Snarkle Talks: Episode 03 (The One Where We Chat About Kendama Art with Tyler Barnhouse)



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In this episode, Kellie Kawahara-Niimi sits down with Tyler Barnhouse, the creative mind behind Art of TB and a pioneer in the kendama community. They discuss the journey of blending art with the skillful play of kendama, the importance of community support, and what the future holds for artists in this space. Tune in for a deep dive into creativity, innovation, and the passion that fuels it all.
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Kellie Kawahara-Niimi (00:01.678)

Aaaand… Actual recording is higher quality. It looks like we're rolling. 


It always is higher quality. We're high quality artists.

(Peppy Intro Music) 

Kellie Kawahara-Niimi (00:21.358)

Hi, it's Kellie, your host on this wild ride and that one friend who never ventures far without their trusty security beverage in hand. 

Welcome back to Snarkle Talks, the podcast that peels back the curtain on the world of kendama, shining a spotlight on its potential, not just as a skill toy, but as a vibrant canvas for innovation and creativity. Today, we're deep diving with a guest who's not only the goat in the world of kendama, but someone who's truly redefined what it means to blend artistry with play. Tyler Barnhouse, the creative force behind Art of TB and Player for Lovelace Kendama, has been carving out new paths in the Kendama community for over a decade. Tyler's work is a beacon for those of us who find joy at the intersection of creativity and skill. From designing mesmerizing Kendama tricks that defy expectations, to creating artwork that captures the imagination, he shows us time and again how passion and persistence can pave the way for innovation and growth. 

In this episode, we're peeling back the layers of what it means to be an artist within the Kendama community. It's a space where support isn't just appreciated, it's the life blood that fuels our creative fires. We'll explore the unique challenges and triumphs of expressing oneself through art in Kendama, how we cherish the support of our community, and where we envision the art world moving to in the future. 

But before we dive in, I want to drop a quick note about some projects that Tyler, Ray, our Snarkle Talks editor, and I have gotten the works. First up, Snarketing, our take on giving Kendama businesses, artists, and players a megaphone into the digital realm. 

Secondly, Snarkle Talk Squawk Box, a mobile podcast booth, is having its test run in a few weeks at LVKO, where you can have the opportunity to record your own podcast episode. Listen to the end of this episode or see the show notes for additional info. 

Now, without further ado, please join Tyler and I as we dig into some unanswerable questions that plague us, our career and our existence. and may or may not be a constant mental and emotional weight that we ponder over every day of our lives. I swear it's way more fun than it sounds. 

Welcome to Snarkle Talks, where every conversation is an existential crisis wrapped in cotton candy. 

We're fine, I swear.

(Transition music) 

Kellie Kawahara-Niimi (03:02.478)

I was hoping that you could introduce yourself. I would love for you to say your name, your pronoun, and what color would you be if you were a color right now? 


Okay, so my name is Tyler Barnhouse. I go by he, him pronouns. And if I were a color today, I'm feeling something bright. So we'll go with golden yellow, like really. We got the energy. It's bright, it's radiant. That's how I'm feeling today. It's a good day. It's a good day to have a good day. 


I love that. I love... It sounds sunshiny! 

Let's jump into what you like to make as an artist, what types of mediums you enjoy, and how you came to be a Kendama artist. 


So, me as an artist, I feel weird quantifying myself in any genre. I work a lot in acrylics in various shapes and sizes, whether it be acrylic on canvas, things like that, or I've been branching out into the Dama art with my cup art, but I really try not to box myself in. So I've really recently been trying to push my comfort zone on where I apply my creative boundaries, but revolves somewhere around acrylics and ink and things like that. 

