Temp Check: A blether with Gary Kemp, creator of Aberdeen’s own Doric Skateboards

Doric Skateboards was launched in 2017. Gary Kemp wanted to create a brand that the skating community in the city could be proud of…and at the same time bringing in new skaters to the scene, along with those that had drifted away over time. He’s worked with artists to create unique boards that have become huge talking points as they are released.

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Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Gary. We wanted to know how your 2020 has panned out, but we’ll start with the simple question…how are you feeling right now?

A mixture between complete apathy and nervous energy! That anxiety that tells you should be doing something “productive,” but then apathy says “nah, don’t worry just watch Netflix.” But overall I am ok…I think!

What inspired you to launch your own skateboard company?

It may sound trite but it was a genuine desire to do something creative, start my own thing, and to be in control. It was during the last oil price crash and redundancy threatened. My coping mechanism was to start this up. I’d got back on my skateboards a few years previously and was enjoying the nostalgia and the occasional role.

One-person companies are rarely that in reality. Who in your community helped you along the way?

Absolutely. And I like to think I give props to those who deserve it — in fact my website has a page doing exactly that!

My family are obviously front line — Nicola and my Mum have to listen to me. It must be painful. My brother Mark helped get me going with logo, strategy for launching etc. but others in the city are hugely supportive in many ways. Peacocks Visual Arts, Creative Learning, RGU/Grays School of Art/Look Again, Transition Extreme, Grey Area Ink, The Sticker Job, and Creative-me-podcast have all have been very welcoming and supportive whether I’ve reached out or they have…and without them all this would all be very different.

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Aberdeen features strongly in your branding and designs. What was the thinking behind this decision?

I’ve always defended Aberdeen. I find the old stereotypes so tedious. Even if there is truth to some, I think we should talk ourselves up more. We’ve got a beautiful city and surrounding area. It’s totally not without its problems…but where hasn’t? So I feel responsible for talking up our culture, our history, our people. Before doing this I had little appreciation for what had happened and is happening in the city culture wise. Now I do I’ll always try to champion that too.

2020 has been an extremely tough year for many, while some have been lucky enough to be able to use it as an opportunity. How would you say you have coped through this wildly crazy year?

I’m not sure I have coped to be honest. I think most of us are trying our best to function without focusing on that existential dread that is around the corner and all around us. I’m getting up, working from home and functioning and I think for now that’s ok!

Running Doric Skateboards has its positives and negatives when it comes to this year. Part of me felt that what I do is so trivial that I was a bit embarrassed to talk about it. But we all need something in life to help us through — just the act of creating new stuff was enough for me. I managed to kick off some collaborations, and a wee design competition really helped to give me something to focus on.

What motivates you?

Ha! That assumes I am motivated. I honestly don’t see myself as a motivated person. I tackle what’s in front of me and keep everything else in the periphery as much as I can, then turn to that when I have to/want to. But actual motivation? I get excited to see something come together — a new design, a new collaboration — what ever it is. It’s gratifying to see that become a physical thing.

And the opposite…what demotivates you?

Feeling self-conscious. I’ve had that my whole life and its stopped me doing so much. Being so self-conscious essentially leads to complete lack of confidence. It’s a bizarre thing to feel at 44. But there it is! I think it wouldn’t matter how good I was at something I would always have that feeling of not belonging. Who knows? Maybe its because I listened to too much of The Smiths at school.😉

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You very proudly screen print some of your own boards. Why bother doing this in such a time intensive way?

Well I think its part of the DIY culture within skateboarding. All the old school brands didn’t just appear as factory ready; they started in garages and spare rooms. I also think its important to put your hands on the things you sell. This year I’ve tried to learn how to screen print clothing myself too which has been a real challenge! But I’m just as happy now to get some of the designs printed for me. It all depends on how suitable they are to my skills! But I do think that you should get your hands dirty from time to time!

You are known for your collaborations with local artists as well as those from further afield. Why is that?

I must admit that I didn’t really think about collaborations when I started. Outside of Vanilla Ice the word “collaborate” wasn’t in my vocabulary! So they have happened quite organically — it was never a part of a master plan. I didn’t have one then and still don’t! 😄

Has the pandemic changed you as a person or as a small business owner?

Well I think we’ll need to wait and see but I suspect we have all changed to some degree. I think that the increase we’ve seen in small businesses setting up, a big uptake in new hobbies/sports etc is very reminiscent of where I was 5 or so years ago when I set up Doric. People crave something to control in a world where you perhaps have none — or not as much as you had. Starting something new, learning something, taking part in something — that helps fill that gap for me and reduces the time I spend sitting catastrophising things!

A massive thanks to Gary for taking the time for a chat. You can follow Doric Skateboards on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or you can go meet Gary in person at Aberdeen Inspired’s Christmas Market at the Bon Accord Centre until Wednesday 23rd December.

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Photographer, curator and nerd.

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