Truth to materials

I think any kind of creative making endeavour involves some fumbling around, some sort of hunting. You can make hundreds of a thing, thousands, before you work out what it is that is your style. Maybe you sidle your way ever closer to it, or else maybe it hits you in the guts one day and you realise you know what it is you do.

No doubt , I’ll spend decades sneaking my way ever closer to my personal style, with every bike I build. But I’m certain I’ve found something that make’s my bikes mine. Truth to materials.

Truth to materials was an architectural concept originally, but once I heard about it, I knew that it was just right for me. I first heard about it visiting the Hayward Gallery in the South Bank. It’s an amazing building, and the first time I’d realised that the whole building is left “unfinished”. You can see the marks in the concrete of the wooden shuttering used to form the concrete sections. They could have polished that out, or  plastered or painted over it. I found the fact that they didn’t totally amazing. It felt to me like they trusted us building users to see the beauty in their process of making it. It felt unpatronising and respectful.

I don’t want to hide the process, I want to show the fabric of the thing. Un-filed fillets mean you can see how I have or haven’t controlled the heat, the brass. They’re honest about imperfections, and you can see when it’s perfect. I want the evidence of my workmanship to be clear at each joint.

There’s something dishonest to me about a dressed fillet braze. I know just how bad a braze can be and still look great once you’ve attacked it with sandpaper and files. My brazes look good raw. I soak off the flux, and call it good.

That truth to materials makes my work honest, and saves hours of time at the bench, making my bikes cheaper, stronger (as there’s more brass, it acts, essentially, as a gusset at each joint) and more, well, me.