Interview: Ferris Plock Creates His Fictional and Ideal Skate Company in "Dogpatch Skateboards"
A few weeks back, we previewed Dogpatch Skateboards, Ferris Plock's new solo show and collection of limited edition items at Recess in San Francisco. Today we share a conversation between Lyndsie Fox of Recess and the SF-based Plock about creating the paintings and collectibles for the show, creating a fictional skate company world, VHS tapes and Ferris's love of skateboarding.
Lyndsie Fox: This Dogpatch Skateboards collection is essentially about a fictional skateboard company, complete with logos, promo products, and merch! Can you tell us how and why you first created the “Dogpatch Skateboards” brand? Do you have a specific attachment to the Dogpatch or was this purely a play on words? ("Dogpatch” is the name of a specific neighborhood in San Francisco).
Ferris Plock: I have spent much time in the Dogpatch over the years. It used to be an under-the-radar neighborhood that many people didn’t want to mess with because it was kinda cutty. I used to skate with the Ordinary Kids Posse and Yongki Chang and Rory Sheridan back in early 2000's and enjoyed myself immensely. What was the ditch next to The Ramp called? Meh, cannot remember. Too old. I think I started going over there in the 90's when there were all party-party loft parties. Who remembers the Snow Drift, by the way? Nowadays the secret is out and plenty of creatives have made it work over there.
I think I probably had some initial version of the Dogpatch Skateboards idea with my good friend Jason Herring who is a hesher/thrasher from Tampa, FL when he used to live and work there like 10-15 years ago. But the work really started while I was a resident artist at The Space Program SF in 2019 (with my wife Kelly Tunstall) which is located in The Dogpatch Neighborhood of San Francisco. My friends at Recchiuti Confections make all their amazing ideas of there. Kelly and I painted a mural at Mr. and Mrs Miscellaneous a few years back and those people know how to make ice cream better than most. Every day while I was in the program, I was doodling on scraps of paper and trying to convince the residency to allow me to build a ramp and screen some boards. It didn't materialize BUT I was undaunted and determined to draw and paint and create many objects of art based on my love of dogs and skateboards. As for how and why: because it's fun and I love skateboarding!
If your Dogpatch Skateboards company had a real-life storefront, what would the shop look like and who would be working there?
It would be a gigantic cartoon dog head with its tongue sticking out and you'd walk in on the tongue. I would make my kids run the shop with all their friends. Probably make Ando from FTC make guest appearances, maybe Matt D from DLX too (two of the best shop managers of all time.)
The sticker sets, shirts, and skate deck for this show are such a fun, funny way to bring this brand to life. When you created your sticker sets you even said, “No fictitious skateboard company would be whole without shop stickers!” What other future products do you envision for the DPS brand?
The essentials are stickers and shirts man... Every shop needs them and has them. However, I would like to make slurpee machines with special dogpatch flavors and I'd definitely want to sell weed and frozen crab out of the back. Also bring back VHS sponsor me tapes?
You even crafted a complete DPS skateboard for this show! Can you tell us what that process was like? Is it a functional, skate-able board, or is it purely decorative?
I did ride it down Lake Street in the Richmond District three times and I definitely stayed puckered the whole time. I worked with my carpenter friend Danny Montoya who runs Butterfly Joint (check them out if you have kids) on some fun shapes. I actually made two boards but, the other one I liked too much and kept it for myself.
The preview shots of the board debuted with the following advertisement: “Dogpatch Skateboards are best known for their signature flagship boards. Each deck is lovingly crafted by our team of experts. Each of our team riders have been painstakingly selected over an extensive and exhaustive four or five minutes.” Who would be your ideal DPS team riders?
Bob Lake, Gou Miyagi, Ben Buzzard and Sammy VonBargen. Team Manager: Jimmy DiMarcellis.
You and your wife Kelly Tunstall work on collaborative projects often (under the name KeFe) and lend each other a lot of support and feedback on individual projects. What role did she play in your new DPS collection?
My wife puts up with me in a way that I am not willing to go too much into at this point. Example of her greatness: in the middle of this shelter-in-place pandemic, she drove to South City to get me shrinky dinks. I mean c’mon.
I think a majority of people can relate to this show on some level because skateboarding is one of those quintessential childhood (or maybe adulthood, depending on how brave you are) phases that most people experience, especially around here - as not only was skateboarding first invented in California, but San Francisco itself is home to Thrasher Magazine, tons of iconic skaters, and a million hills just waiting to be bombed. When did you first learn to skateboard, and where? What are some of your favorite skate spots?
I had ridden some pretty terrible boards before my parents bought me a SC Jammer for Christmas when I was 9. My brother Matt and I would grab our boombox with a mixtape (primarily Beastie Boys) and skate for as long as we could. My brother was 3 years older than me and he was a huge influence on me with skating and art and everything. My favorite part of skateboarding was the freedom of just going and being out cruising around. I never liked crowds or skate parks so I didn't have a huge posse of skateboard friends, but I did really like the snake run at Derby in Santa Cruz and Fort Miley in SF.
Do Kelly or either of your son's skateboard with you?
Neither of my kids really have that much interest in skating and I'm not the dad to push a kid into it (dad pun?). Seriously, I found skateboarding and it was kind of my own thing. I want my kids to find the equivalent for them. But my younger kid has all the potential to be very good, if he chooses to be.
