Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Bicycle Times issue #20, published in December 2012.
My day job.
I’m a full-time, direct, green metal sculptor. “Direct” sculpture describes designing and creating one-of-a-kind, metal artwork without the use of molds or castings. I use a plasma cutter and a MIG wire welder to build my pieces. “Green metal” is a term I use because 95 percent of all the metal I work with comes from scrap or repurposed materials. My best supplier is a spry man named Johnny. He’s in his 80s with five acres full of USDA Prime green metal. He’s also a certified hoarder. I have to bring him a box of cookies just to get on his property. When I see something I want to buy, I’ve learned to point to the object next to the one I really want. That way when says “no” to my first choice, (which he always does), I then point to the piece I actually wanted, and he’ll usually sell it to me. He’s got everything from old Lincoln Continentals with suicide doors to rusty pasta strainers. After I load up, I usually grab my bike for a nice shady ride on the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, which runs right in front of Johnny’s junkyard.
Almost exclusively metals: steel, copper and iron. I don’t work in aluminum or tin. Lately, I’ve been working more and more with wood. I don’t use “found objects,” mainly because I never find anything. I buy almost everything I use. When people learn that you up-cycle metal into sculptures, they bring you things. It’s wonderful when a neighbor comes over with an old light fixture, or my farrier friend comes by with horseshoes and other things he finds around farms. I guess you could say that the metal sometimes finds me, and I become the found object.
How did you find your way into sculpture?
Years ago, I used to make collages out of double-exposures I shot with my trusty Nikon F 35 mm film camera. Ten years ago, I was part of an exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art and I met a woman who was working in metal sculpture. The rest is history.
What is your connection to cycling?
I think I was five or six years old when my dad called my grandparents and told them I had learned how to ride my new red bike. They came over and everyone watched as I rode my bike straight into the ditch in front of our house. I’ll never forget my granddad walking over and handing me a shiny, new silver dollar as I lay in the mud. I rode that red bicycle for many years, all over Chapel Hill, North Carolina. With my bike I earned money by delivering newspapers and I discovered what high adventure and freedom was all about. Today, I ride my commuter around town and my Gary Fisher mountain bike at San Felasco State Park, or on the beach if I’m near one.
Your work is comprised of a myriad of subject matter; what is it about the bicycle or cycling that inspires you?
To me, if a sculpture doesn’t evoke motion, then it’s no good. I always strive for motion, and the bicycle design by itself is as close to sculptural perfection as one can get.
Do you start out with a particular arrangement in mind, or do you let the material at hand dictate the progression of the work?
My motto is: “You Know More Than You Think.” This sums up my approach to my artwork. Pre-planning, drawing designs … to me this just stifles the art brew. When I start each day in my studio, I like to wake the metal up by tossing a truck spring or something heavy out the door that will make a huge racket. Once the metal is awake, we work together to release whatever it is that needs to be released.
Is your work meant to be functional or fun?
Fun, absolutely. I’m not a “message” artist. I don’t have a political, religious or any other kind of agenda. All I know is, when I find myself smiling, I know I’m on the right track.
Anything you’d like to add?
Did I just say I don’t have an agenda? Well, I do have one, and that is I think the IRS should give all first-time home buyers a 100 percent tax write-off for purchasing and decorating their new digs with original, hand-made, American artwork. This would help artists survive in these tough times, and add to the beauty of our most amazing and wonderful nation.
Where can our readers see more of your work?
My web site is jlasleydesigns.com. I’m also in the Signature Gallery in Savannah, Georgia, The Fringe Gallery in St. Augustine, Florida, and I’m a member of the Artisans Guild here in Gainesville, which is the oldest art guild in the USA.