One man's thrash: Company uses recycled skateboards to create tiles
A booth inside a Hanover-based brewpub offers a striking image.
Sitting in the front window of Miscreation Brewing Co. is a booth decorated with an array of brightly colored tiles.
The tiles aren’t ceramic or porcelain, though. They are pieces from old skateboards arranged in a mosaic.
The man behind the tiles, Rich Moorhead, has built a business on those old skateboards. It is called Art of Board.
Since its inception in 2007, the Hanover company has produced tiles for walls, tables, countertops, backsplashes and floors. In addition to some of its neighbors, Art of Board’s clients have included Google, Amazon and even the king of skateboarding himself - known for his 900-degree spin - Tony Hawk. Besides its Hanover location, Art of Board has an office in Laguna Beach, California. A typical project costs between $10,000 and $20,000.
“It’s a combination of thrash, color and graphics on a random palette that becomes beautiful,” Moorhead said.
How it started
While visiting his nephew, Jesse Smith, Moorhead noticed a pile of broken skateboard decks stacked outside beside the garage. At first, Moorhead assumed the skateboards were part of some project his nephew was working on. But they weren’t.
“He was just going to throw them all away. I was shocked. They were damaged, but they had no business sitting in a landfill somewhere,” said Moorhead. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
He took the broken boards and stowed them in his basement. They were joined by more as Moorhead started visiting area skateboard shops to discover that they, too, were just tossing out worn skateboards. As his stash grew – and the basement started to fill up – Moorhead’s wife, Tracy, said it was time to find a use for the scrap.
Moorhead began experimenting. He ultimately settled on using cut-up pieces of the skateboards to create designs on a mirror frame. Every scratch left from the former skateboard’s owner was left intact.
“Because no two pieces were the same, the mosaic possibilities were endless,” he said.
After building several mirrors, he showcased his work for sale during the annual Hanover Dutch Festival.
A few passersby scoffed at the skateboards in the booth. But as the day wore on, more and more people were interested in understanding what Moorhead had created. He sold every single piece he had brought.
“The best compliment I’ve ever received was from two older ladies, saying that they’d never seen anything like it, but that it was beautiful,” he said. “It wasn’t just skaters, it was the general public. My idea had transcended age groups.”
Having worked as a sales representative in the commercial interiors industry for more than two decades, Moorhead began reaching out to clients and firms to get their take on his creations. Their encouragement helped fuel the evolution of the company. Today it has four full-time employees and six seasonal workers.
Thrash to treasure
Because skateboarding is a growing sport - with U.S. participation reaching 6.46 million in 2016, according to Art of Board – the supply of used boards also is growing.
There are 5,000 skate shops in the U.S. and many accumulate at least 50 broken skateboard decks in a month, said Bruce Boul, public relations director and co-founder of Art of Board.
Through its research, the company has found that close to 2 million skateboard decks end up in landfills each year. Art of Board has worked hard to put a dent in that with a skateboard recycling movement called I Ride I Recycle.
The company partners with about 400 skate shops from all over the country, said Boul. When a shop is ready to send in broken decks, Art of Board emails a pre-paid shipping label addressed to the Hanover facility. The boards are photographed for Art of Board’s digital library before being carved into tiles.
Finding a new purpose
Art of Board takes damaged skateboards and cuts them into tiles to create contemporary designs for interior and exterior surfaces. In addition to the handmade wooden tiles, the company has manufactured reclaimed skateboard wood on ceramic tiles, and used photographs of the reclaimed wood on porcelain. The company has also explored textiles, such as recycled or natural renewable fiber with prints and patterns of the reclaimed skateboard wood on furniture, like chairs.
Since 2010, the company has saved more than 75,000 broken decks from heading to a landfill, said Boul.
More and more, consumers are conscious of the environment, and industries that invest in practices that are seen to be in harmony with the environment tend to look more attractive, said John C. Dernbach, a professor of environmental law and sustainability, and director of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Center at Widener University Commonwealth Law School.
“It’s not about the environment or the economy, it’s about both, and how to make progress on both at the same time. Recycling has done that,” Dernbach said. “Several millions of tons that would otherwise have gone to landfills are recycled and reused. It has been good for the economy, job creation and the environment.”