DeKALB – For Ariel Ries, the connection between skateboards and art is natural.
“Since the beginning of skateboard time, the art has been such a big influence. People will always remember the first graphic on their board,” said Ries, owner of Smalltown Skate Shop. “Skateboarding itself is an artistic expression. A lot of artists are skateboarders, and vice-versa.”
What started as a skateboard-themed art show six years ago has grown into the annual Skateboard-Inspired Art Show, which brings dozens of artists and hundreds of visitors on the last Thursday of February to the shop at 229 E. Lincoln Highway in downtown DeKalb.
Josh Pincombe of Sycamore has displayed artwork at the show every year except last year. This year he custom-made a wagon for son Jax, 1, using carved wood, custom leather work, custom metal work, and a custom paint job.
“I wanted my son to have a hot rod when he was 1, so I built him a hot rod,” said Pincombe, who grew up in California.
“I used to skate since I was 5 years old when I got my first skateboard from my dad,” he said. “In California, if you aren’t skateboarding, you are surfing.”
Already thinking ahead, Pincombe said that he has “an old-school bicycle idea for next year.”
Ries, an artist herself, was one of about 40 artists who displayed their artwork at last Thursday’s show.
“Before I even started the shop, I studied jewelry making for two years,” said Ries, who specializes in making jewelry from broken skateboards.
“When someone comes in and they get a new board because they broke their old one, I collect those,” Ries said. “I just knew I was going to use them for something.”
Most skateboards are manufactured from a seven-layer laminate of Canadian maple, and some manufacturers dye the layers of ply to give the edges of their skateboards visual appeal. Ries shapes and carves the pieces of laminate to reveal swirls of color in the layers.
“It’s hard to find the right ones with the right-colored plies,” she said. “I love making earrings – it’s something about the opposite symmetrical sculptures.”
Other art included steampunk-inspired jewelry by Chelsey Dever of DeKalb, handcrafted longboards constructed of both laminate and solid wood by Terry Brown of Hinckley, and dozens of custom-painted skateboards and longboards. Justin McAllister of DeKalb displayed a longboard decorated with a Sharpie marker depiction of hip hop artist Kid Cudi, who will perform at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center later this month.
Skateboarder Marty Jonsson of Compton brought his girlfriend, Anna O’Sadnick of Peru, to DeKalb to see the show. He has been unable to attend the show in past years, but he is a loyal customer of Smalltown Skate Shop.
“This is the shop where I bring my money,” Jonsson said. “The shop is run by skaters and I like to give money to people who are supporting the scene.”