Simply Blueprint, A British company building a British scene.

(PQ 1: “It’s a British company with British skaters. They can travel all they want, but they’ll always live in Britain.”-Joe Burlo)(PQ 2: “Without companies like Blueprint, I doubt if someone coming from Hebden Bridge could ever get sponsored in the UK.”-Ben Groves)(PQ 3: “To get noticed in California, you have to go to a landmark spot and do something ridiculous.”-Ben Groves) It’s a gray summer morning in Bilbao, Spain, and Blueprint pro Paul Shier is driving around the ancient Basque streets, attempting to focus on traffic and swerving to avoid pedestrians, all while trying to talk about Blueprint and what it means to him.And when that interview didn’t work out, he responded via e-mail: “Friendship, humor, individuality, for life.” Alongside Colin Kennedy, Scott Palmer, and Mark Baines, Shier has been riding for the company since its beginning in 1996. Blueprint is owned by and run through Faze-7 Distribution and Joe Burlo. Burlo had first started Panic Skateboards in 1995, and both Burlo and the Panic team felt the brand lacked direction. “Blueprint is short for ‘the Blueprint of British skateboarding,'” explains Burlo. “This was at a time when nobody thought of starting up a company if it wasn’t California-based.”So Burlo started Blueprint and gave the direction of the brand to the team, but not without his own input. “I made up a couple of ground rules,” he says. “Number one: No negativity, because at that time other major companies were promoting themselves through negative vibes. Number two: It’s a British company with British skaters. They can travel all they want, but they’ll always live in Britain.”I wanted the British skaters to be able to touch their heroes. For them to be accessible, and to encourage them,” continues Burlo. “What that actually did is develop a British scene at a time that the scene was dying. They needed something they could feel proud of.”The original team lineup consisted of Shier, Kennedy, Baines, Palmer, and Dan Magee, who took creative control of the company, later becoming the team manager, filmer, and art director.Magee feels Blueprint is different from other skateboard companies out there today: “It’s got a good sense of team going on. All the pros have known each other a long time, and a lot of them have been with the company from the beginning, so they know the score about what the company’s trying to achieve. Plus, with the UK being a small place, everybody gets to skate together a fair bit.”Little bits of British culture and character are reflected in the ads, team, product, and videos. Hopefully it’s done in a subtle way so it doesn’t alienate everybody else. Basically Blueprint’s just trying to bring a little British flavor to skateboarding’s table, in the same way British film and music is out there,” Magee explains. “Maybe that’s a good way of looking at Blueprint-kind of like British cinema. Smaller budgets, but it’s got strong enough ideas and characters to get noticed in a big industry.”The company’s team has developed slowly but surely over the years with the original lineup of pros still at the forefront of Blueprint. Vaughn Baker is another pro for the team who has contributed noticeably to the art reflected in Blueprint board and shirt graphics-most recognizably with the signature Blueprint heart. Scotland’s John Rattray rode for Blueprint for many years until leaving to ride for Zero skateboards in 2001.Considering that many of the pros have been there since the inception of Blueprint, Magee says that more or less every company decision is discussed in some ways with the founding pros, adding, “All the ams have been suggested by a pro, so in some ways you’ll see a good reflection of the pro in the am team.”Magee explains that the original agenda of Blueprint was to build some form of British industry no matter how small: “In some ways, we’ve maybe exceeded our expectations in the UK. Now, perhaps the agenda has changed to Blueprint being able to be a company and team in itown right. Still British, but a part of the skateboard industry in general.””Everyone in skateboarding has benefited from the creation of a strong British scene,” adds Burlo.Kennedy says Blueprint is different from other companies out there today: “It recognizes that skateboarding is more than just a fickle marketplace.” He feels that the company doesn’t really have an agenda. “In general, I would say a lovely, warm ray of hope in this cold world.” He adds that between development of the identity of the company and of the team over the years, one hasn’t