Stormy Monday Goods

Repurposed skateboards and recycled cutting boards handmade in Southern California

by Liz Cebron

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On a recent visit to the made in America brand collaborative Shelter Half, we discovered Stormy Monday Goods—thoughtfully repurposed and redesigned skate and cutting boards, branded with a simple thundercloud and given a second shot at life. These one-of-a-kind creations are the labor of love of Neil Harrison, a Southern California native who, after nearly two decades in the industry—first at Quiksilver, then helping friends get a “little brand” called Volcom off the ground—decided to slow down and work with his hands.

Stormy Monday was conceived during a trip to Portland in late 2006—Harrison was in the Pacific Northwest visiting friends, one of whom had reshaped a couple of used skateboards and was drawing on them as an art project. Harrison made one for himself and after that, he was hooked. “I was really into the idea of re-shaping a board—not only because it gave me the opportunity to work with my hands, but also from a conceptual standpoint—I liked the idea that a used board could get back on the road again, so to speak.” Upon returning to Southern California, Harrison started collecting used boards from his friends in the skate world, team managers and team riders, who tended to have stacks of used boards laying around and with the underlying ethos of “Recycle, repurpose, reuse,” Stormy Monday was born.

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All of your goods (with the exception of the surfboards, which are made in Hawaii) are handcrafted in California. Can you tell us more, specifically, about the process?

First is my least favorite part, stripping off the grip tape. Some tape is friendly and peels off in one to three pieces. Sometimes it breaks into a million bits and pieces. Once the grip is removed, I trace a shape pattern on to the board and cut it out. Then I smooth out the edges and brand the “3 Bolt Storm Cloud” logo on to the boards. Next is staining, painting and completing the rails and wheel wells. The wheel wells are one of the trickiest parts because you’re doing one at a time and you have to match them to each other as close as you can. Sometimes I’ll let boards sit for a little while before I do this part as I try to get myself psyched up to do them—you can ruin the board very easily after all that work. Each board is then number stamped, signed and logged in the book. Every board to date has been logged, including the cutting boards and now our surfboards (dropping this spring).

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The process of creating cutting boards or cheese boards is very similar to the skateboards. I work out of my friends’ woodshop in Santa Ana and sometimes they have woods that are deemed “undesirable” for cabinets because of knots, sap or mineral streaks. I’ll also find scrap wood that someone leaves out on their yard for pick up. If I can’t find any wood via those two sources I’ll go to the lumber yard and buy their “damaged” wood. It’s perfect because those characteristics or flaws in the wood make our boards interesting looking and unique.

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Speaking of the cutting boards, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind alongside skateboard decks and surfboards, but in your case in seems to work. Why cutting boards in the mix?

It certainly wasn’t on purpose to have them in the mix. It was a happy accident if you will, and they have only come to be part of the mix somewhat recently. It was only after I saw some scrap woods that I thought I could make nice cutters for some friends and after making a few, realized how much fun it was working on them. Then I thought it’d be funny to add to the skateboard order form.

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After that, I started getting orders from friends and then eventually stores. There’s the whole thing that’s happening right now where people want to know the story behind the product and/or know the person or persons who are making them and I think that’s what’s great about where we’re going as a country, not as whole, but on this very intimate underground level and it seems to be slowly effecting the grander consuming audience.

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Your logo is really interesting, how did that come to you?

The logo and name were inspired on that same visit to Portland. Jake had a simple cloud painting that he had made. It was a puffy cloud with three bolts of lightning floating beneath it and the word Monday at the bottom. So Monday was the original name, then I added Stormy to make it sound heavier. I started working up stylized versions of Jake’s cloud painting—I wanted it to have a Native American look and vibe to it, like a modern version or a petroglyph. Simple, strong and to the point.

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Can you tell us a little more about your background—where you grew up, how you got into all of this (skateboards, surfing, etc)?

I was born in Bellflower and grew up in Buena Park—home of Knott’s Berry Farm. My mom loved to go to the beach and she would take us to the OP Pro, which, at the time, was the big surf contest in Huntington Beach. I was just boogie boarding then but after watching the guys surfing in the contest that was all I wanted to do. I was starting to skate around this time and honestly don’t remember how or who turned me on to it but it just found me. Skating was obviously more obtainable for an inland kook such as myself, so I was a skater first, surfer second. We had this ditch behind a drive-in that was close to my house and we skated that thing every day—it’s all I could think about in class! We were surfing the ditch walls before we learned how to surf real waves.

