We wanted to hook up all the 2016 Trick of the Year winners with something special. So we contacted El Señor New York to make custom silver chains for the 2016 Trick of the Year Award winners and 14 karat gold chains for the Active Ride Shop Voter’s Choice Award and 2016 Trick of the Year winners. Each chain has the award engraved on the back. If you’re not familiar with El Señor, it’s a jewelry brand founded by former pro skater Spencer Fujimoto. The pieces are designed and manufactured in New York with the entire process from beginning to end being overseen by Fuj. These one-of-a-kind chains can be worn for a lifetime. We recently sat down with Spencer to get the full story on what went into making these unique pieces.
Let’s start with a little bit of your background with making jewelry and how you transferred into that from professional skateboarding.
After I stopped skating in the early 2000s, I had a bunch of different jobs. One of them was running a sneaker store. I was just doing all sorts of random stuff that helped me get ready to start a business. I was a personal assistant for a club owner. That taught me about odd hours. And then working as a team manager for DGK—that helped me get back into skateboarding. I was out of it for about seven years. Working with DGK and being around Stevie Williams inspired me to start thinking about doing something.
Initially, I wanted to make leather jackets. I quickly realized that I needed to make something that was smaller in size. I was dealing with a small space in New York. So the jewelry came out of necessity. My mother and my father are artists. And I had messed around with it in high school. So I just put it all together. I needed something small. I can make art. I have x amount of money. With jewelry, I didn’t have to make a whole lot of pieces. In the beginning, it was more like art. It was like a hobby. I was thinking that it would be a side thing. It turned into something that needed to me more than just personal.
At first I wanted to go really high-end. But that was too expensive. And I wanted everyone to be able to get it. Stevie introduced me to some people that could manufacture it so that we could make it affordable and produce a lot more. Then the quality got much better after like two years of trial and error.
Spencer Fujimoto in His Studio | Photo: Pete Pabon
Walk us through the process of making a piece.
First you brainstorm an idea. Then you put it down on paper. It can be a super technical drawing with sizes on it and stuff. Or it can just be a rough sketch. Or you can even work from an inspiration photo—the designers can get it pretty good. The more details that you start with, the less changes that there will be and the less costs there will be. Once the design is done—you have a 3D design and you turn it into a 3D print—you have the model and you make a mold. After the mold is made, it’s time to pour. You choose the metal that you want to use and start going at it. You pour it into the mold and take it out of the mold. There’s some sawing and polishing—and more polishing, basically a shit-load of polishing. Then you get the packaging and stick it in the box.
Are all of your pieces produced in New York?
All of the Lux Collection pieces are produced in New York. The Lux Collection is the silver and solid gold. All of that stuff is made in the Diamond District in Manhattan.
Spencer Fujimoto (Far Left) With the EMB Crew in the ‘90s | Photo Bryce Kanights
There’s an art and creative process to skateboarding and making jewelry. How would you compare the two?
I don’t think it’s so much the creative similarities as it is the process of getting it done. It’s like getting a trick. If you’re filming or learning a new trick, it takes a lot of hard work. You have to persevere through adversity. Every time, it’s a different problem. It’s like learning a kickflip, you have to figure out where to put your foot through trial and error. You keep moving your foot around and something different happens until you figure it out. That’s similar to the process of making jewelry. You think you know the process, then something will happen that throws it off. So you have to adjust and fix the problem. You just have to keep trying until it works.
An Early 3D Rendering of the Trick of the Year Chain
How did the Trick of the Year collaboration come about? And how did you go about making these signature pieces?
Amrit (Jain) called me up. This was probably right in the beginning of December. It was possible to turn it around in that time. We went through it and got the green light. So we started working on it. This was the quickest that we’ve ever turned a piece around from beginning to end. I can’t even actually believe that we finished them on time—especially with the two holidays. There was ten days that the manufacturer shut down from Christmas to after New Year’s. The scheduling worked out just perfect. There was a change to the design—which always eats up a little bit of time. There weren’t drastic changes, just two small changes. The last one was super easy to deal with. It had to do with the engravings on the back. When things get engraved—this is the scary part—if it’s slightly off, it’s over. After all that work, you have to start over almost. It sets you two weeks back. Luckily everything worked out. We have some good guys. It’s like skateboarding in that aspect too. Sometimes it works out. And sometimes it doesn’t.
Spencer Fujimoto Got Gold? (2002)
Did you follow the Trick of the Year competition while it was going on?
I did. We have a few El Señor team riders that were in the running. There’s two that I know of that got an award—Tiago Lemos and Diego Najera.
How does it feel to produce a signature piece given out as a prize for Trick of the Year by SLS? Kyle Walker won the $10,000 for Trick of the Year and Carlos Lastra won the Active sponsorship for Voter’s Choice. Everyone else got El Señor chains, which is pretty special.
That’s how it came up. They wanted to give something special to them. For El Señor and myself, it’s an honor to be a part of this and produce the piece for them. It means a lot to us. And I think it means a lot to the skaters too. It’s more than a trophy that you put on your shelf or something. I’ve got some trophies. I don’t even know where they are. It’s something that you can wear and keep with you. It was a cool idea. I’m psyched that they reached out to us and included us in the prizing.
Spencer Fujimoto The Search (2017)