sam ashley

Isle x SkatePal:
Nick Jensen Interview

To conclude last year's collaboration with Isle Skateboards, we caught up with Nick Jensen to talk about painting, skating and his work as Isle's Creative Director. Interview by Theo Krish.

Nick and Jacob Harris in Palestine. Photo: Sam Ashley

Nick and Jacob Harris in Palestine. Photo: Sam Ashley

How did the Isle Palestine trip come about in the first place? Was it easy to persuade you to go?

Thats a good point actually. Chris (Jones) was always saying on the Isle WhatsApp group 'let’s go to Palestine!' I kept ignoring it because it was exciting but I’m a bit of a pussy when it comes to travelling. I get really anxious and I felt like it was going to be really intense and stressful leading up to it. Then I realised stop being a fucking pussy it's going to be amazing!

And was it less stressful than you imagined?

Absolutely! It was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on, it wasn’t at all stressful for me, just really thoroughly enjoyable. In my head Palestine was a twelve hour flight away but then I realised it was an Easy Jet flight four hours away. It’s just because so much crazy shit has gone on there that you compartmentalise it and put it in this place in your mind where you think that it's miles away because somewhere so close can’t have that much trauma.

Isle were the first official team to tour the country. So that trip and the way Jake’s portrayed it is the way that other professional skaters...

...will receive the first ever skateboarding on that landscape.

Exactly. People who have never heard of Palestine before are going to discover it through Pieces of Palestine.

Yeah and it looks thoroughly different. It’s got a touch of the Mediterranean, it’s got the Middle Eastern quality, it looks like a bewildering, magical place and I don’t know many other places that look like that in footage.

Nosegrind revert on the Palestinian version of St Paul's chalky walls, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Nosegrind revert on the Palestinian version of St Paul's chalky walls, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Do you think the way Jake's put the video together is going to alienate some people? 

In a way I think Pieces of Palestine challenges the idea of what a skate video actually is. It's really different - it sits in a space halfway between journalism and a skate video. It doesn't lead up to a heroic moment with a 'well done they saved Palestine' or an amazing tre flip down twenty stairs. It's just an intimate portrait of some lads going around Palestine. It's not that straight forward, you don’t go from A to B and get to understand the role of the piece.

I think it's going to cause people confusion on both sides; the skate side and the non-skate side because they won’t necessarily understand what the value of the piece is or what it's designed to achieve. I think that's the whole point of Jake's film, but it will definitely cause a lot of confusion I think.

Since working with Jake on Vase have you left him to do his own thing?

It hasn’t been my place to step in. When we do Isle projects like Transworld (Cinematographer Project) we kind of conceptualise and brainstorm together, but with the Atlantic Drift series it's been one of those things where it’s not an Isle production. So he’s kind of delivering his own vision. 

With Pieces of Palestine, although it was made with Isle, I think we had this understanding that it wasn't a branded piece. So it was more just Jake feeling confident in his style and pushing it in a new direction as a filmmaker in his own right, working alongside but not with Isle. He’s getting stronger in his own vision so he feels more confident in his decision making right now.

Visiting the Samaritan village, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley

Visiting the Samaritan village, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley

Tell us about the history of Isle...

Let me work this out... Isle is about four years old. It started when Paul Shier came up to me, we were skating in Kings Cross and Blueprint was kind of going under due to the recession and loads of things like that. It was getting managed by someone else in the States and it just wasn't working out. Paul quietly said to me ‘would you be interested in starting up a company with me and doing the design work?’ I was obviously excited and said yeah!

Then Sylvain (Tognelli) and I went to LA on a Lakai trip and we’d always stay at Paul's house. Me, Paul and Sylvain sat down and properly discussed it because at that point it was still a bit of a hypothetical option. We worked out a mass quit from Blueprint and orchestrated it that way so everyone could quit at once, so everyone was in the loop. People didn’t know that Isle was going to start but that's a different story. Everyone on the team was over it and it was a known factor that people were going to jump ship. The way it was being run wasn’t the Blueprint it used to be.

