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.
Ries, an artist herself, was one of about 40 artists who displayed their artwork at 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 a longboard decorated with a depiction of hip-hop artist Kid Cudi by Justin McAllister of DeKalb, who works exclusively in Sharpie markers.
Kid Cudi will appear March 29 at NIU’s Convocation Center, and McAllister sees events such as the art show as an opportunity to promote the skate shop, his own artwork and the concert.
“If I can put my stamp on something like that and we can create cool events like this, it can lead to larger things in DeKalb outside your own circle of friends,” McAllister said.