By Toby Myles | January 24, 2019
Weathered, worn, rusting and old. For as long as I can recall, I’ve been attracted to old pieces of metal, tools and mechanical parts. I was 8-years old as I stood tippy-toed next to my dad while he peered under the hood of his used Dodge Dart. My dad was pretty handy when it came to fixing cars, which is why he never could justify buying a new one. He was also very frugal, but that’s a whole separate blog post. I vividly remember watching him work with a wrench, or a pair of pliers… his hands completely blackened with soot and grease. I had no clue what he was doing, and he didn’t say much. But words weren’t necessary. As one of four children, getting alone time with my dad was rare, and precious. I grew to associate greasy, old and weathered metal with love and affection for my dad.
True confession time. Going to a motorcycle swap meet was never on my bucket list. But the first time I went it felt oddly comforting. Like home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Did I need to bring something swappable? All I could think of was the used book swaps we had in elementary school. Each kid brought a few books they had read, to swap for books they wanted to read. We always came home with a pile of new books. And it was free! Pretty simple concept. The motorcycle swap meet is not much different. You can go with your own stuff, set up a table, and sell parts you no longer need. Some things are even marked “free to good home”. Or, you can go as a buyer, in search of that blinged-out studded seat or fringy saddlebags to pimp your ride.
Most motorcycle owners like to customize their bikes. Who wants to ride a bike that looks just like everyone else’s? That’s boring. We want our bikes to say something about us. To make a statement. So, what do we do? We take off our stock parts, and replace them with other parts more to our liking and style. The byproduct of this ritual? Shelves and boxes full of old parts, cluttering the garage, or growing cobwebs in the basement. Seriously, you can only trip over this stuff for so long before it has to go.
For someone who finds beauty in the natural oxidization of metal, a swap meet is a feast for the eyes. Rows and rows of vendors, with aisle after aisle of tables, filled with boxes and crates. Nuts, bolts, wires, coils, tools, and rusty STUFF. Antique bikes with worn and torn seats. Rusty old wheels with bent or missing spokes. Carburetors, cylinders and cables. Very much like the younger version of me, peering under the hood of the car, I had no idea what half of the shit was. Didn’t matter. It was old, beautiful and inspiring.
The influence is evident in my work. I’m inspired by imperfect textures. I find beauty in rusty, weathered metal. I try to capture the character of an antique part through my use of patina. I disturb a perfectly smooth sheet of metal by marring it with a hammer or rough file. There is so much beauty in aged metal. There is beauty in the details and the repetition of shapes in a coil, or a bucket filled with nuts and bolts. I spot a row of rusty wheels or pitted gas tanks, and I feel excited. Suddenly my creative brain is flooded with ideas for a fresh new jewelry collection. Inspiration happens when your mind is open and your eyes observe, without judgement, of what defines beauty.