How I came to be a kendama artist, it was never a thought for me to go out and be like, yeah, I'm going to be a kendama artist. But I remember just before, I want to say it was Battle at the Border, I was thinking there's got to be a way to like personalize my kendama. So to take the stress off of it, why not doodle on it? Why not like make this my own thing? I looked at my kendama I was using and doodled this little guy on the face, a little reminder, just have fun and to stay home. And so for me, when I was up on stage, I was playing, had these little grounding things on my can and something to kind of differentiate my setup from the person next to me. And then I guess people kind of started liking it. And so I started doing cups for the homies and I started tagging other people's cups and things like that. And then one thing led to another. And I've always kind of been an artist. I'd studied art for years. So the two kind of came together under the the Instagram alias now Art of TB. 


Yeah, the way that you started doing kendama art for the homies. What does it mean to you to have that type of community? People who not just are your friends and seek you out, but like people who just play kendama now know who you are. And what is that like for you? 


Oh, it's, It's insane. So I've been playing kendama. I've been a part of the community. Ballpark 11 years. So I've been that fan. I've been and I still am like, it's crazy being so invested in the community as just like a fan of it and doing the things that I do to enjoy being a part of that community. And now seeing the love that I put out in the community start coming back my direction. That's just like, it's mind boggling to me because it's all fun. Like hanging out with people, doing some art for them, like tagging up their setup right in front of them, handing it back, getting the input. It's cool to make those relationships because I'm frequently on the other end of that, of like talking to the people that I see a lot of inspiration in and I see a lot of drive to be up among the ranks of these guys that I've put on pedestals for years. So now to start kind of seeing even if it's something small, it's something as simple as like, you're Tyler, right? What? You know me? Like, it's been fun. So that's getting to meet people through the community like that. I've always had a lot of love for the Kendama community. And now for people to kind of appreciate the stuff that I'm doing, it just takes it even a step further. Yeah.


Yeah, the love and appreciation is so validating for the work that we do. And it's the thing that keeps me going sometimes. Like I love art. But when somebody loves my art too, I'm like, oh, I'm not just putting things out into the void. That makes me feel so good about the things that I do. Right. And so having the community kind of rally around you is the coolest feeling. It's insane.

Kellie Kawahara-Niimi (07:56.75)

I think there's a lot to say about how to take your art from...from from doing fan art. It's like you go from fan art to original art and I I bounce back and forth now between the two, but you came out just doing original art and that is getting traction and doing really well. And how do the other artists in the community like who are the other artists in the community that you really love. They are your peers that work alongside you or the ones that you had put on pedestals. 


So I think the first kind of taste I had for like, oh, you can be in the kendama scene, but not just be like the sickest player and like be a creative that people respect was like back in the day, Sourmash was that dude. Like he, he still is like there's echoes and rumors and legends kind of floating around because people don't really see me kind of comes out of the woodworks now but back in the day sound match was that dude and then guys like Brian Hansen who had a at least in my head was one of the first guys to get like an actual sponsored custom through kendama usa and seeing other artists kind of be put on these paths of like they make this part they make these things people really like them they want to be a part of that saga that energy around being a creative in a kendama space. Now seeing dudes like Ghost Town, he's been killing it nowadays with stuff outside of just the kendama realm, going in and doing work for murals across the US, doing just all these projects, selling his actual art that's unrelated to kendamas. That's super inspiring. And then, um, Luzumaki, he creates this world within worlds that I just find so fascinating. You see a pattern, you see a text, you see a design, you instantly know who that is. So even drawing inspiration from artists, not even in kendama, I'm just always trying to find inspiration as it strikes me. So, but I even find like, I'll post new kens that I'll do and new art that I put up. And then I've been tagged and like inspired by T Barnhouse. Like I'm doing this now in my own Ken's. And if anything, that gets me more juiced cause it's like, Oh, well now you're creating because I created. Well, if I'm now a source of inspiration for you. Now I need to keep going. And it's this cool kind of run around of like everyone's inspiring everybody. And it's, it's fun. It's really fun. I think to kind of sum that up, there's inspiration everywhere. You just got to be ready to look at. 


