Ahoy Matey, and Welcome to REPTIRE, an intermittent ‘ship’s blog’, chronicling the slow rise in the South Easterly skies of Reptire Designs; a studio that designs and crafts always artful, and sometimes useful THINGAMABOBS from old Indian Cucachou, aka ReTired Rubber.

Down Below, Ye shall find a permanent 'flagship post' marking the Maiden Voyage of Reptire Designs.

And below that, in the ‘hull’, can be found more recent posts chronicling the daring new adventures of Reptire Designs, dashed with small bits of whimsy, spotted pickerel, local color, and lizard lore..

In fact, on the right, in pale purple, ye shall find the Captain's Log’s Table of Previous Posts, which ye can peruse by year, month, and title to ye hearts content.

If ye haven't gotchyer sea legs yet, My Pretty, Ye can take a gander at our website at www.reptiredesigns.com, to get a proper Landlubber's Introduction.

Thanks for stopping in, I do hope you enjoy your visit aboard this ship! HARHARHARHAR.......

Sincerely, Travius Von Cohnifus

Captain, Founder, Indentured Servant, Rubber Alligator Wrestlor Extraordinaire a' this here ship.

enter the treadknot

On September 26th, 2006, I launched my tire art/design business, Reptire Designs, with a solo exhibition of my artwork in The Green Gallery at The Scrap Exchange Center for Creative Reuse, in Durham, NC. For many reasons, it was a night that I will always remember, and I am grateful to Laxmi (my girlfriend at the time) and Edie (my mother, still) for dutifully documenting while I shmoozed, so that I may now shmare a taste of the evening with anyone who was not able to attend...

On a cool but lively autumn night-before-Center Fest, a stream of friends and curious strangers trickled (like pebbles through a rain stick) through the forest of odds and ends (that roost at night in The Scrap Exchange), out into the warm light of the back savanna, a scene utterly glopped with bizarre rubbery hybrids. Tentative and curious, the visitors craned their necks, nibbled, pecked, stood back, moved in closer. From the walls, glassy mirror eyes gazed back through black unblinking eyelids, while beneath the visitor's feet, in a steamy drainage cistern, a mortal drama unfolded. Primordial forms, with no eyes at all, sat puckered on stoops. A cascade of glittering steal droplets formed a curtain, to which clung a colony of tiny tire knotlettes.

Vito D., a long-time collabator down from the Asheville area, caressed the warming air with his Strange Little Folk music. I bobbed and I flit, and at an increasing clip-someone must have opened the faucet a bit....for soon I was swooning, I just about lost it! As the evening progressed, to my delight and amazement, 'family' from Durham, Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Hillsboro, Siler City, Asheville, and Fresno all made it! From the Cohn Clan to the Steudel Clan to the CFS Clan; from the WWC Clan to the Duke Ac Pub Clan to the SAF Clan; from the Bike Shop Clan to the Ninth St. Clan to the Scrap Clan... and every one in between, guys, they were all appearing before my stunned, blinking eyes. While I spun and I splayed, Vito now played-CHURNED- up a torrent of gritty ditties; while a staff volunteer (Brandon's a photographer, I swear) whipped up pitchers of Mango Lassies. And The 'Scrap Exchange girls' worked the door, the counter, and the floor, going "cha-CHING!", cha-CHING!","cha-CHING!".!.

By the end of the night, hundreds of friends, acquaintances and had-been-strangers had poured in, poured over the work, and partaken in, what was for me and my art, a monumental communal feast. And on top of it all, I got to place many of my preemies in hands that I love and trust, and in several instances, hands that fit them like gloves. What a privilage to be able to connect with people this way. Heading into the turbid seas of small business, I can confidently say that if I drown tomorrow, I am at least blessed today with the memory of (as Vito later put it) one authentically good Durham night.

Thanks to all of you who were there; in body and/or spirit.

Reclaimed-wood Builder and Reptire Collector Howard Staab enjoying magwi knot at the Scrap Exchange

Reclaimed-wood Builder and Reptire Collector Howard Staab enjoying magwi knot at the Scrap Exchange
I can't think of anything more rewarding for an artist than to see someone interacting with their artwork. Photo by Laxmi Haynes

Sammy and Dannette contemplate

Sammy and Dannette contemplate
Photograph by Laxmi Haynes

Cascade Colony of Knotlets

Cascade Colony of Knotlets
They would go with your jacket, would they not Claire?

Laxmi Resplendent

Laxmi Resplendent

Mavis In The Mist

Mavis In The Mist
Photograph by Laxmi Haynes

Tire Amazement

Tire Amazement
Photograph by Edie Cohn

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Diesel Van- Successfully Ushered the Blue Beast to Safety

This past few weeks has been a bit a bit of a challenge, regarding my vans.

As you may or may not know, I have a black Chevy Van that I have lived in/slept in for the past 10 years. Her name is Sofia, and I have her parked in back of my studio, in the parking lot that the Farmer's Alliance owns (they have been VERY gracious to let me stay there).

