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When we heard that Liisa Chisholm had designed a deck for Lovenskate, we jumped at the chance to talk about two of the most positive people in the London skateboard scene. Liisa has been a Stockwell local for several years now and also works artist and illustrator. Stu Smith runs Lovenskate, is an expert screen printer and an all round great guy. Read on as Liisa talks us through the collaboration, design in skateboarding and her affinity with Blast Skates.
How did the Lovenskate collaboration happen?
I had the opportunity to do a residency at the Vans store in Covent Garden, I had a short amount of time to get my exhibition ready and a huge space to fill. I thought doing a board would be a nice way to create something related to what we were doing, and make something that the people visiting the space might relate to as well.
I hit Stu up to see if it was something he would be interested in, it was something we'd chatted about a bit before this opportunity came about, so he said 'yes, of course, let's get it done'. It ended up being super last minute, I finished the board graphic on the Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon he’d exposed all four screens, printed the decks, and delivered them to Covent Garden for the launch that evening.
"I’d really wanted to put smiling flowers on the bottom of a skateboard and this was a good excuse for it"
Were you involved in the physical creation of the board?
Stu screenprints everything, which was something I knew going into the project, the only restrictions I had were that it could be a maximum of four screens. I generally work on a white background and use that within my designs, so it was like working with three screens as I needed to include white as one of those colours. I was allowed to work from the top bolt to bottom bolt, so it was just a case of designing to that and then getting the layers separated out and ready in time for him to print.
When you were deciding on the graphic, what were you looking at in terms of inspiration?
For a long time I’d really wanted to put smiling flowers on the bottom of a skateboard and this was a good excuse for it. Stu was super game which was helpful. During the design process I sketched out a bunch of different ideas but this one was the design I kept coming back to and luckily Stu was keen too.
What companies graphics and design do you find interesting as an artist?
I've always skated Blast decks and only Blast decks. I think I’ve only ever had one other board. I started skating at Stockwell right around when Matt Bromley (the man behind Blast Skates) was starting things and I’m a creature of habit - I think I worked through eight of the first dinosaur boards, my own personal stash. Bromley is my number one top guy, he does things so well!
That aside, there's so much good stuff going on, I always really like the Polar Skate Co graphics. I've got a soft spot for Frog Skateboards. Some people don't get it, but I love it, it's so funny and cute and just silly. Their graphics are how I skate, it's just playing.
"When I make something I want to treasure it for a long time"
You and Stu hosted a printing workshop during the exhibition too, what's it like running one of those?
The only workshop I'd done before was with Blast, we did a make your own board graphic workshop around three years ago. For that, I came in as a guest illustrator to help run a workshop that Bromley had already formulated. This latest exhibition with Vans was a great opportunity for something new as they were basically up for anything - hosting a talk, a creative workshop, or anything else I could dream up.
We wound up going with flocked heat transfers of some of my drawings onto tote bags, we had a big selection of colours and graphics available. I was really happy to be able to do something where people could walk away with a finished product that they'd be excited to have and which would age well. I've been to workshops marketed for adults before where the material was so cheap that the finished product was a bit rubbish, which isn't what I’m about at all. Personally, when I make something I want to treasure it for a long time. Since I always try to think about that when I am creating work, it was important for me to be able to help other people make something they'd treasure too.
Stu was also involved on the workshop day doing poster prints of the top layer of the board graphic. Some people kept them as is and others stayed and coloured them in. I was expecting it to be mostly kids but everyone got involved which was really nice.
Was it helpful or important to do this with someone like Stu?
It's always amazing doing anything with Stu because he makes sure your ideas shine through in the best possible way. Even though this project was very last minute, we made sure we'd communicated what was supposed to happen, where and when, and it all got done. The only rule he gave me was artwork by February 1st, which I fell more than a little behind on but Stu still smashed it out. He also told me that if he thought my graphic was shit then he'd let me know straight up (laughs), so I felt really comfortable doing what I wanted because I knew he’d provide honest feedback. Being able to run wild and see what we could make work.
"Skating is what I love and spend any time I have free doing"
You do a lot of work outside skateboarding, working with various people, would you want to more design work in skateboarding?
I would love to, skating is what I love and spend any time I have free doing. It's really nice working within skateboarding because in general, I feel like the brands better understand who I am and what I want to do. You're more likely to end up with something that's well printed and well made. I've done work in the past where I've produced and sold designs and the execution is substandard, it’s always a bit disheartening. A great thing about working in skateboarding is that I am closer to the process and have more control of the finished outcome.
When's the Liisa Chisholm Blast Skates collab happening?
I don’t know...
Soon, probably, maybe?
I feel like Bromley has such clear ideas with what he's doing. Obviously, I would love to, but he knows that already (laughs)! He’s got such a clear idea of what he’s doing and really likes to use illustrators that haven’t done anything skateboarding related and as such have no other associations, so yeah we'll see. But of course, I'd jump at the chance - time will tell!
If you're interested in working with Liisa, purchasing her work, or simply finding out more about her - be sure to check out her website.
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