Trashfilter: I grew up skating here in the UK in the 1980s: the first time I would’ve been aware of your work would have been around the time of the early Bones Brigade videos. The Bones Brigade Video Show, Future Primitive, Animal Chin… those had a huge impact on us here.
Being so distanced from what was going on in the US, we knew we were missing out on a lot of the important events of the past. Some of us managed to piece it all together over time, but I would think that a lot of today’s skaters here were brought up to speed with the Dogtown film. Were you guys aware of the international impact you’d had decades before that film came out?
CR Stecyk: Crews of international denizens would come through the Zephyr shop so in a sense there was a tinge of awareness. But in those early days everyone was just trying to get equipment that worked. I don’t think anybody thought much about movements, public awareness of the activity or the longevity of it.
We really wanted to build a new business model to get into these product and distribution areas, and we thought it was a good idea to build a bridge for the consumer to extend the relationship with our brand to an new environment and sport while still playing to our core skills. The idea to work with Burton was a natural one, as a market leader, we wanted to partner with a brand that brought the same level of impact. Burton is the leader and arguably the founder of snowboarding, as we are in the world of sports. In the end I think Burton also felt like a natural fit, as they seek to push opportunities to extend their brand into the street in an impactful way.
When I think back to us skating with our little homegrown scene back in 1985 or 86, scrawling ‘Dogtown’ or ‘Locals Only’ on our salvaged decks, it makes me smile now. We were clueless, but we knew something was going on. The passing around of the term ‘DIY Culture’ is something I’ve picked up on recently – after all, the media love to label everything – but surely it was just a way of life for you guys back then. If you don’t have it, you make it. And then you use it. When did you start foraging to make your own skateboards and surfboards?
Scavenging and repurposing were the rule. I came of age in the late ‘50s. This was during the steel wheeled roller skates nailed to 2” x 4” pieces of wood phase. There weren’t any skateboard products yet. I would make the rounds of the alleys looking for scraps of wood, cast off roller skates and shoes. Oak dresser drawer fronts provided usable blanks. Good shoes were difficult to come by. One day I came up on some great used Converse Deck Stars in the refuse piles down where the yachtsmen came ashore. Apparently the well-outfitted crews tossed out any soiled shoes because they were an affront to the Commodore and the yacht club member’s refined sensibilities. That discovery served me well for many years! Fish guts and grease only served to make free skate shoes that much better.
Film and cinema have always been a part of surfing and skating, but now it’s far more exposed to a mainstream audience. The angry teenager in me still wants to shake my head solemnly, but the reality is that a lot of money has been put into showcasing great unseen skaters and encouraging younger kids to start skating. Do you think the involvement of big brands and media outlets has diluted things down? Or should we all be taking advantage of it after being shunned for so long?
Marketing titans try to quantify the efforts and accomplishments of individuals in order to reduce autonomous beings and independent action into acceptable commodities. Intelligent one-off design solutions force fed into mass production cookie cutters do not a renaissance make. Technology today allows films to be made and distributed on cell phones and operas to be created entirely on tabletops. You can foster revolution from a mobile base. Because of this anyone can do everything themselves from anywhere. Command and control structures are resistant to this groundswell of change, but there is nothing they can do. Ateliers will proliferate as a result. The best playground is already the gutter and the best art is on the avenues. So big brands are doomed to succeed or fail on their own merits. They cannot corral the activity or adapt it to suit their own purposes. Skaters control their individual fates. I think this unbridled information exchange is healthy. Skating evolves and always prevails.
Trashfilter: You’ve worked with Lance Mountain on a few things, but clearly your friendship with him goes way back. When did you guys first meet?
CR Stecyk: Back in the proto Varibunch days, I used to hang with Richard Armijo at his backyard ramp and he introduced us. Lance, John Lucero and Armijo used to have a real affection for the parking lot at the Whittier skatepark. Their runs there were far more interesting in my estimation than the controlled activities in the park proper. So we all shared this cognitive dissonance.
Eventually Mountain and I were thrown into the Bones Brigade mélange via Stacy Peralta’s social experiment. Currently it is several decades later and Lance and I continue to grapple with the issues of l’enterrement des jouets.
One of the best recent collaborative projects I’ve seen in recent years was the Nike project you were involved in with Lance. As far as I’m concerned, the moment they signed Lance up to the SB programme, it confirmed that the right people were doing this. Seeing your artwork on the shoes just rounded it off. How was that project for you to work on? An easy process? Were you pleased with the results and the reception?
