Sex Skateboards – Louis Slater Interview
Renowned for their sex-stamped skatewear, Sex Skateboards are the latest brand to land at size?. So, to give you a little bit of background info on the UK-based company we caught up with creator Louis Slater, talking all things skate, art, and Sex Skateboards...
So to start things off, tell us a bit about how you first got into skateboarding?
I’m from Chesterfield originally, and there was a spot I always used to walk past when I was really young, probably like 10 or something like that, and I used to see all the older skaters there and was instantly attracted to it. I met a couple of friends later, one of which I now own a skate shop with in Sheffield, I met them at a Youth Club I think? They both had skateboards, so I asked for one for either my birthday or Christmas. We all started skating in Chesterfield together and that was it from there! I think it was about 11 or so I started, around that kind of age.
So when did you end up moving to Sheffield?
I first started coming to Sheffield skating from the age of 12 with my friends, we’d always travel over to skate and visit one of the older shops called Sumo, and they ended up sponsoring me when I was young, at about 13 I think? So I always came here, but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I moved here. But I always travel back and forth as it’s only like 20 minutes away from Chesterfield.
Did you get to grow up seeing a lot of the older Sheffield heads skating in the city then?
Yeah, we used to see loads of them, but a lot ended up moving to London and places like that now, so there aren’t that many still around that were about back then.
Moving onto your artwork, when did you first pick up a pen or a brush with the intention to start making artwork and drawing?
Probably about 2004? I think that was the first canvas I did that had an oil painting on. I went to America and a friend of mine called JoJo Dancer had loads of big canvases in his house that he’d painted and they all fascinated me. I always knew I wanted to do it, so then when I got back to England I went out and bought some canvases and oil paints and just started doing it. I think around 2004 yeah.
What style of work did you start off doing?
The first one I did was a self-portrait of me with my budgie on my head, which I might still have upstairs actually if I can dig it out. So just playing around with oil paints really.
You mention in another interview that you used to live in the infamous Warner Ave skate house in America - when was that?
Yeah, I spent quite a lot of time there. When I left school at 16 I went there, a friend of mine from Sheffield, Mark Baines was already out there, so I went and met him and I met everyone else that lived there. I stayed there for 3 months, came back here for a month, and then went back out again, so ended up living there for a quite a while. It was kind of before Baker Skateboards started with that same crew.
Had you always been skating and illustrating alongside the skating, and then one day it just clicked?
I drew and stuff back at school, you know like GCSE Art, and really enjoyed that. And then when I left school, my intention was to go to college and study art in Chesterfield. So I went to the interview after I got back from America the first time, and they were like, “Where’s all of your work?!” and I didn’t bring any, so they were obviously like “Well, we don’t think you can do this course then!” So I thought right, nevermind then and headed back to America and carried on skating. I probably started drawing just a few years after that, just my own little sketches, and then it was after that I got the canvases and started painting.
What was the reason for moving to America in the first place?
Purely just to skate! Watching American skate videos growing up, I just thought that’s where you needed to go. I was just obsessed with it and wanted to do it all the time. I just had to get there. I went on my own at 16 and that was that.
Looking back through your archive of paintings on Instagram, your style of painting has evolved over the past 4 years.
Yeah I recently just started uploading work from 2015 onwards to now, even though I’ve got hundreds of paintings before that, I’ve just never put them up on Instagram.
Had the style changed quite a bit before those as well then?
No, not really, I’d say they’ve always been about figures and people, and then it's gone more abstract, so its kind of changed a little. I started putting sand into some of the figures, and its kind of developed into what it is now. Like I started feeling like I didn’t need figures in it anymore.
When do you realise its time to start changing things up? Do you have a realisation or is it quite a natural change?
Well I guess from every canvas to the next it kind of happens, it evolves, doesn’t it? I never feel like I want to keep doing the same thing, it has to keep progressing or being different. I can't keep doing the same thing all of the time, it moves on to what it is now.
