Reik Manig is a young man following his passion, all the way into turning his favorite pastime into a full-time job. But as opposed to most guys on the pages of this magazine, Reik is not looking to become the next pro skateboarder – he’s a skateboard artist! Although he himself may describe his work as sheer craftsmanship rather than art, a large dose of creativity and artistic vision can hardly be denied when he breathes new life into old skateboards. Currently in the process of establishing his company “wallride” on a mission to bring skateboarding into living rooms across the country, Reik found the time to talk to PLACE about his creative process and vision for the future.
Reik, let’s start with some basic information about yourself.
I’m 26 years old and originally come from the Southern part of Brandenburg, Germany. I’ve been living in Berlin for the past seven years and have been skating since I was eleven.
When did you start mixing skateboarding with art?
I’ve always been fascinated when I saw products made out of skateboards, products fuelled by a passion for skateboarding. They’re also something special that can’t easily be found just about everywhere. At some point I started working on smaller projects that popped up inside my head. And I also developed a passion for making and building things with craftsmanship.
But while I was still working at my full-time job, there simply wasn’t enough time to pursue it earnestly and make it happen. But as it happened, I had an opportunity to take some time off for a prolonged period. A journey around the world last year gave me plenty of time to reflect and, most of all, get inspired on what kind of things can be made from skateboards. That’s how it all came together.
Mixing skateboarding and art really started with my first project, or picture. Although viewed from the outside my work may often appear as art, for me the main focus lies with the craftsmanship and realizing the visions of my customers. In the process, I implement their concepts and ideas, but I also like to reserve some degree of creative freedom…
Where do you get all the old boards? Have you ran into shortages before?
Up until now, most of my old boards have come from friends. But word has gotten around that I’m always looking for boards. So whenever someone has five old decks laying around under their bed, I’ll head over there to pick them up. More boards also provide more options in terms of colors and color combinations, which allows me to offer my customers a lot more variety. Another main resource is the Berlin Titus store. Their team collects old boards for me whenever people set up new ones at the store. That’s why, fortunately, I haven’t had any shortages so far. Here and there I’ve had a hard time finding juszt the right color, because it’s really not that easy to find just the right board! So if anyone reading this has any old boards for me, please hit me up.
How important is the whole “upcycling” angle for your work?
I really know what it’s like from my own experience as a skater: You get a new board, you set it up, and at home all the old ones pile up until you run out of space. At some point you just end up throwing them away – which is kind of a shame. So why not create something new out of them? For me, the “upcycling” element is an important and positive side effect, next to a chance to create something entirely new. Basically, boards are an inexhaustible material resource.
What’s your typical work process for creating new pieces?
For the lion I’m working on right now, the theme was vaguely determined in advance. I always talk the ideas, concepts, and demands through with my clients. We talk about which colors and what type of construction and creative style the image will have. After that, I create a few rough images in Photoshop for feedback. At that point, I also start preparing the boards and cutting them into strips, and all that.
Then it’s time to go into details: The image is transferred to a plate in original format, and the hands-on creative work can begin. During the construction process, all the structures and arrangements will fall into place. Finally, it’s time for my favorite step in the process when the picture is sanded down one last time and sealed with oil.
Do you choose the imagery yourself or is that commissioned by clients?
Initially, I only implemented my own images and ideas in order to experiment with different styles, shapes, and techniques, and build some practical experience. I’m going through a permanent process of evolution, which really motivates and fascinates me. It drives me to keep pushing and advancing my technique more and more. I’m currently working on my second commissioned project, and this kind of work will be my focus for the future. On the side, I’m always pursuing my own projects, of course.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now my sole focus is the big lion that’s taking shape right here. Somebody approached me after seeing my first lion and was really stoked on it. That led to building another, somewhat different lion for him. At the same time, I’m working on building a public face for my business with a website and brand identity.
Which artists do you look up to?
I always think it’s great to see when people are creating things from skateboards and share the same passion as I do. A lot of woodworkers have become great sources of inspiration, as their work is rather similar to mine. Overall, I’ve always been impressed by works using natural resources and especially wood, because they have that special something about them… I’m especially in awe of the works of Haroshi, although I would place his work in the realm of sculpture.
Aside from your work, what kind of things are you involved with in your free time?
Since returning from my trip in September last year, I’ve kept working on realizing my projects and all my collected ideas, constantly trying to advance my own skills in the process. In between building things and collecting ideas, I also like to go skate with my friends and discovering new places around the world. But is there really a way to divide all these interests between work and free time? For me it’s more of a life’s work and I’m constantly engaged with it, day and night.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now my main focus lies with bringing my brand “wallride” to market and making it grow. The whole thing has been gearing up for a while and the time has finally come to take it to the next level. My biggest wish of all, of course, is to turn my passion into a job and constantly advance as a person.
by Philipp Reul
Photos: Nico Kasterke