But in essence Isle started out of the love of skateboarding, wanting to do something that was different to what was already out there. We felt that we already had that option, trying to show skating in a different way and the design of skateboards in a different way. We had a really strong crew and vibe and it was born out of that connection.

Other than you three had you already chosen the rest of the Isle team before leaving Blueprint?

No, after we quit Blueprint we kind of worked out the team, it happened quite organically and quite slowly even though some people don’t think it did. 

isle_1.jpg

Were you involved in any of the art work in Blueprint before this happened?

No.

So the aesthetic of Isle has no crossover?

Only in that I skated for Blueprint and (Dan) Magee who was the mastermind behind the graphics and all the editing, he was the kind of director and creative for Blueprint and I had a strong connection with him. We used to skate together all the time. So there was definitely a crossover in terms of understanding the value in Britishness. There is a crossover in some ways but for me with Isle it was a case of 'right ok Nick time to do a set of designs'.

I come from a painting background, I generally make oil paintings on canvas. So when it came to doing the designs, I wasn’t very sure on how to use Photoshop. So I just decided to make objects in the same way I make paintings, things that physically exist on the wall and photograph them and use that photograph to turn it into a screen-printed graphic. The first series we did felt really scary to me because I didn’t know if it was good or not. But it got really well received.

Which was the first series?

The studio series, with frames and one had a palm tree with sand on. 

And that was the first time you'd ever designed a board?

Yeah.

Had you ever thought about designing boards for Blueprint?

Not really, I’d never engaged with it. I was into painting and I'd never really thought that painting would physically translate onto a board.

isle_studio_1_Series.jpg

Do you feel differently about that now?

Well I don’t feel that differently about it now, because I still don’t put my paintings on the boards (Editor's note: since this interview was recorded Nick used one of his paintings for Casper Brooker's pro board). 

There have been times where people have said 'oh put that on a board it looks really cool', but I don’t see a link at this stage. For me it was for more just about really engaging with what it means to make a skateboard and I’d never had to think about it in that intense way. I mean it took me a while, about two months, to figure out how to do that for the first Isle series.

So you basically hadn’t considered designing boards full stop…

No, because it takes quite a lot mental energy to consider a concept for a board and I’d never even fantasised or imagined that. It wasn’t in my mind. Until someone said you should do it, it forced me to fully engage with it and think 'ok these are the parameters I have to deal with, these are the problems I need to solve'.

And did Shier fully back your ideas from the beginning?

Yeah he was very trusting, he had no idea what to expect really. We had a chat about it. It was still really very sketchy, it was very like 'what the fuck, what are we going to do for our first series?'. We didn’t really do that much of a brand exercise at the start like ‘this is what we are going to be or this is what it represents’. We tried, but we're skaters, we're not that professional, we don’t know how to work like that. If we did work like that then maybe it would feel more wooden and constructed.

Did the reception of the first series help you to have confidence in your work?

Yeah it spurred me on and actually I’ve just realised that a major point is that I used to run a gallery in my flat and show contemporary art. So I knew what it was like to show work on white walls and organise the work of different artists. I have a massive interest in that world so I think that crossed over into the way I treat the boards, almost like the white wall in my gallery.

That make sense as to why there is a lot of white in Isle’s imagery.

Yeah. That white is supposed to be like a gallery wall. 

Tranquilize, 190 x 140 cm

Tranquilize, 190 x 140 cm

Where does your inspiration come from for art and skating? Is there an overlap between the two?

Yeah definitely. When you see a skater interacting with a space in a way that feels original, that's exciting and it's the same with art really. You see a painting and it has a certain energy to it that you maybe haven’t experienced before. It's a really innate feeling that's difficult to articulate, it's just a drive that makes you think 'I want to be involved in that'.

That's something I get from Isle videos and British skating in general, things feel achievable and that inspires you to go out and skate...