What kind of mediums do you prefer to use when you’re creating?
Now, all I use now is sand and spraypaint. That’s my thing at the moment. Hopefully, it won't be that forever, or maybe it will, I don’t know!
So do you coat the sand on top of the canvas then?
Yeah so it starts as a plain canvas, and then I layer the sand on and start using the spraypaint while it’s still partially wet. I kind of let it do what it wants to do, I can control it to a certain point, but then it’s does what it wants. It’s got the freedom to move on it’s own. I mix it with a liquid, and then it can run, and drip and move whichever way it wants, and I can manipulate it a bit, but ultimately I put the pieces together and its then its own entity.
By the time the paints fully soaked in and begins to dry does that change the colour as well?
Yeah, if you have a look at these here, as I put it on it starts as straight lines across the canvas, but then because I’ve stood it up it’s all moving together, gravity starts coming into play.
Are they quite free-flowing to paint then?
Yeah! So like when I paint the SEX logo, it’s quite quick, and then I’ll do a few little characters, I feel like this is very similar to that, but I don’t want to put any faces or words, it’s more just a ‘feeling’, some sort of expression.
When did SEX first come about? When did you start developing it as a brand? I guess the very first point you started considering it.
The first point was in 2015. I had a blank t-shirt, and because I’ve always done paintings and art, I literally just wanted to make some t-shirts. I bought a load, laid them on the floor, wrote SEX across them, drew some lips, and then I think I took a photo and put it on Instagram, and kind of liked it. It worked together, both the word and the lips.
I ended up doing a few more, and then something in my head clicked, and I switched it up to 'SEX Skateboards', and thought I could build some sort of company out of it. Everything was just spraypainted to begin with, t-shirts, skateboards, and that was all I planned on it being really. I just thought of it as a way to do my art, and put it onto things people could use. I hadn’t planned on getting stuff printed properly, but then it got to a point where more and more people wanted to buy them and I couldn’t hand paint every one.
Is it still quite a small team working behind it, or just yourself?
Well yeah it was myself when I first started, and then I had a couple of people working with me, and now I’ve got a couple more.
On the artwork side of things, was it a conscious decision style-wise to keep your personal artwork away from the graphics used in your Sex Skateboards apparel?
Yeah, I guess my canvases have always been my ‘pure’ art, like what's going on inside of me and what I need to get out. Then it's like the SEX logo, that was just from one canvas that day, and that’s then taken a life of its own. It’s kind of all spurned from the logo and followed that same kind of style. Saying that, in the future, I’m going to want to put this other kind of work onto Sex clothes.
With the business side of the brand, have you had to self-teach yourself quite a bit along the way? Learning the different aspects of designing clothing itself, and tailoring artwork to fit on apparel?
Yeah I mean, I guess with working in skateboarding and having a skate shop, there’ve always been graphics on t-shirts, and I've been around that for years. We’ve made our own bits for the shop in the past, so it’s not been too much work. It’s not like catwalk fashion or anything! It’s more the dealing with factories where it gets more technical, things like sizes on things that aren’t just t-shirts or hoodies. It’s just coming up with different ideas I guess?
Have you got any other avenues you’re looking to move into in the future in terms of the things you guys are making?
I’ve got a few ideas, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
You've collaborated with Dogtown in the past, Is there anyone else you’d maybe want to work with in the future?
I’ve got a collab lined up but I can't speak about that one yet! But yeah, there are a few things happening in the background.
Are they giving you the freedom to express your artwork?
Yeah fully, that’s what it’s all about. They want me to be as involved as I can. I’d like to do more work with artists or photographers in the future maybe as well.
Is it important for you to label yourself as a British brand within skateboarding?
I’ve never thought too much about standing out as a ‘British brand’ alone, it’s more just about being an individual and doing what you want to do, and do it your way.
Sex Skateboards Collection
You can discover the rest of the Sex Skateboards online via the size? website and in selected stores now.