Felipe Bartolomé Interview
Felipe is the smartest imbecile I know. I think everyone that has met him can straight away discern the intelligence behind his words, even if he’s off his head when you’re speaking to him; which happens quite often to be honest.
Let me put this into context for you. Not long ago, when in Mexico he woke up one afternoon and printed a couple of his photographs onto a t-shirt, then grabbed a spray can and did a few doodles on it. It was a fucking work of art. And he must have spent about 10 minutes making it, right off the back of like four days of partying in a row. Just like the previous week, and the previous week. That day I told him: ‘Felipin… if instead of 30 hours of partying a week, you just invested 10 or 12, and put in a few hours of work a day as opposed to five minutes every few days…’ I have the feeling that he lives a life of inflicted self-destruction and auto-sabotage – something common for geniuses.
Things are changing though, lately I am seeing one of the best versions of Felipe, where beyond his obviously amazing skateboarding, he is painting, making clothes, working on sculptures and jewellery, and partying much less.
Trendsetter that he is, how many times have I seen him being turned away by doormen at hotels or nightclubs because of what he is wearing.
He lives a life of contradiction, in a world of his own.
– Roger Gonzalez
All photography in Madrid by Adrian Rios. Interview by Felix Bollain.
So tell me, where are you? What are you up to?
I’m here in the hotel. Thaynan (Costa) just got here and I was just smoking a fat J and am about to eat a banana. We came here to film the last clips for the next Octagon video.
Oh ha ha ha, sorry, I’m in Paris. So the Octagon boys have done like four trips for this video, and the last two, which are the ones I’ve been on, have been to Paris, so here I am at the moment. The crew is dope too; it’s Sebastiaan Vijverberg, Bram De Cleen, Thaynan Costa, Quentin Boillon and Parisian locals. We’ve got Rémy Taveira as the local guide and Romain Batard on the cameras. Sadly these last days have been pretty rainy though, which is a shame.
You’re also working on the Carhartt video, right?
Yeah the video is almost done! It’s directed by Joaquim Bayle and Angelo Marques. They shot 16mm film and a lot of photos and sequences to use in the video, they also recorded sounds non-stop and we had Romain Batard filming all the skate clips, he’s a master. Carhartt trips are sick; it doesn’t feel any different to being on a trip with your friends… That’s actually how it really is though! We are all really close and it’s always nice to get together since we all live in different cities.
For this video we’ve been travelling to the main cities where the team lives, so Madrid, Torino/Milan, Paris and London. All of the photos in this interview will be in the video… They were not shot during those trips though, but during lockdown in Madrid.
What’s your plan after Paris?
I’m going back to Madrid, then I’ll try to get my Mexican residence card as soon as possible. I’m hoping to get back over there during the next few months.
Tell me about Mexico.
The first time I went to Mexico was in January 2019, on a trip organised by a Canadian skate magazine called Medium, and the plan was to make an article and a video for their mag.
It was a crazy time in my life, and with all the travelling mayhem I didn’t really have any expectations about Mexico, but when I got there I instantly clicked with the locals and it was insane. I was skating all day, hanging out with new people, partying, creating, learning… And that’s what really got me hooked: the vibe. Everybody there is so active; developing their own projects. Everywhere I went that’s what I’d see and it was really stimulating. I ended up staying there for eight or nine months. You also came and we started filming for a new project, but then I fucked up my knee and had to get surgery so I went back to Madrid and I was out for a bit more than half a year. Then Covid came…
At this point we were desperate to get out and as soon as the borders were open we travelled back to finish the project. So by New Years Eve 2020 we went back and once again, what originally was a 2-month trip became a much longer one. We love the city so much, the people, the vibe; you just want to be a part of it. And I am not only talking about the skate life, every other aspect of it too.
Yes, I wanted to ask you about all the stuff you do parallel to skateboarding.
Well, I don’t really feel like I do much. I guess I’m very lucky to have some free time and enjoy exploring and learning, so I like to play around with various things… Plus I’m kind of active and I like to do things with my hands.
Right now I’m learning wax casting for jewellery-making in this workshop in Mexico City, and lately I’ve been playing around with resin, concrete, collaging in my notebooks, drawing, sewing, and the never-ending process of making a thick photo book.
Explain what’s in your notebooks, and how do you curate them?
