if you're a creative person, you need space. this often takes the form of headspace but assuming the creativitiy needs a physical outlet, then that space takes on a more manifest description, translating into physical space and probably physical money to pay for it. and thus ends the complete ideology of true creativity; a sense of the need to pay rent at the end of the month means at least a degree of commerciality creeps in somewhere along the line. sitting in my leather armchair with a macbook pro on my knee takes not a lot of space, but assembling a series of steel tubes via brazing and soldering takes a little more, and that little more would hopefully be bereft of flammable materials in the immediate vicinity. the biggest difference between the buillders i have had the great good fortune to visit in portland, has been the wide varity of spaces they inhabit, either through good fortune, economic necessity or strategic policy, though i think numbers one and two play more of a part in this process.
jordan hufnagel is originally from indianapolis, but like his peers in the industry the portland thing grabbed him too, and he is now happily ensconced in a large open space in portland's south east side, behind a rather brightly painted and graffitied yellow wall. happily, the inside is a lot easier on sun impinged eyes: the workspace is split into three, with tattoo equipment being made behind the walls and door at the back, while a screenprinting setup stood idle in the third space. jordan plans to set up a wall of windows to give the screenprinter and himself a greater degree of separation.
i figure that the only bit of a framebuilder's space that really ought to be neat and tidy, similar to the space of the refined bicycle mechanic, is the tool board: a place for everything and everything in its place - the hufnagel space complies. but he did let slip that he'd just finished a frame, and that tends to be the time when tidying up gets done and those essential tools return to the pegboard. the rest of the place is very much like its occupier: very relaxed. there are wheels adorning various corners of the floor, pedals lying on top of the fridge, an orange track pump in the middle of the floor, and quite a number of exquisite hufnagel bicycles with and without gears hanging from the ceiling, leaning against the wall, and one sitting in front of a big green, comfy sofa that no-one is sitting on. we're all on chairs and stools.
jordan is a really nice guy, too nice to be someone you'd consider a seriously competitive cyclist, but that's just what he plans on being later this year when cross season starts again. in fact, not only is he really up for giving everyone else a hard time, it seems highly likely that there will be a hufnagel cross team this year; no more mr nice guy.
with few, if any exceptions, portland's band of bicycle builders construct in steel: fillet brazed, lugged and tig-welded, but carbon is currently the weapon of choice for most of the world's serious and not so serious racing cyclists, so one has to ask the question as to whether the black fibre has been considered. surprisingly, to me at least, jordan has been looking at the possibilities of building some future hufnagels out of carbon. not being particularly skilled in even discussing framebuilding techniques, i didn't quiz further, but the conversation did mention a third party currently experimenting with carbon bits, and it would be an interesting development in the portland world if this material joined the steel and titanium currently available.
starting a career as a framebuilder in a city that already sports so many, can't be an easy option - financial security is hardly guaranteed, and the more there are, the more it would seem necessary that they all differentiate themselves from each other in some way. however, the distinctive hufnagel badge and decal seem already a part of the portland bicycle culture. only the next day there was one hanging significantly on a wall hook at the green dragon.
posted on monday 18 may 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................