Mention the word “Burton,” and “snowboard” is bound to follow: The Vermont-based company is world-renowned and virtually synonymous with the sport. Burton has also long been notable for its cutting-edge graphics. A new line of snowboards this year proves the point. But behind the high-tech craftsmanship is a little old-school cut-and-paste.
Images from paintings by Burlington rock-star-turned-artist Mikey Welsh distinguish the “Farm” series, and the name does not refer to Vermont’s bucolic scenery. Instead, think “farm team.” That’s because the freestyle board, which comes in four sizes, was developed with input from an up-and-coming group of riders, says Burton senior designer Dennis Healy, 36. So, rather than silos, barns and cows, the boards are splattered with Welsh’s distinctive art-brut figures and primitive, vividly colored patterning over a black background. “I think there’s one Technicolor cow in one of them, but it wasn’t on purpose,” Welsh allows.
And the cut-and-paste? Healy explains: Last year, Burton bought the image rights to five of Welsh’s paintings and procured high-resolution photographs of them. Then he and Welsh sat together in front of a computer for several weeks, selecting favorite details from the paintings that would end up, rather collage-like, on the boards. The cyber-magic — extracting the elements from the photographic images — was performed by some friends in New York Healy dubs “PhotoShop wizards,” at a company with the whimsical name of Dippin’ Sauce LLC.
His “100 percent collaboration” with Welsh “was probably the most fun I’ve ever had working on a board,” Healy notes. The two became good friends in the process. And perhaps it was only natural that Welsh, who had never snowboarded in his 37 years, finally took to the slopes. Healy, a 20-year veteran of the sport, says the artist was “glowing” after his first foray. Welsh recalls, “Yes, everything was sore, but it was fun.”
Another, less bumptious collaboration — with fellow Burlington artist Clark Derbes — will result in a shared exhibit at Pursuit Gallery next month, opening during the South End Art Hop. Expect some wildly decorated refrigerator doors, not to mention some new Mikey merch: “I’m going to have T-shirts for sale,” Welsh reveals, “with characters from my paintings.” For the Farm boards, though, see www.burton.com or the Burlington store.