This entry is a Bike Hacks Classic. This inteview was conducted in July of 2008.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to outfit your entire house with furniture made of bicycle parts? Well, this is not a dream thanks to artist and bike mechanic Andy Gregg. Thanks to Andy, all that stands between you and your dream is the agreement of your significant other! Andy's works can be found on The Bike Furniture Design Site and he graciously agreed to an interview.
Gregg: I am a professional bike mechanic. I have worked in several shops since I was 14. I went to college to study fine arts, with a concentration in photography.
I currently live in Marquette, Michigan, where I grew up. I have moved away from here several times, and for several years at a time. Aside from my first move to go to college, the quest for bikeness has been responsible for my subsequent forays. I have lived in the bike meccas of Boulder, and Aspen, CO. I lived in Chicago, IL where I was the director of Blackstone Bicycle Works for 8 years. Additional link here.
A fire destroyed the building in which Blackstone was located, and I moved back to Marquette to enjoy a summer of mountain biking while the building was being rebuilt. (In 2001, Bike Magazine named Marquette one of the top 5 mountain biking towns.)
The rebuild took much longer than anticipated, and in the end, I decided not to return to the rebuilt Blackstone, but to instead stay here and try to make a go of it with my furniture and my photography. I have had to cut back on my photography biz to keep up with the demand for my furniture in the last couple of years, but I still enjoy shooting photos every now and then.
Bike Hacks: So what was the genesis of your bike furniture? Did you have an "aha moment" or what?
Gregg: No aha moment as far as I can remember. I have spent a lot of time around bikes, and in bike shops. I like bikes, especially wheels and tires. I am reluctant to discard what I perceive as a potential resource (My name is Andy, and I am a packrat). Then I had a sculpture class in college while I was working at a bike shop.
Bike Hacks: Did you sell your first official piece of bike furniture or keep it? What was the piece?
Gregg: I kept the first chair, which was roughly similar to the current Milano Lounge Chair. That first chair was held together, and upholstered with tightly stretched inner-tubes. It was kept out side and subjected to the elements. In direct sunlight, untreated, tensioned butyl rubber eventually fails.
Inner-tubes on the chair kept breaking, and I eventually re purposed the components of that piece. When I started designing with bike components, I did not know how they would work on a chair. The first few chairs were quite a learning experience. Actually, that learning experience has not stopped.
Gregg: My place contains several prototypes of designs that I am working on. My crib is a sort of testing ground for my work. I don't keep any finished pieces. I have a few classic, early to mid-20th century modern furniture pieces by other designers that I keep around for inspiration.
Bike Hacks: What's the coolest place a piece of your furniture currently resides and/or who is the coolest person you have ever sold a piece to?
Gregg: There are some pretty cool love seats and rocking chairs at the Barcelo Hotel in Mallorca, Spain. Also, Lance Armstrong's shop, Mellow Johnny's in Austin, Texas, has a few barstools.
Gregg: I don't consider any request crazy. In any case, I can't think of anything out of the ordinary that has been requested of me.
Bike Hacks: What is the most popular piece of furniture you sell?
Gregg: My most popular design is the Milano Lounge Chair, and the barstools.
Bike Hacks: How do you find buyers for your art? Do you go to shows, sell primarily in a gallery, on-line, etc?
Gregg: When I lived in Chicago, my main outlets were galleries and art shows. Now that Bike Furniture Design is based in an area far from metropolitan culture, buyers come to us through media exposure. We have been very fortunate to garner the attention of online and print media in the last few years. That attention spreads with each exposure. Viral marketing, I think it is called.
Bike Hacks: Do you remember your first bike? If so, give us the gory details.
Gregg: My first bike was an AMF with solid rubber wheels, and a frame where you could bolt on the top tube for a boy's bike, or remove it for a girl's. I was 5, and the head tube broke off not long after the training wheels were removed. However, a Mongoose Supergoose was my first bike that really got the ball rolling for me.
Bike Hacks: Do you commute to work by bike? If so, give us some details on the bike(s) you ride and what your commute is like?
Gregg: I travel by bike whenever possible. When I lived in the city, my twice-daily, hour-long, high-speed commutes were essentially training rides for mountain bike, cyclocross, and alleycat racing.
Nowadays, I am fortunate to live 4 blocks from my shop, so my commute is brief, and downhill.
I ride any of my 10 or so bikes, as my mood or weather dictates. More importantly, world-class off-road trails begin just blocks from my door. That is where I spend my bike time, primarily on my Moots YBB Cyclocross, and Specialized Stumpjumper FSR. My shop is here - the yellow building.
Bike Hacks: Do you have a favorite bike hack/hacks to share? Something "after market" you have added and are proud of?
Gregg: Umm, I like to put knobby tires on road bikes...Many frames will accept a small (28mm, some 30mm) knobby. Sometimes the fork will not accommodate a higher profile tire. Older bikes, you can mount the wheel slightly lower in the dropout. Like on a rear horizontal dropout. Newer bikes you have to file down the retainer/lawyer tabs on the dropouts first.
Bike Hacks: What is your coolest bike experience ever?
Gregg: Some friends and I did a 3 week off-road trip with B.O.B trailers along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico and Belize that was pretty cool. Competing in the Tour da Chicago alleycat race series, especially the Stair master stages were cool (and way intense).
Bike Hacks: What is the one bike related product you could not live without?
Gregg: Well technically, that would be the helmet. I would not be alive without one, or two...Nice tires bring me joy.
To drool over Andy's furniture, go to bikefurniture.com.