How do I start selling designed skateboards

The most provocative deck designs in skateboard history

A recent study I did found that 90 percent of 2014 skateboard graphics sucks. I've been the owner of a skate shop for 11 years now and during this time I had to experience how the pictures on the underside of the boards developed from works of art worth exhibiting into something that looked like an intermediate examination of a basic graphic design course at a university of applied sciences.

In the 90s, the skateboard was like a canvas on which artists could express themselves. These days, most brands just keep using their boring, uninspired logo over and over on most of their boards, bringing our culture back to the 70s era of slalom and surfing. Sadly, the current generation of skateboarders was raised to pay a lot of money to act as a moving billboard for corporations. Most skate shops sell ten times as many boards with logos as their counterpart, the board with a hand-drawn design.

It wasn't always like that. In the 80s and 90s, the designs and the names of the pros were the reasons to buy. Back then, when you stood in front of the sales wall of a skate shop, you were blinded and overwhelmed - like when you first visited the Louvre. At the end of the 80s, the style of skateboarding took a more urban, street-focused direction. Powell Peralta's designs with biker-style skulls, swords, and dragons fell in popularity, and World Industries took over the scepter with its offensive, satirical graphics - thanks in large part to masterful designers Marc McKee and Sean Cliver. Suddenly, skateboard graphics weren't just for kids anymore. They now showed wicked, dirty, overtly sexual and politically motivated pictures that the parents didn't like at all - that made them want the skateboarders even more.

French author Sebastien Carayol from Narbonne has spent much of his life capturing skateboarding of the 90s in several books, exhibitions and with his column and website Memory Screened. Carayol admits that he is not a great artist himself, which is why he decided to document exactly this side of skateboarding. "I've only felt like an artist once," he said. "Back in 1989, I tagged the word 'Zorlac' with the O as a public enemy crosshair logo on all the walls of my small hometown in southern France 'Praise' from the critics convinced me to quit my artistic career immediately and start writing. "

Recently, Carayol published over 100 subversive skateboard graphics in his book Agents Provocateurs. I sat down with him to talk about the heyday of skateboard design.

VICE: What made you write Agents Provocateurs?
Sebastien Carayol: In 2011 I had the opportunity to curate an exhibition of skateboards as part of the "Public Domaine" art show in Paris. I wanted to avoid just showing boards in chronological order. So I decided on the subject of "provocation" skateboards who had something to say and who dealt with classic taboo topics such as sex, religion, violence, racism, politics and so on. This allowed me to express my admiration for both the size of the '90s (that's when I started skating too) and the history of provocation in general.

At "Public Domaine" I showed 52 boards and I thought it would be cool to make it into a book. Thanks to the great support from Sean Cliver, I got in touch with Gingko Press and the cause was. The book itself I worked for about a year with other exhibitions and projects, and in the end the editor told me that these were some of the most intense pictures he'd ever put in a book out.

Was it hard to limit yourself to just 100 subversive skateboard graphics?
That was the hardest of all because I think we could have chosen 1000 designs and that probably still wouldn't have covered everything. I didn't want the whole thing to be just a copy of the books Sean "Category Killer" Cliver had already published. Also, my idea was to think outside the box of the obvious Vintage-World Industries / Antihero / Alien Workshop / Consolidated - Looking out for designs so die-hard skateboard collectors can see a few decks they might not have seen before. That's why I've brought in lesser-known companies like Witchcraft, Politic, Boom Art, Trauma, and Yama. I have also tried to include as many modern decks in this category as possible, but that's not really easy. With all that in mind, I'm very happy with the final selection and can't wait to get angry, "Why did you." this or that board not included? " to get. Although, a couple have already landed in my mailbox.

Which graphic is the best story behind?
I would say behind World Industries' Napping Negro, which Marc McKee made for Jovontae Turner. That was perhaps the most controversial deck in the entire Reverse Racism line. A Thrasher ad stated, “Blacks have always shared a great and colorful story with whites. At the beginning of the 17th century they were taken from their homeland, handcuffed, loaded onto ships and brought to America. Over the next three centuries, they were bought, enslaved, tortured, raped and killed. In 1954 they were finally allowed to drink from the same fountain and that pretty much stopped all the fun. "

A deck with all the black stereotypes sounds terribly racist, but critics always forget that Jovontae Turner — an African American pro skateboarder — suggested the idea on his own. “When World Industries asked me what my design was going to be, I wanted that old slave stuff, you know? Something from that age, "Turner said." Basically, I wanted to give something back and make fun of it in some way. My first board was called 'Jovontae at Night.' I met with them and said, 'They say you are black at night can't see except you smile? ' Then we did a design of a runaway slave hiding in a tree, and then came 'Napping Negro.' My mom and I gave Marc McKee all these black folklore postcards - just really bad drawings depicting black people, really . I liked it when it came out. I liked the controversy. It upsets people. I like to piss people off and it actually worked. "

