From the studio onto the slopes
Snowboard companies are fishing for graphic and graffiti artists communities to outfit their boards with a distinct look.This has brought some companies to Truckee.”Right now collaborations with artists are a trend for snowboard companies.” said Shawn Carney, a graphic artist in Truckee. Carney has had his art affixed to the snowboards of a variety of companies, most significantly Unity Snowboards. Along with Phig, another Truckee artist known for the waving-man stickers around town, Carney is collaborating with the San Francisco-based Glissade Snowboards to come out with a limited edition series of boards next fall.
For the snowboard companies, flashy art can be as critical to a board as its construction or its geometry.”Ninety-five percent of kids that walk into snowboard shops, the art is what they look for,” said Phig, who is also working with Tahoe Board Company to do graphics for skateboards.Chris Morris, a freelance consultant organizing the collaboration between Glissade, Carney and Phig, said it is becoming industry standard to seek outside artists to supply these graphics for snowboards. Even the biggest companies are moving away from using internal designers, albeit only with their fringe lines.Rather than commissioning designers to come up with art designed for snowboards, Carney said companies typically solicit previous work of the artists. Morris said that the companies then use their own designers to fit the design in with the bindings and logos. Seeking out-of-house talent can be about more than just finding original graphics. For Glissade, the move is part of a company strategy to find its niche in an industry becoming dominated by Chinese mass-production, said Greg Pronko, a founder of Glissade.
With this collaboration, the company will offer a limited series of boards with each design they use – between five and 20 prints per size of the board. Furthermore, the company’s Web site will link to a page about the board’s artist, offering customers the chance to get closer to the artists whose designs they’ll take to the hill.This is about “turning boards back into a piece of art,” said Pronko.Such collaborations, though, are not too lucrative for the artists. There are only 12 or so companies with which an artist might make money, said Carney. Many board companies, he said, are just trying to help artist friends get their names out. As opposed to the $5,000 or so a designer can demand working with a big-name company, an artist may only ride away with a free board by working with a smaller company. Nonetheless, every bit helps “earn your keep” in the industry, said Carney.
“It’s all about not pulling teeth from the grassroots companies,” he said. GRAFFITI ART?Though Truckee artists Phig and Shawn Carney are often labeled as graffiti artists, it’s a misnomer, they say.Phig said “street artist” might be a better name, but this description falls short, as well. With sharp contours and simple, colorful images, the art of both Phig and Carney owes more to graphic art media from comic books and Japanese woodblock prints than it does to urban tagging.
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