The Boston Globe has launched a weekly Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses, conducting ground-breaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Edward Fitzpatrick at email@example.com.
This week’s Ocean State Innovators conversation is with Steve Duque, founder of Duque Skate Art, based in Cumberland, R.I.
Question: What does Duque Skate Art sell and where does it sell it?
Answer: I “upcycle” skateboards into more than 38 items, including pens, keychains, earrings, magnets, bowls, and cutting boards. Upcycling is reusing discarded objects to create a higher quality product than the original. My online shop is on Etsy.com listed under “DuqueShop.” I also sell locally in Providence at Frog & Toad and Civil skate shop. I set up shop at least twice a month for local craft and farmers markets. Most items range from $10 to $50.
Q: What was the inspiration to start the company?
A: My initial inspiration came from watching a documentary film, “Second Nature,” by landscape architect Janne Saario, of Finland. I noticed Saario working with strips of skateboard and was inspired to create my own design using my skateboard decks. Another extraordinary artist that is a big inspiration is the Japanese wood sculptor Haroshi, who specializes in creating three-dimensional art pieces from used and broken skateboard decks.
Q: What makes skateboards a good medium for art?
A: Skateboards, like many other things, get used and thrown away. But the maple wood in skateboards remains strong and usable. Ironically, I’ve been saving my skateboards for more than 18 years. So when I began in 2012, I started off with an abundance of material. Now, I get donations from the local skateboard community and my local skate shop, Civil.
Q: When did you start skateboarding and where is the best place for skateboarding in Providence?
A: I started skateboarding in eighth grade. My dad bought me my first complete (skateboard), and I have never stopped. I still go skate Trinity park (near Trinity Repertory) in Providence once or twice on a good week. The best place to skate for me is the streets. The city is filled with fun spots to skate. The challenge is finding them.
Q: Do you work somewhere else in addition Duque Skate Art?
A: I work full-time for the Narragansett Bay Commission. After working in banking for most of my career, I decided I wanted to continue helping people but in a less corporate atmosphere. The initiatives that NBC have created have transformed Narragansett Bay dramatically and align with my values of mindfulness around sustainability. It is a company I feel proud and blessed to work for.
Q: What did you gain from your experience with the New Leaders Council?
A: The New Leaders Council was an extraordinary experience. I gained knowledge and skills in public speaking, advocacy, fundraising, and activism. The engagement within the group of fellows was like nothing I have experienced before. It left a lasting impact and taught me new ways to challenge myself.