It all started as a recollection of memories; at first I was mainly painting but soon I started collecting things that caught my attention and that I knew would bring back memories in the future. These things can be anything; I usually find them lying around, treated like trash. Like receipts, tattoo needles, credit cards, plane tickets, photos, whatever that can be glued on to the notebook, sometimes they (the notebooks) end up being really thick ha ha. I obviously look out for colours and think about the composition of the page a bit. Also I like repetition a lot… But yeah beyond any of this my main concern is the collection of good memories.
You also built a table!
Yeah that was a fun thing to do; often these ideas don’t appear randomly in my head but come from a necessity. That’s how it happened this time; I was asked to build a table for this space meant to be a showroom for some fashion brands. It was a really beautiful space… I only had one big square piece of glass, and at the time I was messing around with concrete, so I figured I could build some concrete legs for it.
The problem was that I didn’t have much time, just a few days, so because of this lack of time and also because of the lack of material I had to improvise the final design of the table. At the end I came up with a design that was very different to my original idea but that I also liked a lot. I love it when necessity and improvisation become a part of the creative process.
Did the table survive the earthquake?
It did indeed ha ha, nothing too bad happened. We just lost a 4-metre lamp at the entrance of the house but it really didn’t cause any further damage.
What was it like living through a real earthquake?
I was in the kitchen with my roommates and a couple friends cooking dinner and hanging out when the seismic alarm went off. At first we were not really that worried, I had already lived through a couple of tremors and really chill earthquakes so I thought I would just smoke a ciggy on the street and then go back home.
We were lucky to be on the first floor as it meant we were able to get out onto the streets pretty fast. When everybody was outside the ground started shaking a little bit, but all of a sudden the shake got pretty gnarly! I looked along the street and it was shaking like a swing. We were like eight people and we all instinctively grabbed each other! There was also a light box blowing lots of smoke and sparks over our heads; we were all covered in black dust. I remember just looking up trying to spot any cables or tree branches that might be breaking.
In general it felt scary. It was almost one minute long, and at one point it was shaking so much that I started accepting the fact that things could go very wrong, luckily nothing too bad happened and it remained an experience.
Another cool fact about this earthquake is that it created the so-called earthquake lights, something I didn’t know about. Apparently the friction in the Earth’s crust somehow generates some magnetic currents that go up into the sky and sometimes produces these confusing blue lights. You can see some sick videos and a proper explanation if you look it up on the Internet. It was scary at the time but they’re actually pretty beautiful.
Wanna talk about the trips to the hills in Mexico City?
It was thanks to our good homie Diego Brown that we got to skate these neighbourhoods. The whole area we frequented is called Tlalnepantla, which is a very hilly zone in the northwestern suburbs of Mexico City. It’s a very humble area, right on the very edge of the city.
Every single day we went to skate there would end up being a very fun day. We would meet up and to get there you’d have to sit on these buses for over an hour, going up crazy hills… It really felt like when you go up for the first part of a rollercoaster, like moving really slowly and fully leaning back; props to those drivers. They also had their trucks all pimped up with neon lights, vinyls, etc.
The spots up there were insane, I don’t think there’s many regulations on construction up there so every spot is pretty unique, usually having big drops and always ending on huge hills full of cracks. This would also reflect on the looks of the area, meaning every house can have a different door, wall or colour and let me tell you people really get creative with it.
Another good thing we got from the hills is that we would always come home with good clips; it was full of exactly the kind of spots we wanted and many of them had never been skated. But that’s not the only thing that we would take home, it was always a fulfilling experience; even though it’s supposed to be sketchy up there, we always met amazing people that were never bothered by our skating but hyped about it, even if we were skating in front of their houses.
What’s going through your head when you go down those hills?
Not much really, I just enjoy the moment. It’s that time when you don’t think… I guess it’s the same for everybody, you live in the moment and have no time to plan, you just discover as you’re going along. It reminds me of my childhood at my grandparents’ hometown, where I used to run along this wide and very long river full of huge round rocks that dry during summer; it was fun to cross because I never looked ahead. I just ran and found the path on the way by looking down and finding the next rock to jump onto.
I would compare the feeling to the one you get when playing some video games, like on the first Sonic, you don’t look at the whole course, you just react to what comes in front of you.
You do look a bit like Sonic.