|It’s no secret I’m a fan of upcycled skateboard creations, having interviewed pro-deck upcycler and artist Haroshi and, closer to home, selling skateboard jewellery created by forest-dwellers Ellie and Sam on the store. So when I came across Steve Duque of Duque Skate Art, I was keen to learn about his craft and how he started. And it will come as no surprise that the common thread is an obsession with skateboarding!Please tell us about yourself – where are you from, what is your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
I was born and raised in Rhode Island and have lived there my whole life. My parents moved there from Colombia in 1975 to provide our family with a better opportunity at an education and overall quality of life.I grew up in Cumberland, Rhode Island and am now living in Downcity Providence. About four years ago I applied for residency at the Mercantile Block, a live/work studio building for artists run by AS220. I have lived here since then and it is where Duque Skate Art was born.When and why did you begin exploring/working with skateboards?
My first project using skateboards was back in 1998. After continuously breaking boards every other month while skateboarding, I had an idea to start saving my decks and hanging them in my DJ room in the basement, as a collection of memories, if you will. The ceiling was filled within four years, ha ha! I wanted to work with skateboards because I have such a deep connection with them. I have special memories of them and spent a lot of time on them. So for me to be able to resurrect the decks and re-purpose them was an exciting thought.
Where do you source the skateboards from?
When I first started in September 2012, I was only using my personal decks (skateboards). I have been saving my used/broken boards since I was 15 and had about 59 decks at first. Those went very quickly, so I began asking my friends to donate their used decks. Shortly after that, one of my favourite local skate shops, CIVIL, began saving all the old broken decks people left behind when they purchased a new one. They agreed to support me and donate the recycled decks to me, and I currently sell my items in their shop as well. I appreciate all their support. At this time, I am still getting used decks from anyone willing to donate them. I always offer a custom piece of the board to that individual, in exchange for the material.
Can you tell me about the creative process and how you go about making each piece?
The majority of my work is done with specific colours in mind. When skateboards are made they are pressed using Canadian Maple wood and many of the veneers are brightly coloured. In fact, to this day, I still cut into decks and discover new colours all the time. The process involves measuring, cutting, bonding, and sanding the wood. Each piece is unique, making it different from another, specifically due to the design or scratches left behind by the previous owner. Each skateboard will never be the same because each deck has a past. They come from a different owner and tell a story through the scratches visible on the broken decks.
What other artists, designers, peers or creatives do you admire?
My initial inspiration came from a documentary film by Janne Saario entitled “Second Nature”. In the documentary he is working with strips of skateboard wood and I was inspired to make my own piece using my old decks. It was at that moment when it all began.
I appreciate Haroshi’s work very much as well. I have been following his work since 2009, though never thought I would be working with skateboards at that time. In my eyes he is the Master of Skate Art; his work is outstanding to say the least. I recently saw his solo exhibit in New York where he created scupltures of carousel type horses. Again, I was inspired and amazed at the incredible work Haroshi has done as an avid skater and woodworking artist.
Apart from your work, what other interests or hobbies do you have?
Skateboarding, of course, is a big part of my life. I’ve been skating for 20 years, since my 13th birthday. Skateboarding is a creative and individual pursuit. It has always been a positive outlet for me and has taught me many lessons about life, friends, self control and myself; it is not just about balance. Over the years I have been blessed with opportunities to meet some of the good friends I have today, some I consider like family. I don’t think I will ever stop skateboarding. Even if I’m only rolling around, I will be doing it as long as I can.
I also love photography and have been shooting photos for about six years. As a teenager I discovered that I loved seeing other perspectives to moments, things, and places. They were visually appealing to me and I felt the urge to capture these moments and share them with others.
What’s one thing other people may not know about you?
Many people may not know about my love (obsession) for reptiles, especially geckos! I have four leopard geckos and one leachianus gecko that are all pets. I bought my first gecko when I was 18 and have kept reptiles since then. Last year was my first time breeding them and I hatched my first baby in August. It’s a beautiful thing and a fun and interesting hobby.
It’s not very cool, but I really like…
Plain food; I am a very picky eater, meaning I do not use condiments on my food. I usually order my food plain, with cheese. I don’t eat salads, beans, chicken on a bone, or cold food.
Have you had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Most definitely! My ‘who’d have thought’ moment was just a few months after I started upcycling skateboards. I was sitting at my work desk at home organising my summer schedule and all of a sudden it hit me: This is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. At that moment I realised this was more than just a hobby, it was something I loved doing and wanted to see where it would lead me.
Thanks Steve! You can find his work over on Etsy.