What do you think of the modern era of logo-dominated, boring skateboard graphics?
Do you mean the ones that make skateboards look like skis? It's a shame, in my opinion, that this cheap trick still works. But lately I've also noticed that some companies like Polar, Welcome, Palace or $ lave continue to appreciate the value of real graphic design. I think it's totally crazy that some of the companies with the highest sales figures are the ones with the most boring designs: “Oh, we have the best pros, the rest doesn't matter. The kids don't give a shit. "

The decks you picked from the 90s, pre-internet age, were shocking back then. Do you think today's teenagers, who easily get horrific images of beheadings, fisting, and so on on the internet, will be shocked by anything in the book at all? Do you think there is anything left to shock the 2014 teenagers?
I think about that sometimes, but it's very hard for a 40-year-old who grew up in rural France before the internet age to imagine what still shocks a teenage boy today. That's OK with me though — I'm not sure a modern teenager would buy a book at all, right? After all, there is the Street League, which is much more exciting!

I really believe that the only taboo topic that skateboarding hasn't picked up on is homosexuality. Although a few people have finally come out in the last few years, still nobody dares to bring the whole thing up - and that's sad. I think an openly gay skateboard company that stands up to its difference would be really good. That would be great and would make the kids more cosmopolitan.

Marc McKee and Sean Cliver were ahead of the curve when it came to offensive skateboard graphics in the 1990s. Who do you think will be at the top in 2014?
I think that's still Sean. But Marc McKee and a few other veterans like Todd Francis never disappoint either. As for the newbies: I'm really into the work of Ben Horton for $ lave and the occasional scandalous strokes of genius like SkateMental or enjoi. Oh yeah, when I screamed about the Baker's "Gooks of Hazzard" deck from 2012 (here the TMZ article) I had to shed a few tears - the kids can still do it today! It really is a miracle that provocation still works at a time when it was thought that people had already seen it all.

What is the best story the artists told you while putting this book together?
Some of the stories are classics, of course, and have been heard here and there — for example, that non-racist skinheads protect the Real Team at a demo after Jim Thiebaud's "Hanging Klansman" board came out. I loved this: Mike Hill designed an old Alien Workshop deck that had a doll stabbed to death on the basis of the desire to do a graphic “that looks like Dinosaur Jr.'s album You're Living All Over Me sounds. "

Another great insight gave us Eli Gesner, the mastermind behind the early Zoo York stuff of the 90s and Illuminati skateboards. He emailed me a three-page statement for each board. So I found out a few things, like this little-known fact about the end of Illuminati Skateboards that didn't fit in the book:

“We reached a certain limit with Zoo York and wanted to expand. We weren't sure whether to focus on making Zoo York a clothing brand or 'diversifying' and creating more skateboard brands. Ricky Oyola and all of us at Zoo York thought starting Illuminati, the first spin-off company, was the right move. In retrospect, I may have overdid it conceptually with Illuminati. I hope that is not the case. It really makes me sad that the skaters liked such intelligent things as our Illuminati stuff, but then things like 'Jackass' and 'Rob's and Big's Fun Factory' eventually got the upper hand ... It's ironic! Our end was then a warning with a cease-and-desist from this shitty nerd card game 'Illuminati'. It turned out that 'games and sports accessories' are listed under the same copyright and trademark area in the USA. According to our government, Dungeons and Dragons and the NFL are essentially the same thing. Imagine that. To this day I am still asked, 'Why did you give up on Illuminati? That was a cool company! ' It wasn't us, my friend. The card game forced us to give up. Or? I believe that deeper, darker machinations were at work! First all the kids ask us these questions and SUDDENLY is 'Jackass' showing on MTV? Coincidence? I do not think so!"

What is your personal favorite skateboard design?
Since picking one that actually hit stores is too hard — I love them all. That's why I choose the unique piece that Alyasha Moore created in 2012 and sold at auction. He took this old, broken 50s skateboard with metal wheels and just wrote "Colored Only" on the bottom - he wanted to show that the oh-so-cool 50s weren't all sunshine. tough and tells a story in one word. Perfect. I'm sorry that this is something serious now (I like naked pensioners who play volleyball just like everyone else), but for me this is a provocation in perfection: With one A clever story is told to a clever idea.

We are discussing artists who have been designing the entire look of skateboarding for decades. Your work inspires many future artists and skaters. What do you think of the fact that after all these years and all the money these artists have brought in the companies, the average pay for commissioned board art is still a meager $ 150 to $ 300?
And then you think about how much a vacuum cleaner logo designer makes, right? I think that's pretty unfair, but it also says a lot about hasty graphics. If you consider that it takes Sean Cliver at least a week to create a hand-drawn design, then you can calculate what an hourly earnings that is. I don't know exactly how to change that; All I know is that through this book — or Clivers, or any other skateboard design book — I'm at least trying to help name the graphics that deserve more than their three-week life on the shelf in a skate shop. It probably won't pay the guys any better, but it will at least make them better known - and that's how they get more of those amazing $ 150 jobs!

Get the best of VICE emailed to you every week!

By subscribing to the VICE newsletter, you consent to receiving electronic communications from VICE, which may contain advertising or sponsored content.