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We have been admirers of Isle for all of their relatively short life, so were stoked when they agreed to commission the jigsaw logo from their latest collection onto a classic black long sleeve exclusively for us. We took a few shirts to founders Nick Jensen, Paul Shier and Chris Aylen, plus used the opportunity to take a look at their studio space and see how Isle all comes together.
Studio Visit: Isle Skateboards.
The Isle studio is not somewhere we would have found, off a nondescript London high street, up a flight of stairs and at the end of a winding maze of artist spaces. Don't get covered in paint¦ there is oil paint everywhere Nick warns, it is after all a working studio and Isle are always at work. The walls and all available surfaces are covered in supplies, tools and Isle relics. A large Isle 3D graphic on one desk and the Curiosities series in various states of deconstruction, boxes of interesting things, artefacts and the shelves that housed them for their deck series. We spent a few months collecting, hours on eBay and going to car boot sales Nick explains, âloads of it didn't work but we found all these nice bits that were biographical in a sense. On a plinth sits a fairly recognisable video camera. Sat on it's base, disemboweled of it's electronics, it is now a vase to some flowers and central point of the forthcoming Vase video. Isle's approach is very much based in artwork and creative process. Some of the best bits have been happy accidents Chris describes, âcreating outside of computers for me is escapism, we really enjoy working on it and hardly even notice the hours. The 'Jigsaw' graphic on the Long Sleeve T-Shirt is a good example of this organic and explorative process. Isle commissioned Lee Marshall (who also collaborated with them on the 'Artist Series #1') to work up the design that has now been developed into a cut out as a way to explore future use and appropriation. A big part of their time is now caught up in editing their first video, Vase. It will be our defining statement, a mission statement Nick describes, they'll all know who we are¦ these guys are hardcore into skateboarding. In that aspect Isle are very much the archetypal skateboarding company, operated in a very intimate and low fi way, but reaching a wide and broad audience through their brilliantly assembled skate team. Everything Isle produce is a creative venture: their logo, for example, was a development of some 400 prototypes in a sketch book before Tim Fowler (formerly of Rough Trade / Slam City) came up with the solution. The difference is trusting themselves and knowing when something is finished. Everyone is starting a company these days Chris explains, Isle stand out as genuine creatives. After visiting the studio we wanted to ask Nick a few questions about his relationship with skateboarding and how it all began.
Interview: Nick Jensen.
Flatspot: What first turned you onto skateboarding?
Nick Jenson: Me and my brother used to play around on bikes and an old toy setup when we were like 10 year old kids. Then we noticed one of our neighbours was a skater and he was older than us and really good. We convinced him to let us hang out sometimes and we learned some of the basics and became hooked.
FS: As an artist, how evocative for you is the artwork of 'Skate culture'?
NJ: I don't necessarily see my influences as categorised, I am definitely effected by the aesthetic of skate culture whatever that means, but I guess my experience of working with artists and being a studio based artist myself has had an effect on the presentation of Isle. Through the consideration of both composition and form.
FS: You are London based, what drew you to the capital? NJ: I grew up here and have always loved the place!
FS: Oh right, I have no idea why, or where we thought you did grow up. What were your first experiences of skating London?
NJ: Some of my first and best experiences were skating in the summer holidays at Southbank with all the locals. I had no idea it was that exciting and fun until my brother and I went there and started meeting people and making friends. We would skate there every single day practically, it was obsessive. All different kinds of people would skate there and in all different styles of skating, it was spontaneous and we felt like part of a tribe.
FS: What do you make of the new batch of young kids?
NJ: I am stoked on all the new kids and how they are doing there own thing. That's what I love about skateboarding, all kinds of influences mix and everyone embraces each others take on it. I think kids should follow their instinct and skate in a way they feel most excited about.
FS: Do you remember travelling for skating? Where was formative for you?
NJ: I remember travelling on one of the first Blueprint tours around the UK. It was nerve racking because I was used to my comfort zone. But the more we travelled around the more I got into it. I think it's really useful to explore and skate different types of stuff. I remember going to LA when I was like 16 and I stayed with Ollie Barton. He showed me all these memorable spots from Mouse and Love Child, etc. It was great, and it actually made me appreciate the UK more and when I came back I was so eager to skate.
FS: Where are you skating lately?
NJ: I have been skating Borough benches a fair bit. It's a fun big open space and then going on missions to film stuff for Vase. At the moment Sylvain is in London so were all hanging out going on long day missions to finish final tricks. The computer scenario will become more and more intense in the next few weeks, but Jake has done a lot of editing as he goes.
FS: How protective are you about finding skate spots? Is the worry that once you find a good spot it can get blown out pretty quick?
NJ: I am not that protective. I can't justify being like that to myself . If someone else finds the spot I skate and does a trick, I am generally stoked, I don't see it as a competition. I get hyped on trying to film lines and other road gap stuff at the moment which doesn't really allow for people to blow out I guess.
FS: Artwork has always been synonymous with skating, but how about Music? - Have you discovered music though skating? (videos)
NJ: Good question. I got massively into Animal collective and Cass McCombs because of Alien Workshop and Jason Dill. I think there is something very connected between skating and music and the type of music that gets me inspired. I am always listening to the Smiths, they're timeless and the lyrics are just too good.
FS: Do you remember the moment that Isle was born in your minds?
NJ: Paul (Shier) asked me one day while we were skating a ledge spot in Kings Cross. I was like 'yeah why not' and then we grew it with the help of Paul's old Croydon friend Chris Aylen, who has become a great friend and partner. We hoped to start something solid and steady with a unique take. Thinking outside of the box to create something that feels meaningful in a time like ours today.
FS: With Isle, what have been your proudest achievements?
NJ: My proudest moments are when I realise how strong our team is. We're all good mates and look out for each other . Feeling part of something like this is magic, and making things that allows us to continue in this way and to inspire others is the raddest thing for me.