For some time I have been wondering about the hierarchy in the custom bicycle world. Does it exist? For sure. It exists in every field.
Being a bicycle painter I can't help but wonder where we (the painters) reside in this arena. I have always been one to look for definitions and boundaries, for me they offer context and rules to the game.
As an artist/crafts person (in my past life) it was always looking for the line. Where's the hierarchy in the art world, painting, sculpture, installation, media-art etc. Definitely the rift between craft an art is still strong, age old but on-going.
Now as a painter of bicycles I wonder the same questions.
Is the custom builder at the top of this ladder? Dk said in a recent post that he considers JB to be a partner. Perhaps Richie and JB or insert awesome builder name here could be the same. It is rarely said however, I am waiting for my new Kirk/Bell bike. No bitterness here!
Hierarchies usually exist for a reason. It is usually the ones (not me) on the tail end that wonder why though. Bikes are about the ride, they are also about the style. But if it rides like shit then it is worthless. If it looks like shit, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.
Someone will spend 2,3,4000 on a custom frame set. When it comes to paint there is often limitations though. One could be comfortable spending $1500 on a new group but if I tell them the paint job will be $800 they are looking for answers.
I have a lot of good customers who know the value of what is being done and the work that goes in to a quality paint job but I am still wonder about that line.
Is the role of the painter changing? I haven't been in this long enough to know.
What sort of custom paint work was done years ago? Can we think of people known for their paint work the way we think of the builders we like so much?
It seems to me that bikes in general have changed a lot over the last few decades. Richie closing the books is proof of that. Now people are looking for style and individuality.
Now bikes are the shit.
They are part of the fashion world and the design world. Lance is riding custom painted/designed bikes in major races the they are getting a lot of press.
I am part of this too. I have been painting bikes with no purpose at all. Broken but aesthetically acceptable frame sets to hang as decoration on someones living room wall. Creating more intricate and detailed paint schemes and getting a lot of support from those around me.
Attached are a few works in progress. A LBS has given me two frame sets with wheels for me to have my way with. Why? Because they are interested in what I am doing and want to be involved.
So I am now wondering, what is the role of the painter?
When I first begin to paint and Mike Barry and I discussed frame building, that seemed to be the end goal. Painting was the first step in the hierarchy to building. I am still learning to build but this is no longer where I am headed, I don't think. I am working on so many cool projects with a diverse group of customers that I no longer feel this is a step on the ladder to that. The growth is horizontal now.