AIGA Los Angeles

The golden glow-in-the-dark 344 Skateboard. I created only one board, but the page looks nicer with two.

Every so often the Los Angeles chapter of AIGA—the American Institute of Graphic Arts—used to have a silent auction to raise funds, and they ask designers to contribute something. Usually there’s a theme, and it involves making something based on a template. The year before it had been clock faces, in 2005 it was skateboards.

Usually, I don’t do well with this type of thing. I just lack the necessary patience for crafts. Gluing non-flat things gets messy, it takes too long for everything to dry, I rush through it, and the result shows it. This time it worked out well, though. I was still very much in the process of working on the Piccolo Principe van, and had my handy dandy little gold-leafing kit ready to go.

There are a lot of processes that look easier than they turn out to be. You go into it thinking, “Well, sure! How hard could that be?” And then you quickly realize that you’ve just been watching people who make it look easy. (I resent those people.) With gold-leafing, though, you actually get something that looks very much what you’d expect gold leaf to look like. And without a whole lot of work at that! It’s very satisfying, and it looks fantastic! No wonder artisans gilded everything in sight for the past thousand years. It’s fun! Which couldn’t have been true of too many things in the middle ages.

At any rate, I gilded that deck, boy! Gilded it good. And then added a glow-in-the-dark 344 sigil for good measure. I could’ve left it there, but decided to add lots and lots of rays and circles on top of it all. Which turned out to be a good choice. Sharpies will eat through the clear lacquer that keeps the imitation gold leaf in place, but if you draw fast enough, you’re OK. It does make you worry about the chemicals at work, though.

During the auction there were few takers initially, but things picked up when a mystery bidder came in by phone, and ultimately snapped up the board for around $200. A respectable showing. The bidder had asked for anonymity, but somebody spilled the beans. Of course, it turned out to be Rajah, my Piccolo Principe client.

When I found out I sent him a quick little note, joking that I could just see him pop an Ollie. Raj is such an Old World gentleman—the impeccable courtesy, the rarefied taste, the exquisite suits—that the idea of him on a skateboard was funny to me. Well… within five minutes he shot back a photo of himself popping an Ollie. Turns out he’s actually quite the skater. He and his then small son Emile would ride on Rajah’s long board together. Go. Figure! So there. Don’t judge a book by its bespoke cover. (I like to end these texts on a little moral, and now I have. Good.)


The deck in progress. It’s like a giant bar of chocolate! (And now I want chocolate. Great.)
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