We’re at Bar Gandolfi in the Merchant City, at the opening night of re:deckorate, an exhibition curated by the owner of re:ply skateboards, Danny Aubrey. For the exhibit, 50 artists, graphic designers, printmakers and photographers from across the UK were asked to re-imagine old skateboards with their own interpretation of the themes ‘Community’ ‘Freedom’ or ‘Empowerment’.
All skateboards on display are for sale, and the proceeds raised will go to Skatepal – a non-profit organisation working with communities throughout Palestine to enhance the lives of young people and promote the benefits of skateboarding.
I caught up with Danny the next day, to talk about the exhibition.
Hi Danny! So tell us a bit about Re:deckorate?
My company re:ply, recycles old skateboards and sells them on, putting new artwork on them, new designs, taking all the bumps and scratches out of them. I’ve always looked at design as a thing I’d buy a skateboard for. Now I’ve got so many hanging in my house it’s unbelievable. If I bought one of these, my girlfriend would actually kill me.
Yeah, I’ve been contemplating buying one instead of a coffee table.
We can make them into coffee tables!
Don’t encourage me!
So yeah, I thought an exhibition would be a good idea, and around about the time I was thinking this, I’d had a bit of interest from a charity called Skatepal, which is run by a Scottish guy called Charlie Davis. Really nice guy, he was here last night. We did a lot of workshops with kids in Scotland about how to recycle skateboards, encouraging sustainability, but still having fun and getting creative as well. Charlie asked me if I’d like to come to Palestine and do the same thing. I thought that could be great, but I wanted to make it bigger, I wanted to do collaborations and see how many people will get involved. So I put a post up on Instagram looking for 20-25 artists, and 2 days later, I had to put another post up saying “Stop emailing me! I can’t get enough skateboards!”
A good situation to be in though, surely?
Of course. Everyone was really hyped to donate work to help the charity. It’s also kind of new, I mean it’s been done before but never in a way that could involve so many different people. I had a load of interest, but it came with a lot of wading through emails and making difficult choices. So for the next 2 months I shaped 50 skateboards to give out to the artists, then it was just a case of waiting for people to get their art on the boards.
So how long did the process take then? From initially contacting the artists to having them completed?
I got the last board on Friday, and the first board we have out was at the end of November, so just over a month.
That’s a really quick turnaround!
Yeah I was surprised but I think a lot of people were just keen to get involves. The Christmas holidays could have put a spanner in the works but at the same time, they had spare time to work on it.
What’s really incredible is the variety of work on display. I mean there’s a really painterly landscape situated next to some really abstract designs.
That one’s actually my grandad’s.
Yeah! he’s 91 years old. He does a lot of fine art on canvas and watercolours.
That’s so cool. Does he skate?
Haha! I might get a photograph of him on a skateboard. We’ve got a lot of interviews coming up with the newspapers and the media and they’ve all gone straight to his board like ‘Who’s this guy??” He completed the whole thing in 2 hours, which is insane.
So yeah, but anyway, for the exhibition we gave the artists a brief to work with. The themes were ‘Community’, ‘Empowerment’ or ‘Freedom’. That’s what was to be reflected with the artworks on the boards. Those three things I guess are what I think defines skateboarding.
What inspired you to start re:ply?
Mad story actually. So I’m diabetic, I’ve been type 1 diabetic for 21 years now and the insulin manufacturer actually asked to make a film about me. This was before re:ply was a thing, just because I do a lot of skating surfing, play a lot of music and stuff like that. They thought it would be a kind of inspirational film to make for people who are maybe just newly diagnosed with diabetes, to say you’re life’s not actually over, it’s actually just the same. So they hired one of my friends to come and film me. He had this old board which had a lot of sentimental value but frankly, looked like a piece of shit. And so, I suggested we do something with it. We only had a jigsaw, No, in fact, the jigsaw broke so we had a handsaw, a couple of bits of sandpaper and a plainer which we had to go and buy.
So we went out to the back of my mums garage and spent 4 days making this skateboard and it turned out to be the most beautiful little piece of wood. We put the logo on it, and we spent a few days just like “what should we put on this?’ and then we came up with re:ply. That’s where the product began. That was about 7 years ago. Its had its ups and downs like I guess all businesses do but its been such a good thing.
So do people come to you with their knackered skateboards?
I get piles of skateboards, or even I go round all the skate shops. We’re all skaters ourselves so we collect them for the workshop and we just have stockpiles of old boards. It’s a business of sustainability.
We’ve sent boards out to New York, San Francisco, places in Australia, and done tours and videos and stuff like that. For me I love to do it, I’ve loved it from day one and I love the history that it’s now got and the name that it’s got behind itself. The fact that it’s unique and there’s no one else like us out there. Saying that, if people wanted to recycle skateboards on their own id’ say do it, I want to inspire people to be creative, Re:deckorate the exhibition I hope mirrors that.
Lastly, tell me a bit about the charity you’re working with, Skatepal?
Charlie went traveling and ended up in teaching English to kids in Palestine. He noticed there was so many kids there, who were all really interested in his skateboard. There’s a huge number of kids compared to adults, I’m not entirely sure of the figures. It’s obviously a conflict zone, but the kids are still just kids, and they don’t have anything to do. So he decided to start up Skatepal, which started off small, first just getting boards out to these kids, and now they’ve got 3 skate parks out there that were built using funding. They get volunteers to go out there and teach kids how to skate.
So my plan is to go out there for a month or two this year. So with the money raised from these boards I hope to do a collaboration and get some new products over there as well. Hopefully we can just do it out there.
I guess the three themes of the exhibition then link in to exactly what Skatepal are promoting in Palestine?
Yeah exactly. It’s just what skateboarding is really, I mean you seen it last night yourself, that wasn’t even a load of my friends at the opening. There was a few but just the wider skateboarding community. Everyone’s so happy to get involved. We raised £2000 last night at the opening, in the first day. Charlie from Skatepal’s already approached me about organizing going to Palestine as re:ply in partnership with Skatepal, which is amazing and ultimately what I want to be the next step looking forward.
re:deckorate runs until February 25th @ Bar Gandolfi. All photographs courtesy of Robert Smythe.
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