It's easy for people to miss much of Megan Baltimore's influence at the Crailtap camp. But then everybody knows something and nobody knows everything. The mystery of Megan's contribution to Girl has always been debated, but never doubted. The touch of "The Matriarch" is just harder to see, reaching out from behind the scenes. Ring ring ring -
Words by Stephen Cox
Images by Jon Horner
Congratulations on 20 years Megan.
How are you feeling?
It's good! It's exciting; the company in the last couple of years with taking on Lakai has changed shape a lot. Lakai was previously operated out of Podium so when we bought our partners out we took it on here and now there are more people and it's bigger but it's good. A lot of the employees have been here for 16 years and some for 19 or 20 years so it's nice to have worked with such great people along the way.
There are probably too many to say but what are your fondest moments since the beginning?
I guess for me it's definitely been stuff that has been landmarks for the guys; finishing a video, tours, stuff that is important to them. That's always exciting for me especially because I'm a partner in the group that's not a skateboarder. It's exciting and interesting.
Is there anything that you would change if you could?
No. I say that because I'm a believer that if you change one thing then you change everything. I don't think I would change anything because I think that I've ended up with a really cool group of people, a lot of great experiences and a lot of cool friends. That's important.
There must have been some difficulties along the way too. Is there anything to be said there in terms of maintaining Girl's success?
I think that the burden of that has lain with the guys more than it did on me. I was very much a behind the scenes person so I think that the ways in which the company has stayed relevant was very much with them and not me.
That's modest of you. Did you make to any of the exhibitions?
Yeah actually I did. I went to the LA show.
How was it catching up with some of the old faces?
It was cool. It was kind of overwhelming. There were a lot of people there and I hadn't seen the show at all so there was a lot to see. But it was really cool. It was a really happy night. The art department did a really good job of putting it in a form that was really retrospective; it gave you a real feel of what the company had been.
Rick [Howard] mentioned a book coming out next year in light of the 20 years. Is this something you'll be involved with?
Yeah. I'm sure I'll be involved with it. I don't know to what degree because we haven't really dug into it. We've only started getting the imagery together but I'm sure we'll all be involved.
Best to rewind back in time I think and get your perspective on how it all happened. You worked with Spike [Jonze] and Andy [Jenkins] at the BMX magazine initially didn't you?
I actually met Andy before we worked at the magazine together. We met at a social gathering that I went to with my sister. But when I met Spike and Andy we were kind of instantly friends. It was funny; we never really separated after that. Spike and I were roommates for about 6 or 7 years and we both ended up working for World Industries and then Spike and Andy ended up working on some magazine projects together after the BMX magazine. Obviously we all ended up at Girl together, so it was cool that we had this bond.
I'm sure Spike tortured you when you lived with him.
Yeah [laughs]. We lived in this little house in a cul de sac off this small street. When I would pull my car up and get home he would pretend he was my husband and scream at me to get in the house and the neighbors would be looking at me. I would just hope that he wasn't there when I got home. The neighbors eventually came to me to talk about getting away from him and I had to say, "he's not my husband."
[Laughs] Did you think those sort of friendships would have stuck with you for as long as they have?
I think that they endured more than I probably thought. They would have to. I definitely knew I was going to be friends with these people for a long time.
You mentioned working at World. I know you've said before that you left by default because you couldn't pretend you weren't aware of what of what was going on.
Were you feelings at the time similar to the other guys?
I think I definitely had less emotion in it than them; it was more of a job for me. I wasn't as emotionally attached. I didn't have such strong feelings like they did about how things were happening or weren't. Other than the fact that they were going to do their own thing, that was really my only involvement.
Can we clear up whether or not you left World to write a children's book? Was there any truth to it?
[Laughs] That was really just out of panic, I was actually not even going to resign for a couple more weeks. I was so nervous that he was going to find out. I don't know where that story came from. I mean I actually had a kind of concept for an illustrated children's book so maybe that was in my head, something that I was setting out to do with my life.
