Blossom - A Conversation with Niels Schack

Extracted from Method Mag issue 21.1

Interview. Theo Acworth

Why butterflies?

Before we started designing anything, we knew the board was going to be called ‘Blossom’. Flowers were an obvious choice, and they are very in-trend, especially last year. We saw flowers everywhere, from Tyler The Creator to Louis Vuitton, so I thought that as a lot of cool as people were doing it right, we could mess around somewhere else. I was talking to Gus Englhorn and Estée Preda, who are some of the most creative people I know. They listen really well, and I think people like that are worth so much. So yeah, I was thinking of insects and wondering how we could do a board that’s kind of abstract. I just thought that the butterfly was a beautiful creature and a very interesting shape to play around with. When they dance, they don’t really have an up or a down. So when the board is doing 360s and spinning through the air, it sort of turns into this mush of colour, like a kaleidoscope. Something beautiful and abstract. When a nicely designed car drives quickly past you, you just see nice lines, but you can’t take in the details until it stops. You might just glimpse it for a second, but you’ll still be able to know that it was something special.

I really like the idea that the way a butterfly moves kind of matches the flight and movement of a snowboard. That’s really lovely.

There we go. Nature inspiring us every day.

 

Tell me about the actual drawing and designing process of the graphic.

I had the blessing and privilege to work with Jackson Tupper. We’ve had a creative friendship for a while, both inside and outside Burton. I sort of did a little residence at his house for five days while in-between filming trips for One World. I drew these 1:1 scale, so the original drawings are the same size as the boards, and we didn’t really need to do any photoshopping. We also used pastels, which are quick and messy. With painting, you need a set of paints and different brushes and stuff, but you can just open a box of 12 pastels and start straight away. There’s something quite primitive or primal about them. Look at Picasso’s Dove of Peace, they’re just simple lines, and he’s using those pastels like a magician. The simplicity of the graphic design of the top sheet and the painting on the base sort of clash too. You know when you have the clean outside lines of a classic car, but then on the inside, their leather might be all washed out from the sun or from years of use, or there’s some weird floral print somewhere? That was kind of the idea behind that.

What was it like working with Burton on this board?

They really gave me a lot of trust. I’ve been hard on them about the designs of boards in the past. I would just give them a bit of sass and complain that the boards weren’t really to my taste. So it was really nice of them to take the time to explain to me why some boards are the way they are and that some consumers are very different to me. It was a nice learning curve. We did this in pretty much five days. Fifty years of legacy just handed to me like ‘Yo, have fun.’ I can’t express the shivers that that gave me. It was overwhelming. 

 

This seems like something that can just float around and go where it likes. Who and what was the board intended for?

I didn’t want to make a niche board that was only for me. I wanted it to reach the most number of people possible. I wanted it to be inclusive, which is why it’s gender-neutral. The size range is really large on this board, it goes from 149 to 162, so there’s a size for everyone. When the Lamb stuff came out with Gwen Stefani back in the day, I thought that was my shit and that they made that for me! That was just one of a million examples where girls want to ride guy’s stuff, and guys want to ride girl’s stuff. Imagine a black Mercedes S Class on the streets of Berlin. Who is that car for, a man or a woman? 

I guess my instant reaction would be a man, but just saying that out loud sounds silly.

Then you see an OG lady step out with black sunglasses and a Dior handbag, and you straight away think that’s her shit 100%. It just depends on who’s driving it. You have to twist the angle. That was at the forefront of our discussions about the board. There are masculine cars, and there are feminine cars, but that’s also a construction of what gender should be like. If the board is light enough and there’s a large size range, it’s for anyone.

Wow, there’s a lot more to this board than I realised. That’s rad.

I just wanted to make something beautiful too. You know how you can give porcelain a kind of romantic poetic narrative? Especially in France, where things are really pretty, you can give a mug or a plate a sort of identity, even though they’re just essential objects. We had a lot of long discussions like this until the design made sense, almost even before I did the design. 

 

It’s also very different in the sense that there’s no brand name on the base.

Yeah, that’s very, very different. That was a big thing. I can’t believe they said yes to that.

It’s like you’ve made this little magic space that’s free from the usual rules of marketing. I ride pretty heavily shaped pow boards, but I kinda want this. 

Thank you so much. Burton were courageous to go do this with me. I have experience in making different things, but I don’t have experience in making snowboards. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the chance. That’s how people get good at stuff, you know? Here, ‚try this’. It’s nice when people give you the things you were dreaming of, but then you also panic at the same time about the pressure. But I didn’t have to hold this project by myself at all. Everybody helped each other at the right time. Everybody involved was super supportive, so it was a very inspiring process.

How does it feel seeing people all over the world riding this board?

It’s sick! Seeing Zoi [Sadowski-Synott, Brock [Crouch] and Luke [Winklemann] riding it, it’s coming alive. I knew they would be riding it, so I sort of made it for them too. I’ve been seeing it twirling in the air and looking beautiful. Also, the logo on the top sheet, we made that too, and I’m really proud of it because, in the end, it really feels like a finished product. So it’s been a gift in five pieces. First, because I think we made a very cool piece of design. Second, when everyone at Burton was hyped internally about it. Third, when we showed it to the riders and they were hyped. Fourth, when I got to ride it for the first time. Then I got hurt and really frustrated and was only focussed on physio. But now I’m coming out of it, and I get the fifth gift because the board is out, and all the public are stoked too!

 

What was it like riding it for the first time?

I was riding in Laax, literally crying. It was so fun to ride, just swooshing and swerving. It was like the board that I’ve missed since the Mr Nice Guy, the Keegan board. It’s like that, but with even more zzziiiip! It’s technical, and it’s camber, and it’s got my name on it, and in the 152 size I love. Backlips have never been this easy.

What’s the future of Blossom?

Well, I don’t just want to make another one that’s the same. I like my friend’s style of painting more than I like mine. I like the process of painting, but not the finished product. So I thought I’ll do the first one and prove that Burton can trust me, and then maybe I can be part of the curation process for the next board. Perhaps we’ll make it really ugly, but referencing something ugly on purpose. It might be the best idea or the worst. Can we make mistakes? That’s what Blossom is all about.