Interview by Vice Lesley.
Photography © Kevin Zacher, Andy Froberg, C.J., Weston Colton, Ryan Lay, Sam McGuire, Working Class Heroes
In conversation with Jason Celaya, founder of Welcome Skateboards (CA).
Welcome was born in 2010 from a desire to embrace and promote the ever-shrinking subcultural-side of skateboarding. With a the love for skateboarding, creativity, and individuality it has always bred and thrived on, at the time of Welcome’s inception it seemed like the general global focus was no longer on either of those things. Welcome started as a means of creating something different for a small group of friends, and is still run exactly the same way today.
"We have no one to anwer to but ourselves, if I can dream it up, we can make it." — Jason Celaya
How the hell are you, Jason?
I'm good! Just drawing like crazy trying to get our next season ready.
So where did you grow up and how did you get into skateboarding?
I grew up in Whittier, CA which is about 30min outside of Los Angeles. I was introduced to skating by a friend and from there - it was a combination of the local skateshop employees, Pipeline Skatepark and music that set up my ideas about skating.
And when were you finally ready to ultimately start Welcome?
I don't think there was ever a definitive moment but i was not excited about the direction of skateboarding at the time. Welcome was more of a thing for me and my friends to make the ultimate skateboard company in our mind.
One of several things that make any board brand unique is the artwork, you do all that on your own, right?
Yes, i draw 99% of it, we use some of Chris Miller's old graphics on some of his boards.
How did you first get into sketching and where do you absorb most of that inspiration from?
I've drawn since i was a little kid but when i started Welcome i had not drawn a thing for years probably. I needed art and it was always a dream of mine to do skate graphics. I am inspired by life experiences, music and pop culture.. usually all mixed together.
How important do you feel one's personal & artistic expression incorporated into a product is?
I think it is one of the biggest things that makes skateboarding so special. At the end of the day that is what you are paying for when buying a board. Unfortunately I think the industry placed a bigger emphasis on marketing so much kids just don't know the difference. Most of the time they are just slapping their picture on the same board you are buying from another brand. We have our own shit that is unique to Welcome. We have a goal here to constantly evolve and top whatever we did the season before. We want to look back on what we did the year before and think it is rubbish.
The main thing that stands out about Welcome has got to be its’ removal from today’s traditional popsicle look, and it does make a difference when you ride one of your boards. What made you want to go that route?
I grew up riding shapely boards and it creates so much more excitement when setting up something different each time you get a new board. Its like reliving x-mas morning over and over. I wanted to make a board that makes you want to take pictures of it. I spend a lot of time on the performance side of each board before worrying about dialing in the aesthetics of it. Once again it is about making something great instead of following some formula that makes money.
Does music play a part in the whole inspiration or feel behind the designs or brand altogether?
It's huge in the art process, I'm listening to something every time I create, the video edits and probably even in our approach to skateboarding in general. We are like a band making records in my mind. We are trying to set up something right now where we do a board with a band that influences the company once a year going forward. We have the first band lined up just working out the details of what we want to do together.
For the most part, DIY has proven to hold a place in today’s market and in various artistic fields, how important is doing your own thing today?
I think it is very different from what it looks like on the outside. The workload is way more intense than any job you can have traditionally. Rewarding? Absolutely! I guess the best thing about it is that we have absolutely no rules in what we are doing because we have no one to answer to but ourselves. If I can dream it up...we can make it.
So what’s next for Welcome?
A lot of new product (board shapes, graphics, new pros). New video edits. We have really been into making interesting clothing over the last couple of years and we going a lot further with it this year.