Kata’s Indie Artist Ko-Tuk Transforms Flotsam Into Art

The stark white of the sandy Kata beach contrasts with the greenish blue of the ocean. It may be the loneliest high season ever yet still a few locals can be seen getting a few waves in for their surf session. On land, a man is strolling along the beach, collecting twigs and trash swept in daily by the waves. That man goes by the name ‘Ko-Tuk’.’

EQ ran into Ko-Tuk on Kata beach. His calm and friendly demeanour stood out among beachgoers and made us want to get to know him even more. We finally got invited over to his place where he gave us a tour of his cool, one-of-a-kind artworks.

Getting to know Ko-Tuk

“I’m Ko-Tuk. My real name is Chalong Loysamut. I was born and raised in the Kata beach area. I’m 52 years old.”

His fond memories of Kata

“Kata used to be a clean and quiet beach around 30-40 years ago. The nature was beautiful and litter was nowhere to be seen. I started surfing when I was little. After finishing school and working here and there a bit, I decided to become a full-time beach boy. I opened a surf shop and got back into surfing.”

From litter to masterpieces

“I’ve always liked art and cared about nature. I would comb the beach for trash or wood scraps to make an installation. As for plastic bottles, I would sort them first and later sell them. I begin my day with an hour of morning beachcombing, then open my surf shop. Even when I’m surfing, if I see floating litter, I always try to collect it. When others see me doing that, they would also chip in to help.”

Inventive DIY creations

“I was inspired by some of the artworks that I saw, which were made with recycled materials. I wanted to create my own so I turned twigs and wood scraps into things like paper weights, card holders, containers, and even surf trophies. I’m quite fond of whales and that reflects through a lot of my work. For me, whales are like kind adults. They age gracefully just like myself (laughs). Apart from those, I also used wood scraps to make tables, chairs, and even my own home. My cafe has a lot of decorative pieces made of these scraps.”

Ko-Tuk FC

“Most people who like my work tend to appreciate simplicity and unadorned natural beauty. It’s a kind of art that’s accessible to all. Sometimes a surf brand would commission me to create an installation from scraps. I also got invited as a guest speaker to give a talk to college students on recycled art.”

Art is in the eye of the beholder

“I would say I’m just a normal person, not really an artist. It depends on how people perceive me. I know that I’m passionate about what I do whether it’s sculpture, drawing or photography. My typical day consists of a morning visit to the beach and trash collection, followed by surfing, skateboarding and art making.”

Islander Wood

“I have a shop on IG called Islander Wood. My artworks are priced at 10 baht all the way up to 100 baht. Feel free to DM me if you find anything that’s caught your eye. Every piece is unique in its own way and nothing in the shop is made to order. I don’t apply paint or lacquer to my artworks either because I want them to stay close to their original state as much as possible.”

Upcoming projects

“I want to raise more awareness about turning beach trash into art. If anyone’s interested, please get in touch right away. Or if you want to learn how to surf, we can go collect trash together first and then I’ll teach it for free.”

Ko-Tuk’s words to live by:
“Do what brings you happiness”

Speaking to Ko-Tuk, we could feel his sincerity and down-to-earth attitude bursting out of him. For someone who gets to create and live his best life among nature, this comes as no surprise and further goes to show that happiness is indeed attainable when we get to do what we truly love

Visit Ko-Tuk’s shop at Islander Wood or drop by his cafe equipped with a built-in skate bowl Reun Rom.