Yeah I think there is definitely that. With Vase I think it came down to the way we made the installations for the video. We were quite happy to reveal the scrappy nature in which they were designed. So you might see the masking tape holding up an object or you might see a finger holding it. It wasn’t about being super slick and professional. It's about the process of an idea just as much as the idea itself. 

For example in art, Picasso doesn't just make a masterpiece. If you go to an exhibition you see all these amazing etchings where he goes through a thousand options before he gets to where he wants to be. There's a lot of working it out and that's what skating is, you don’t just wake up one day and smith grind a twenty stair hand rail. 

Something that really shows this creativity I think is Mike Arnold’s Lloyds part; you can take one area and use your brain and skill and really do some inventive stuff. It doesn’t mean you have to do something super impressive like flying down loads of stairs. You can use the space and do something simple. I think there's a materiality to Isle, bringing things back to basics, nothing is too slick.

Nick & Jake pulling strings behind the scenes in  Vase.

Nick & Jake pulling strings behind the scenes in Vase.

How do you see the work you do for Isle vs your solo work? 

It's just different, tapping into different a world. In skateboarding I’m thinking much more about graphic design. When I’m making a painting I’m not thinking about design at all. So my mindset is in a different space. It's not that one is better than the other, it's just a different mind space, a different channel of thinking. The people I’m inspired by are slightly outside of those graphic-y things or they work well because I love the way they look on canvas which you don't get on a wooden screen-printed board. They're a different medium so I don't try and pretend that they're not.

I guess with skateboards you always have a constant - the shape stays the same whereas a painting can be any shape...

Exactly. You can’t crop a painting to be really narrow and weird unless it's been designed in that way. Also there is the reproducibility of skateboards to consider, you need to make six in every series and quite a lot of them are different designs.

With paintings I don’t think of them like a product. It's a bit more like poetry, you think of ideas and you get it out there and it has a moment in time. It's not reproducible. With boards you're working towards a market of people and what they like. You have to think slightly differently, like is this is going to really ‘pop’ off the board.

In the art world, Ad Reinhardt (abstract painter) could make an all black painting as a declaration of the end of painting, this final black space. The idea is beautifully poetic but that's not going to work on a skateboard. It'd just be black and people aren't interested in that sort of revolutionary concept he was dealing with in the 1960s, people would say 'fuck off'! I want to look at a picture that's going to function on a skateboard that's going to make me want to ride it.

You're thinking about the end user whereas in painting it's more about yourself.

Yes absolutely. Like your theory on your existence. It's a bit more existential, a bit more personal.

Curiosities shelves in Nick's studio.

Curiosities shelves in Nick's studio.

You mentioned before that the Curiosities series was the best selling Isle series? 

Yeah I think they were the best selling because they do a few things really successfully. They allow you to represent different characteristics of the skaters, they play on different shapes, shadows, colours and tones. They're really enjoyable on the eye and as a series they look great together. They interconnect like a jigsaw puzzle.

Yeah they bring a very touchable 3D element. If there's any deck you're going to put on your wall it's one that looks like it was already there.

Yeah. Like Trompe-l'œil, it's an illusion of space.

How'd you come up with that? 

Chris Aylen, Shier and I were thinking about those cabinets of curiosities and we were looking at these old dusty ones in museums. I thought we should do that but in more of a gallery vibe, keeping with the white aesthetic and we made it to scale. We made the shelves. So if you look at the shelves in my studio at the moment they're the same height and width as a skateboard. There's something nice about that relationship between one-to-one ratios. It keeps it real and not about being too illusionistic and show-off-y.

Do you usually design those on your own?

With that series Chris Aylen was very involved with me. We’d spend quite long periods of time at my studio arranging objects on the shelves for that series. As it's gone on our roles have slightly shifted and I'm doing a bit more graphic work. 

How did the Isle x SkatePal Curiosities board differ, did you approach it in the same way?

