Recently, we got the chance to chat with skater / jewelry maker / business owner Ariel Ries. She’s a busy lady as you can see by her laundry list of activities so we were super excited to get the chance to pick her brain. Business owner by day, jewelry maker by night and full time skater, let’s see how the heck this lady makes time to do it all…

First and foremost, you are a skateboarder. Give us a little background on your involvement with the sport.

My love for skateboarding started when I was in 8th grade; my best friend Sareya and I discovered a 70’s style skateboard and a typical 80’s board in her basement. Both graphics had worn considerably, so I could not say the brand with certainty. We used the new found boards as our main source of transportation; after learning the basics we progressed to bombing large hills. After years of skating outdated equipment, I finally got a Sector 9 complete, my life was forever changed. 

Taking the scenic route

Now I am primarily a longboarder, enjoying fast speeds, sliding, and long distance pushing. In the past few years I have begun a transition into skateboarding. I love skateboarding now because everything is novel; whether it is learning to ollie and shuvit, thrashing bowls or miniramps, or flowing through a park—everything is fresh, exciting, and challenging.

How did you get started with the jewelry line?

Art has always had an influence in my life; I am drawn towards wearable and useable art. While in community college, studying business, I took metalworking and sculpture classes—I will never forget my amazing teacher, Michael Bennett. I studied under him for two years learning design, aesthetics, tools, and the rewarding process of creating jewelry. My free time was spent mainly in the studio and it paid off when I won an award for being the most dedicated student. In the next few months I was shown in multiple publications and received third place in a design contest for a series of rings I had crafted. My artistic abilities were natural and developed enough that when I transferred to NIU my focus shifted to business. A year into school, May 2007, I opened Smalltown Skate Shop with my business partner Jason McLemore. After finishing my degree I turned my attention to the shop, devoting my life to skateboarders and the skateboarding community.

Ariel at Smalltown Skateshop

My inspiration to make jewelry came roughly two years ago, something was missing in my life and I knew it was art and jewelry. In the early years of the shop I began stockpiling the broken skateboards provided by the community of skaters in the Midwest; after longing to create jewelry again, I recognized an opportunity in the boards I had accumulated. My eye for art gave me an appreciation for the dyed plies, found in skateboards, so my designs began to focus on the colored wood instead of the graphic, however, the graphic is incorporated in many pieces.  

Every skateboard is different and so each piece of jewelry is just as diverse and unique. With endless possibilities every cut becomes a new discovery. I am truly blessed being able to combine my love for jewelry, skateboards, recycling, and art; the most rewarding feeling I get from my work is seeing somebody rocking it!

some beautiful new shapes

You have your own store and make a ton of jewelry – how do you have time for it all?

There is always time to do what you want to do! In the grand scheme of things, my support group gives me time and the confidence to create my jewelry; I have my business partner Jason, my team riders Shawn and Addison, and my intern Charles—they are the ones who make it possible for me to spend time in the wood shop and diffuse my responsibilities at the store. I currently work seven days a week, spreading my time between the store, the wood shop, and skating. My work and my hobbies blend perfectly, making time management a blur of possibility. 

always colorful

We know you’re also big on fitness. Tell us how you stay in such kick ass shape.

Well, you have got to keep movin’ and groovin’! I feel the need to sweat everyday and I always change up my activities; skateboarding, longboarding, jogging, dancing, hiking, hula hooping, walking my dog, lifting weights, and doing yoga are just a few activities rotated into my life. I believe most in balance and preventative maintenance, and I feel my life is a reflection of this belief.  Can’t stop, won’t stop! 

Ariel and her longboard crew

If you weren’t working in the skate industry, where do you think you would be?

This question has been on my mind a long time. Just a few weeks ago Jason asked me the same question; all I could do when answering was make noises like; ehhhh, uhhhh, and ummmm. Jason and I started the shop when I was only 22, I could not perceive the gravity of the situation at the time, it just happened and here I am still today, hustlin’ wood.

Ariel getting her hike on

Skateboarding is just one thing I’m passionate about, it keeps me connected to a community full of supportive and enthusiastic individuals.  I really can’t imagine doing anything else, and I am excited to have to the opportunity to branch out and share my skateboard art love with Chicago at Windward Boardshop!