Artist, extreme sports athlete travels path from Warsaw to Malibu to realize his dreams
Artist and extreme sports athlete Andy Bonder’s unique style and undeniable skill has found a home in Malibu. Recently featured in the “Shifting Tides” art gallery at Malibu City Hall, Bonder’s story is one that began halfway around the world, with a dream of being part of the California culture.
Bonder’s journey that would eventually lead to the sunny shores of Malibu began at just 10 years old, as a novice rollerblader in his hometown of Warsaw, Poland. Inspired by the older children who showed off their rollerblading skills at a skatepark by his school, young Bonder was determined to be among the best bladers at the skatepark.
When his older brother got his first pair of skates, Bonder saw the opportunity to also get skates from his mother. From then on, Bonder fell in love with the sport and quickly developed his skills.
Bonder described rollerblading as a passion, an extension of himself. Despite the danger and risks associated with aggressive rollerblading, Bonder said he is at the greatest ease when on his skates.
“It’s the feeling of freedom, whenever I go skating I feel free. I can express myself with my tricks and it helps me overcome stress. When I’m skating, I feel calm,” Bonder said.
Within the year, Bonder began touring Poland with a team of aggressive rollerbladers, showcasing skills on half pipes and competing in trick competitions against adults.
Despite the success in his country, Bonder dreamed of taking his skill to the United States, specifically the West Coast.
“I loved the California vibe,” Bonder said. “Here, there’s so many places that you can use like a skatepark. It’s the best place in the world for rollerblading. California is where you come to level up your skills.”
As a young adult, Bonder excelled as a student, seeking his next passion. He first completed culinary school at ZSG Pozanańska, becoming an excellent baker, before beginning school at the Film & Television Academy in Warsaw.
Here is where Bonder discovered his next passion, photography.
He quickly began to capture rollerblading from behind the lens and began branching into a new form of expression through his photos. He played with different styles of photography, like action photography, nature photography, and portrait photography.
Naturally, he found a way to express himself through this camera.
“I found that I was taking many different types of photos. I was just very flexible, I shot anything,” Bonder said. “I love photos, I love capturing moments in life, it’s inspiring to me.”
The skillful Bonder now found himself with the desire to chase the American dream and left home to start a new life in the United States. He began his new life on the East Coast, in Brooklyn, New York.
Finding work with a construction company, he first was trained in plumbing, a skill he developed but never truly liked. He found himself taking an interest in woodwork, in the building and assembling of frames for houses.
This began Bonder’s career as master carpenter and wood worksman. A precursor to a future artistic vision and talent.
“I would watch these guys framing houses and I wanted to do that,” he said. “This was my first connection with the wood. It was the smell of lumber that brought me in. I knew then, this is what I like.”
Bonder’s work took him around New York City, building his resume and his skill for three years. He acquired the skills to single-handedly build house decks, patio areas, pergolas, staircases, fencing, bed frames, and much more woodwork. With his wide range of skills and abilities, Bonder finally made the move west, realizing his California dream.
He built a clientele for custom woodwork and began tearing up Southern California skateparks and skate spots. He had become the rollerblading professional that he envisioned back in Poland.
“It’s an adrenaline that takes you to a new level, pushes you to do crazy stuff,” Bonder explained, “but it’s not the adrenaline that makes me do it, it’s the expression,”.
As he balanced his new life in California, Bonder always kept a fascination for wood. He studied the different types of grains, what they meant, how old the wood was, what stories they told, and what stories these discarded pieces of wood could create.
While working, he salvaged scraps left over on work sites, salvaged wood left behind by gardeners around Malibu and even scoured beaches for driftwood. Bonder saw in the wood the stories in the rings left behind by the trees.
His fascination became inspiration when he began to be the storyteller through wood restoration and art. He began his wood arts project and started to bring discarded wood back to life.
Bonder developed a process of carving, shaving, and epoxy restoration that brought the life back into dry, beat-up wood. His work has been shaped in to many different abstract shapes inspired by the nature of Southern California, the sealife off of the California coast, and of course the very shores of Malibu’s beaches.
The work varies in styles, some resembling a caramel marble finish, while others are a glossy amber finish. Bonder uses the epoxy to expose details within the wood, bringing the smallest features up to the surface. The epoxy process accentuates the brilliance of each ring in the wood’s grain, retelling the history of each piece of wood in Bonder’s art collection.
“The process [epoxy] closes everything together,” he said. “It’s like being unable to read written words and taking a magnifying glass to see the story. It brings the grains up to the surface. It compresses and brings out the best of what nature creates.”
Bonder has also created items such as tables and lamps in his signature “abstyle.”
He said his wood arts process most closely resembles the feeling of expression and excitement that he gets from rollerblading.
“Whenever I get hurt rollerblading or can’t skate, I jump right into my art,” Bonder said. “I get the same feeling. I feel the stress go away, I get to express myself, and I connect the same feelings.”
Today, Bonder is happy to have so many forms of expression and said he is excited for the future and the projects he has ahead of him. His journey has taught him a lot but said he is fortunate to be able to put time into all his passions and skills. He said he hopes to inspire others with his work and journey.
“I hope to see the people around me be more creative and build on the skills that they have,” he said. “I hope they don’t feel they just have to be in an office or something like that, they can create and express themselves.”
Bonder’s artistic projects, woodwork and rollerblading content can be found on his Instagram pages, @wood_abstyle, @photo_abstyle, @build_vision, and @wax_everything.