The Tygar Smith Interview
We interviewed the talented Tygar Smith (@tygar) all about his art, the SE15 SK8 collective and more.
As always, it was a pleasure speaking to Tygar - I hope you all enjoy what he had to say!
Interview conducted 7th of February 2021
Interview: Robert Delaney (@robertjdelaney)
(Left) Tygar (@tygar) at the Grove DIY
How’re you doing man, the weather in London has been terrible recently, how’ve you been keeping yourself occupied over the Winter?
I’m doing reasonably well, definitely a lot of ups and downs if you get me, like things will be going really well then something might take me down a peg, but overall pretty good. The weather adds to this for sure, it sucks waking up in the morning to see it cold, wet and grey. So, when I am not able to skate I’ve been occupying myself with simple pleasures like reading, art, and Netflix (though not too much binge watching) and plus I have got uni work to get done too. On the upside of the damp days it means whenever it is dry - or dry enough - everyone is on it to get in a session, which is proper nice, as you never know when you might get the next window of opportunity.
2020 was a bit of a hectic year, there’s no denying that. However, the Grove DIY grew immensely over the last year or so (a DIY you’re heavily involved in), could you tell us a little bit about how you and other South London locals organise and build the new obstacles at the spot?
The Grove is quite a story and its one that is a great example of the skateboarding community, the story line to it still isn’t exactly clear but I believe we first caught onto it in March 2020. Theo Hughes and Isaac Guard, who are both massive parts of SE15SK8, told me about it, we started skating there and got to know more locals who were also using the spot; everyone was down to start building from the start really, it was just a matter of materials. At first it was separate projects from different crews building random obstacles, eventually a more concrete group evolved from that which then lead to the bigger builds, the jams we hosted and future builds (we currently have two in the works which hopefully turn out sick).
Speaking of skateboarding in South London, you run a clothing brand, @SE15SK8. Your video “SOUTH OF THAMES” was pretty gnarly, could you tell us a little bit about filming for it during 2020?
That video was fun to film, I enjoy making videos with some form of concept (like “PECKS” being filmed entirely at Peckham Rye Skatepark), the original plan was for “SOUTH OF THAMES” to have a north section after the south but when covid hit the video was put on hiatus and we started filming for “THE GROVE” shortly after. Eventually it got to the point where we were sitting on footage that was like a year old so I scrapped the north section and just made it a south only video. So actually, only about half of the vid that was filmed in 2020. I still love the video though; it’s got some of my most favourite clips in it like Isaac’s hippie jump over the handrail!
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0MOK5E-UtA - The "SOUTH OF THAMES" video link, go check it!)
Also about SE15SK8, you released a new capsule at the end of January with 50% of profits going towards future builds down at the Grove; where does the inspiration for your gory t-shirt graphics come from?
(Left) Issac Guard (@skatepecksorgrove) in the Blyton Supper tee
I have been doing the odd t-shirts and stickers for maybe like five years now, its only become more consolidated the past year I’d say. Even though it can be stated as a brand the idea of a full line of clothing each season doesn’t appease me, the general concept I have is hand screen printed t-shirts with each design having some obscure reference and these t-shirts will be released every month or so with the extra tote bag or possible other garment (just tees and totes for now though). In other words, its more about the design and reference on the tee than physical garments themselves. The gory t-shirt graphics are a reference to the children’s writer Enid Blyton who grew up in south east London, all the gory graphics that have been done are originally illustrations from her books that I then doctored, adding knives, machetes or decapitated heads. I love the alteration of narrative the graphics create and the surrealism in some, I do plan on coming back the Blyton graphics but that most likely won’t be for a while.
(You can browse the new SE15SK8 line here: https://www.tygarmilessmith.com/se15sk8?pgid=kfwthj15-43463438-5683-4089-be9a-d5efd640ea05 )
Is there any new videos or garments to look forward to from SE15SK8 in the foreseeable future?
I have currently been filming at Queens Road recently just steadily stacking clips for a new video, though it’s very early days so whether it will be a ‘concept video’ or just a regular one I’m not so sure. There is an array of Spots I want to hit though once the weather improves, everyone else is very keen to hit the streets to, I know Isaac and Theo have got a couple clips in mind! There are ideas for new t-shirts, I’m currently working on one that is a reference to the artist William Blake which I’m rather excited about!
