Scratched, dented, smashed, and abused, what to do with skateboard relics that are too damaged to carry their intrepid riders? Rich Moorhead appreciated the dense seven-ply laminated maple, the graffiti-inspired graphics, and turned up tails. Where others saw broken sports equipment destined for landfill he saw an authentic surface material. Experimenting with the tools of the construction trade, he utilizes scroll and ban saws, routers, drills and sanders to create tile in four shapes, brick, cube, border and orb. He sorts the tile pieces by color, form and size. This gives a rhythm to the cacophony of pieces, the better to reconstruct walls, countertops, backsplashes, cladding and retail displays.
Rich Moorhead surrounded by decks
The art of assembling each custom installation is the meditative stage of the process. Working within the measurements of the finished project the mesh-mounted tile is laboriously placed. Moorhead starts with what he calls the “ugly” tile, usually gashed and devoid of color. They become the field, balancing dense blacks and primary colored pieces, which he adds to create flow and interest. Every deck he uses is distinct. They bear the incidents of the skater, a tumbled caballerial, a miscalculated nose slide, an attempted kick-flip.
Moorhead was commissioned to create tile cladding for a square column at Life Rolls On, a subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
When Moorhead was skating he explains, “We owned our decks for longer periods of time. Our riding was less harsh on the boards. Today decks wear out before the enthusiasm for skating is over. Typically the broken decks are returned to the skate shops where the trucks and wheels are removed, and the obsolete decks are thrown away.” Moorhead has changed all this with his I Ride I Recycle program. Partnering with skate shops and parks across the country, the used decks are now sent to Art of Board headquarters in Hanover, PA, where they receive a second life as wood tile. Art of Board even has a “mail back program,” which allows the decks to be sent to Moorhead free of charge, another incentive to participate.
Counter at the Life Rolls On facility.
Finished with sanded grout, the tile is being used in residential and commercial applications. What on first glance looks like a vibrant colored mosaic, is upon closer inspection an energetic expression of an irreverent sport that has been with us since the fifties. When Moorhead was commissioned to create tile cladding for a square column at Life Rolls On, a subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, he integrated “positive orbs.” He searched his bins for life affirming words and images, cut them out in circles and placed them strategically amongst the carnival of scarred tiles. He also included a Superman logo in homage to the enduring Reeve film legacy.
Skateboards are designed to be functional and illustrative, at Art of Board their purpose is sustained, without injury.
"Tileista" is a monthly column that explores the beauty of artisan tile. JoAnn Locktov is the author of two books and numerous articles on contemporary mosaics. Her public relations firm Bella Figura Communications represents creative individuals and businesses in design, architecture, art, and travel. Follow her musings on Twitter, and on her website Bella Figura Communications.