By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff
Thinking back to the days of middle school and high school, most people can probably recall that one artistic kid who would doodle on people’s binders and scrawl intricate scenes for the most mundane of assignments.
Duncan Crawford was that kid.
“I’m the guy that people remember as the one drawing on everybody’s notebooks,” said Crawford, the mind behind Skulboy Designs. “I’ve gone barbarians and superheroes pretty much since I was a kid.”
As an adult, Crawford has taken his art from the notebooks to the disc golf course, as he pens unique, skull-filled custom stamps under the moniker Skulboy Designs. Known for aggressive, hand-drawn renditions of skeletons, skulls, and images both mythical and historical, Crawford has gained a following among disc golfers looking for more than the traditional stamp on their plastic.
And while his designs have developed a following, their gestation was born out of simply wanting something interesting for himself.
“Once I started collecting discs and getting discs, I found that there were not enough skulls on discs,” he said. “I’ve always been a skull guy. I love skulls, and there just weren’t enough, you know?”
Based in Monrovia, California, Crawford is surrounded by a bevy of courses and an established disc golf scene, which is where he found his path to stamp design. Playing many rounds at Sylmar Veterans Park – home of Steve and Bamba Rico of Legacy Discs – helped Crawford jump into the process by designing a custom stamp for the course’s 2010 Summertime Open.
Crawford’s relationship with Bamba Rico was what really got the business off the ground.
“I did a stamp for him, then I started doing t-shirt designs for him,” Crawford said. “And that’s what got it all started.”
But when Crawford began to explore the idea of putting more of his designs on discs to sell on his own, he found the bulk orders that Innova and other manufacturers required to be cost prohibitive.
But a chance opportunity soon came his way — in the form of missing out on a tournament — as he was able to meet Dan Mangone, the owner of Discovering the World, a disc golf shop that happens to be the main West Coast distributor for Latitude 64 golf discs.
“I was at Oak Grove Park one day during a tournament. I was too late to sign up,” Crawford recalled. “Dan Mangone of Discovering the World had a table set up there. It was really the first time I saw the Latitude plastic – I had read about it, but I hadn’t seen it – and I was really blown away by it.”
The two got to talking about some of Crawford’s designs, and Latitude had just started sending Mangone blank discs to be used on his shop’s stamp press. It seemed like a perfect fit.
With Discovering the World, Crawford did not need to order discs by the hundreds – he could just walk in, purchase blanks, and have his designs pressed on hand-selected plastic. Mangone, to his credit, saw it as an opportunity to work with an artist who may not be conventional, but certainly was marketable.
“He’s a creative guy, and he has that niche look in his designs,” Mangone said of Crawford. “I think it’s going to be around for awhile.”
Crawford has now created custom stamps for four Latitude 64 molds – Havoc, Halo, River, and Saint. Many discs are available in his web store, with others being sold at Discovering the World or being shipped to other retailers, which has extended the artist’s reach.
Travis Brower, a Helena, Montana-based disc golfer, recently purchased a Skulboy River.
“I like that he hot stamps his designs, and includes the manufacturer’s name, rather than dyeing,” Brower said. “His designs aren’t normally my ‘type of thing,’ but for some reason this worked for me.”
The disc has also been quite the head-turner at Brower’s local courses.
“Everyone’s thought it was a sweet stamp and great feeling disc,” Brower said. “I can’t think of a single disc in my bag that has created more conversation on the course than this one.”
But stamps are not Crawford’s only forte with Skulboy. He has used Café Press to make his designs available on shirts, magnets, keychains – even iPhone cases.
Crawford has also recently begun sculpting what could possibly be a Skulboy trophy, which merges his side business with his regular job as a sculptor for set construction for movies and television.
With this broad range of artistic skills, it would seem that Crawford could simply focus on continuing to grow his brand and design more stamps for more manufacturers. However, he doesn’t see Skulboy becoming feasible as his only gig.
“It’s kind of where my passion is – illustration and disc golf are what I really like to do – so I’m not in it to get rich, and I don’t know if that’s possible at my level,” he said.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t financial benefits to his side business, though.
“It sustains itself and pays for all my disc golf necessities,” Crawford said. “Whether it’s buying a new bag or entering a tournaments or new plastic, my little business here is making that all kind of possible and it’s keeping itself going.
“It’s kind of its own thing that keeps my disc golf dreams going.”
On the Web
Steve Hill covers all angles of the game for Rattling Chains, even if he can’t hit those angles himself. Contact him at steve [at] rattlingchains.com and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.