With this one there was more of a dialogue. Normally it's me and Chris thinking about a skater. With this one it was about speaking directly with you, someone who goes to Palestine all the time and has a working relationship with those memories and ideas, combined with my own experience of what makes a board look cool in terms of colour.

How do you think the board stands up against the others?

Yeah I think it looks like it's just part of series. It doesn't have any thing overtly different in any way. It hasn't got a political agency with it. It's just about objects that remind us of either a person or a place. It serves the same function.

That fits nicely with Pieces of Palestine. What you see on the board is what we brought back from that trip...

Yeah memories as well like, the the Taybeh beer. I have really fond memories of talking with Ala (Hilo) and learning so much about Palestine over a beer in Singer Cafe (Bethlehem). 

Ok moving on. What are the difficulties of being a board company in 2018?

The main difficulty is that the market is over saturated. There are so many companies now that it’s quite hard to compete. It's harder to stand out because everyone can kind of move around a bit and that's acceptable, whereas before it was like companies stuck with one style.

But that's a challenge I enjoy because it means it's a bit more engaging and pressurising to think ‘alright how are we actually going to do something different’. That can be achieved through the skaters, through video editing, it can be through any way in which you represent yourself. 

At the moment you balance your work between running Isle, skating and painting - would you eventually like to be doing Isle full time?

Well I do love doing Isle because it's a bit like letting off steam in a way, but I guess I wouldn't want to do it full time. I wouldn’t want it to overtake painting and skating and become a pure job because it’s just not who I am. I like the fact that it's a bit like a mini family - we enjoy feeding off each others ideas and that way it grows naturally and stays quite organic. It’s exciting and feels flexible in that way. It feels like we can do anything we want. 

And you don’t have the pressure of having to fulfil shareholders wishes or this sort of thing?

Yeah exactly, I think that just wouldn’t feel real anymore.

So on the flip side, would you ever want to do painting full time?

Yeah I would actually. I would like to do painting full time.

Searching for my Shadow, 170 x 130 cm

Searching for my Shadow, 170 x 130 cm

Is that something you’d like to do when you are 'done' being a pro skater?

Well I mean it's just not my choice, because it depends on how successful you are. If I was represented by a really big gallery and people really wanted to buy my work and I could make a living out of it I’d love to, but I can’t choose that. At the moment I don’t make enough of a living out of it to support myself.

What's next for Isle?

What I like about it is that it’s not that planned. It’s up to the team and how we all decide what our next trip is or what our next project is. For me it's about things like the guest series, growing relationships with interesting artists and asking them to design a board.

I think it's really interesting to take people who aren’t necessarily inside the world of skateboarding and get them to think about how their work could fit in that format. It's less insular. Being less tribal about it and getting more people involved helps to break down those barriers down, which for me is quite exciting.

Last Question. How has becoming a father impacted your art and skating?

(Laughs). Well I think it's too early to say ‘cause he’s only a few months old. Not as much as I thought to be honest - it’s been a joy and I’ve still managed to do everything else so I recommend it.

What about the next one?

I think one is enough for now!

Thanks Nick!

Keep up to date with Nick's painting and skating:

nickjensen.co.uk

instagram.com/nick__jensen

 

Isle x SkatePal Launch

In September 2016, Isle Skateboards became the first ever professional skate team to tour the West Bank.

We had a great time showing the guys around and are to proud to collaborate with them on a limited edition Isle x SkatePal 'Curiosities' deck, available in all good skateshops now!

Head over to Free Skate Mag to read an interview with the team about their experience, and check out the film about their trip Pieces of Palestine by Jacob Harris below.

Casper Brooker, Impossible, Bethlehem. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Casper Brooker, Impossible, Bethlehem. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Isle x SkatePal - Curiosities Series - special edition.jpg

Interview:
Abdullah Milhem &
Majd Ramadan

We caught up with Abdullah Milhem and Majd Ramadan, two of the best skaters in Palestine - to ask them about how they got into skateboarding and the impact it has had on their lives.

