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Wild Rides: Designer Chelsea Burton’s Longboard Decks

By Jenny Carless

A portrait of Chelsea Burton

Chelsea Burton

Chelsea Burton’s life has been one wild ride—from her success as a child artist, to her college career as a radio DJ and art major, to an exciting next step on her creative journey: Burton is one of this year’s new Adobe Creative Residents. So it’s not surprising that she’s chosen longboards (for many, the ultimate wild ride) as her canvas.

Burton has been designing deck graphics since she began snowboarding as a freshman in high school. “Beyond the ride, board graphics have always captured my attention, no matter the style I stumble upon,” she says. “It is artwork that seemingly has no limits and is just as freeing as the sport itself—an incredibly blank canvas for self-expression.”

Upon graduating from her high school, Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Burton created an advanced-placement art portfolio that consisted of snowboard and skateboard deck graphics—both small-scale samples and full-size, flat-deck demos.

Then, as a student at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, she spent much of her time experimenting with her designs at various art studios. After three years, she presented her work at her senior university show.

Burton created these longboard deck graphics; they were shown at her senior show at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. See more of her work on her Behance page.

blue longboard design by Chelsea Burton
orange longboard design by Chelsea Burton
orange longboard design by Chelsea Burton

“This was a pivotal point, at which I allowed myself to bring these longboard graphics to life and apply them to tangible, fully functional products,” says Burton. “Currently, I’m testing the possibilities of designing the wood decks themselves, along with continuing to design the graphics for application.”

BOARDS ARE ABOUT BALANCE

“Bringing a vision to life is the most pure and basic satisfaction when creating,” says Burton. “Inventing something in the abstract of my thoughts and crafting it into reality consistently instills the strongest sense of personal accomplishment and purpose.”

A photograph of Burton’s designs on boards and other items. (Photo: T. Burton)

The artist says her “punk Zen” work and style is about finding balance “between a rebellious badass chick and soul tranquility, self-structure and personal paradise.”

And she has found that crafting a longboard strikes the perfect balance between physical and digital creation.

“There is a level of control with digital work that, to me, allows for the ultimate experimentation—testing various possibilities without risking the loss or damage of the original work,” she says. “Yet I always find a secondary pride with hands-on three-dimensional work.”

Illustrations by Chelsea Burton.

AN ARTIST FROM AN EARLY AGE

As an artist, Burton goes by the name “Miss SEA Lion”—and she says she has always felt a connection to the sea and the water. Her grandfather served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and she grew up near Lake Erie, in Pennsylvania. Even her first name, which means “safe harbor” in old English, ends in the word sea. It was while working at her college radio station that she first called herself “SEA Lion” (“DJ SEA Lion” at that time).

“I chose the nickname carefully; it encompasses who I am as an individual,” she says.

Creative pursuits have always been a major part of Burton’s life: Her childhood was filled with arts and crafts and classes at her town’s museum. Her work was published in her local newspaper when she was in the second grade, and her hand-dyed silk pieces have been exhibited in Gdansk and Kartuzy, in Poland. Then studying art in college allowed her to focus and apply her passion.

“Art has simply been the love of my life ever since I can remember,” she says. “It’s an honest passion of comfort, freedom, and personal fulfillment.”

Textiles dyed by Burton. (Photo by T. Burton)

‘HELL YEAH’ HEROINES IN ART AND SPORT

Burton is continually thrilled to find a strong female presence in the longboarding community.

“The Longboard Girls Crew and Valeria Kechichian are two of the most influential entities I follow—women who more often than not provoke an empowering ‘hell yeah’ agreement from my being,” she says.

She’s inspired also by women snowboarders—such as Elena Hight, Jamie Anderson, Zuzy Rocka, Jesse Lynn Dawson, and Annie Jensen—“and their passion for throwing gnarly tricks on the slopes, as well as the honest love they have for the nature they constantly experience.”

In the fields of graphic design and illustration, Burton enjoys following artists such as Koralie from Metroplastique (“a French artist who digitally translates her illustrations and develops large-scale, mixed-media murals, and who is constantly exploring how she can carry her artistic voice and style into new media”), Sofles (an Australian street artist who is “pushing the limits of single brick walls and developing graffiti murals layered on multiple transparent panels”), and Andreas Preis (“a German illustrator who has a succinct artistic style across the board but a variety of product applications”).

A CLEVER RESIDENCY PROJECT

“With the Adobe Creative Residency, I will create and launch a new line of longboards as a follow-up to my university senior show and a grander launching pad for my lifelong entrepreneurial goal,” Burton explains. “I will design and create both the wood decks and vinyl graphics with messages to inspire others to find the purpose and meaning of creativity in everyday activities.”

She believes that her products aren’t necessarily part of a traditional craft, but they have the potential to broaden public awareness about the possibilities of intentional and functional art application.

Through this residency, she plans to develop longboards that present strikingly “clever” perceptions and aspects of design and communication.

“I plan to approach topics that most strongly reside within me, including the public perception of female strength, individuality, sustainability, product quality, and—always—functional and accessible art application,” Burton says.

A PERFECT PURSUIT

“I always have a variety of ideas and possible goals to pursue buzzing in my mind—including developing a radio-drama podcast, designing a videogame concept, and self-publishing a chapbook of prose,” she says. “But designing longboards has always been the perfect pursuit personally, and I have never argued with this intuition.”

Burton’s Adobe Create Residency project is a personal exploration of the skills, experience, and knowledge she has gained throughout her pursuit as an artist and designer.

“I’ve been building my work and software experience through more conventional and freelance projects—such as various T-shirt graphics and designs, a CD album, a wedding book, a university-publication cover, a spa brochure, event posters, and more,” she says. “I’m very excited to take this collected knowledge and expand upon it while continuing with the dream I’ve had for years.”

Burton adds that she hopes her work and her art encourage others to pursue their passions.

“I hope to do this not only through my work but through my personal ethics,” she says. “I hope to share my experience as an Adobe Resident outwardly as a derivative experience for others to follow and be motivated by.”

The Adobe Creative Residency empowers talented individuals to spend a year focusing on a passion project, while sharing their experiences and processes with the creative community.