Did the book ever materialize?
No. It's funny, I ended up writing to the artist Howard Finster to see if he would illustrate it and he ended up sending me these really cool illustrations for it. I sent him the whole story by letter and he'd written all over the illustrations, almost like his own story. They weren't really usable but it was really cool. I still have them but no, nothing ever came of it.
What was the story?
It was a story called ‘All the Spiders’ and it was kind of based on a principle my mum used to preach when I was growing up. This idea that everybody knows something and nobody knows everything. It was kind of loosely based on that.
That sounds great, make it happen. It's been cool talking to the other guys about the first discussions of Girl. What are your recollections? Spike mentioned the decision happening at a party.
Rick started talking about it and then when he told Spike, he really wanted to be a part of it. But really most of the discussions happened on a road trip that Rick, Spike and I went on to Washington. Rick had already been talking to Mike [Carroll] and then that's when they really started talking about when they wanted to do it. The thing with the Beastie Boys was that Spike had a relationship with them and one of them was partners in Extra-Large. So one night when we went to see some music Spike hit them up about using some Warehouse space but the idea didn't really come to fruition that night, it was over a period of time.
What was going through your mind in terms of the challenges you might face with the industry at the time?
I definitely wasn't worried. I think that Rick, Mike and Spike were really hopeful about it so I wasn't worried about it in that way. We were younger. It just didn't seem like that. There were obstacles in the industry but I think we were too naive to know that they were going to be big or detrimental.
Did being the only one who didn't skate influence how you felt?
No, I think being the one who didn't skate I was the one who probably most organized and worried about that sort of stuff. I think on the other side there was a just a general naivety about what could or couldn't go wrong. I don't think until we were in it, until people were actually denying manufacturing for us did I think, "this could be kind of scary." I think going into it, it didn't seem like there was much too worry about.
What did the other guys bring to the table do you think, in terms of making Girl what it is?
Obviously we're 20 years in, we all really like each other. I think it's the balance of our personalities. It's not just one component. Spike and Rick have big ideas, Mike's more cautious but definitely very excited by their ideas. I'm just more sound and subtle, I guess a little more conservative. I think it was just a good balance of everything that we all were.
You've said before your passion lies in what happens at Girl more so than attending public skateboarding events and demos. Is this still the case?
I don't know that I've ever set out to actively avoid them. Even when you get into the skaters at Girl, I think we're really fortunate. I think that those have just never been a personal interest for me. It's never really proved to be a problem. I think that Rick, Mike and Spike's presence has been enough for the company.
The skate nerds out there think that adds to the mystery of you. Have you thought about that?
I guess not. I think that in terms of what my interests were and who I am, I just wanted to take really good care of this place because people have put so much of themselves into it, whether it was the skaters, artists or the employees. They've always operated as a really cool team so I've wanted to take care of this part of it. Personally I've just had more diverse interests, I think that's what kept me were it did. I've never really thought about it that much.
I've talked about the name with Mike but the name has of the company has always be largely rumored to do with you as well. I didn't think it was until Spike mentioned everything at Girl being an inside joke. Can you confirm or deny?
That's definitely not where the name come from, no [laughs]. I think that it came from a long conversation between Rick and Mike, wherever their young minds were at. It wasn't based on me. To be honest, even when we started the company my plan of how long I was going to stay around was much shorter than it has been. I don't think I had any idea that it was would be such a topic of discussion, because I was one of the only women who owned a company in action sports or whatever you want to call it.
You've always been associated with the Crailtap blog as The Ringer.
What's with the obsession with NASA?
You know I never really…[laughs]. I don't even know who writes that column! Who said I wrote that column?
[Laughs] Why doesn't the company take itself so seriously when it comes to promoting itself?
I mean, I think one of my favorite things was when everybody used to attend ASR. We had already booked our space, which you pre-pay. We were in a meeting figuring out what to do, everybody was so not wanting to go and be a part of it. Just sitting right there we are like, "let's not go!" Everybody was like, "really?" We weren't going to get new customers; it's just a social thing. We decided not to go right there on the spot and ended up going on this camping trip. We ended putting a spinning photoshopped photo made into a postcard of us all camping at the booth space, which they had someone take down. We just went and set it up and left.
