August 04, 2014

An Interview with Spidey De Montrond on Skateboard Collecting

Skate Culture is a site interested in, amongst other things, the history of skateboarding and skateboard art and so naturally I am also interested in the collecting of these pieces for artistic as well as historical and nostalgic reasons. Now some might see skateboards only as tools meant to be skated, not items to be collected, though I see no reason whatsoever that this needs to be an either/or situation. It is true that the function of a skateboard is first and foremost to skate. Lose sight of this and one has lost sight of the essence of it all of course. That said, arguably the moment that decks began to have art put upon them saw a tangible acknowledgement that mere utilitarian considerations were not the sole purview of the skateboard; instead, skateboarding was to become attached to other things like a skate art, skate music and so on. The collecting of these items then is not to bastardize something solely meant for a functional purpose but rather is a kind of acknowledgement of the existence of something deeper and more complex: namely the existence of a skate culture with its own history, art, stories and personas, represented by these decks as well as by other things -- things that are eminently collectible in nature. In any single pro skateboard deck we have various elements of interest. First there is the board itself of course, then there is the particular shape of the board (which can relate to the particular period in which it was created or to the particular way it was skated), then there is also the skate company and the skater to whom it is attached, and there is also the skate art and the skate artist who designed the deck art. That vintage skateboard decks should be collected should hardly come as any surprise then -- and none of this even factors in more rudimentary considerations such as the desire to own a nostalgic relic from one's skateboarding past.

The reality is there are various good reasons to collect. It occurred to me, however, that skaters, skate artists and others closely attached to the skateboarding industry might have their own particular and unique reasons for doing so, given their own particular proximity to it all. So it was that I decided to make an attempt to approach some of these folks to ask them, what, if anything, have they collected -- and why?

Our first participant in this little enterprise is Spidey de Montrond.

* * *

SC: So tell us Spidey, when did you first start to consciously collect your decks? Did you have a sense early on of the importance of keeping these things?

Spidey:
I don't collect decks consciously or unconsciously. The only decks I have are those relevant to my life in skating, otherwise I am not the least interested in collecting and never have been except for vintage guitars and amps to play.


Left: The prototype of Spidey's first Santa Cruz model from 1985. It was never released. For more on this, see page 340 of Sean Cliver's Disposable Skateboard Bible. Right: The first prototype of Spidey's iconic Santa Cruz "Swindle" deck from 1987.

Q. Sometimes collectors of skateboarding memorabilia can be a bit maligned. There is an idea that collecting somehow goes contrary to the spirit of skateboarding somehow. ("Just skate the board.") Others take a view that there is a culture and a history here that is worth preserving and they wish to maintain contact with. What's your take?

Spidey:
It's very subjective, much like collecting plastic dolls in a box. It's a phenomenon on its own trajectory with its own market forces for those that engage in such things. History, sure, it's there I guess. For me, I lived it, so access to it is visceral and I am not compelled to collect, but it's nice to more recently see some much needed scholarship and reverence which is usually reserved for, say, something like baseball.

Q. Do you collect any other skateboard memorabilia other than what you've shown us? Skate stickers, magazines, or the decks of other skaters?

Spidey:
No I don't collect anything except memories.

Q. What would you say is the favourite piece of your collection?

Spidey:
If I had to choose it would the Daddy & Daughter decks as I am proud and happy daddy also the my latest PPS deck.


Left: The first Daddy & Daughter model. Only eleven were made. Right: The second Daddy & Daughter model. Thirty were made.


Spidey's current "New Ransom" PPS deck.

Q. Sometimes some express the idea that the art on the bottom (or top for that matter) of a deck doesn't really matter. Others that skateboarding and art have an important, symbiotic relationship. What is your view about this? Is skate art incidental and accidental, or is it essential?

Spidey:
For me it's relevant as I am brainwashed by marketing! (Ha ha!) I like to put a personal touch in what I do. It has a connection, a context and an emotion and maybe that is why over the years people have resonated with some of the decks I associated with myself as it was thought out and somehow beyond just, "oh, let's put a graphic on the deck." I can see currently why this would not matter as it's not precious and you're just going thrash the dickens out of the deck -- not that I didn't do that either, but I came at it from a different perspective, much like album cover art work was a big deal in the late 60's and throughout the 70s.


Left: Spidey's first PPS deck, prior to his PPS graphic. Right: A Neil Blender Vans Promo deck. Approximately one hundred made.

Q. As you mention, you have been quite involved in your own marketing and design through your skate career. Could you tell us a little bit about that? Where you always interested in art and design or did that develop through your love of skateboarding?

Spidey:
I am a holistic person. I grew up in a business / fine arts / media publishing environment, so it was natural for me to do all that I did. I conceptualized all the art, did the art direction, chose photographers for their various skill sets, created marketing ideas, and implemented them and so forth. I was steeped in art, music, film, dance and theater since day one so it was easy for me to play on all areas in terms of media and art.


Q. The idea is put out there that skate art has declined in recent years. What's your opinion?

Spidey:
I have no idea.

Thanks for your time today, Spidey, and thanks for showing us your collection.


Two tribute-style decks done for Spidey. Left: Mark Caroll's "Legends of Skateboarding." A hand painted deck gifted to Spidey by Carroll. Right: A fan's tribute deck that was gifted to Spidey.

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