To say that Joe from Satta Skates is a chill dude is probably an understatement. He’s relatively shy, unassuming and cuts a very relaxed figure. His demeanour is one thing, but his work rate is another – simultaneously handling a landscaping business and Satta Skates, a venture where he hand-makes skateboards from the ground up in his Brixton studio.
Curious to find out more, I went down one March morning to visit the studio, find out more about Joe and Satta, and see for myself the careful process that goes into making one of his skateboards.
What was the impetus for starting Satta and how long has it been going?
In 2007 a close friend of mine and myself left school and headed for the Amazon jungle. We spent a month there, living with a shaman, learning about the plant medicines of the thriving rainforest. It was a very formative experience, and returning home I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to work with nature, it seemed futile not to.
A few months later I ended up in Melbourne, Australia looking for work, on my first day I spotted a guy with ‘Mates Garden Design and Landscaping’ on his back, asked him if he had any work and spent the next 3 months landscaping in the gardens of Melbourne. After gaining more experience on my return, my friend and I set up what would later become Studio Satta, after many name changes, Down to Earth, Zen Elements and Gaia Gardens to name a few! Its slowly and organically evolved to become what it is today, a bringing together of my personal passions of woodwork, design, nature, surfing, skateboarding.
Whats your background in woodwork?
I came to woodwork through working as a landscaper, when your landscaping your dealing with a lot of natural materials in big quantities, by working with them you quickly learn their properties, and how to work with them. I guess the nature of wood just stuck out to me, it can be (when it wants to be) very forgiving, and its an amazing feeling to be able to work with a piece nature. As I got more and more into the finer aspects of woodworking I decided to take formal training in furniture making at London’s Metropolitan University.
Did you always have this amazing workshop? Or did you start it with Satta?
I’ve had the workshop for just over 3 years now, initially it was set up so I could produce the furniture commissions for Studio Satta but has been rapidly tailored to be able to facilitate the making of our boards.
Do you work on the boards full time or is this a part time deal still?
The boards is still a part time labour of love to be honest, my time is split between making the boards, and designing and making gardens and furniture.
How long is the process of making a board?
The process length varies depending on the type of board and its construction, the single species boards take considerably less time than the mixed wood ‘woodsman’ boards, which are constructed from a mix of carefully selected hardwoods and then staved together.
Are you still learning as you go? And does this progression affect your output in terms of finish, shape, method etc?
Always learning everything all the time, one of the primary concepts which governs my approach when it comes to desinging and making is that of Shoshin, a term from Zen Buddhism meaning to apply an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions to everything you do. Shunryu Suzuki put it like this, ”In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” I feel like this keeps an element of play in my work, I have the process of making the boards down, but im always playing with different shapes, combinations of woods, combining different materials, finishes and graphics, be it screenprinted or using the contrast of different grains of woods to create natural graphical elements.
You had a gallery show recently at Beach, how did it go and what was it about?
Yeah it was rad, it was for the launch of the visionary series, which was in collaboration with Stevie Gee, hes been a massive inspirational force in getting Satta Skates off the ground.
What’s next, I’ve heard you’re about to get stocked in some high end retailers?
Just keep on letting it evolve as organically as possible, we’ve got some more collaborations in the pipeline that’ll be coming soon. Dunno bout the high end retailers? (editors note: Present in London will be stocking the boards soon)
What kind of people usually buy the boards, do you think they have a universal appeal?
For sure, all kinds of people I guess, from people who are buying their first board and are looking for a more surfy stripped back ride to older skateboarders who are stoked on rediscovering a board which may have been like the first they ever skated.
What’s your proudest moment with the brand and your output?
Its all good, everytime someone says they are stoked with what im doing means a lot.