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After I graduated high school in 1988, I moved to the beach and my friend got me a job working in the warehouse at Quiksilver. Over the next couple of years, I went from the warehouse to the art department, and then into the design dept. Around ’92 I left Quik and took up with some new friends to get the brand Volcom off the ground. I worked there as design and art director for about 15 years and left in 2006. I laid low for a few years, worked on an avocado grove I owned with some family at the time, and did some freelance design art projects here and there. Then last year my friend Danny called and asked if I’d like to stop fooling around and turn Stormy Monday into a proper brand. And here we are.

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Stormy Monday currently sells skate decks for $125 and completes for $225 through Shelter Half, with denim and Hawaiian made surfboards on the horizon. For direct ordering and more information see Stormy Monday directly.

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Frieze New York

Highlights from and musings on the London fair’s NYC takeover
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“I think of our fair as a discovery fair,” explains Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp. For the first US edition of Frieze Art Fair, Sharp and partner Matthew Slotover have taken over Randall’s Island, a sprawling piece of land at the confluence of NYC’s East and Harlem rivers. What began as a London-based magazine in 1991 soon evolved into a must-see contemporary art event at Regents Park in London. Now in NYC, the massive venue is teeming with curious works from a cast of well-chosen international galleries, with new delights to be had at every booth. Nude mannequin nutcrackers, neon jokes, custom-casted busts, turntable muffs—Frieze NYC is packed with innovative art.

Criticized somewhat for taking place outside of Manhattan, Frieze is worth the free ferry ride to Randall’s Island, thanks to careful consideration of the venue as a destination. The Brooklyn-based architects at SO-IL have designed a 250,000-square foot serpentine tent that encourages visitors to linger and look, building out enough space to really stop and take in the art. When you need a break, there are equally alluring NYC restaurants to choose from, like Roberta’s, Fat Radish, Saint Ambroeus and The Standard Biergarten.

For New York, the fair has special significance; it’s a sign of a rebounding post-recession art market. In terms of timing, Frieze comes on the heels of the recently ended Armory Show, and coincides with the NADA, Verge and Pulse art fairs happening throughout the city. Sharp has lived the past 14 years in New York, and this show is in part her response to gallery owners who have been requesting a New York version of Frieze. Of the 182 galleries showing at Frieze, 46 hail from NYC.

While media attention has hyped the fair to the point that this is now being called “Frieze Week”, we went along for the art. Among the standout galleries were Alfonso Artiaco from Naples, London’s Sadie Coles HQ, Sean Kelly Gallery from NYC and Paris’ Galerie Perrotin. Text art, floor art and neon were all out in full force, and the sprawling collection offered endless examples of new works from the best artists around.

Frieze Art Fair runs through 7 May 2012 with free ferry service running to and from the island. For those who can’t make the fair, head over to Frieze Virtual New York 2012 to browse all of the galleries, artworks and artists. Find more stellar art (and captions for the above pieces) by checking out our slideshow.

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A New Desire

Lixil pictures the future in foam

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One of the fundamental components to various Asian ways of thinking is the idea of making opposites coexist in harmony. This philosophy has been applied for millennia and today is being reinvented in a new way by Lixil Corporation, a global leader in housing equipment and building materials. Based in Tokyo, Lixil presented a new bathtub concept during the recent Milan Design Week. The installation, A New Desire, showcased the innovative project—a synthesis of dry and wet areas in the home, blurring the lines between living room and bathroom and traditional bath and contemporary leisure activities at the same time.

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Lixil’s new tub has a sinuous, clean and almost spatial shape. A unique water control technology combines water and air and creates a constant stream of creamy foam, that’s at once incredibly soft and rich while retaining a somewhat firm consistency. The frothy water overflows over the sides of the tub and collects in a special attached drainage system that allows the tub to be installed virtually anywhere in the home.

Kenya Hara, Japanese designer and writer conceived the tub as part of a specialization in mixing object design with experiences. The art director at MUJI, Hara was also responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games and Expo 2005 as a member of the advisory board.

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“Imagine time passing pleasantly,” says Nara. “You are enveloped in warm foam; you’re reading a book, watching a movie, feeling the air and the light on your skin. You’re bathing in creamy foam. More than a new style of bathing, this is something that will liberate a new horizon of human desire.” Though “A New Desire” was presented as a concept, Lilix envisions the foam technology as a new way of living and bathing the future. Keep an eye out for developments and future projects by visiting the website.

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Okolo Mollino

A paper-engineering tribute to Italian designer Carlo Mollino

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Okolo has long been a favorite destination for great finds in Eastern Europe. One of their latest projects caught our attention when we ran into them in Milan during Design Week—a simply bound, spine-less book on the life and work of Carlo Mollino. “Okolo Mollino” represents the publisher’s tribute to the 20th-century Italian renaissance man, whose interests and talent took him from notability in architecture and interior design to prominence as an acrobatic pilot and alpine skier. The book is divided into six chapters that explore his multidimensional character, and includes various paper cutouts that can be engineered to resemble Mollino’s own works, and it’s limited to a scarce 80 copies.

