Leila Nazarian’s Contemporary Art Grounds Itself in Symbiosis

In the creation of Eclectic Decks—a contemporary art and lifestyle brand that showcases traditional artforms on modern mediums—creator Leila Nazarian has fostered a space in which she is free to continually discover.

“[Eclectic Decks] has been a great way for me to explore my identity and cultural heritage while also discovering the long histories associated with these crafts,” explains Nazarian.

Born in California, Nazarian spent most of her childhood in Florida before moving to Iran with her family at 11 years old. After studying International and Comparative Politics with a minor in Fine Arts at the American University in Paris, Nazarian moved back to California, where she obtained a master’s in Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern California.

Through her travels and studies, she became fascinated by the idea that culture could be used as a bridge, which ultimately inspired the creation of Eclectic Decks: a collection of skateboards decorated with traditional Iranian art.

Founded in 2015, the brand’s first collection was created using screen printing, a process commonly used in mass production where ink is forced through a mesh screen onto a surface. Then, Nazarian travelled to Iran and commissioned local artisans to adorn her decks with intricate, traditional handcrafted designs including Khatamkari (Persian marquetry) Āina-kāri (traditional Persian mirror work), and Qalamzani (Persian metal embossing).

“Skate culture is the epitome of ‘California cool’ and has become such a global phenomenon. It’s interesting to see its influence all over the world, especially in the Middle East and in a country such as Iran, which has been developing a strong skateboarding scene,” explains Nazarian.

Merging the two cultures in a way that honours both is top of mind for Nazarian, and something she takes great pride in.

“Having lived in [America and Iran], with their difficult mutual history, I feel I have a responsibility to show others that there is more to Iran than its current role in the balance of power in the Middle East. Its rich art and culture are a great introduction to gaining a nuanced understanding of the country.”

In her combination of modes and mediums, of old and new, and of modernity and antiquity, Nazarian creates something entirely unique and proves the axiom true—two is better than one.

“I always knew I wanted a career that would enable me to improve understanding between the two countries I call home. I hope that what I am doing can encourage curiosity about other cultures and ultimately expand viewers’ perceptions of what craft and art can look like.”

Eclectic Deck’s screen-print editions can be used as actual skateboards, while the handmade pieces are meant to be appreciated as art.

Photo courtesy of Eclectic Decks.