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A Poetic Midsummer Night

Malmö is basically a fairly manageable Swedish seaport. Although having few spots and not offering special merits for skateboarders in the past, their scene has blossomed now as intensely as almost nowhere else in the world and turned Malmö into a global hotspot. Next to Polar, a company called Poetic Collective, founded by Tom Botwind, calls the city its home by now. Since not only the Swedish but also (almost) every other European knows the hassle of seasons and bad weather, we asked the team to take advantage of the summer time and symbolically exploit it to the fullest on the longest day of the year – called Midsummer Night in Sweden and maybe better known to you as Go Skateboarding Day – in order to spent it skating as much as possible. To hang out and have a good time. At the end of the day, many of it took place on sculptures. Team rider Sarah Meurle captured the results in photos, so we have a bit of sunlight to look back on with winter on the rise.

[Photos: Sarah Meurle | Interview: Stefan Schwinghammer]

Tom, let’s begin with the Poetic logo. What does it mean?

When I started the company, I wanted the identity to be based on abstract art. I thought about a simple symbol that still represents abstract art. I was drawing to get that flowing feel of paint but still wanted to have it very clear to be able to use it for embroideries and stuff. So it’s basically a symbol for an abstract image.

I always thought it might be some rivers.

I heard that from different people. I’ve heard rivers, I’ve heard connecting things, I’ve heard that it looks like a person or like a body. But no, it’s just abstraction. It’s great that people are trying to interpret all these things. It provokes a thought process. I think that’s good.

"There’s so much stuff outside of skateboarding that you can be inspired by"

When did you start Poetic? 

Three years ago, when I was living in Berlin and was at the art academy there. I was doing a lot of painting and looked at a lot of different imagery and wanted to do something with skateboarding since I’ve been skating my whole life, basically. I found a lot of inspiration and wanted to bring that into skateboarding. Because I often have the feeling that within skateboarding you look at what other people in skateboarding are doing, but there’s also so much stuff outside of skateboarding that you can be inspired by. And yeah, then it started off really small with just one board.

You don’t do Poetic as a full-time job, I guess. What are you doing besides?

I work half-time as a curator at a museum for an exhibition right now and I also work in skate coaching at Bryggeriet. So, very busy.

Poetic Einzelbild3

Nils Lija – Backside 50-50

Why the stress? Why start a skate company?

Sometimes I ask myself that now, but it’s fun, you know. Skateboarding means so much to me, I’m such a skateboard nerd and so into it. So why start? Only because I have a love for skateboarding and I really enjoy having that creative output as well. But it is quite stressful. I live in a one-room apartment and there’s no warehouse, there’s no nothing. And it’s growing. And at the last order, I had over a thousand products here in my room. And I get home from work and try to sort it out and ship it to all shops. I cannot live at my apartment at that time. I’m lucky that my girlfriend lets me stay with her because even my bed is stacked with boxes. I also had my kitchen full of stuff, so I couldn’t go in because there are just stacks of boards.

That’s crazy! You do all the shipping yourself?

Yeah, it’s just me. My brother does the whole website and helps out with the design process as well, but other than that, I do everything myself.

"We do stuff that people might find super pretentious or whatever, but some people really like it"

I guess it’s hard to grow. Because if you do it on that level now, your costs aren’t as high, but if you grow to a certain point, maybe the costs will exceed.

The costs kind of outgrow… When I was studying, I was saving a little bit of money to be able to do a hundred boards at the beginning. I sold those and took the profit I made from that into the next order. And it’s kind of been going on like that and even though it’s growing very much, every time it grows and I make a little bit of money, then for the next season the company has grown as well. So you’ll always need that money to produce. There was never anything to take out. So the costs are always rising while you are growing. It’s like a wheel that keeps on spinning. But I mean at some point, and that’s probably not that in the far future, I will probably get another space. It feels like people appreciate what I do, so I’m happy about that.

What do you think a small European brand like yours has to offer for skateboarding that hasn’t been there before?

Maybe a different visual approach that’s inspired by things outside of skateboarding. And I also think that people are appreciating that there’s a close-knit group of people that do stuff together. You can see the people behind it. It’s not some crazy marketing strategies on how to sell the most stuff. If you are a smaller brand, you can do more interesting stuff because if you’re really big, you need to make a simple thing that works for everybody, but if you’re small, you can be, like, “I wanna do this because no one else is doing it.” We do stuff that people might find super pretentious or whatever, but some people really like it. You can never find something that will please everybody. If some people think it sucks, they at least will remember it. If someone does something and you don’t feel anything, it’s just like: whatever. You forget about it. 

2 Fotos1 Poetic

Samuel Norgren – Wallie

What do you want Poetic to be or to feel like?