Working with Lance is always a pleasure. My involvement with Nike dates back to 1966 when they opened the Blue Ribbon Sports shop on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. I had shot photos of some of the local track and field athletes. Jeff Johnson, who ran the shop, put some of them up on the store wall. It was Johnson who later had the infamous visionary dream which led to them naming the company Nike. As things worked out, I tried skating in some early BRS trainers. They had great soles that were nice and sticky, but the nylon sidewalls were not terribly abrasion resistant.
During this period I got to interact periodically with Coach Bowerman, Phil Knight and some of the early Nike heads. Sidney Wicks was a talented baller at Santa Monica College when I went there, and our respective girlfriends hung out. So I had an insider’s perspective on his deal. He went on to UCLA where Coach John Wooden proclaimed Sidney the “most naturally talented player that he had ever coached.” Wicks then joined the Portland Trail Blazers where he earned the Rookie of the Year award. Nike had been watching his develop since high school and they sponsored him and that begat the first Blazer in 1972. I skated in those and BINGO. They had great soles, ankle protection and some lateral support. So due to this I always had an informal relationship with Nike and got to work on various projects. Mr. Mountain knew this from back in the days when he, Neil Blender and I used to buy up dead stock Air Jordan 1’s to skate in.
When Lance got on with NSB we decided to do the orange collabs, a film and so forth. It was a great interlude. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to be involved with a number of other interestingly varied endeavors with Nike. Aqua Socks with Laird Hamilton, Stages with Lance Armstrong, murals with Jason Maloney, Savier with Sandy Bodecker, Shaun White and Aaron Astorga, SB with Hunter Muraira, Michael Leon and Kevin Imamura, SF boot development, museum exhibitions with Jason “Sidewalk” Cohn, Phantom projects with Mark Parker and the Hurleys. I also collaborated with Lebron James on another classic project which produced some very forward and different boots. These days I experiment with Omar Salazar up in the Stockton Kitchen.
Trashfilter: What does your day-to-day life entail these days? Have artistic endeavors taken over your skating and surfing time – or do you still take time out to go for a roll around?
CR Stecyk: Tinkering about is my typical occupation. There aren’t any rules to it beyond staying interested. I meander through things and generally make a mess. Specific purpose built equipment has been known to result from these forays. I don’t regard any of the above as being art related per se. Such aesthetic values are conferred by the viewer. When you screw up bad it can all end up in a marble mausoleum or the trash receptacle. Each is a worthy temple. I favor sitting in the last seat on the short bus where there is no particular route. So surfing, skating, bikes are perennial standard deployments.
How did you get involved with the good folk at Hurley? Is your new film – which we’ll get to shortly – part of a long-term working relationship between you both?
I originally met Bob Hurley via surfboard building. His shapes were always thought provoking and he sponsored several riders that I was close to. So over years we eventually indexed on various projects. There is an open art atelier, a recording studio and a shaping facility that the Hurley brothers and sons maintain where they invite different people to come in and work.
My film Fin reflects that unstructured architecture both literally and figuratively. It is intended to evoke the feeling of getting lost in the woods when you wander off the trail to Grandmother’s house. More precisely when I was working in Hurley’s recording space I began a dialogue with individuals like Mike Ness and SxDX, the Honey Badgers, Steve Alba and the Powerflex Five, Julian Ness and the Breakdowns. I tend to film everyday and had captured images of these aforementioned talents.
Another major mover in the evolution of Fin is Jason Maloney whose studio I was sleeping in down there in the previously described creative compound in Costa Mesa’s Velcro Valley. I awoke from one such slumber to have Maloney spontaneously declare, “You should make a movie out of what you do every day.” So I did, Fin is a musing on non-aligned innovation and adaptation. The previously mentioned musicians provided the score and are also profiled on screen. Tyler Hatzikian and Roland Sands are also prime contributors to Fin, and I spend considerable time in their maisons du fabrication. What you see is what we all get after.
What’s forthcoming from the House of Stecyk for the rest of 2012 and beyond?