Abdullah. Photo: Sam Ashley

Abdullah. Photo: Sam Ashley

Ok let's start from the beginning - how did you start skating? What was your first skateboard?

Abdullah: I started skating three years ago, I found a fake skateboard in a second-hand shop in Qalqilya, then I joined a local crew called the X-games team, which were a group of rappers, beatboxers, graffiti artists, free-runners and skateboarders. In 2013 an organisation called Tashkeel donated money for us to build the mini-ramp in Qalqilya. Kenny Reed came to help with the building and he gave me my first real board: a Real deck, Thunder trucks and Spitfire wheels. That year I also met Charlie when he came to visit our ramp in Qalqilya, just when he was starting SkatePal. He was really nice and told me about his projects.

Majd: The first time I saw someone skating in real life I think was in 2012. It was Charlie with his team skating at the plaza (in Ramallah). I was walking by, saw them skating and stopped for a bit to watch them. Charlie was doing a fakie 360 flip or something, but at the time I didn't know what the trick was - I just thought 'wow!'. So I talked to him and now we're friends. My first skateboard was from a toy shop in Ramallah, which now I know was a rubbish board, but at that time it was the best skateboard I could get!

Majd takes the unconventional route at the Plaza, Ramallah. Photo: Emil Agerskov

Majd takes the unconventional route at the Plaza, Ramallah. Photo: Emil Agerskov

You're both from different towns (Qalqilya & Ramallah), what's the difference between skating in these towns? What do your parents think?

Abdullah: I live in Qalqilya, which is one of the most conservative cities in the West Bank. People here (until recently) did not accept anything new, including skate boarding. They used to kick us out of every spot - they hated our guts just for being different. But as years went by they got used to us. Ramallah, however, is considered to be more liberal because of the interaction with the outside world, unlike Qalqilya which is completely surrounded by a wall. So skateboarding in Ramallah grew much faster because people were more welcoming to the sport. My family didn’t like it at first but they got used to it eventually.

Majd: Some people like it but most people think that it's just a toy for the kids. My family don't really like it, they always tell me I should grow up and stuff like that. 

Abdullah - Frontside 180 at the SkateQilya mini ramp, Qalqilya. Photo: Emil Agerskov

Abdullah - Frontside 180 at the SkateQilya mini ramp, Qalqilya. Photo: Emil Agerskov

How did you guys meet each other? Do you think you would have met each other if you didn't skateboard?

Majd: The first time I met Abdullah it was at the SOS skatepark in Bethlehem with SkatePal volunteer Maen Hammad. I don’t think that we would know each other if we weren’t skating! 

Abdullah: I don’t think I would've met Majd if one of us didn’t skate. After meeting at SOS, we had a session in the plaza in Ramallah. Majd had only just started skating by then, but I enjoyed watching him landing new tricks. He is always excited to skate, even though his father doesn’t like it. He is one hell of a skater and I'm glad that I’ve met him!

What impact has skateboarding had on your life?

Abdullah: Skateboarding changed my life. It gave me that sense of freedom that I was dying to have, it changed the way I saw my surroundings: everything turned into a playground. Even the wall around the city is just a sick spot for wall rides! SkatePal also made a huge change as they managed to create a skate scene that we were desperate for. They united all the skaters in Palestine, gave them boards and built skateparks, spreading the freedom and joy of skateboarding.

Majd: To be honest, I wouldn't be skating without SkatePal, especially Charlie and Theo. We don’t have a skate shop here, so my shop is SkatePal haha! They always get me a board when mine breaks, so without them I wouldn't be able to skate! 

What impact do you think Asira skatepark has had on the skate-scene in Palestine? 

Abdullah: It had a huge impact. It created a chance for kids to have a place where they can have fun. It gave them something to do instead of wasting their time just hanging around in the streets doing nothing.

Majd: Yeah I agree. People in Asira love skateboarding so much now! 

Abdullah, you recently helped out teaching with the SkateQilya summer camp with Kenny Reed - how was that? 