People (often older crowds) tend to view skateboarding as sort of a reckless, wasteful pastime for juvenile delinquents. But there’s a true artistry to the sport itself - requiring perseverance, dedication, bravery, and creativity among other things - and there’s a really strong sense of unity and camaraderie within the skateboarding community. Having skated in the Bay Area since childhood, how have you seen the skate scene (and the socio-cultural reaction to it) evolve over the years?
Oh man. People younger than my general peer group definitely don't believe me when I say this but: skateboarding was certainly not considered as cool as it is today. Most of my best friends grew up being marginalized, picked on, bullied, and harassed for being different. Skateboarding was way to say a gentle "fuck you" to not fitting in or being super popular or jocky or whatever. You found the other weirdos and you stayed with your weirdos. Most of my old skateboard buddies from the original crew are still pushing around and are still some of my best friends.
People also don’t often consider the nuances of skateboarding culture. But just like every city has its own personality, every city also has its own distinct skate scene. How has the San Francisco skate scene, specifically, influenced you?
Skateboarding around San Francisco with use of MUNI made this town so much fun. When I was living in the Sunset, I'd ride the L Car or the N Car up to West Portal or to the Upper Haight and then just skate all the way home. There is something undeniably cool about all the stuff your brain absorbs when you're cruising around on a skateboard. It feeds your soul and your creativity. The skate scene is why I was able to make art all these years. I met John Trippe from Fecal Face and he was an avid skateboarder. His website and his gallery are why I am still making art to this day, hands down. That, and the scene at the time was full of very supportive people that skated and were amazing artists too. Thinking of Greg Galinsky, Brian Barneclo, Bigfoot, Jeremy Fish, Todd Francis. So many people who were cool and put me in their shows when they didn't need to.
Skateboarding and art go hand in hand. Although skateboarding is certainly more mainstream and commercialized nowadays, it’s still steeped in such a rich and ongoing history of counter-culture rebellion and gritty creativity. There’s an inherent, overwhelming focus on individualistic— sometimes anarchistic—creativity at the heart of these two worlds (art and skating), constantly pushing for experimental ingenuity and evolution. As someone with years of experience in the SF skate scene and beyond, what more can you say about this symbiotic relationship between art and skating?Skateboarding and art both make me happy in ways I won't ever completely understand, and don't necessarily want to understand. Every time I push around my neighborhood, I'm still the kid that unwrapped my Santa Cruz Jammer with Kryptonics on it at Christmas time. I think Geoff McFetridge and Yongki Chang's skateboard company said it all: "solitary arts”. Both things are meditative and keep me happy in the core sense of happiness.
Aside from skateboarding, the other obvious theme in your new collection are the dogs! You even dedicated the show to your “best dog friend, Koa, who has gone on to the Happy Ground.” The works here are so fun and light—it’s a lovely collection to honor this sweet pup in such a happy, creative way. Are the dogs in these paintings modeled after Koa at all? Or are they portraits of other dogs and people in your life?
Koa was my sweetheart dog niece who lived in my neighborhood. My friends Melo and Cody rescued her and she would freak out whenever we saw each other. She passed earlier this year and I haven't been able to get myself to draw her portrait yet, but it will happen someday. I love dogs and plan to have a retirement dog some day if I'm lucky. Your gallery has a dog that I love and she made it into the show, another one is after my friend Brian. Most of the other dogs are loosely tied to another dog I loved dearly named Petey. He was a wiener dog who peed a lot when he saw me. I'm sure some catharticism worked its way into this art, too.
Recess is a pet-friendly gallery and we get a lot of cool doggo visitors (plus everyone who’s visited us knows that we have several pups on on our full-time staff, supervising the gallery at all times) so we’re especially bummed that our four-legged regulars won’t be able to visit the show in person. Like so much of the world right now, San Francisco is operating under a shelter-in-place mandate for the sake of the health and safety of everyone in our community at large. What has it been like navigating this health crisis as a practicing artist, and creating an entire new body of work for a solo show scheduled during a mass quarantine? Has it impacted your ability to create at all, or were you able to fully actualize your original vision for this show?
First and foremost, I'm now a school teacher and so is my wife. We are becoming shelter-in-place education experts who help our kids navigate this whole public school distance learning program. I think I'm dealing with shock, exhaustion, fatigue, and the general inability to recharge my brain properly. To be honest, I thought my show was going to be cancelled... I didn't necessarily have the attention and drive that I usually have. Most of my painting for this show happened late at night after long days and short naps. Being around my kids all the time and having the world slow down a bit has been amazing. These kids are grappling with so much on a day to day basis already, then you throw a pandemic into the mix... For me though, all my creative energy comes from the same source so I have to make sure to take some time for myself to create and replenish my sanity.
This crisis situation is changing day to day, hour to hour even. It’s overwhelming and frightening enough for all of us in the art world (not only artists, but galleries, museums, printers, critics, supply shops, etc. etc.) to stay afloat in the moment, much less project the impact this will have on our community long-term. As an artist and an art-income-run family, can you give people any advice for how to best support the arts right now?
Honestly, each day is a learning experience. I will say this, we have been making masks for people, giving away art for causes, helping neighbors shop, keeping our kids entertained...
I think Kelly and I tend to stay busy so we don't have time to wallow in the darker aspects of things. We have good people looking out for us and we are looking out for people. It's cliche but, reach out and talk to people if you're starting to feel like you're losing your shit. Treat yourself well and let yourself have your feelings but also keep moving. I'm very aware that this advice will get the middle finger from some people but, that is what is working for me on day 43+ of this mess.
Shop the full Dogpatch Collection collection here