South London, whilst not a homogenous conurbation – far from it in fact, has a lot of good skateboarders. From the girls who rip down at Stockwell to well-known faces like Polar’s Jamie Platt, are you currently hyped on anyone – or any crews – from South London in particular?
"WITH" section are banging, they are the locals of Crystal Palace, I see them at The Grove a bit plus they are on it with the videos and garms too which is sick. I’m not sure how long they’ve been around but I know they’re older than SE15SK8. There’s also other older crews like GCS (used to be Peckham Rye locals), Serious Adult, which has ties too GCS and is run by the great Greg Conroy, and ESSE. Some are still active in the scene like Serious Adult, others I don’t believe so. New crews pop up everywhere all the time though, it is very much a generation cycle, the crew that skated Peckham Rye when we were youngers are still skating - just elsewhere - so we are now the ‘figure heads’ to Peckham Rye, it is weird to think how it has all transitioned and what the next generation will be. It has also been sick to Peckham Rye being put on the map spots like Queens Road and Peckham Library have had more recognition from the Atlantic Drift videos which is dope.
You’re currently studying at UAL: Central Saint Martin’s, how have you been finding remote university – especially with a creative-based course? Does doing an artistic course influence your perspective of skateboarding in any way?
In a nutshell - dead. It sucks not having studio space, facilities and the creative atmosphere that comes with art school. I am lucky in the sense that my practice of reconstructing ladybird books keeps me productive whilst I also still have access to facilities like screen printing. Doing an artistic course definitely bleeds into SE15SK8 whether its making tees or editing/filming videos. Though at the same time I don’t let the ideas of my fine art practice seep in, I keep them separate allowing the technical aspect (drawing tee designs) to come through rather than the conceptual side. Then again who knows, I may allow more of my fine art side to bleed in, right now though I’m liking the way it is.
(You can find more of Tygar's art at https://www.tygarmilessmith.com )
You work at Slam City Skates and for a bit over at the warehouse in Enfield late last year, what was it like working in the warehouse over lockdown? There has been a huge incursion of new faces flocking towards skateboarding over lockdown (which is so awesome to see) so I was wondering if the impact made by the new demand for skateboards could be felt by those working in the industry?
The warehouse was good fun, just packing orders and having a cheeky skate when I can, I’m grateful for working there; it’s great to surrounded by something that you love so it doesn’t feel too much like work. The amount of orders got crazy, especially the weeks up to Christmas but it is great to see such an increase in people learning to skate - it is what keeps the shops going after all. I remember hearing that skate shops were gonna be hit hard during the first lockdown but everyone was very supportive, making sure what they bought was from skater owned shops like Slam, Note or Welcome just to name a few. Of course, due to covid certain factories did shut down production and then plus due to the increase in demand with new (or old) skaters wanting to learn (or relearn) there was a shortage of stock. In the end though it’s better than the alternative - having too much stock and no demand.
To end the interview on a more somber note, you knew Ben Raemers, could you tell us a little bit about him? How do you think we should tackle the issue of mental health in skateboarding – especially when another high-profile skateboarder, Henry Gartland, sadly took his own life just this week?
I first met Ben when I was 15 at Peckham Rye skatepark, he was skating with Tom Knox and I asked them for a photo, Ben didn’t realise I wanted him in the photo too, I remember him being surprised and almost shy by the fact I asked. But that was Ben, he was so humble. I got to know him better working at Slam east, he’d always pop in now and then for 10 mins or the whole day and lighten things up, I miss those visits a lot, he’d always grab a pint from the bar opposite or buy a tinnie from the shop for everyone and ask what you have been up to, how your day was going. Honestly, I am not sure how the issue of mental health in skateboarding and in general should be tackled, but there are steps that we can all take to move in the right direction: firstly, for the subject of suicide and mental health to be normalised - it is okay to speak about it, and secondly to notice different behavior and to talk to that someone about it, if your mate isn’t feeling the session today and doesn’t want to skate then double check up on them - do not just cast them aside. The news about Henry Gartland was really sad, it is devastating to hear the news of another skater, who was even younger take their own life. All we can hope is that it sparks even more conversation and consciousness on the matter of suicide and mental health. That being said, it shouldn’t have to take two lives for it the be brought into the light.