Students design, build custom boards

Camille Young’s four cousins will receive skateboards as Christmas presents – all made by her in a Summer Session 1 class in East Carolina University’s School of Art and Design.

Young also is making skateboards for her roommates, her mother, brother and herself – 11 total.

“They are standard street deck style unique to each of them,” she said. “I wanted to make them as unique as possible and put as much time and effort into it so it looks really good.”

Last week, Young still needed to attach wheels for the boards already completed and was waiting on wood to arrive for the others. She matched her friends and family interests, ranging from a yellow and black Hufflepuff Harry Potter-themed board to a marbled green one that will be painted with a varsity letter and mascot for Ashbrook High School in Gastonia, where her mom teaches. Her mother plans to hang it in her classroom.

Young, an art major concentrating in photography and journalism, prefers roller skates but will try riding her skateboard. “I don’t really skateboard,” she said. “I’m really clumsy.”

From left, ECU senior Christy Vang and instructor Judd Snapp work together to glue layers of veneer that will eventually become a skateboard.

From left, ECU senior Christy Vang and instructor Judd Snapp work together to glue layers of veneer that will eventually become a skateboard.

Instructor Judd Snapp has taught 14 students over the five-week course how to cut, glue, seal and finish boards made from Canadian rock maple. Seven layers of veneer were glued together and pressed for each deck. “Because the wood is so thin, it will take a bend,” Snapp said. “We put the glue between the layers and press against a form.”

The students had to work quickly to apply glue and layer the pieces in about 10 minutes before placing them in a vacuum bag for four to five hours. The end result is a rectangular piece of wood, leaving students to decide the shape of their board.

“We have some pretty crazy ones,” Snapp said. “Those boards are more sculptural. I’m not sure how functional it will be.”

One of the ornate boards was made by Christy Vang of Morganton, who painted ice crystals, a lotus flower and a woman’s face and scale or feather-like upper torso in muted blues and purples, all freehand. “I like to personalize my art,” she said. “I don’t know how to ride but I’m going to ride it.”

Kyndall Cortes doesn’t skateboard either but her boyfriend does. Her board will be a wall piece while the one for her boyfriend will be functional. “I wanted something that is relevant to what I do already,” said Cortes, who is majoring in painting and art history and is known for her large oil paintings of oysters. She’s hand-painting seven oysters on her board; one oyster took five hours. “It’s not on canvas, and it’s soaking up the paint pretty fast.”

She’s enjoyed the process of making the skateboards, she said. “I’ve learned so much, how to use power tools and getting comfortable with the wood shop. I’m learning how to make my own frames and cradles for my paintings,” Cortes said.

Most students made at least two to four skateboards in the class, said Snapp, who also gave the students an option to make a free choice wood project.

Sinjin Samaluk made a cornhole set with a Dragonball Z theme, which he’s looking forward to using on game day Saturdays this fall. His skateboard featured a similar design. “I can’t ride those things but it was really fun making it,” said Samaluk, a rising senior from Apex majoring in art with a concentration in computer animation.

Grant Chatham of Statesville is one of the experienced skaters in the class and also comes from a family of woodworkers. A rising senior, he has completed projects in ECU’s wood shop since his freshman year. He’s making three commissioned boards and a fourth for himself.

He picked up skateboarding once he got to college because it’s easier than dealing with a bike, he said.

“I mainly longboard,” said Chatham, a graphic design major. “It’s my main transportation to and from class. I like the freedom and I can get into smaller spaces with more agility.”

For Snapp, he enjoys teaching the students how to make something they can use. “It’s a utilitarian thing. We’re giving them the idea that if they want something, they can make it and they don’t have to buy it,” he said.

This is the third year that the School of Art and Design has offered a hands-on course giving students the opportunity to explore the intersection between art, craft, tradition and function, said Director Kate Bukoski. Students previously made canoes and paddleboards.

“This year, students investigated the fabrication of skateboards, how design affects the ride, and pushed the boundaries of art by applying it to an everyday object,” Bukoski said. “Students’ artistic choices were informed by their effect on function, and vice versa, allowing them to move along the art/design continuum, and demonstrating how the fine arts can be applied in a commercial context.”
Camille Young sands the edge of a skateboard she made in a Summer Session 1 art class at ECU.

Camille Young sands the edge of a skateboard she made in a Summer Session 1 art class at ECU.