Yeah. As a person who you feel like you're starting out in kendama art, say someone else who wants to get into art, how would you say they should jump into it? How do they find community? How do they find mentorship. Sure. What does that look like? And what was your journey like? 


I'll attack my kind of approach to it. And it'll probably foray into advice at some point. For me, it was really about taking my ideas, taking my creative drive and taking the art that I've made for myself first and foremost for years. And taking the leap of faith in putting the confidence behind my work that I see these other artists do. And for me, that was something I struggled with for a very long time. Just being able to like, oh yeah, I made art, but like, you don't have to look at it if you don't want to. And I still kind of hold that same sentiment, but you kind of just got to do it. I know that that's an answer that a lot of people probably don't want to hear. That's not the answer that I wanted to hear, but it's what I did and what I'm realizing kind of works. If you want to be one of those guys doing the things, you have to do the thing.

If you say it with your chest and you believe the stuff that you make is sick, you will get a thousand people saying otherwise. But when you find that one person that rocks with it, pay attention to why, because it is kind of, there's no rhyme or reason, at least from what I've gathered, it's really just always be creating and just dive in, immerse yourself in it. Because if it's something you really love doing, it doesn't feel like work. So putting in the extra effort to try to...find people in the community or put yourself out there a little more. It's intimidating, it's scary as hell, but if you just a little bit of effort, just a little bit each time, you'll eventually put yourself out there and position yourself in a way that people might take notice to it. And if they don't, that's fine, just keep grooving, because eventually it will happen. Like, don't get discouraged, just kind of keep making stuff for you first and foremost, and eventually, whatever impact you want to make, I'd be willing to bet will come into fruition.

It's just got to take a little bit of time. So there's, there's advice somewhere in there, probably. 


Yeah. Um, the thing that I heard, and I am this way, I am a person who has to run at the cliff in order to jump. And that's how I make the art. That's how I make the post, right? I'm like, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, I'm just going to run at it. And then, and then you do it. And once you do that enough times.

it gets a little bit easier. Yeah. And so there's a practice in actually doing the thing. Totally. And then the other thing that I'm hoping you'll talk about a little bit more is how do you ask for advice? How do you approach your the people that you look up to your idols? Like, do you do that? Do you talk to them? Do you ask them what their techniques are? Like, how do you approach somebody to talk to them about that? 


For me, it's funny because I usually come at it first as I'll admit off -rip, like I've been following you for years. Like, it's great to finally have the conversation, have the ability to meet you and like hang out in this fashion. And I think if you approach anybody, acknowledge that they're people as well. If you just have a human to human conversation with them.I think that gets invaluable. From there, you can kind of take the conversation as you want. But I think above all else, just like the old adage, do unto others as you wish they would do to you. Be respectful and show you're excited to like have that conversation. Because I think the energy going into it will end up paying yourself back at the end of that. Just because being on the artist side of that, I am always down to talk to people, but it makes it so much more fun when there's like an eagerness to talk in both directions.

Kellie Kawahara-Niimi (14:52.718)

Yeah, I am a person who loves when people ask me questions. Yeah. Because to me, it tells me that they paid attention to my stuff enough to want to know more. Yeah. And I get that there are people who like to keep their techniques close, but I'm just too excited. Like I want to tell people, ask me, I worked really hard on this thing. Of course. Talk about it. Yeah. So I love when people have that enthusiasm because then it does get to go both ways. 


Totally. One thing that I've always tried to do as a fan is to pay attention to little things so that when you have those conversations and you're in those situations, you can call back and be like, oh yeah, that one Tama you did in like 2018, I thought that was sick. And that immediately cues people in like, Yeah, you respect the craft. You respect what we've been doing as a creative. I understand the length it takes for people to get to where they see as their end goals. So I like you, I'm an open book. I use all of the cheap stuff. For me, the tools and the things like that are not what make the art. It's being able to take what's in here and translate it into the real world. And however that happens however it happens. So having the conversations with other people, I think are exciting because you get some insight, you might find something you will never even thought of have you just been stuck in your own ways and plugging and chugging on the same stuff that you've been working on. Yeah. 


