Anatomy of a Working Relationship (and a Sustainable Skateboard)

Frieda Premo, Brooklyn girl, riding a Bucket Board. (Photo courtesy Mac Premo)

The first time my husband told me his idea, I wanted to throw up.

Not because it was a bad idea — but because it was an idea that I could envision really, truly coming to life.

My husband Mac is an artist who has spent the last two decades building with junk, er, found objects. He shows in a Chelsea gallery that features collage art, and he recently turned a 30-yard dumpster into a traveling collage.

So when he was approached by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create a piece of art out of trash, it wasn’t totally surprising. The WWF’s “Do The Green Thing “ campaign, in conjunction with Earth Hour, invited 15 artists to create something to inspire conscious, sustainable living, and he was one of them.

We were standing in our kitchen, arms folded and leaning against the counter, and Mac told me he didn’t want to make art out of trash, he wanted to make a thing to use: a skateboard.

(Isn’t it funny how many important conversations happen in the kitchen, arms folded, leaning against the counter?)

I squinted, trying to picture what tools were even required to build a skateboard, when he reminded me that we know someone who makes beautiful skateboards, Don Sanford of Sanford Shapes. Mac met him last summer while buying a board for our daughter, Frieda. Maybe he would be willing to partner on this?

Mac looked at me, searching my reaction to check if his idea was too outrageous, or would burden our family too much.

That was the moment where I understood what Mac meant to do, and I knew it would work. But I could see a major shift coming to our lives, too. I was excited, and scared and yeah, I kind of felt like throwing up.

Mac tends to leap into his projects. I’m more of a planner. Before we started working together 18 months ago, that dynamic would annoy me. I was busy in my own career as a product manager, and when he would come home and tell me about some new, ambitious project, it felt like another obligation on our plate.

Now it’s one of our biggest natural assets. I can help him produce his projects from the ground up, so they’re ambitious — and doable. And he is teaching me the value of purposefully backing yourself in a corner. We’ve always used each other as creative sounding boards, but now we’re creating and solving toward the same end. Our motto is Just say yes and we’ll figure it out. A little Mac, a little me.

This project, we’re in sync. “You have to do this,” I said. “You can’t not do this. And I’m doing it with you.”

Jump, and the universe will catch you is one of those hokey motivational sayings I’ve never liked, or frankly, believed. I see people dropped by the universe all the time. But since I left corporate life and started working with Mac, I’ve enjoyed living outside of the safety nets that weren’t actually safe to begin with. I’ve never felt freer to make mistakes than now, owning our business together.

After our kitchen conversation, we went into hyperdrive. Mac flew to California to interview Don and came back with a working prototype to give to WWF, and a plan to keep in touch. Mac and his film editor Ann Lupo made a stellar video, posted it on Vimeo and waited for Earth Hour to see what would happen.

We made a quick website. We jumped. And the universe came out.

The Bucket Board video got featured on a few influential design websites, then some skateboard sites and it started to spread. People loved the idea and tracked us down, wanting to get involved — one company wanted to donate glue, another wanted to donate the trucks (metal pieces) and wheels.

More importantly, people wanted boards for kids. The first ask came from a small town in Colorado that was building its first skate park, and the kids all needed skateboards. Then a similar request came in from New Orleans, then Iowa, Alaska, Texas, Vermont. We added a button on the website so people could contact us directly, and they did.

Everyone wanted to help. They offered their design skills, their marketing skills, their connections to not-for-profits in countries as far away as Haiti, Mexico, Somalia and Bhutan, where a group of kids recently got their first paved road. Others just wanted to buy one, and asked us when they were going on sale.

Sitting together in our bedroom, Mac and I called Don at 11:30pm. We told him what was going on and asked, “What do you want to do? Are you interested in making more boards? ” He answered, “Let’s do this thing.” We agreed.

And then I felt sick to my stomach again but I knew it was good.

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6 Responses

  1. Frank Dufay

    Y’know…fifty years ago –fifty years, really?– we made skateboards in shop class out of our old, well, skates. OK, so they sorta sucked, and you mostly fell down riding them…but that was, y’know, recycling of another sort? Fifty years ago…geez.

    Hey you, get off my lawn with that skateboard!

  2. Adrianna Dufay
    Adrianna Dufay

    Uphill both ways, Dad. Uphill both ways. xo

  3. Frank

    Hey, I rode one of those homage skateboards. And yes, I fell, a lot.

  4. Frank

    Hey, I rode one of those home (err, shop class) made skateboards. And yes, I fell, a lot.

    But it was red, and metal. And my uncle made it.

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