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!
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.
Jed Anderson is a born and raised Calgarian who happens to a bunch of things really well. He’s a talented skateboarder, but he’s also much more. Read on to learn a bit more about Jed.
Where were you born?
Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
How long have you been skating for?
I started skating when i was about 6 years old. I slowed down a little bit through junior high after Source Park had closed. I was kind of intimidated to go to Mills when I was younger. I eventually started going there a little bit. A little bit turned into everyday. It’s probably one of the most positive things that has happened. Everyone of my friends from Calgary I’ve met through that skatepark basically. It’s pretty crazy.
A lot of people who aren’t into snowboarding probably don’t know this but you’re pretty well-known in the snowboard world. Are you pro?
Haha. Yeah, I am a professional snowboarder. Skating is what got me into snowboarding. I started skating and it snowed so what else was I to do? Luckily enough my family had the resources that allowed me to make it out to the mountains and have gear and everything.
You must travel a lot for snowboarding. Do you do a lot of contests?
Nah I don’t really do contests any more. When I was younger I would enter them all the time. I used to really enjoy it. It was a great way to push my self during that time. Nowadays I just like to film video parts and push my self at spots.
Do you bring a skateboard on your snowboard trips?
Every trip I go on for snowboarding I always bring my skateboard. Even if we are in the most wintery of cities I always find some time to skate.
Who do you skate with? Where are your favourite places to skate?
I skate with bunch of people in Calgary. Bacon, Dustin Henry, Kevin Lowry, Thorburn, Tre, Ben Blundell, Tyler Warren, Drew Merriman, Andy Lockhart, Luke Gonis, Tristan Henry, Dave Livingston, Coulten, Bobby Lee, Mike Able, Dan Morales, etc. Anyone who’s at the park that day ahha.
Favorite places to skate… Mills, downtown Calgary, any mini ramps or bowls, New York City, Portland Oregon, any city, any shitty skate park, any good skatepark, any skatepark, any cement, anywhere.
Name your sponsors:
The Source, Indy flow, Krooked flow.
What video parts are you most proud of? (skate and snow)
I havent really had a skateboard video that I am proud of yet. Hopefully this year. snowboard wise im probably most proud of my most recent part called In Full. I still don’t have any part that I am too pleased with yet though.
Who are your snow sponsors?
Nike, Salomon Snowboards, Protec, Ashbury, Stance, The Source.
Who did/do you look up to?
I’ve always admired my friends and family. They will always be the people I look up to the most. In skating there’s a huge list.
When i first started it was everyone on the Shorty’s team. I had Fulfill the Dream and would watch that over and over again. I also had Transworld’s video Interface. After those videos I got my hands on Real to Real. This was the first time I saw Mark Gonzales. I always remember thinking his part was different. But it wasn’t until I got a little bit older that he became one of my all time favorites (of course). Nowadays I am into all sorts of skateboarders. To name a few…. Andrew Allen, Andrew Reynolds, Omar Salazar, Shawn Powers, Arron Harrington, Nolan Johnson, Logan Lara, Van Wastell, Tony T, Jason Dill, AVE, Jake Johnson, Mike Carroll, Alex Olson, etc. I probably get the most excited watching my friends do tricks though.
I enjoy most genres, depending on my mood. I listen to a lot of rap and hip hop, new and old. I like lots of old hardcore and punk music. I like a lot of house and “electronic” made music. A lot of “chill wave” hahaha. I like lots of blues and jazz. A lot of old rock n roll. A lot of alternative.
Rap (new): Juicy J – Smokin and Sippin
Hip Hop (old): Beatnuts – Riks Joint
Old HC: Urban Waste – Public Opinion
Chill wave: Clams Casino – All I Need
Blues: Sleepy John Estes – Down South Blues
Jazz: Mulatu Astatke – Girl From Addis Ababa
Old Rock n Roll: Summer Time – Santo and Johnny
Alternative: Hope Sandoval – On the Low
Any big plans for 2013?
Just skateboard and snowboard I guess. Stay healthy, travel.
Do you still play music? I remember you had a band, Topanga and the Flatspots.
I never personally played any music, I was vocals. I would love to learn how to, or just be vocals in a band again. It was really cool being in a band, I loved playing house shows.
You’re currently living in Brooklyn, right? Did you get evacuated because of the storm?
Yeah I’ve been living in Brooklyn for about 2 months now. Just for the fall. It’s great here, but a bit overwhelming. Skateboarding in the city just feels right. It’s crazy when you’re skating around and you see a spot you remember from a video or something. I was in awe the first time I went skating here. It all seemed so surreal. I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of cool skateboarders out here too, so its nice to have homies to call up and skate rather than just going by your self how I did when I first got here.
The hurricane is getting pretty wild right now, I haven’t been evacuated but stuff is flying everywhere out there.
Are you coming back to Calgary? Why or why not?
