Testing Positive For Laughter

by | May 4, 2013

I am an opinionated eff, especially regarding my craft, my niche, and design. Someday, and that day may never come, I may be a recovering opinionated eff. But until that day becomes a reality, I take support and validation for my opinions whenever and wherever, thank you very much.

I don’t make custom frames. I once did, but that ended in the late 1970s. Ever since that time, I have made Richard Sachs frames for folks who commissioned them. Coming from a background that began in London, my sense of things always had a little bit of the bespoke tailor – cum English shopkeeper – cum artisan – oh, cum on now. It only took a few years at the workbench before I realized that I didn’t want to take orders, particularly for the abstract. I started my bicycle making in a era in which folks assumed that the ordeal, the relationship between the maker and the client, was a true collaboration. For the longest time it was common to receive drawings and specs from folks queuing up, and these submissions very often were a fantasy amalgam (I love that word, amalgam…) of various details mined from bicycles they once had, and from positive remarks written about other brands featured in a recent “road test” that a magazine published – all this, with the hope that we could make their dreams come true.

My personality was never very accepting of such things. When I decided I wanted to make bicycles, the decision was about making my bicycles, ones that fulfilled my expectations. Heck, we all need clients – but the ideal became modeling a business such that folks said yes to me rather than me saying yes to them. Someday, and that day make never come, I’ll look back on this personality trait and try to find its roots. But for now, I want to finish typing, work a few hours, screw off online, and then get a ride in. So anyways…

Look at the image pasted below. Its message validated my point of view long before I had the tools to do anything with it. The cartoonist Johnny Helms sent it to me about thirty years ago. It appeared in print almost a decade earlier. I may have still been a teenager living abroad when it was published. The cartoon made sense to me. It made light of the client. It made light of the transaction. It made light – and being able to laugh at all this is the perfect antidote to the strong opinions we voice when we open our mouths, peck away on the keypad, or reach for the Meisterstück.

There was a time when I might have said yes to the order being mapped out in the cartoon. I’m glad the niche is as healthy as it appears to be so that I can lateral this fictitious client over to one of my pals. If there really is a God, my pals will lateral the client to their pals. #listentoyourownvoiceatmo

PS A few more of my Johnny Helms images are stored here.


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