Picasso’s “Head of Bull”, above, conjured from a saddle (no, sadly it wasn’t a Brooks) and handlebar, both of which he removed from a supposedly derelict bicycle in 1943 somewhere in Paris, arguably qualifies as an early prominent example of at least two types of art; scavenged art, and bike art.
Nowadays, of course, it’s much harder to define “art” than it was when Pablo ruled the roost, or at least to distinguish it from everything else that isn’t; and we could probably say something similar about the term “artist”.
This difficulty hasn’t stopped us from delving into the world of artistic endeavor recently, to establish whether any fine leather saddles of English provenance have been moonlighting as frame or muse in “the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end”.
The great thing about using a Brooks saddle as a composite piece of your art is, many would maintain, that but for the trifling matter of their mass production at our works in Smethwick, they’d almost qualify as stand-alone works of art in and of themselves. Though, come to think of it, didn’t a fairly well respected American have a “Factory” of his own not so long ago?
Anyway, Kara Ginther has been cutting designs into leather for a few years. In a piece which we’ll be publishing in next year’s Brooks Bugle, she tells the story of the day her thoughts turned from belt-engraving to saddle-chamfering…
“…I carved my first Brooks saddle in September 2009. My friend had just purchased a new saddle and for reasons that still elude me, offered his as a test. I will never forget that first cut. I have yet to find anything that carves as nicely as a Brooks saddle. The leather is perfectly firm; the contrast is crisp and beautiful.”
Self-effacingly hesitant to describe her work as full-blown art, Ginther prefers to view the pieces as an end result of her passion for design combined with pure craftswomanship. As to whether she prefers to see her saddles hanging from a gallery wall (which they have done) or bolted to a seat post…
“I would rather see my work on a seat post any day of the week.”
Brooklyn based Dan Funderburgh‘s work has been eloquently described as a “repudiation of the fabricated schism between art and decoration”. Best known for his superbly playful and intricate wallpaper designs, he came up with some ideas last year for pressing motifs into our saddles. We were most taken with his suggestion to find a topographical rendering of the storied Alpe d’Huez and deboss it in a run of our Team Pros , its release to coincide with the 2009 Tour de France. Magnifique.
Another artist drawn to the bicycle as vehicle of expression, but more specifically in this case to the B135, is Tom Sachs.
Tom likes to “show his work”, which is to say that the artistic journey is as important for him as the final destination. This ethos layers and re-layers in meaning when one watches his “Waffle Bike” short film from 2008, where he charmingly catalogues the component pieces of his mobile waffle cooking station, while riding the whole contraption, loudspeakers, live hens et al through the boroughs of New York. We couldn’t buy that sort of publicity if we tried.