Who is Jason Celaya
I remember the first time I saw Welcome Skateboards deck in person. At first, I was dubious of the shape and how it would affect my skating. Slowly but surely, more and more of my friends would turn up at the spot with a Welcome deck. Claiming that it didn’t affect their skating in a negative way at all, in fact, these decks were encouraging them to skate in a less uniform manner.
Early grabs, no-complys, and slappies were being incorporated into lines by people that would have shuddered at the thought of a hippy jump two months ago. These interesting shapes finally won me over and I had to try one. Similar to my friends, it completely opened my mind to stepping away from the popsicle and getting weird with my skating every now and then.
This is all thanks to Jason Celaya, the owner and creative mastermind behind Welcome skateboards.
Recently, I was lucky enough to ask Jason some questions, in an attempt to pick the brains of the guy that encouraged me and a load of others skaters from my generation to step away from their popsicle deck and venture into the weird and wonderful world of shaped boards. Thanks again Jason!
Hi Jason, I hope you are well, and thank you very much for answering a few questions for us! I know you have touched on this before, but what made you start Welcome skateboards?
I was bummed on the current state of skateboarding. I didn’t like that so much focus was on videos and not the product that you actually skate. Wanted to recreate the feeling of being hyped when you put a board together. I also objected to how conservative skating had become, with too many rules. Wanted skating to be focused on fun not being sponsored or wearing the right uniform.
I know you are a massive fan of music, enjoying a broad spectrum of genres. With this in mind, what would be your dream song for your own personal video part be?
Oh that is the greatest question! I have never even considered it but maybe Mask from Bauhaus, So Young from Suede or Only You from Yaz.
Which brands do you think have a genuinely interesting aesthetic at the moment?
I saw a Dogtown Jesse Martinez board that looked amazing the other day.
You have been asked a few times what your favourite graphic is. What is the least favourite graphic you have done?
Too easy, I never want to see “Here it Comes” again. I named it after a Doves song and it did the song a horrible disservice.
When you walked into the skate shop when you were younger, what companies/graphics were you hyped on as a kid and why?
Chris Miller and Neil Blender because they are just great and timeless. The Rocking Dog of Blender and Lizard with the human head on top of Miller are my all-time favs. Pushead John Gibson graphic was magic as well.
Art & skateboard graphics
You’ve said that you only draw for yourself, and no one else. Is that still true? Is there a person/brand that could get you to draw for them at all?
Mostly true, I do have some higher standards now on what I will release. In terms of drawing for others, any band I am into I will draw for free of charge if I have the bandwidth and as for brands, if it was something interesting or challenging, I might be up for it.
If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would it be?
Faris Badwin from the band The Horrors, which we have discussed multiple times, but I have such reverence for him I always get a creative block because I am worried about what he will think.
I saw in an interview that the only thing you properly drew between High School and starting Welcome was an angler fish for your son. I was wondering, did that fish hold the same style as what you draw for Welcome?
Sort of, it might be close to earlier Welcome graphics. Not so much anymore…I might have a pic of it I can share with you. My earlier work I was just trying to draw like my friend Jeff Harris who sort of introduced me to everything cool when I was a kid.
Did you start drawing again through necessity? You obviously have talent and a clear style but stopped after you left High School. Was it an appealing part of starting Welcome?
Yes, it was the most cost-effective way of starting the company. I think all skaters/artists have the fantasy of making a board graphic so I am sure it was appealing. Mostly though I was surprised when I did that first Owl graphic that I was able to make something that actually worked as a board and people liked it.
How much does the riders skating or personality inspire your graphics when doing a pro model of theirs?
Their first graphic is a real earnest effort to capture the essence of the rider. I always make Nora’s boards personal because I have known her so long it’s easy to collaborate or know what she will like. We are lucky that so many of our pros provide some direction or can make the graphic themselves often. Ryan Townley and Evan Mock have especially been very collaborative with their boards.
Your art is often very dark with imagery inspired by the occult or at least, the supernatural. Placing these images alongside the brand name, Welcome, seems like a deliberate dichotomy of vibes. What was the motive behind that?
I am all about juxtaposition…I love it. If it were up to me every board would be baby pink haha.
Skateboarding industry chat
You said in a Jenkem interview that you don’t think humans have yet tapped into our ‘full potential power, mentally or physically’. Which people/companies in the skate industry do you think use the most of their potential?
I think Pixar and Disney are locked into something special. I don’t really look to the skateboard industry for inspiration. As for skaters, so many amazing things are happening every day it’s hard to keep track anymore. Lots of superhumans. BTW a lot of that Jenkim interview was said for entertainment purposes haha.
Do you think Welcome opened the door for skaters like Jordan Sanchez? I think a lot of the time dudes like him were written off as kooks, but as Welcome was growing in popularity, skaters such as Jordan seemed to get more coverage. Is that something you would agree with?
