Interview Kaja Merle Photo

Interview with Kaja Merle, Artist and Illustrator from Germany

July 28, 2021

Flip recently released the Kaja series featuring seven pro skaters of the brand, and we chat with Kaja Merle who did this series. She is a German artist and illustrator living in Hamburg and we talked with her to learn more about it and how her boyfriend who skates freaked out knowing she would work for Flip.
When did you start doing art?
For me, there is actually no specific point I can trace it back to. Ever since as a kid I was into creating things, drawing and building something on my own. I think this kind of never stopped and when I chose to go to art school it developed into a job (really glad it did!).
Do you know the skateboard scene where you live?
Actually I kind of do! My boyfriend who has been living longer in Hamburg than I do, has been part of the skateboarding community. However, just this year I kind of joined. I want to say kind of because I don’t skate on a skateboard, but I do roller skating. There is this place in Hamburg, a roller rink, where lots of different skaters (skateboard, roller skates, longboard, inline) come together, hang out and roll. I have really been enjoying the kindness and openness of this community.
Interview Kaja Merle Quote 1
Do you follow or look up for skateboard artists?
I do look up on a lot of artists, but I can’t break it down into specific skateboard artists, however some do similar projects and design decks as well. I feel like skateboarding is a very ‘creative’ sport and lots of people in the community have a creative background. Hedof, aka Rick Berkelmans being one of them. I also had the opportunity to be able to work for him doing an internship, which helped shaping my career path.
Was the Flip series the first skateboard series you designed?
Yes, Flip was my first deck series! As an illustrator I work on a lot of different projects, editorial, commercial, packaging design. I feel like the combination of being an illustrator ‘outside’ the skateboarding community gave the whole series a new twist and approach.
Interview Kaja Merle Flip Kaja Series
How did you get approached by Flip?
Most simple way: by email. When I received the mail, I did talk to my boyfriend and asked him who Flip was, he kind of freaked out, got really excited and explained to me [laughs].
Did Flip want or have specific ideas for the series or did you have a total freedom on it?
As each deck is designated to one of the pro riders, there were specific themes/ideas that needed to be incorporated in the illustrations. In the brief I was given some core ideas, but within these boxes I was able to design freely.
Where did you find the inspiration for the series?
When starting out with sketches I did quite a bit of research, as some of the topics were ‘new’ objects for me to illustrate.
Interview Kaja Merle Quote 2
How did you choose the colors for the series?
The colors are one of the most important feature of the illustrations, they are what is pulling the series all together. I usually test out a couple of different options, providing some variation for Flip to choose from as well.
Did you try knowing the skaters to make graphics that fits to each one of them?
As it was part of the briefing, I did get information on them. Also talking with the people from the community helped and I got introduced to Flip’s Sorry tape.
Interview Kaja Merle Flip Tom Penny Kaja Deck
Can you tell us more about every deck?
As the series is seven decks long, this would get too long, however I can get into some details. First of all, the Alec Majerus deck is actually my favorite, I love the mountains and the hippie vibe, I was able to play around with the elements a lot. It really gives off camping and nature vibes, paired with lush nature and trippy clouds. Also the Lucas Rabelo deck with the sundae and candy actually had a long process of designing, so I did process all of the emotions I was having while designing into the illustration, giving each candy a different mood [laughs]. For the deck with the Big cat and the little birds on it [the David Gonzalez model], I looked into Greek Mythology and vase design, creating a centered, almost symmetrical, design, but also giving it a little twist, as the birdy is being chased by the cat.
Do you use your art to convey a message or is it purely aesthetic?
It depends, I actually enjoy making art that is purely aesthetic (kind of takes out the pressure) but sometimes giving it a message makes it more intriguing to read and adds a certain story to it. Recently I have been very much into character designing, which is about adding well-thought of details and uniqueness.
Do you plan to design more boards in the future?
For sure!!
Check out more of Kaja Merle’s work on her website and on Instagram.