The other guys mentioned ideas always coming from jokes. Have any not materialized that you wish had?
Forever we were trying to figure out how to work a mime into something whether it was a trade show or an ad. There was so much talk about mime. Finally someone for someone's birthday they did it, a telegram. That's kind of how the whole goat thing came about, we were just talking in a meeting and one of the guys was talking about how goats are on the pentagram and are always associated with being evil but they're such good animals. Pretty random [laughs].
Have you featured in any ads?
No, sometimes if they need words I've helped them out in that way. I've never really got on that side of it.
Andy coined the nickname "The Matriarch" didn't he?
Do you keep everyone in check?
I guess it doesn't really come down to me, keeping everyone in check. There's a lot of work to do. Somehow over the years we've figured out a way to keep it light. Maybe that has something to do with never having been some big mean boss to answer to. I'm not sure exactly what created it, but the atmosphere requires a lot of self-discipline. We somehow ended up being really good at it. But there are times when you have to be a leader. We're a bigger company now; we have over 50 employees so you just have to be a leader. I definitely didn't set out to be the CEO of a company. It wasn't my life plan. I believe that Girl makes something like that possible for someone like me.
How do you feel about Andy's contribution to Girl?
Andy's been here since the very beginning. His vision and how cares about everything down to the quality of the paper or screen prints on decks being centered and that sort of thing, he's a really special person to have on board. He's always been a really wise and culturally intellectual person so it's always been great to have him around.
Has he influenced you as an artist?
I watercolor sometimes but it’s pretty crappy. It's funny, artistically he and I have always talked about these side projects like books or whatever but [laughs] we never do it. We have to take care of Girl first.
Plenty of time left for that.
Yeah, it would be good to do.
How do you envisage the art direction of Girl progressing or maintaining itself going forward?
I think its always kind of twisting and turning a little bit. I think we get different people in our art department, which shows. Especially when you look at how different Fourstar looks from the other brands now. It has so much to do with Eric Anthony and his graphic design. When you look at how the Girl graphics have changed over the years that has so much to do with Hershel Baltrotsky. It is all influenced by whoever is involved. Eric Anthony has been here a long time and Hershel has been here for 6 years. You can feel their influence on the look of things.
Do you have any favorite graphics?
I don't know if I have any. I know that the Golden Girls one is probably the most disturbing [laughs]. It's pretty bad.
What are you relationships like with the riders?
I have a good relationship with everybody, yeah. Obviously I'm closer with Rick and Mike but I have a good relationship with all of them. A lot of them have been around for the whole 20 years so we're really close at this point. They've got married and had babies [laughs].
How essential are the right skaters do you think?
I think to some degree Rick and Mike create a lot of that. I think they're loyal people. I definitely feel like we've been really blessed.
What roles have you had with the video productions over the years?
I think it's just like everything else you know? Making sure we have the rights to the songs and all that kind of stuff, behind the scenes. I've just felt really lucky to be associated with these guys. They always one up themselves and challenge themselves. It's a cool thing to be associated with.
Have you had trouble getting the rights to songs?
There have been a couple of times when people have had their hearts set on songs and we haven't been able to get it but no one really tries to focus too much on that. There have been a lot of cool songs we've been able to get.
How are you thinking about the next 20 years?
You know, I don't know. I think we're in the midst of trying to be a better company all the time. That's what we try to stay focused on whether it's product or whatever.
Let's finish up with a quote that summarizes the 20 years of Girl.
My sister sent me something, I was texting her on the day that it was 20 years. She told me this, and knew it off the top of her head. It's a cool quote. I don’t know who said it but it says, "as with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination." I thought that was perfect.
Thanks for this Megan.
Special thanks – Aaron Meza, Sam Smyth and Chops.