Abdullah: It was an amazing experience, seeing Kenny back in Palestine shredding and teaching kids with him was really fun. We had 23 boys and girls skating at the camp every day, which was great. I used to be the only skater in the city, but now thanks to SkateQilya there are a lot of kids skating. It was like a dream come true as I saw girls starting to skate through the streets of a conservative city. We're hoping to create a better future for the kids who are trapped inside the walls of the Israeli occupation.

Photo: Emil Agerskov

Photo: Emil Agerskov

How has SkatePal evolved since you got involved?

Abdullah: It has been an amazing experience working with SkatePal. I've met so many people from around the world who came to teach kids here. It's been great introducing them to our culture, and telling them stories about the people of this country. I’ve made a lot of great friends, and I was able to see how skateboarding brings people together and brings joy to oppressed people.

You both came skating with the Isle team when they were in Palestine. What was it like skating with them? Would you like to see more pro teams visiting the West Bank?

Abdullah: It was mind blowing! I couldn’t believe it at first - watching them land one banger after the other. It was good for the skate scene because people were able to see that skating is not just a game but rather a way of life, something that adults do as well as kids. We hope to see more pro teams in the West Bank, because it would inspire and motivate us Palestinian skaters, knowing that we are not alone. Also when pro teams come it brings more attention to the skate scene in Palestine and the Palestinian issue in general.

Majd: It was awesome to have a pro team like the Isle crew in Palestine. It meant a lot to me, but to be honest I didn’t skate much during the sessions, I just sat down and watched them do crazy stuff that I’ve never seen before except in videos haha! I would like to see more teams like that in Palestine for sure!

Chiling with the Isle team in Ramallah. 

Chiling with the Isle team in Ramallah. 

Majd & Chris Jones

Majd & Chris Jones

Why do you think skateboarding is important for boys and girls in the West Bank?

Abdullah: It is important because it’s self-liberating and is a peaceful way of resistance. It sends a message to the world that no matter what happens, we will live our lives like normal people. We are human beings who deserve to live.

Majd: I think the most important thing is the feeling of freedom. Even if I was feeling sad, I just pick up my board and go skating and have fun. I don't know what else to say!

What are your hopes for the future of skateboarding in Palestine? 

Abdullah: I hope to see more people skating, more skate parks and maybe a skate shop. It might be hard but hard isn’t impossible.

Majd: I hope that skateboarding get much bigger and better in the future here in Palestine! 

What are you doing now / planning next? 

Abdullah: Next year I'm hoping to study Film in the US. I dream of travelling the world, sharing the stories of Palestine through film.

Majd: Right now I’m studying in Birzeit university.

What trick are you learning right now? 

Abdullah: Lazer flips and they are a pain in the ass!

Majd: I'm working on inward heel flips and nollie bigspins.

Almost done, how would you describe Charlie?

Abdullah: A great friend who dedicated himself to spreading the freedom of skateboarding.

Majd: I will describe Charlie later hahah. I love him.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Majd: I would say thanks for everyone that makes this happen. So much love from Palestine! 

A few quick ones with @majdramadan3 at the Plaza #ramallah #skatepal

A post shared by SkatePal (@skate_pal) on

It counts! More stunts from @majdramadan3 at the Plaza #ramallah #skatepal

A post shared by SkatePal (@skate_pal) on

Thanks guys! 

Keep up to date with Abdullah and Majd on instagram:

www.instagram.com/majdramadan3

www.instagram.com/a_milhem40

Isle Skateboards visit Palestine

This month we welcomed the Isle Skateboards team to Palestine for a week long tour of the sites, sounds and skate-spots of the West Bank! 

The guys skated with the kids at our skatepark in Asira Al-Shamaliya, as well as visiting spots in Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem. Special thanks to Chris Jones for making the trip happen (and congratulations on turning pro!). 

Check out some behind-the-scenes pictures from the trip, and look out for an article and video about their experience dropping in Free Skate Mag soon!