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The text primarily covers anecdotes from Mollino’s life, like the time he drove his Porsche all the way to Switzerland to obtain the first iteration of the Polaroid camera, which was unavailable in Italy at the time. He then furnished three luxurious residences to serve as spaces in which to photograph his women—mainly local Turin prostitutes—whose portraits gave him his name.

Mollino’s career as designer spanned from theater houses to race cars. In his foreword, Casa Mollino curator Fulvio Ferrari lends insight into the creation of the Bisiluro Damolnar race car. “One day, while flipping through a newspaper, Mollino found a photo of the Osca car owned by his friend Mario Damonte,” he says. “He immediately thought about how to improve its design and drew his visions straight on to the newspaper page. This is how Osca was transformed into Bisiluro: a revolutionary rocket-shaped car Mollino designed for the 24-hour Le Mans race a year later.”

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One of the paper models contained in the pages is of the Zlin 226 acrobatic airplane. The Czechoslovakian plane was one of Mollino’s prized possessions, decorated by the designer with distinctive yellow and black markings. The text itself is trilingual, each chapter printed in Italian, English and Czech. The 80-book run is equal parts history, paper engineering and tribute—a testament to the potential of print.

See more images of the book in our slideshow.

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Big Jambox

Jawbone introduces a big brother to their family of intelligent speakers

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Just released as a follow-up to the diminuitive Jambox speaker, Jawbone presents Big Jambox, a scaled-up version of the wireless speaker setup. In part a nod to the boombox speakers that gained popularity in the ’70s, the device delivers full sound in a portable package. The speaker pairs automatically with any bluetooth-enabled device, pumping out beats without the need for any additional cordage.

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The design language of Big Jambox is drawn from the original version by Yves Behar, marked by a solid perforated steel grill around the body and high grade rubber on the ends and feet. A few simple controls allow you to pause, skip and adjust volume, though most commands come externally. A clutch feature for any mobile device, a single charge of the lithium-ion battery provides a staggering 15 hours of continuous playback.

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While music may be the most apparent use for Big Jambox, the speaker also includes an echo-canceling microphone that can be utilized as a speakerphone through mobile phone calls as well as video conferencing clients like Skype, FaceTime and GoogleTalk. Jawbone is able to connect to two devices at once, and will remember the profiles of up to eight different devices.

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Big Jambox is being offered in “Red Dot”, “White Wave” and “Graphite Hex”—each colorway featuring a different embossed pattern. The speaker’s “Live Audio” feature takes advantage of binaural audio to create a 3D listening experience. The heft and solidity of Jambox reduces rattle and vibrations even when blasting at full volume, and a set of precision-tuned drivers and opposing dual passive bass radiators help to deliver fuller sound.

Big Jambox is available for $299 from the Jawbone online store.

Images by James Thorne

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Advertising for People Who Don’t Like Advertising

Amsterdam’s creative communications agency tells it straight in a new book

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In their new book “Advertising for People Who Don’t Like Advertising“, the Amsterdam-based communications agency KesselsKramer details the creative side of an industry often considered devilish, making a valid claim that like sex, advertising is “only as warped as the people involved.”

Written in a cheeky, conversational tone, the book imparts some sage advice on how to conduct responsible advertising. Established in 1996, KesselsKramer pioneered the movement for inspirational multidisciplinary campaigns that don’t think like traditional advertising—instead they engage an audience and encourage interaction with a product. In other words, what they call “Open source over hard sell.”

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In addition to showing examples of their own work—such as the brilliantly honest “anti-advertising” campaign for Brinker’s budget hotel—the KK team asked top creatives to discuss how they ultimately stay creative in a client-is-right, money-obsessed field. Weighing in with refreshingly candid takes are Alex Bogusky, Stefan Sagmeister, Steve Henry.

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KK’s longstanding creative director Erik Kessels puts things into neat perspective in a chapter called “The Laws of Creativity and How to Mess With Them”, offering snippets with intriguing and sometimes provocative titles like “Make News Not Ads”, “Follow Not The Process of Others”, “Never Brainstorm” and more.

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Kramer’s rebellious approach to design and creative, responsible advertising—or, communications as KK calls it—helps inject a little confidence in the future of quality brand messaging. The book is out May 2012, and is available for pre-order from Amazon or Laurence King.