Maybe just a different way of doing things, a different approach. One side of the skateboarding culture is really rowdy with screaming and throwing stuff and whatever, but Poetic is on the other spectrum, I guess. That’s important as well because that’s what I identify with skateboarding as a creative outlet. And I want more women on the team and I want it to be more equal in that way. I want to express how things can look and be and maybe look at skateboarding in a different way. When I talk to team riders, I’m always, like, “Don’t try to compete with anybody, don’t try to do anything, because someone else is doing it.” I try to make them find something that’s interesting and make them develop their own way of doing it. Then you’re not trying to be better than anyone else, you’re just being you.

Poetic Einzelbild5

Peter Johansson – Frontside Noseslide

I recently interviewed Björn Holmenäs from Sour and he kind of has a different approach how he wants the brand to be. He said Sour is just about the skating and has no art concept. I guess you disagree with him on that point?

I don’t disagree with Björn at all, I know him well and I like what they are doing, but there has to be room for everything because skateboarding is so big now. It’s hard nowadays to say that you like skateboarding because it can mean so many things. It’s more like saying that you like music now. People are doing completely different types of music and now some people are into Street League, which is more like listening to Justin Bieber, and some are doing something really small and independent, which represents something different. Sour, for example, has some of the best skaters in the world, while we are not on that level but doing something else.

You have the term “collective” in your name and it feels like it’s really working as a collective. There’s no one really standing out. You don’t even have a team rider section on your website.

It’s important everyone takes part and pushes each other. You get the feeling of a group of people doing something together. And building on that is more stable and more interesting to me than building on one person’s performance.

Poetic Einzelbild4

Tom Botwid – Sweeper Nosegrind

I’ve read that everyone can give their input for the graphics, that everybody is involved in the creative process.

Well not everybody, but I for sure want them to give input when it comes to what they want to do. Sarah is doing one thing for the next collection, you have one board which is kind of inspired by the way Samuel [Norgren] did his griptape one time. People can talk to me or my brother and we can work with that and see what we can do. To have the feeling of doing something together is really important. I was talking to someone the other day because there used to be national teams like Lakai Spain or Lakai Sweden or whatever. But now things are very wide spread, so there’s a million people on Nike, but it’s not like they are all filming for Chronicles. So the connection often gets lost because people just get boxes.

When you put out new products, there’s always a concept behind it.

I think that’s important. I think about it as like making an exhibition or something, where everything has to fill its own purpose but also work well together. I think it becomes stronger that way than by just putting out random stuff. When we drop something and it’s sold out, it’s sold out and then there’s something else coming. It becomes more unique in that way in a sense.

It always has a strong connection to colors as well.

A color is an important part of a concept or a theme of a video and then we work with that. Searching for things to tie it together.

"It’s hard nowadays to say that you like skateboarding because it can mean so many things. It’s more like saying that you like music now."

Why is there so much going on in Malmö over the last years? Because, I mean, it’s a small city and it didn’t have the best spots back in the days.

I ask that myself sometimes. When friends of mine come here from other countries, they think it’s this big city and when they get here, it’s basically a small town. But there is a really positive side to it as well because when everything is so small, you know each other and you can work together on things. There’s a close connection between everything and from that new projects can arise. And we’ve been really lucky with the city being so supportive of skateboarding. They have Gustav Eden, who is working within the city just with skateboarding. He’s planning new plazas and stuff and makes sure that they use materials that are good for skateboarding. Of course there’s Pontus and Polar, which put such a spotlight on Malmö, and then Bryggeriet as an organization is turning 15 years next year and they have been doing so much for our generation. Every year, there’s a new bunch of skaters coming in from all over Sweden, Denmark, or Norway to the high school. 

Poetic Einzelbild3

Samuel Norgren – Boneless

I guess there is a lot of skating in the park because Malmö doesn’t have Californian weather. How are the winters and how are the summers in Malmö?

It’s completely different. But this summer is almost like winter actually. It’s so bad. But we are lucky during wintertime because you’re kind of more excited since the park in Bryggeriet will be redone. But when it’s summer, you have such a drive to go outside. I think about the first day where it was a bit sunny and I was skating at the local plaza and you hang out in the evening and skate flatground or whatever and then you bike home. You just get such a rush of happiness from that simple act of being outside in the sun because you’re longing for that like eight months of the year. For the most simple things you get a lot of happiness in that way. But then I always think that it’s crazy that there’s so many skaters living here while the weather is that bad.

So during summertime, you use every day as much as you can and spend the whole day outside for projects like this?

There’s definitely a lot of energy in the summer that you kind of just go… You want to seize that moment of sunshine. If you want to film a part or do an article, you only have these months. There is an increased will to do something when you don’t have it all the time.

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