If an individual like a person or even a business wanted to help support their local artists, not just giving you money, but even just cheering you on, what could people or businesses do to help invest in our communities. 


I think a great way for that to happen, just share and provide a platform. Something as simple as a like, comment, and share. When that's our livelihood, that's huge. Something as simple as reaching out, providing encouragement, providing a platform, a repost would be huge. And it costs no money and takes 10 seconds. It's really invaluable. The little things like that go a long way to promote people like us who kind of thrive off of that exposure. Because exposure, at least in my head, is one of the biggest assets you can have as an artist. So I would say really just making an effort to connect with people would really be doing a lot. 


Yeah, I think that as visual artists on platforms like Instagram, we have this tug back and forth between, I don't want to live my life by the likes I get. And also, my work is visual and I need people to look at it. Yeah. Right. The work that I do is meant to be consumed by an audience. And so having people like or share is really important because I need people to look at it. It's a whole catch because you don't want to be a slave to the likes. But when that's what puts your stuff out there. Not that you have to be, but it doesn't hurt. Like it doesn't, it doesn't. And the audience doesn't need to be big. Right. It needs to be, um, homey. I don't know how to say that part. 


Yeah. I would take a hundred people who actually interact and give a rip about the things that I do over a hundred K bots. That's at least in me, that's a no brainer. I've always been a quality over quantity type guy. And that holds especially true in the community and following that I try to curate with the things that I do in a public eye. I don't need all of the things. I just want good ones. Whether that be people around me, whether that be the things that I do and use and consume and things like that, that's always been huge. Finding ways to keep authenticity high. 


I feel like there's like a, not a new wave, but there's...been a progression of artists that have come in to the community and we're building a new renaissance maybe of kendama art. It feels like there's like a bloom of artists that are coming out and it's amazing. Oh yeah. Where do you think the community is heading and how do we shape it to be the dream? What's the dream? How can we get there? Yeah.

Tyler: (19:36.11)

I agree that it's been sick to see all these people flocking to Kendama. I think taking a step back and looking ahead, I think this influx of artists and creatives in the scene is going to be huge. And I think it's going to be huge for the community to see the artists that they connect with and show support and grow them to that extent. As with anything, there's going to be people who...kind of fizzle out in the process. But I don't think that should be discouraging. I think that's just a natural part of growth. But I would encourage anybody to kind of keep with it, keep making things and keep sharing the love that you have for kendama art community, the whole nine, because I personally don't see why there isn't a reason kendama can't be as big as it once was. If not surpass that, make it even bigger. Like, skateboarding in the early 80s. There was a large influx of people getting in and doing their own stuff and paving their own lanes and look at it now. Skateboarding is an Olympic sport that has these multimillion dollar athletes with these crazy deals and all this stuff. It all starts back on people drilling roller skates into the bottom of surfboards. Without the heartbeat of the people, it would have never gotten to the point that it's at now. Kendama started out back in the 18th century as like, this rank you think little thing, but look where we've got now. It's a global sport with a global fan base. Why not keep it rolling? Bringing it back to where we started with this. I think us as artists have a responsibility to keep being weird and keep being unique and like really widen the amount of accessibility in terms of aesthetic interpretations of things. There's. no reason we can't just keep doing us. And as other people come into the community, into the space, I encourage them to do the same. This mass influx is going to be great. I see it as an open sea for us to kind of just explore. 