particularly influenced the other. “Everyone is always on their own little missions,” he says.Ben Groves summarizes Blueprint’s place in skateboarding by saying, “Without companies like Blueprint, I doubt if someone coming from Hebden Bridge could ever get sponsored in the UK.” Groves has been on the team for about a year and feels that the company has been able to offer him something that another company may not have. “I got into the whole thing when Vaughn started riding for the company, and it made me appreciate the whole Blueprint thing more. And in turn, I got well-hyped on the whole scene, traveling, finding new British and Euro spots-so if Blueprint did that for me when I wasn’t sponsored, hopefully it will do it for other kids.”Groves says that what Blueprint means to British skaters is important. Beyond providing them the opportunity to represent all of the British skate styles, he suggests, “Perhaps it gives British skaters the chance to belong to something.”When asked if British skaters are faced with any challenges or obstacles that skaters outside the UK aren’t, everyone is quick to comment on the generally poor weather. “But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” says Kennedy.Shier adds, “A few years ago there may have been some obstacles if you wanted to get somewhere in skating (sponsored or in the magazines)-which is not why we are doing it anyway, and it’s the wrong attitude to have. Wherever you are living, skateboarding will be hard, and that is life. If you are really into skating, any obstacle can be overcome anyway.”The entire notion of moving to California to get noticed, or to “make it” as skateboarders, is one that the Blueprint guys all have comments on: “Blueprint is probably the most motivated UK company, but it’s relaxed by U.S. standards,” says Groves. “To get noticed in California, you have to go to a landmark spot and do something ridiculous-or that’s the way it seems these days.”Mark Baines had a brief interlude in Southern California in the late 90s. He really didn’t like it in the States and soon moved back to England. He refers to his So Cal sojourn as “a brief holiday, where the grass wasn’t greener. I came back and intend to be here always.”Not being an American company is like being born with two heads as far as trying to be part of the skateboard industry goes,” says Baines. “So we’ve had to work hard. We’ve had disappointments, like photos not being used because certain people say the standard’s not good enough, which is ridiculous considering some of the crap you see in magazines. Basically, it’s been difficult.”Baines continues, “I would like to think skaters here are stoked on Blueprint. Maybe it’s killed the illusion that it’s only American companies that can exist.” Today, beyond being one of the best-selling board brands in the UK, Blueprint is available in many parts of Europe, Japan, Canada, and the U.S.In Canada, Blueprint is distributed through S&J Distribution. Steve Greenidge, one of the co-owners at S&J, is happy with how Blueprint has been selling in Canada. “It’s really gaining popularity here,” he told SKATE Biz at the September ASR trade show in San Diego.Some HistoryBlueprint wasn’t the first British company. Flip’s Jeremy Fox started Deathbox Skateboards in England in 1988, but moved it to the U.S. in 1993 and changed the name to Flip. Without a doubt, since Deathbox, Blueprint has been the most successful British skateboard brand. Unabomber and Heroin Skateboards are a couple other British brands that have developed strong support over the years. Burlo started Faze-7 as a skate shop in 1978, in Enfield (Greater London), England, later moving to nearby Swaltham Cross. Between 1982 and 1983, Faze-7 became a BMX shop in order to survive, as skateboarding had fallen off in its popularity. In 1985, when skateboarding started to make a comeback, the shop began selling skateboard goods again. Within the next couple of years, Faze-7 became a distribution company, as well. Some of the brands the company distributed in its early years included Brand X, Dogtown, H-Street, and World Industries. Today, the company distributes its own brands Blueprint, Panic, and Octagon Wheels, as well as Gullwing, Aesthetics, Elwood, Monkey Business, Unbelievers, Halos, Axion, Aeon Shoes, Jessup, and Wooster.Faze-7 also owns MI-7 Distribution, a company based in Huntington Beach, California, which handles the U.S. distribution of Blueprint, Panic, and Octagon.The FutureWhen the team guys were asked where they hope to see Blueprint in five years, their responses were passionate but varied. Magee