Fin is scheduled to roll out to H Spaces in Tokyo, San Sebastian, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Bali and Cape Town. I am also involved with a three hundred plus mile per hour motorcycle project with RSD, and separate developmental surfboard composite construction projects at Tyler Surfboards and with the Hurley Brothers and Sons. Gallery exhibitions that I will be doing include Devil’s Highway at 225 Forest in Laguna Beach and Juxtapoz Turns 18 at Copro Fine Arts in Santa Monica, California.
There is also a film made by Stacy Peralta that I have work therein and also appear. It is called Bones Brigade; An Autobiography , and it just debuted at Sundance and the Santa Barbara Film Festival. There is a tour being developed that would involve further premieres etc. for that.
Trashfilter: Your new short film, Fin… tell us about that. I’ve read notes online, watched the trailer and tried to clue myself up on what’s happening here, but it needs the master’s voice to bring it to life for me. ‘Amorphous and always evolving‘ (taken from the press release) sounds like the nature of skating and boardsports in general.
CR Stecyk: Fin has no beginning or end and is adaptable and expandable. It is not a product it is more of an experience that morphs as it lives. It reflects the artisan atelier culture that my associates inhabit. Fin will conceptually continue to change and adapt as further people discover it and recombine its elements. Mathematically it has already received enough basal exposure on the Internet that its eventual aggregate audience is infinite.
This is the nature of a viral art form, it inevitably transforms from the initial millions of impressions into an entity of its own choosing that inperceivably inhabits the firmament which encompasses all.
Trashfilter: How did you get to the role of Art Director at Hurley? Was there an already-present interest in the scene that Hurley is part of? Did you study any particular subject to get into the industry?
Jason Maloney: . I worked for Disney as an artist for 10 years when Hurley approached me. Being a fine artist and a commercial production artist, Hurley tapped me to put some of my artwork on t-shirts and board shorts years ago. After that successful launch of my Hurley collaboration, I started to establish a relationship of sorts. I started to inject my years of Disney experience and knowledge into the brand retail environments such and window displays, stickers featuring my signature artwork and point of purchase displays. Hurley did have a pre existing art component; all I did was expand it.
Hurley, as a brand, has a long history in the surf and action sports world. How difficult is it to try and keep to the roots of the brand whilst still addressing market trends and keeping an eye on the scene’s current developments? I don’t surf myself (the UK isn’t ideal!), but I’d imagine that the surfing scene has changed as much as skateboarding has since the 1970s.
Funny, I don’t surf either…in fact I’m terrified of the water. Hurley maintains consistent brand messages while still doing cool relevant artist partnerships by tapping artist that are connected to the action sports world via surfing and or skateboarding.
How did the project with C.R. come about? Are collaborations a big part of Hurley’s core proposal in 2012? Are there any other things that we should keep an eye out for?
CR Stecyk and myself have been friends for years. So I jumped at the opportunity to work on a project together. I did however suggest that he do a film because it was something that would better fit the H Space Gallery here on the Hurley campus. We are not a gallery per say…H Space is more of an experience…a ride if you will. Each artist that we work with that shows in that space is challenged to think outside his or her comfort zone and do more than just hanging pictures on the wall. Since the lobby of Hurley connects right into H Space, it made sense to me to turn H Space into a movie theater and to then turn the Hurley lobby into the lobby of the theater. I like to use the word partnership as opposed to collaboration…because that’s really what it is. The artists in which we do these larger projects with become part of the family. It’s not just about putting artwork on a t-shirt anymore.
Is there much variation in the different market territories for Hurley’s products? I used to work in a skate shop and we’d see a small amount of the surf-related items, but these would usually be aimed at the summer and holiday customers: the rest of the year, people were looking for sweats and jackets. Do you notice a big difference in what’s popular in different countries – and do you design specifically for those consumers?
I cannot speak for the design team but from what I can gather is that we are a Southern California based surf company. Our key products are hats, t-shirts, outer wear and board shorts….we also have a Hurley Europe, Japan and Australia based offices so you tell me.
What other projects can we expect to see from Hurley – and yourself – in the near future?
Well, myself and CR Stecyk along with 50 other artists will be showing in ‘Juxtapoz Magazine Turns 18!’ Group Art Show at Copro Nason Gallery in Santa Monica, March 24th, 8-11:30pm. Craig is also continuing to film daily…adding more content to the ever-growing story of ‘FIN’. Also, Hurley has some plans for him as well with our design team in the near future as well so be on the look out.
Filed Under: Features