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Echoes of the Future

Young designers turn back the clock on design

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As food, clothing and home goods have skewed toward an old-timey vibe with a focus on handmade, locally crafted wares, so too has graphic design turned back the clock to the pre-digital age. Gestalten‘s latest release, Echoes of the Future, profiles emerging designers that mix current technology with letterpress printing, vintage imagery, dated photographic processes and hand-lettered type—or at the least the illusion of it. There are nods to modernism, abstract expressionism, futurism, retro color palettes and the birth of the gridded layout.

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As you page through one muted, mid-century color palette to the next, the influence of past designers can start to feel a little heavy-handed, begging the question, how much style can you assimilate without sacrificing your own voice? But they don’t borrow as much as you might think. Tenfold Collective‘s illustration for a “Winter Wyoming Getaway” comes off as kitsch until it is compared to a true example from a 1950s travel brochure. The side-by-side comparisons showcase just how original these new designers are.

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The book also makes the interesting assertion that the draw towards time-honored design work indicates an “aspiration to visual longevity”. The introduction continues, “In these times of visual uncertainty more and more brands, products and businesses are using designs that promote the impression of stability.” Take the new Hertz campaign, illustrated by Chris Gray for DDB. The bold, three-color palette, the shading technique and heavy typeface are clearly inspired by the European and Russian futurist movement—and it’s great. We can’t help wondering if this is a way to make a statement or to play it safe, something only time will tell.

Echoes of the Future is now for sale from Gestalten and on Amazon.

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Works of Nature

Man-made materials outfit a series of wildlife sculptures from Rachel Denny

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Making a name for herself by way of her “domestic trophies“, Rachel Denny reinterprets the impact of human contact with the natural world in her sculptures. Her wool and cashmere-coated faux-taxidermy creatures represent our instinct to remake that world in our image, an extension of carefully groomed gardens and domesticated animals. Her upcoming solo show “Works of Nature” at Foster/White Gallery in Seattle demonstrates a movement beyond cable-knit game creatures to animals composed of various man-made materials.

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Denny’s unique perspective comes from summers spent in the wilderness hunting with her father balanced by winters of embroidering indoors, creating a fluid and unencumbered fusion of domesticity and wildlife. A few of standouts from the upcoming show include “Sweet Tooth”, a beast composed of cellophane-wrapped hard candies and “War Horse”, a penny-plated mare’s bust that raises questions surrounding money, war and the natural world.

We recently caught up with Denny to discuss the new works and her fascinating process.

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What are some of the new materials and how did you select them?

I love working in a variety of materials and have always collected interesting odds and ends for future studio use. “War Horse” is armored in train-flattened pennies and I chose the material for its duplicity of meanings and the aesthetic quality of the shimmering copper. I generally work with the materials of each piece to bring more meaning to the place that these creatures hold in our lives and how we interact with them. I try to make the work aesthetically pleasing with rich materials to draw the viewer in and then hope that the other layers of meaning sift through.

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Can you tell us a bit about the construction of “War Horse”?

That piece took a little over five months to create and quite a bit of patience. It started as rigid polyurethane with a steel frame inside and wood supports with a covering of tar to seal the foam and prevent any UV damage. Then it was a process of taking thousands of pennies to the railroad tracks and laying them down, going for a hike and returning to pick them up. I had to hand-drill each penny and applied each one with copper nails and a marine-grade adhesive. I was thrilled when it was completed and I could hang it on the studio wall to see the final result.

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How does the process of sourcing materials and making patterns work for the knit pieces?

I collect discarded woolens and clean each piece—sometimes felting them if the knit is too loose and occasionally dying them to make the colors more vibrant. I have lockers full in the studio and use them as needed to match the correct curvature of each piece. Each work is made individually without the use of a pattern and each one is unique.

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What constitutes the frames for your sculptures?

Each sculpture is different, depending on what is needed for the shape and scale of the work. I sometimes use taxidermy forms and carve them down for a specific look or pose. I also use rigid polyurethane foam blocks and carve them down with wood or steel “skeletons” inside to support the weight of the piece. I have also used wood frames and aluminum armatures with clay and plaster. It really just depends on what the individual piece needs and what will look the best while supporting the weight of the work.

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Portland or Seattle?

I have lived in Portland since 1993 and it is a very comfortable city that has a slower pace of life and it is a very supportive community for the arts. It is also a smaller city that doesn’t have a wide collector base and I rarely sell work to my fellow Portlanders. I love the landscape of the Northwest and that there is still a wildness to the area. Seattle is a bit more cosmopolitan and has a different feel than Portland—a bit more energy and seriousness. I have had positive experiences with the galleries there and appreciate the quality of work that they show.

“Works of Nature” is on view at the Foster/White Gallery through 28 April 2012.

Foster/White Gallery

220 Third Ave South #100

Seattle, WA 98104

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