I think Jordan opened the door for skaters like him. Goes back to skaters sometimes becoming conservative wanting everything to be the same. Meanwhile everything they ultimately like came from someone who was breaking down barriers before it was accepted. Nowadays everyone is creative. Someone like Louie Lopez is creative just mixed in with superhuman ability.
I guess that could be the same for companies such as Fancy Lad too. Caring less about what the industry wants and focusing on what they personally enjoy and get hyped on. Do you think skateboarding should focus on this aspect of skate culture more?
I don’t think all of it should be like that. I think there should just be all kinds of companies. I love that Primitive exists as well as a company like There.
How do you feel about the cycle of ‘gimmik’ tricks over the years? Things such as body varials, hippy jumps or no-complies going from taboo to vogue back to taboo within 12-18 months.
It’s all skateboarding, but not all has to like it. I love it personally.
How do you feel about the prices of decks rising pretty severely this year?
Macroeconomics! The price of fuel, labor, and materials have gone up thus our manufacturing costs have gone way up. I think it can be great for pro skateboarders who will never get a shoe deal and shops that may lose shoes at some point. Might be the best chance for core skateboarding to survive autonomously. Skateboarding is still a fairly affordable outdoor activity compared to most. Just look how bike prices have increased over the years.
Do you think you elevated the rest of the industry by reintroducing shaped boards into the market?
I don’t think we reintroduced them, they were already there. We just executed them differently and skated them differently.
What made you get into the wheel game with Orbs?
I didn’t want to buy wheels myself (I love new wheels) and I wanted pink wheels and 50/50 ones that look cool when they spin. The other thing I was keen to do was to make a core wheel with a different material that roller hockey wheels used. It is definitely the fastest wheel on smooth surfaces. I try to not get too involved with the brand since it started now.
Starting & running Welcome Skateboards
When you started Welcome, in your own words, “it was the opposite of what was popular in every single way.” As it was a small company, with new untested graphics and not a single popsicle shape in sight. Did you expect to become such a staple brand in the industry, or were you intending to stay fairly underground?
It started as trying to do something that myself and my circle of friends really liked…but I did believe it was special from the moment we made the first deck. We have always had purpose with the brand even to this day and none of it is driven by money.
I know when you started Welcome there was only a tiny pool of shaped decks on the market, most of which were reissues that were likely going to end up on a wall. Did you find any difficulties in finding a woodshop to help create the shapes and dimensions of decks that you were after?
No, when we started Paul Schmitt was cool about facilitating what I was trying to make. I remember him telling me that we were the first company that didn’t ask what sells the best. Since we switched to BBS they have also been amazing in making the little tweaks we want and creating new shapes with them.
You have also said that Welcome has evolved a lot since its inception. What are some of the key changes you made over recent years?
I think early welcome was a garage band and now we are now more of a post-punk band in terms of complexity. We are focusing a lot more on quality than we could afford in the beginning.
I heard you got Chris Miller onto the team because his son was riding for you at the time. Could you tell us how that all came about?
Other way around, we had Chris Miller on the team and then at one point both of his sons rode for us for a bit.
Erick Winkowski was a rider on the team at one point, obviously one of the most well-known shaped board advocates. How come he shifted over to Santa Cruz?
Man, that was a really long time ago… but part of what happened was he had DM’d me on Instagram saying he needed boards, instead of texting me. I wasn’t even using DMs at that point so I didn’t see the messages. By the time I saw them he flipped out, called me some names, quit and that was the end. Before that, there was an issue with some behavior from him that I was bummed on – and I let him know it – so that was probably the genesis of the split. He was young at the time so I am sure he has changed a lot since then, I know that I have. I am proud of what he has done. His street skating is also way sicker than the masses know.
I notice you like to champion skaters outside of California, similar to Don Pendleton over at Darkroom. Do you think perhaps that as the two of you have a very artistic mindset, you gravitate towards skating that isn’t from the standard Cali mold?
Yes, probably. I don’t think it was intentional in the beginning, but I just found that people that lived in conditions where they couldn’t skate that often ended up prob thinking a lot in the down time and ended up being really creative. The ultimate is when they grow up somewhere like that and then come to CA where they can skate all year and put a different perspective on spots people know about. Don is rad btw.
You have this perfect balance of appealing to the older crowd with shaped boards inspired by the ’80s, with riders such as Chris Miller being a big selling point and then also appealing to the younger generation with fresh, boundary-pushing riders such as Ryan Townley or Nora. How much thought do you put into team curation?
Unintentional and it has always come together super organically. Chris Miller was my idol growing up and he is my idol now. We prefer riders who come to us and want to be here rather than pouching from others.
If Welcome could be encapsulated with a creature similar to your art. What sort of creature would it be?
These are good questions! Idk, something mysterious and dorky at the same time. I have drawn a lot of owls, rabbits, and horns so those could be some ingredients.
What’s in the works for Welcome in the future, video parts, new riders any rad new shapes?
We just announced a new rider -Noah Mahieu – this month, with a part. We have a video we filmed in Paris coming in December, a new version of the Early Grab shape this holiday. A few collaborations that are very personal to us. Something every month going into early next year.