Behind The Wall

by | Jul 18, 2013

No one enters my trade for the money alone. What we do is an extension of a voice we hear. Our voice. Choosing a framebuilder’s path is a concerted decision to leave mainstream industry, the routine, the kowtowing to the fantasies of others, and putting it all in a box marked former life. A business that’s tied to a creative process requires focus and a degree of self-absorption. It’s not unlike marriage. To endure, resilience and detachment are often necessary. In my studio, I am not only the husband; I am the wife and the mistress as well. I’m happy.

My bicycle making can be explained very easily. On one side, it’s overwhelmingly weighted by experience, skill, vision, and desire. On the other side, there’s a client. Is the ratio 90-10? Or 76-24? I think it leans heavily towards me wanting to make what speaks to me, along with someone waiting patiently with an open wallet. It seems to be working well. I realized very early that a long lasting relationship is the result of my choosing the work rather than the work choosing me. And I made the choice before I could even grasp the concept of success. I’m happy.

Most bicycle makers I’m pals with produce in their own image, with a goal that speaks directly to them. When you ride enough miles, finish enough races, and work through a routine long enough, you’ll eventually own it. That’s what you put a price on. Create a currency with experience and ideas, and you can set the exchange rate on them. The successful folks – the happy ones – are those who control the conversation. The ability to filter the excess noise is not only a necessary tool, it’s a life’s work.

Working alone for so long has enabled me to erect walls, change their thicknesses and heights, deconstruct them and rearrange them on a whim, and play nicely with myself behind them. I’ve seldom felt alone. My walls are not impenetrable, and enough noise gets in to remind me that life is collaboration. But I still enjoy standing a post at the front door.

When my walls develop a crack, and I hear others opining on what I should do, how I should be doing it, or even reading when a pal is getting taken to task, I want to pepper the conversation with a few FOADs. I have to suppress my inner Jersey Boy from launching a verbal counterpoint on the uninformed on those with whom I disagree. I mean, how productive would that be? Thank goodness for filters.

The cracks in my walls appear more seldom these days, but they still do appear. Being able to ignore them would make me very happy. It’s a life’s work.