hopes it has more of a recognized identity, adding, “Rather than being that British company, it would be good to be that company with British riders.” Baines’ response was a bit different: “In Great Britain, with a little love from the outside world.”Ben Groves says he hopes to see Blueprint bigger in Europe and, “Maybe in the States. Time will tell. We’ve been traveling a lot more in Europe, so everyone wants to expand on that.”Shier is relatively content with Blueprint as it is: “Hopefully pretty much the same as now, with a few tweaks here and there.” Adding that he would definitely like to see Nick Jensen turn pro, and some more videos. “Who knows what will happen?””I think one of the main things about Blueprint is that there’s not really any big superstars on the team running the show,” says Magee. “They’re all sick skaters, but they really shine when you see them together as a team. Everyone is bringing something stylistically to the pot, with videos, demos, or coverage.And the videos Blueprint has released over the years haven’t gone unnoticed. Aside from a five-minute promo in 1999 entitled Build and Destroy, the company’s most popular videos have been Waiting For The World (2000) and First Broadcast (2001). The Belong tour video was released in 2002.In the early days of the company, two videos were released entitled Mixed Media (1997) and Anthems (1998). “That was before we found our feet and identity, so I don’t normally count those,” explains Magee.Blueprint is a collaboration of friends who are working, living, and skating together. And despite rainy days and being far, far away from California, they have strengthened the UK scene tremendously. Clearly, the UK is where they belong. itish skateboard brand. Unabomber and Heroin Skateboards are a couple other British brands that have developed strong support over the years. Burlo started Faze-7 as a skate shop in 1978, in Enfield (Greater London), England, later moving to nearby Swaltham Cross. Between 1982 and 1983, Faze-7 became a BMX shop in order to survive, as skateboarding had fallen off in its popularity. In 1985, when skateboarding started to make a comeback, the shop began selling skateboard goods again. Within the next couple of years, Faze-7 became a distribution company, as well. Some of the brands the company distributed in its early years included Brand X, Dogtown, H-Street, and World Industries. Today, the company distributes its own brands Blueprint, Panic, and Octagon Wheels, as well as Gullwing, Aesthetics, Elwood, Monkey Business, Unbelievers, Halos, Axion, Aeon Shoes, Jessup, and Wooster.Faze-7 also owns MI-7 Distribution, a company based in Huntington Beach, California, which handles the U.S. distribution of Blueprint, Panic, and Octagon.The FutureWhen the team guys were asked where they hope to see Blueprint in five years, their responses were passionate but varied. Magee hopes it has more of a recognized identity, adding, “Rather than being that British company, it would be good to be that company with British riders.” Baines’ response was a bit different: “In Great Britain, with a little love from the outside world.”Ben Groves says he hopes to see Blueprint bigger in Europe and, “Maybe in the States. Time will tell. We’ve been traveling a lot more in Europe, so everyone wants to expand on that.”Shier is relatively content with Blueprint as it is: “Hopefully pretty much the same as now, with a few tweaks here and there.” Adding that he would definitely like to see Nick Jensen turn pro, and some more videos. “Who knows what will happen?””I think one of the main things about Blueprint is that there’s not really any big superstars on the team running the show,” says Magee. “They’re all sick skaters, but they really shine when you see them together as a team. Everyone is bringing something stylistically to the pot, with videos, demos, or coverage.And the videos Blueprint has released over the years haven’t gone unnoticed. Aside from a five-minute promo in 1999 entitled Build and Destroy, the company’s most popular videos have been Waiting For The World (2000) and First Broadcast (2001). The Belong tour video was released in 2002.In the early days of the company, two videos were released entitled Mixed Media (1997) and Anthems (1998). “That was before we found our feet and identity, so I don’t normally count those,” explains Magee.Blueprint is a collaboration of friends who are working, living, and skating together. And despite rainy days and being far, far away from California, they have strengthened the UK scene tremendously. Clearly, the UK is where they belong.