do you look for inspiration for your art and your cars? What’s the kind of process that happens between having an idea and the finished project – like does it evolve and morph organically or does it usually just come together like you thought it would?
I guess inspiration comes from everywhere. B grade sci fi, art deco, WWII and atomic age styling all play a big part. Usually an idea will go through a series of rough sketches until I’m happy with the layout enough to put it on canvas. Sculpting is different though. The picture is in my head and it’s just created until it resembles what I had in mind. That is if I don’t have any of those interruptions like in the previous question.

As an artist, what do you get out of making art? Why does it make you tick?
I’ve always enjoyed making things, creating something from just an idea, bringing it into the world and showing whoever I have cornered at the time. The thought of inspiring someone tomorrow, or 100 years from now with my art keeps me going.

Following on from that, what do you love about people’s reactions to your art?
The reaction I like most is “I must have it”. I also enjoy seeing people standing around an artwork discussing it, with lots of pointing, pondering, chin cuping and hhmmmm-ing. I had that a lot with my Rosie the Riveter painting.

Any advice or tips for aspiring artists?
Good expensive brushes won’t make you a good painter. If you can, do a course. There’s a lot you didn’t know. Be confident enough to sign a big signature.

If someone is keen to buy some of your art, how can they see some of it/get into contact with you?
I don’t have a website as such. A lot of my art is on the www.pixbypete.id.au website or on my facebook site.

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Vanuatu tiki carvings

I went on a cruise a few years ago which stopped at a few different islands in the South Pacific, and the best quality wood carvings by far were those we saw in Vanuatu. So it comes as no surprise that in the lead up to our recent trip to Vanuatu, checking out the local carvings was high on the priority list.

The most iconic carving in Vanuatu is easily the Tamtam, or split drum. The Tamtam even features on their 500 Vatu note. The drums were used as a communication tool in each village, both to talk to their own villagers but also to spread messages to neighbouring villages. Each face on a Tamtam represents a level of rank or seniority in their tribal system, so a single face represents a small village chief, a couple of faces a big village chief and so on. Likewise, there is also a system whereby the wood carvers must go through a series of steps to earn the right to be able to carve more and more faces on the Tamtams. One source I’ve read claims there are only 1 or 2 people across the whole of the Vanuatu chain who have earned the right to carve a 6 face Tamtam.

Tiki culture in the States is dominated by Hawaiian imagery, however you do see an occasional split drum or similar slip into the mix, but moreso it comes in a PNG style. I reckon that’s a shame, because the Vanuatu style of carving is clean and stylish, and the carving we brought home looks right at home in the tiki room!

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Making a Paipo

Here’s some pics of one of my projects from last summer. It’s a paipo, which is basically a traditional Hawaiian bodyboard. One of the best early accounts of Hawaiian surfing is this excerpt from Lt. James King’s log – from 1778!

“But a diversion the most common is upon the Water, where there is a very great Sea, and surf breaking on the Shore. The Men sometimes 20 or 30 go without the Swell of the Surf, & lay themselves flat upon an oval piece of plank about their size and breadth, they keep their legs close on top of it, & their arms are used to guide the plank, they wait the time for the greatest Swell that sets on Shore, & altogether push forward with their Arms to keep on its top, it sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity, & the great art is to guide the plank so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell, & as it alters its direction. If the Swell drives him close to the rocks before he is overtaken by its break, he is much praised.”


My paipo is made from a timber called Paulownia – it’s nice and light, and even better its naturally salt water-resistant too. With some varnish it also looks pretty neat too!

Using a template, trace the board shape onto the timber.

Cut out with a jigsaw.

Time to get some shape into this plank. From the end you can see the wood to be removed. Use a hand planer for the main shaping and then an electric sander to smooth it off.

This shows the shape of the nose.

Now for some marine grade varnish, this really brings out the grain in the wood.

Watching varnish dry…

This end shot gives you an idea of the profile.

And the finished board.

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This weekend was the first ever Beach Bop, a vintage surf/kustom kulture kinda event at Cronulla. I went along today and it’s fair to say it had more than a shade of a Wintersun vibe to it, and that’s definitely not a complaint!

The venue was fantastic, a small well shaded park at the end of the main drag, and right next to the beach – so shops, restaurants, or a swim were all within spitting distance. Bands throughout the day provided entertainment and also helped give it a great atmosphere. A neat feature was the surf comp that was held as part of the weekend. There was a vintage surf display, which was cool but a little on the small side. The concept was great and it was popular with the crowds, so hopefully we’ll see it expanded in future years – how about another section featuring some original surf art? The show and shine was neat, with about 40 cars or so. And in the spirit of the event, there were some very neat surf wagons in the mix.

All in all it was a great event, especially for the first hit out. I for one will be back next year!

Here’s some pics, I posted a bunch more over on ozrodders.

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This weekend Kustom Kulture Australia hosted the Sydney round of the Tiki Beat tiki carving classes. It was great meeting everyone and Marcus is an amazing carver with boundless skill and carving knowledge, and a great guy to chat to.

Click here to check out Tiki Central for a more in-depth report and more pics.

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