Spotlight : Jesse Turek
We met up with Jesse in NYC earlier this month to discuss studio habits, future projects, and favorite skate spots.
Where did you grow up? And how did you end up in NYC?
I grew up in the sticks of New Jersey, believe it or not. A small farm town that no one has ever heard of, called Ringoes. It’s probably the most opposite of New York that you can get, and it’s always a trip explaining that to people.
Moving to the city never even crossed my mind when I was younger, but as I got older it became much more appealing. The fact that you can literally do anything you want in such a confined area is really what attracted me here; you can find something to skate in practically any neighborhood of Manhattan, go climbing in Central Park or at one of the gyms that have been popping up all over the city, hop on the subway to Rockaway Beach, or get on Metro North and venture out in the wilderness upstate.
There’s seriously so much to do here for so many different people. It just so happens that I’m interested in so many things - so for me, NYC is like a playground.
How long have you been skating?
Damn, I think I first hopped on a board when I was 8 or 9, but it has always been an on and off relationship. My skills definitely don’t match up with how long I’ve been skating.
I started skating a lot more in college and skate practically everyday now since it’s the fastest way to get around the city. The only downside is that it’s probably the most dangerous way to get around and I have had a lot of close calls with traffic.
Any favorite skate spots in the city?
Delancey Curbs is probably my favorite spot right now. It’s seriously the best spot for slappies and it’s close to work, so it’s a win-win.
You are also into rock climbing, right? How is it being a climber in New York City? What are your favorite climbing spots in or near NYC?
Yea, I got introduced to climbing in college and have been climbing even more now that I live near the city. Surprisingly, there’s a large community of climbers in the city and some of the best climbers in the world are from here.
Central park, Morningside park, and some of the larger parks in the greater NYC area have a lot to offer. The south end of Central Park has the most beginner/intermediate routes and it’s the easiest to get to, so it’s definitely one of my favorite spots.
From idea to final product, can you explain a little about your process at Eastern Manner? Be it in woodworking or just daily habits.
Yea a lot of it comes organically, from working on other projects or from projects that I’ve worked on in the past. I think most of the inspiration for the skateboards came from building a lot of electric guitars as a kid. I would work with a bunch of exotic wood to make these elaborate looking Telecasters. Then I started making wooden bowls on a lathe and would inlay them with different metals or stones.
With Eastern Manner, we just kind of meshed all of that together somehow, and the biggest challenges for us were preserving the integrity of the skateboard. Not making it too heavy, not drilling holes in it, not deviating too far from the industry “standards” but still doing something different.
From the natural leather key chain to the Japanese bound notebook, Eastern Manner feels like a refinement of utilitarian items rooted in the ethos of the northeastern United States woodlands. Do you have a method or process for deciding what products you create?
There really isn’t much of a process, it kind of just comes organically from the tools we use in our daily lives. We will be using something, a field notes notebook, for example, and just think Ok, this is cool, but what can be removed from it that isn’t exactly necessary? And how can we brand it in such a way that doesn’t over-power the product?
We like to think the minimal branding aspect of Eastern Manner makes our products a bit more personal - that this is my notebook, not field notes notebook. The same principal can be applied to the key chain. Yes, it’s very similar to a lot of other key chains, and they all look the same at first, but each individual one will become personalized with wear and it becomes less of an Eastern Manner product and more of a personal product.
Any idea on what direction you intend to take your work in the future?
Figuring out our direction is really what’s put us on a bit of a hiatus. We really look up to brands like Patagonia and just want to make sure what we are doing is sustainable for the environment. Looking back on a lot of the stuff we’ve done, we just feel ignorant and want to rethink how we can deliver the same product, but in a better way.
Yeah, there does seem to be a growing number of skaters who are very environmentally active and the culture feels increasingly more aware of the sensitivity of overconsumption and misuse of nature. With companies like Element Skateboards, Geoff Rowley's Civilware Service Corp, and the Bob Burnquist Foundation all putting environmentally conscious pillars into their own identity; what is the connection, for you, between nature and skateboarding?
For me, growing up where I did, there’s always been this weird connection between skateboarding and nature. Bombing hills down country roads surrounded by nothing but cornfields and horse farms, I’ve always kind of associated skateboarding and nature coexisting with one another. There might not be anything to really skate, but it’s still skateboarding, just in a different and very soothing setting. It’s almost therapeutic in a way.
Outside Eastern Manner and Unis, are you working on any new projects?
To be honest, Eastern Manner has been on a little bit of a hiatus, so I’m working on getting back into the groove with that project. But, yes, I do have some other projects going on at the moment and as I’m writing this I’m realizing that maybe I should put those on the back burner. [Laughs]
My latest project is a motorcycle build, something I know very little about... I bought this 1979 Honda XL250 Enduro bike for a few hundred bucks, so, I decided to completely tear it apart, rebuild and modify some parts, and now I need to put it back together... after I teach myself how to weld! I’m in way over my head with it, but it’s really a learning experience and a challenge.