With only a couple years under its belt, Paisley has already proven to be a breath of fresh air in an industry that is becoming increasingly safer. Being completely art driven, Paisley has taken on an artist collective vibe, working with incredible creators in many mediums on deck series like the latest offering from Winston Tseng. Originally this piece was going to be all about Winston and his contributions to Paisley, but when I fired him some questions, it became clear that there was more to be told. He directed me towards legendary artist Sean Cliver of World Industries and Big Brother fame and together they painted a picture of all things Paisley.
When did Paisley start?
Sean Cliver: We first started talking about the idea of a company in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the real commitment began. Our first two boards were released in November 2015, one of which has been in production since then (the “Serial Party”).
Photo Courtesy of Paisley Skateboards
Who all was involved in starting Paisley?
SC: Primarily myself and Paul Urich, a longtime skateboarder and artist. He runs the operation out of a small gallery space in San Francisco, while I work out of LA. Then there is a small collective of friends who pitch in and help us out… shoestring though the budget and company may be, we still need help tying it all up.
What’s Paisley all about? What was the motivation behind starting a new skate brand?
SC: Basically I was getting frustrated by the current industry climate and how the “business” aspect had superseded the "creative/fuck-all" aspect of skateboarding. I wanted to revive the freedom we had as artists and companies in the early ‘90s era, along with the ability to screen-print the graphics in the same manner they were then—bottom line and budgets be damned—and extend this invite to other artists as well. Needless to say, this hasn’t made for a lucrative business model, but it’s been a lot of fun, all the artists have really stepped up and enjoyed the challenge, and I’m really proud of everything we’ve managed to produce so far. The best thing, however, is that the company has grown well beyond the original “art project” roots and taken on a legitimate life of its own.
Photo Courtesy of Paisley Skateboards
Winston, what inspired you to create these latest graphics?
Winston Tseng: The graphics Sean and others have been doing for Paisley were definitely an inspiration, just trying to do something that might be worthy of the brand and what people have come to expect. When Sean first asked if I’d be up for doing some guest boards, they really encouraged me to do something in my style, visually and conceptually. Over the years I’ve done a good amount of graphics related to racial stereotypes, and I’ve become more political in my personal work, so this seemed like a really good opportunity to continue along those lines.
What’s the message behind your decks?
WT: For “Pei Zha Li” I wanted to take on certain stereotypes by overloading a bunch of them to the point of being ridiculous, to show that they are pretty ridiculous. The message behind “Paisley Grabs Back” is self-explanatory and aligns with the messaging of the Women’s March. Both touch on serious subjects, but like any board graphic they aren’t meant to be taken too seriously. Hopefully they can make you think twice about the subject, but still be humorous and light-hearted. All things aside, a sea of people wearing pink knit “pussyhats” looks pretty silly.
Photo Courtesy of Atlasskateboarding.com
How do you feel today’s political climate is affecting you and your art?
WT: Actually before last year, I didn’t really pay close attention or have a great understanding of our political system. I’ve always preferred to deal with social subject matters in my work, but today it seems the line is blurred and they’re inseparable. In one way it’s good because there’s an endless amount of stuff happening to inspire new ideas, but it’s also bad because from my perspective it’s just depressing stuff happening. But I guess if it continues like this, I’ll keep incorporating it into my work as much as possible.
Interview: Jacob Malenick