Kellie Kawahara-Niimi (21:57.966)

I think you said a lot of really cool things in there. One of the takeaways that I got is this idea that rising tide raises all boats type deal where There's space for all of us at the table because we all do different things. There are a thousand people who have a thousand different tastes and they're going to like a thousand different artists. Yeah. It's not that we're fighting for the same audience. It's we're looking for our specific audience. Right. And that that allows us if we collaborate, if we learn from each other.I think there's no reason why we can't grow. Totally. Like you said. But the way that we creatives can think outside of the box is the thing that keeps us innovative. It's the thing that keeps us exploring and experimenting and making things fresh and new, which is why we have different paints now, right? Different clear coats, different shapes. Oh yeah. is because somebody had an idea and they ran with it and there was a community that wanted it. 


It's fun. There's a lot of opportunity where we're at. Putting it in a Renaissance period is a very good way to quantify it. That is a great place to put where I feel we're at. That this is only the beginning. At least if I have anything to say about it, I'm excited. 


Yeah, I am too. And I am really excited for the things that you're going to do and make. Will you please tell the people where they can find you. 


So my personal Instagramis @t_barnhouse – like the two words barn house. It's my last name. Got it for my birthday. Shout out my parents. But then my art account is me and my team. We're now Art of TB,@art_of_TB. We just started a YouTube channel under the same name. So go check that out if you haven't yet. I'll plug lovelacekindama on the player for them as well. So lovelacekindama on Instagram, join the Discord, get in there as well. Another place to connect with me and a bunch of other people. Yeah, is we are here. This is what we're doing. 


Yeah, the lovelacekindama is a great community and it's a lot of fun. There's tricks that you can do every week. 


Yeah, weekly trick challenges, weekly inspiration, as well as being able to talk to other people. It's one of my favorite Discord's I'm a part of. Unbiased, but Yeah. Okay. Thank you so much. No, of course. Thanks for conversating. It was fun. Woohoo!

(Transition Music) 


Again, big big thanks to Tyler Barnhouse for all the insights and nuggets of wisdom. For all of the links, check the description. Also, a huge thank you to you, our listeners, for hanging out with us for another episode of Snarkle Talks. It's honestly been a blast to put these together and we've had some amazing feedback already. If you like what you heard today, do us a huge favor. Hit the dings and dongs that keep you connected to us. Leave a review, tell your friends, all the things.

All of it helps us reach more people and keeps the community growing. Now, the exciting news. Next month, April, 2024, depending on when you're listening to this, come see Tyler, Rae, Seth and I at Las Vegas Kendama Open. We had a whole episode with Bretton Kelvin, the organizers of LVKO on our last episode. So go check that out after this. But Art of TB and Snarkle Rocks will be vending at LVKO with some new fantastic merch. 

Plus, plus we'll be testing out our new mobile podcast recording setup. We've lovingly dubbed it the Snarkle Talk Squawk Box. We'll link to some preliminary info in the show notes, but if you've ever wanted to record a podcast, this might be a great fit for you. 

In addition to the Squawk Box, Tyler, Fae, and I are also putting our heads together to launch a new project called Snarketing– a new social media management studio specifically for kendama businesses, artists, and players. We're looking for ways to help you boost your online presence and to help show off all your talents with the world. Links to our offers will also be in the description below. 

Lastly, before we go, did you know that mantis shrimp deliver lightning fast strikes that are so powerful it causes the surrounding water to boil creating destructive bubbles through a process called cavitation, which is believed to aid them in breaking apart prey like snails. Cavitation, while seemingly benign, can cause significant damage and has been known to destroy ship propellers and other underwater equipment. So no fist bumpies for a mantis shrimp. 

Thanks for listening to Snarkle Talks. Remember, the kendama is not always greener on the other side it's greener where you lick the bevel. Keep doing the weird thing and we'll catch you later. Bye!

Rae (27:10.638)

Snarkle Talks is brought to you by Kellie Kawahara Niimi, generally in charge of things and speaker of many words, Seth Niimi, producer and probably not imaginary co -host, and Rae Maxwell Ross, producer, sound editor, and goblin. Music for Snarkle Talks is R .S .P. by Pow Music.