Wednesday, February 27, 2013

anyone can polish a turd

oh shit!  i'm back... kinda.  my kidneys still hurt and i can't quite figure out how i spent so much money when i was blacked out half the time.  either way, four days in Denver surrounded by a bunch of gawkers with a pen-ash for the extreme was about enough for me, and after the bumpy flight back, it's nice to be back on a familiar throne.

so i went to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and saw all the same shit you did online.  there is nothing i can add simply because i am not a: a real photographer, and b: i am not a real writer.  bare in mind, i can't weld more than plumbing, but i am rather good at mitering, so there's that.

the one thing i am really good at is calling out bullshit.  so that's what i'm gunna do.

case in point, this here weld.

 Kent Erikson is a magician.

this is what a textbook weld looks like.  unfortunately most of the bikes shown at the handmade bicycle show were doused in paint, powder coating, or rocks.

yup, rocks.  now, just to say it again, i am by no means a frame builder and if i ever was to show up at this shindig with a creation of my own, i would fully anticipate and welcome the lashing bashing slashing and dashing of my ass right out the door tar and feathered to be cast away to a remote island never to be seen again.  because that's the skill i currently have.  i bet my miters would be ok though, but they would not be good enough fo sho.

i will tell you this, i painted professionally for a few years, and you can hide a whole lot of shitty work under the right layers of mud and paint.  yes, when painting you need a good sub straight in order to make it easier to coat, and the thinner the paint, the more it shows... and the mark of a good painter is to enhance the builders work, not cover up their shit.  case in point...

mind you, the paint and powder that glared into my eyes was out of this world, and having been a painter it was wonderful having conversations with some of the best in the biz.  but the thing that astounded me was how few unpainted and unfinished frames were shown. 

bicycle frames, much like the skeleton of a moving object, is the most important part of the structure.  it is what sets the tone for what the bicycle is supposed to be.  if i was there to purchase a hand built frame, fully knowing it could be months, or years even before the tubes are selected, i'd kinda like to know what i'm getting.

and now this is where my arrogant diatribe makes sense.

it seems the vast majority of the people there had no idea what they were looking at.  they had no idea about the craftsmanship, years of trials, the thousands of welds, miters, files, and blood sweat and painstaking anger that went into so many of these creations, never mind the failures.

i shook hands with bent and charred fingers missing nails with a grip that only someone that has toiled for decades could obtain.  and over and over again, the raccoons with their little lemmings in tow couldn't stop spouting about colors and parts and a bunch of bullshit that has nothing to do with the experience of owning a true custom bicycle, and nowhere close to what it takes to get to the point that you even have the balls to get a booth and subject yourself to a bunch of judgmental assholes that couldn't even light a torch, let alone ride a fucking bicycle worth a damn.

the vast majority of the people i witnessed staring starry eyed into their own reflections at the love and dedication built into these gifts, had no idea what they are witnessing.  i got the feeling so many people were there to come home with something to brag about, as if coming home with a t-shirt and a pint glass lifted them to a higher status because they simply bought a ticket to a show.

i worry that the true respect for craftsmanship is following the rotary phone right down the path of good riddance, and that par work polished to a keen shine will become the mainstream understanding of what it takes to be an artisan.  just open up any bicycle magazine next month and look at what is inside.  it will be nothing but internet fodder and lip service, with no mention of true craftsmanship, art, or legacy.

FROM STEEL: The Making of a Soulcraft from michael evans on Vimeo.

so take heed you little raccoons and lemmings; next time i find myself in the middle of your herd, i'm gunna chuck a fist full of nickles on the floor just to enjoy the ensuing cacophony of shutters smacking in a frantic spray and pray with hopes of obtaining the lifetime of experience and education needed to stamp a coin with nothing more than a single tour of the mint, a camera, and an internet connection.

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