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Trash Becomes Treasure for One Thai Artist

BANGKOK (REUTERS).- From custom-built motorcycles to statues of Yoda, one Thai artist is building works of art using scrap metal from Bangkok's garbage heaps, recycling trash to create his very own treasure.

A former woodcarver, Rungroja Saengwongpaisarn began working with metal in 1996 at the request of a patron, soon fusing his passion for conservation with his art and creating a distinctive style.

"It's using metal that was discarded. We are giving the material a new life by using it to create art," the 54-year-old Rungroja said.

Where some see junk, he sees raw material, salvaging discarded car parts and household goods such as woks with his team everyday. The items are then used to craft statues, models and even robots.

An ancient Asian warrior snarls on one side of his gallery, which also contains a toothy dinosaur, elephants and a pensive Yoda.

Recycling has paid off for the sculptor, whose works range in price from $60 to $40,000 and can take anywhere from 3 days to up to one year to complete. One of the more challenging pieces was a three-meter (yard) high robot that weighed about 450 kg (990 pounds).

Finding parts that match his vision can be a challenge.

"The difficult thing is to make the scale of each model, like this one," Rungroja said, displaying a small motorcycle.

"The face of the model is quite meticulous... Different models will require different types of details."

His latest work, a motorcycle dubbed "Pre-Alien," is the third motorcycle he's built. Each takes him about three months to complete and sold his last one to a Japanese collector for more than $10,000.

Rungroja expects "Pre-Alien" to sell for more than $15,000. The motorcycle weighs about 180 kg and can hit speeds of up to 100 kilometers an hour -- not bad for a pile of junk.

(Reporting by Noppawan Bunluesilp; editing by Elaine Lies)

© Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.

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