Medium: Wood and Upcycled Skateboards
Location: Calgary, Alberta
AdrianMartinus was established by brothers Adrian and Martinus Pool, who later partnered with artist Anne Tranholm. The Calgary-based design studio upcycles discarded skateboards, transforming them into eye-catching modern furniture, jewelry, homewares and more. Their creative processes and unique pieces won them the Etsy Design Award in 2020.
What sparked the idea to repurpose old skateboards? We first started working with skateboards in 2012 after seeing the work of Japanese sculptor Haroshi, he is essentially the godfather of the medium. We started using our own boards to see what we could make using our dad’s entry level woodworking machines. From there we started asking our friends at the local skateshops to start saving broken boards that come through the shop when people come to get new ones and we’ve had an informal recycling program going since then. Our earliest projects were smaller items and things that we could make from a single board, as well as some of our early explorations with geometric patterns. The first project that really opened our eyes to the possibilities of the material was a baseball bat. It was the first project where we combined multiple boards together to make new material and could see the limitless potential of the material. Anne Tranholm and Adrian met at the very first market we ever sold our products at in 2012 and in 2015 she joined the business at first making our jewelry line and has been integral to the business ever since.
What was the trial and experiment process like when you first started woodworking with skateboards? Any major challenges when initially trying to repurpose them or keep the process sustainable? One of the biggest challenges and the most labour intensive part of working with skateboards is the initial prep work. The skateboards need to be taken down to bare wood before they can start being built up into new material. We’ve tried everything under the sun to remove the paint and griptape in different ways and are still refining the process. There have definitely been projects and ideas that have failed midway through because those first cleaning steps weren’t done thoroughly enough.
The other major problem with the skateboards is the supply, we started mixing the skateboards with other woods early on, primarily repurposed flooring, so that we were able to make the material go further. We’ve since moved away from the flooring and use new material mixed with skateboards, but that stretching of material early on definitely influences our design process. Now, all our furniture offcuts are used in our smaller items to waste as little as possible.
You describe your practice as challenging the boundaries of conventional woodworking. In what ways do your techniques or characteristics of your designs push those conventional boundaries? Woodworking with skateboards goes against basically all the rules of thumb out there. So early on there were processes that we came up with to make our products and furniture, that we would later realize were versions of traditional techniques that we just didn’t know about. After learning them we are able to see where the rules don’t apply because of the uniqueness of the material. We are always learning and try to apply that knowledge where we can, but also take risks with our designs when we can.
You have some great videos showing how your furniture and pieces are crafted, including the step of removing grip tape from skateboards. Are there any tools you had to develop or new ways of using standard tools in order to achieve your designs?
I don’t think that we’ve ever developed our own tools, but we’ve definitely learned the value of finding the right tool for the job. We have some specialized equipment in the shop that have made our process so much more efficient and also opened up lots of creative avenues. Whether it’s our massive bandsaw that’s only use is for making our furniture veneer, or the pressurized glue gun that helps us with the insane amount of lamination we do in our material making and production runs, we’re always looking for that perfect tool to execute our ideas. Can you talk about collaborating within the studio - how does collaboration influence designing and crafting the furniture and homewares you make? We all have our certain jobs that we do independently to keep the business running and outside of that we all have our specialties in what we produce. We work in such close proximity that we’re always bouncing ideas off each other for new products or techniques we’d like to try out, so our process is naturally very collaborative.
How do you see your designs and studio continuing to grow? Any new ways or new types of materials you're interested in repurposing? Like most studios we would love to move away from doing so much production and focus on new furniture designs and larger turned and sculptural pieces but for the time being we’re working on finding that balance between the two. Anne has been working hard at expanding our line into ceramics that we are hoping to launch later this year.
Pay it forward -- tell us about something or someone our readers should know about.
We owe a lot of our early success to our local indie art markets, Market Collective in Calgary and The Royal Bison in Edmonton, so we just want to give them and all the awesome artists and friends that we’ve met at those shows a shout out.