Artschool is a Calgary-based skateboard company. They are going into their 5th season. The company is highly art focused and strives to promote and progress art, artists and skateboarding in local Canadian communities.
Artschool was started like many other companies; on a napkin over a couple of beers. Read on to learn more:
Mark Kowalchuk and Jeff Talbot (both long time skateboarders) were discussing their growing 80s skateboard collections and how the modern skateboard art is more about the marketing and less about the art. Jeff made an off the cuff remark that they should start their own deck company with an oldschool feel. Mark was already lending his art to a few snowboard and skateboard companies so the idea was a perfect fit.
Jeff: We didn’t know where to get the wood pressed or how to promote a company. We didn’t have a team or even a company name yet, but somehow we had just started a skateboard company. Mark grabbed a napkin and the sharpie he always carries and started sketching out some ideas. I made a comment about the ET shirt he was wearing and that it might look cool to have Jesus peddling the bike and Buddha in the basket. Five minutes later we had our first graphic. Five day later Denis Lebel agreed to be on the team and thanks to Mark’s connections at SBC, they announced the start of Artschool Skateboards. We were then lucky enough to add 4 more riders to the team: Jeff Kent, Brad McCoy, Reuben Bullock and Ryan Hall. All this before a single skateboard was pressed.
7 yrs ago I was designing graphics on t-shirts calling them Artschool and working as an artist for snowboard companies.
Who is pressing AS now?
Jeff: it seemed like we here changing manufacturers every few months in the beginning. Its tough to get good service when you are pressing 1000 boards a season instead of 100 000. 2 years ago we were in a really tough spot with our supplier basically going out of business. I called every manufacturer in North America, I never thought Schmitt Stix would even answer the phone, they press most of the boards you see on every skate shop wall. They bailed us out of a tough spot, getting us our order in 2 weeks.
Mark: Schmitt Stix has been making boards since the beginning of skateboarding. They press a lot of big name brands that are known for the best quality.
Who is on the Team?
Mark: Our riders all come from Alberta. Half of our team now lives and skates in Vancouver. Denis Lebel, Jeff Kent, Brad McCoy, Steve Rohl, Ty Klassen, Ryan Hall, Reuban Bullock, Jeff Muirhead, Cam Lynch and Darcy Tran and Austin Jensen are on the flow team.
Jeff: Our Team Manager is Erica Jacobs. She is good at picking out the right fit for the team. We try to get riders with a positive attitude. Jay is our rep and has been helping us out a lot this year especially since he already has such great relationship with shops across Canada. Joey has been working on getting us more involved out east as well. People that want to try to grow and help the team and other skaters progress, we pretty much just look for people that we actually want to hang-out with.
What artists have worked with AS?
Jeff: For the first couple years Mark did all of the art, it is amazing the talent and ideas that come from that guys mind. He is very well respected within that community for good reason.
Mark: In season 3 we wanted to start using the company to promote more local Canadian artists. We have been lucky enough to have artists like Matel, Darren Camplin, TJ Schneider, Zema, Carl White, Dan Curtis and even Canadian pro skater Corey Sheppard.
I’ve noticed Mark your graphic this year is sick graphic you colab with Andres Friden, is that right?
Mark: Yeah sort of, I’m a huge fan of ‘In Flames’ a Swedish metal band and lead singer Anders Friden has been using me to do some shirt designs over the last year and he is a big fan of skating so we worked on my this years graphic together I painted the lyrics on the deck and he added the text. Recently I just finished a CD single album cover for them
Artschool has also worked with musician/ pro-snowboarder Trevor Andrew?
Mark: That’s right. Last year we did two different special release limited coffin cruiser decks for ‘Trouble Gang’, Trevor’s band. Trevor, besides being a pro snowboarder and musician, is an accomplished skater as well. We plan to work more with him in the future on some collab decks.
Jeff: Trevor has been a big supporter of Mark’s art and Artschool Skateboards. When I first saw him skate I was expecting him to be good, but he was the kind of good that makes you not want to miss the next trick. We should put him on the team!
What do you think of Skateboarding in 2013?
Jeff: I think some of the raddest things I could have ever imagined are happening in skateboarding today, I see the things that are being done on a skateboard right now and it all seems like a video game. But 2013 also kind of makes me mourn the “skateboarding subculture” that used to exist. In the 80’s (really the 80s? wtf) we used to fight with city councils just to get a place to put a few wood ramps, always hoping that someday that there would be as many skateparks as ball parks. We aren’t there yet, but now that this is starting to happen in some ways it has unavoidably backfired. More parks, means more skaters, means more corporate interest which is actually a great thing for furthering the sport and bringing money to events and helping skaters and skateboarding go to another level. But now we also have big corporations buying up all the companies and box stores pushing out the local core shops. There aren’t skateboarders running these corporations, so that translates into skateboarding not being run by skateboarders anymore.
Mark: As far as the scene and art of skating I think there is a full circle. I see veteran skaters popping up more and more. Companies re-issuing old graphics. Companies playing off old classic skate art. It seems like finally what made skating cool in the beginning is becoming cool again, which I think we always were about so for me that kinda makes me feel like we are on the right track.Or maybe we are totally off track but who cares its still fun to create stuff.
Where do you want AS to be?
Jeff: In the future we want to keep supporting the local skateboard scene and highlighting Canadian art and artists. Try to support Canadian skate community especially in the rural areas. And hopefully in the short term to work with CASE to get an indoor facility in Calgary. We want to keep being involved with the City of Calgary, we did a design-a-deck program last year through the city and likely will again, and keep sponsoring the skate camp. At the end of the day its just fun to be involved and we want to be as much as possible.
Mark: First skateboard company on the moon.