The art of DIY has been essential to the rise of skateboarding over the past few decades. Converse, sparked by new interest self-created spots from a new breed of skateboarders, gave their already well-established CONS Project some extra depth with its only stop in Australia. [Numerous CONS Project events have been held in Australia since this article was originally published.]
Having already been a huge success in Los Angeles, New York, London and Berlin, CONS Project Melbourne was not only the first in this part of the world, but also the first to fully incorporate open workshops covering plywood construction, concrete DIY, photography and videography, all run by respected people from the Australian scene, including Andrew Brophy, Tom Flaherty, Andrew Peters and Su Young Choi. Not only that, but in attendance was a lengthy list of Converse CONS Ambassadors; Kenny Anderson, Nick Trapasso, Mike Anderson and Sammy Baca had made the trip out especially to lend a hand.
Relative newcomer to the Converse CONS crew Andrew Brophy brought his towering, brotherly stature to the mix, giving praise to what’s been crafted. “What they have created in this space is a bit different to the ones they’ve been doing elsewhere in the world”, says Brophy in his Brit-infused true blue accent. “Letting the kids be involved so they actually get to interact with some of their favourite professionals in a hands-on way. It’s also a great place to meet and hang out.”
The bones of the space were grafted together by a hoard of Melbourne’s tool-wielding elite in advance of the workshops, so there was a solid framework to build on once the sessions started. Quarter pipes, wallrides, slappy ledges, and planted smack in the middle was the by-product of Mavie Murphy’s wild imagination: a partially submerged tram-frontage-cum-funbox.
Converse were making use of this temporary spot to house the park—which was open to the public for a few weeks upon completion—and provide a space where some creativity could be unleashed and the sharing of ideas could take place. As Cameron Lindley, Converse ANZ Brand Manager puts it, “We’re here to encourage and support creativity. Hopefully participants take inspiration and new DIY skills from the workshops to get out there and do their thing.” There was an overwhelming interest in the online submissions for places in the workshops, he adds. “It was open to anyone who wanted to be involved. We were there to indentify what people wanted and help facilitate it.”
I got the chance to hang out for a few hours prior to the opening night affair, witness the speculation of what was to be built and rub shoulders with some old and new friends. The build wasn’t without issue and Kerry Fisher, project manager for the park, was finding out the hard way. An uptight neighbour took it upon himself to throw every line from the rulebook at Kerry via council inspectors of all breeds. Kerry was well prepared and sent them packing, but the efforts of the unneighbourly had no limits, and halted the skating until every last form was signed in triplicate. That aside there was plenty of work to be done before the park was complete, so there was never a down moment.
By the time I rose from my drunken slumber caused by the opening night celebrations, rendered my smartphone stupid via the bathroom floor, and found my way across the street, the first session of the weekend, the plywood workshop, was already in full swing. Tom ‘VB Man’ Flaherty, Tom Rees and Dave Staig had made their introductions and safety speeches and we’re already powering up the tools. Come lunchtime, not a single crack in the floor was left without Bondo and some sharp looking wedge ramps were taking shape.
I caught 14-year-old Charlie Robert from nearby suburb Northcote as he was heading out the door for a quick lunchtime roll. Nick Trapasso was a huge drawcard for him being here; “I’ve been shooting him glares, but I’ll probably try and chat to him later on. He’s so good.” Like many of us, Charlie had attempted home projects. Even though he’d only been skating for a little less than two years, he’d already got a hunger for fashioning his own ramps. “I’ve really been into making ramps lately, trying to make wallies and stuff, but nothing’s really worked so I thought it’d be fun to come down for the wood one.” I asked if he thought the workshop was worthwhile and if he had any plans for his own DIY. “In Northcote there’s this eight that I’ve really wanted to hit for a while but there’s cracks all around it and stuff. I think I might go there and fix it up.”
It’s not the trophy at the end, you’re not getting rewarded for something
“Some of the kids had never used Bondo before”, mentioned Brophy. “It’s hard for a 13- or 14-year-old to know what tools or gear to buy or how to use them. I heard some of the kids saying, ‘yeah, we can fix our quarter pipe at home.’ That’s sick.” I can see it now. They’re going to go straight home and harass their dad to buy them some Bondo and masks and then go ‘wreck’ their driveway. Moments later I saw Charlie heading back inside; there was a slappy comp in full swing, with a $100 Bunnings voucher on offer that he didn’t want to miss out on.
The following day there was a bit more gusto in the air. Concrete, it seems, is where it’s at. Born with ‘crete pulsing through his veins, it was only natural that Craig Cole follow in his father’s footsteps and join him in the family concreting business. An established artist, this was the first time he had spoken in a workshop format about construction methods and DIY. Along with Ben Hermans and Bluestone veteran Marcello ‘Nello’ Guardigli, he introduced the session to an eager crew, a frothing group made up of grommies and even a few dads. Given the call to action, a buzz of concrete dust and flurry of shovels filled the room as they began to shape bumps and piece together ledges and pole jams.
CONS Project and industry veteran Kenny Anderson offered up his perspective on the goings on: “When you spend so much time skateboarding, it’s nice to find some deeper learning and create your own industry or place within it.” When he started skateboarding, the approach was much more straightforward, but now there’s a new dimension of our industry at every turn. “Back when I started this wasn’t an option. I never skated, never took photos, never did anything else other than to just do it. But now I feel like there’s a spark going on, a revolution happening, where people are doing this stuff. They see the opportunity but it’s more about them learning their trait and realising their passion.”
Unfortunately my stay was limited to the opening weekend, which meant I was going to miss the two sessions happening the following weekend, where videographers Su Young Choi, Chris Middlebrook, Geoff Campbell and James James along with photographers Andrew Peters, John Coulthard and Bryce Golder, would share their collective wisdom and workflows.
The common thread among all the crew was how the attendees would receive the classes. “It was so different to what I thought it would be. Much scarier”, said Andrew Peters about his workshop experience. This was his first time presenting his work and ideas in this kind of forum. How did his preconceptions weigh up? “I just hoped that the majority of them had used a camera before, and luckily they had. I knew all their ages beforehand, but that was probably the strangest part, because I’m a similar age to a lot of the attendees and it’s weird telling somebody what to do or how something’s done in a classroom situation.”
After a few post-workshop catch-up calls I got a sense that this was mere humbleness. They were, after all, well-established craftsmen in their fields. “Everyone was really cool”, added Andrew. “At the time I couldn’t tell whether people were following a lot of the stuff so it was a bit unnerving, but I got some emails after the workshop that were super nice so I know it was successful.”
This was a fine example of a company that’s backing skateboarding, showing its support at a deeper level. Kenny continues, “This right here is where we all started. It’s not the trophy at the end. You’re not getting rewarded for something. We’re supporting the core aspect of skateboarding and skateboarders. Things like this have never been around. There’s been little skate camps, but there’s never been a global initiative around the world like this.”
In the following weeks the park saw a flood of interest from skaters from all over the city. Local shops filmed and edited clips at the park and the community as a whole squeezed as much out of this little land of opportunity within these four walls. There are rumours of a CONS Project coming to our neighourhood here in New Zealand. I for one can say the reception will be a warm one.
CONS Project is coming to Auckland on the 3rd and 4th – find more info here.