Edmonton Illustrator Hayley Wright Inspired by Unconventional Medium: Skateboard Decks

By Michelle Ferguson September 25, 2017

An unfinished skateboard deck sits amid canisters and brushes on what used to be a kitchen table. Clear plastic chairs reveal colours of designs past, while a wood burning pen lays in waiting — ready to fill the room with the sweet smell of maple.

Local illustrator and skateboard designer Hayley Wright is putting some finishing touches on a Twin Peaks-inspired, custom deck, apologizing for the mess in her otherwise pristine Oliver-area studio.

"This used to be a dining area," she says, "then I started spray painting here."

Since picking up skateboard design, the surface hasn't seen many dinner parties, but has been witness to countless quirky and unconventional skateboard graphics.

Known for her elegant fashion illustrations, the Toronto-born artist began designing decks after a trip to Kelowna last summer.

"It was kind of a funny time in my career. I was getting a little bored of drawing on paper and always doing artwork for your walls," says Wright.

The freckly 27-year-old received her first set of watercolours from the dollar store when she was four. Upon completing fine arts at the University of British Columbia and fashion merchandising at the Vancouver College of Art and Design, Wright successfully combined her artistic talents with her love of fashion, selling editorial-inspired illustrations through her online print shop Paper + Ink.

Photo by Tye Eldridge

But after six years of drawing professionally, Wright yearned for another medium. Inspired by the countless long boards cruising the boardwalk in the Orchard City, she started looking into what was available in terms of deck art for women.

"I wasn’t finding a lot that was geared to females," she says, "and what I was finding was kind of stereotypical and I wasn’t loving it."

Upon her return she ordered a blank deck, which she emblazoned with a scene from one of her favourite pop culture references — Fight Club.

New to woodburning, it took Wright 40 hours to complete Brad Pitt's likeness.

As painstaking as the process was, she was hooked.

That fall, Wright started a crowdfunding campaign to help her finance a collection of 12 handcrafted skateboards. The project, dubbed The Skateboard Collective, was meant to challenge the idea of conventional skateboard graphics and to inspire people of all ages and skill-levels to pick up the sport.

The artist was overwhelmed by support, as well as requests for custom work.

"It was crazy. I realized that maybe this was something that is needed in the sport," she says.

A dozen skateboards has since turned into 60-something, as Wright continues to produce whimsical designs using unorthodox techniques and materials, such as woodburning, ink marbling, and flower pressing.

“I use things that people might not have tried on a skateboard before,” says Wright, referring to confetti, gold leaf and gift wrap.

Wright hopes that her skateboards and longboards, which are available for purchase through her website, will help fill a gap in the market. The array of art-deco- and pop-culture-inspired boards are both beautiful and approachable, and will hopefully serve to get more people into the sport.

"I like to think my boards a definitely female-friendly, but also just friendly for anybody of any skill level,” she says.

From another perspective: Hayley isn't the only maker producing cool skateboards in Edmonton. Last month we wrote about Olive Skateboards, where decks are produced en-masse.

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