SML Wheels Interview
Aaron & Ariel Wilson

To celebrate the launch of our new collaboration with SML Wheels, we chatted to Aaron Brown (SML) and artist Ariel Wilson, to find out what drives their work and what inspired them to get involved with SkatePAL. 

Aaron Brown Interview

Tell us about the history of SML, when did you guys start out and what was the idea behind it? 

I feel like the history of SML is kinda long so I'll keep it short. I've always had random companies since I was in Jr High. Once I got into High School I started working at Liberty Boardshop and saw a whole new world of skateboarding. I was so fresh haha. Liberty is where I met everyone. At one point James, Austyn, Rob, and myself have all worked there.

Once I got a job at Liberty I started hanging and filming a bunch with James Craig, Gershon Mosley, Danny Garcia, and Ronnie Creager.  Once Austyn was old enough (13) we let him start cruising with us. too We would make these crew videos called "Razor Sharp" and have a party for the premiere when somebody's parents went out of town. After hanging/ filming with James long enough I turned into the Blind filmer, James and I would pretty much skate every day all day together. 

Fast forward a couple years, James and I are skating/ filming and are having a really good day. He gets some tricks and we decide to call it and give our friends a call to play poker. We all meet up at James house. This is before your emails went straight to your phone and I remember James would check his email everyday as soon as we walked in the door from skating. So we're all in a good mood starting to get the cards out, grabbing beers and stuff and I just see James' face changing as he's reading an email. He let's us all read it and its this super generic office space-type email thanking him for his services at Bones wheels and saying that he wasn't needed anymore. It was straight copy and paste style.

We later got to the bottom of it and there was a certain Bones rider who didn't think James was "Elite" enough. A couple days later one of our friends that rode for Bones told them he was going to quit because they kicked off James, Bones called James and asked him back on the team but it was too late we already started brewing up SML. I think James still has that email haha. 

Chris Jones, Hippie Jump in Athens. Photo: Sam Ashley

Chris Jones, Hippie Jump in Athens. Photo: Sam Ashley

You've got a pretty diverse and heavy hitting team, with Chris Jones and Tom Knox holding down the London connection - how did you guys all meet and get involved together? 

Yea its pretty much my dream team of skateboarding minus a few. I love all these dudes styles, tricks, spots they do the tricks at, and just the overall way they look at skateboarding. As for the London crew, Chris Jones was the first London dude we got on the team. That happened through Wes at Rock Solid. Wes shares a similar perspective on skateboarding as us and knows what we like. He showed us some footy and I passed it around to the team and they were down. Tom came on after Chris, to be honest I'm not sure if Chris or Wes talked to him or if he reached out but I'm super stoked that he's on.

Mike Arnold is the latest guy on the team and is from the London area [Bristol - ed.] as well. All these dudes are so fun to watch. I trip out everyday when I see the people that ride for SML.

What made you want to do the SkatePAL wheel? Did you know much about Palestine or the charity before getting involved?

We're always down to give back to skateboarding any way we can. Us being a small company its hard for us to do that sometimes. Chris brought SkatePAL to our attention and let us know what you guys do and that he's a part of it. He thought it could be cool to do something together. Any time a team rider brings something to my attention that is important to them I'm always down to try and make it happen. We all got copied on an email and it just went from there. Now we got a rad wheel collaboration and some new friends! 

Is this a full time job for you? What are you up to when you're not working on SML?

SML is a full time job but we have yet to pay ourselves haha. It takes up a considerable amount of time and everything just goes back into the back account for the next season or whatever comes up in between. I'm really lucky that I'm able find work in the skate industry. When I'm not working on SML I'm usually filming or editing, thats how I pay my bills.

I mostly film and edit skateboarding stuff for different companies, but I've done a bunch of random stuff. I do behind the scenes stuff for Snoop, a lot of videos for Rastaclat, some stuff of models, I did this 13 day time lapse for this artist DFACE which was pretty fun. I was doing some stuff for this headphones company for a bit so we'd shoot a lot of NBA players. Went to Eddie Murphy's house to shoot a little Christmas video of him and his family. It's all random and fun. 