Yeah I’ll come back to Calgary. Calgary is home for now, and i don’t really have a problem with that. One thing that really bums me out though is that we don’t have any indoor facility to skate during the winter months. It really makes no sense to me. I think that if the city were to provide a spot for kids to go skate in the winter there would be a lot less problems for the youth in the city. I’ve seen countless skateboarders fall into stupid shit during the winter months just out of boredom and nowhere to skate. I know for a fact that if we had a place to skate during the winter, you would see a lot more successful skateboarders coming out of Calgary. Kids here are already so good, and they only have those months of warm weather to skate. If they had a place to go when the weather was bad, they would improve twice as quick. I know that some people might think “well why don’t these kids just start snowboarding like you did?” There are so many families out there that can’t afford to do that. I know if I wasn’t able to get free gear now, and I had to provide equipment for my self, I probably would snowboard either. It’s so expensive to snowboard. I just wish the city would realize that skateboarding is the most positive thing in the world. It’s the ultimate outlet for me, and a lot of people. If I feel angry, sad, happy, whatever, I can always express it through skateboarding. I know how cheesy that sounds but it’s true. I can’t think of many other ways you can express your self creatively and physically with no rules behind it. Every movement is your choice, no right or wrong way. I owe a huge part of who i am to skateboarding. I will never forget the day i got my first skateboard. For a lot of kids it is the only positive thing going on in their life.
Shout outs/last words.
Thanks, Nanny, for bringing over that yellow banana board to our house. Thank you to my family for encouraging me to do what I wanted. Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way. Thanks to Calgary for doing one thing right over decade ago and building the biggest shittiest/best skatepark ever. Shout out to all my homies In Calgary. I miss you! See you soon.
Riley Boland is well-known to most Calgary skaters. He’s been skating for most of his life and skating well. If you’ve ever been at Millennium or Cochrane Skatepark and wondered who the long-haired skinny guy seemingly going way too fast and too big for his frame was, it was probably Riley. Read on if you want to know a little bit more about this all-terrain ripper and contest shredder. Thanks to Jeff Thorburn for most of the photos.
Stalefish - Thorburn Photo
What’s your full name and where were you born?
General hospital Calgary
Who do you skate with?
Colin Nogue mostly. John Fearns of course. Drew Merriman, Elliot James, Dustin Henry, Tyler Warren, and Dave Ehrenreich– all these dudes are the best.
Rock to Fakie - Thorburn Photo
Where do you skate? Favourite spots?
I love to skate Mills in Calgary for the most part I try to hit the streets every now and then. The thing about Mills is you can always go there alone and you will always have someone to skate with because of the way Calgary’s scene is. Like when you are in Vancouver you go to a park and there will maybe be someone there but usually not. In Calgs everyone is always at MILLS!
My favorite spot? street it would have to be Amco. No I don’t even have a favorite spot. Mills is where it’s at but Lincoln City, Oregon and Haleiwa, Hawaii are my favorite places to go to skate.
Boardslide Transfer - Thorburn photo
What are your plans for the next few months? Any trips planned?
I don’t really have much plans for the first part of winter. I just got back from Hawaii yesterday; that was an awesome trip and I skated everyday. I have a messed up knee and basically everything else on my legs so I am going to just chill and try to get in good shape.
In the later winter months I hope to get down to Cali some time and there is a Power Rider Wheels trip happening somewhere. Not sure where that will be through though.
Where do you skate in the winter?
Skate? I don’t much that’s for sure. With no Source Park and now my ramp is gone there is no where to skate except for a few indoor ledges in parkades. Other then that I just skate when Mills is dry.
Gap to Boardslide - Thorburn photo
What do you think of the parks in the Calgary area (Airdrie, Olds, etc)?
I have only skated the Airdrie park twice as its kinda far and not nearly as good as mills, and mills is just a few blocks from my house so I just pop over there for a sesh whenever I can. Though Airdrie’s street stuff is super radical. I haven’t been to Olds or anywhere else; I heard there was a new one coming somewhere soon. Cochrane is always fun but I haven’t even been able to skate there once all year.
You’ve had some photos in magazines. How did that come about?
Hahaha, umm I just skate I guess.
Boneless - Thorburn photo
What do you do when you’re not skating?
I am always working when I’m not skating. I own my own tactical gear company so I am a seamster (not a scenester, a seamster). It’s a lot of work owning your own business. Also go camping as much as I can in my Westy.
What’s your company called?
It’s called Ferro Concepts. If you were around back when Norbeece was in the mix they used to call me “Wey Ferro” and that’s where the name came from. I make military gear like vests, pouches, packs etc. I started it by making my own stuff and then some for friends for military collection purposes but then people started wanting it and so here I am– running a sweat shop, haha.
Do you film? Where does your footage go?
There are some clips in secret places. Don’t ask me I wish I knew… ask Bacon haha!
What about contests? Do you like doing them? You were in Slam City Jam when it was in Calgary a few years ago. What was that like?
I love contests. All your homies from all over are in one spot ripping. It’s the best sesh all the time.
That was 2006 haha, kinda ancient. It was the last Slam that’s for sure. It was neat to have it in Calgary but it it shouldn’t have left Van.
Ollie - Thorburn photo
What’s up with your set-ups? You ride the loosest trucks I’ve ever seen in my life. How do you get them like that and don’t you get wheel bite?
Hahaha I was just looking at my setup yesterday in the airport and thought “this thing looks retarded, big wheels, skinny trucks, wide board, risers–it looks like a monster truck. But hey, it isn’t about being cool like in snowboarding, it’s about what works and this janky thing works for me.
The trucks have been in the works for many years. I have been riding the same bushings for probably 5 years, though I have to replace one so my one truck is much tighter now.
It’s ankle strength to not get wheel bit but I have bushings to help with that. Still happens when you jump down stuff though.
Do you still skate in slip ons?
Only slips forever! I can’t do laces.
Air - Brock Mitchell photo
If you could change anything in Calgary skateboarding, what would it be?
Have an indoor park.
Any final words?
Thanks for your time and thanks to all the peeps that have helped me skate over the years! Word Fearngully.