What is the importance of 'play' to you? Both in your work and the world in general… 

It's kinda hard for me to put into words. I'm fortunate enough that my work is my play and play is my work. I'd go crazy if there wasn't an element of fun to everything I do, that's what keeps me going. New, fun, and exciting. I guess you could say everyday is a Monday or everyday is a Saturday depending on how you look at it haha.

What's next for SML?

Next for SML is just trying to put more work and energy into it. I feel like we could do so much more that this is only the beginning. Everyone in the SML family is stoked and ready.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Have fun, be happy.

Ariel and Olive in the studio

Ariel Wilson Interview

Tell us about your background - how did you end up getting involved with designing skate wheels and what's your link to SML?

I’m a freelance illustrator/designer based out of Long Beach, California. Working freelance has been great because I get to work in a lot of different modes, and with a lot of different people. I got involved with SML after Aaron saw my work on Instagram and reached out to me. The brand seemed like a natural fit for my work and they are all really great guys so I was grateful and excited to work with them. When I’m not working from home I teach art to residents of a treatment centre for at-risk and special needs youth. I also try to squeeze in time for personal projects and painting. I’m never bored and get to live off of my favourite hobby so I’m thrilled.

You obviously do a lot of pretty varied work, including wheels, board designs but lots of stuff outside skateboarding too. Where does your inspiration come from for your designs? 

I’m really drawn to work that has a story or a unique point of view, and most of my stuff has an underlying narrative quality. I love storytellers. In keeping with that I’m really inspired by folklore, personal or communal histories, and memories. Most of the work I do outside of the skate industry is for non-profits or small businesses. 

What's different or difficult about designing for a skate wheel over doing something for print etc?

So much! Any time you are designing something you have an allotted amount of design “real estate” to work with, and the real estate for wheels can be tricky for me. For one thing they are small, or in this case SML (sorry couldn’t resist) which means you can’t get crazy with tiny detail that won’t translate well in printing, and on top of that there’s a hole in the middle of the design. Most of my work tends to fit in a perfect square so designing in a circle is a fun challenge.

What made you want to get involved with the SkatePAL wheel. Did you know much about Palestine or the charity before getting involved?

I do a lot of illustration work based on different cities/cultures, primarily because it creates a situation where I have to do mini research projects on different places around the world. It’s like a fun homework assignment for me to learn about stuff I might not otherwise. I try to take all that research and translate it into simplified icons that are easily recognised by people that know the place well, while also easily understood by people who don’t know the place. I didn’t know about SkatePAL prior to working on the wheel. When asked to design something for you guys it seemed like a fun opportunity to do a little research, but this time for a great cause rather than for my own amusement. Win Win.

What are you up to next?

I’ve spent the last 6 months working on making an art book that explores the relationship between skateboarding and art. In the first half of the book I Interviewed some of my favourite artists who skate, and included images of their work. The second half of the book is a collection of collaborations between me and a few skate photographers. I made gouache paintings from their photographs and then fused painting/photo together. Right now I’m working on finalising edits on the first proof, and trying to organise an art show/book release somewhere in Long Beach by the end of summer. Aside from that, lots of fishing and camping.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I think kids having an outlet/mode of expression is one of the most important things in helping them grow into well rounded and thoughtful adults. So I admire and respect the work that you guys are doing and am grateful to be involved! Cheers, Ariel.

Thanks Aaron & Ariel! 

Join us for the SkatePAL x SML Wheels launch event at Brixton's Baddest Skateshop, this Thursday 6th July, 7pm.

The SkatePAL x SML wheel will be available in the UK via Rock Solid Distribution. A portion of sales from the wheel will go towards helping us build more skateparks in Palestine.

Look out for the SkatePAL x SML Wheels edit coming soon!

www.instagram.com/smlwheels

www.instagram.com/arielnwilson