I also recently inherited a Blue Chevy '83 Diesel Van, from my friend Jennifer Sugg, whose father, David Sugg, recently passed away, leaving her this van which he had cherished in life (she reports that the van is mostly what David talked about!). So it was quite an honor for Jennifer to bestow this vehicle to me..

But as awesome as the gift of a diesel van is, it was also perhaps one which I was a little unprepared to take on, some what like inheriting a baby elephant, that eats 800 pounds of cabbage a day..To be honest, I am not really great at caring for cars with the regularity that they need and deserve, and I have quickly learned, from research in town and in books, that Diesels need a certain kind of loving that I was not sure I was in a place to give. So I have had to really weigh out, if I will be a good new owner to this vehicle, whose care I have been charged with..

Well, in the meantime the starter and batteries went sour, and so did the city's taste for my two broken down vans... as Vito aptly put it when Sofia broke down, there is a big fat line between a running van and a broken down van, and I know that he is so right. It really amazing we have lasted this long..

So, with a sculpture to make, 3 to deliver to a major show in VA, very little money in the bank, to bad batteries and a bad starter in the van, I find an orange Tow sticker stuck to the windshield, saying the City wants me to move it in a week, or they will tow it (of course at my dear expense). The local Diesel Guru Mechanic tells me that year of engine is a total 'dog', and I should just do myself a favor and scrap it.... I am left in a tight pinch.

At David Sugg's funeral, which I attended to learn more of the man, I had promised his friend that I would not scrap the van (he actually explicitly forbade me this option) not that I would scrap a diesel van, no matter the vintage. But, I did wonder, again, if maybe this thing should be someone else's problem...someone that cared passionately about Diesel engines, there is, after-all the Piedmont Biodiesel refinery just down 64 in Pittsboro. Surely there must be someone over there, who gives a damn about this thing. I really didn't want to give it up, but damn, it seemed to be dragging be down.

So, in an act of desperation, I racked my brain, and came up with a few names. I sent out an email to a handful of people who I thought Might be interested, offering to sell, or even better... SHARE the van... Of these, I only heard back from a few, but a couple were interested! First, I  heard back from Moia, a very kind hearted woman who does collections for Piedmont Biofuels, and in keeping with the very strong community orientation that I know of Moia, she was enthusiastic about the idea of a van share! This encouraged and emboldened me to think that maybe this thing was possible! I also heard from Jeremy, who is one of Central Carolina Community College's Bio Diesel Program's first proud graduates! I knew that he had a Chevy Diesel Van of about the same vintage, so I was pleased to get a response that he was interested in either buying or sharing the van, as I know he would know the animal's ins and outs.
I also heard back from Ray, a mechanic at Blue Heron Farm,  who said he Might have an occassional use, and would put out his feelers around the farm for need for it. Living at Blue Heron, a commune of sorts, for lack of a better word, is kind of an expert on sharing I would say, so I thought he would be a good guy to have on the team, in addition to his awesome mechanical skills of course!

So yes, a team was begining to materialize, and with it, the hope of keeping the Blue Beast on the road. Now...I just had to get the thing started....up and out of there... and this was not to be too easy.

You might or might not know that a Diesel engine, and accompanying components, make it a very different animal that a gasoline powered vehicle. For instance, a diesel van requires two batteries, these costing about $100-$120 each. Ow. So when I couldn't start the van, this was what I was faced with. Fortunately, blessedly for me, Jesse Brown, the owner of the Sidewalk Cafe below my studio, is proving to be a wealth of knowledge and reccomendations about caring for diesel trucks. He runs several, to haul his  giant draft horses to festivals. And he has been very generous in sharing his acculated resources. So Jesse told me about a place in Sanford, where I could get rebuilt, and factory reject batteries. I went down there, gave them my two old, dead batteries, and picked up two 'new' ones for $30 each! This was to be my entre into a who new world of automobile part reuse that Jesse Brown has been introducing me too.
  So I plopped the two big lugs into my van, hoping to make off. No such luck. It turned out that not only were the batteries bad, but also the starter. I checked around, and found that this would cost me about $300 to get replaced, including the tow to the shop. OW again! Once again I began to wonder, SHOULD I just scrap this thing? Very knowledgable people were telling me that I should!
But I can be a little stubborn. AND, interestingly, Jesse Brown Down Stairs encouraged me once again not to give up hope...he had Another resource, a place in Burlington that rebuilds starters! He said they swing through town everywednesday, and could even pick up the starter. What did I have to loose? About $170, thats what. So, in the spirit of 7 parts desperatation and 3 parts adventure, I pulled the (massive) starter out from beneath the oil drenched engine, and left it in a cardboard box behind the cafe, per Mr. Brown's instrucutions. I had never removed a starter, and was suprised to find it held on by only one bolt! It seemed a second bolt was missing....

So, begging an extension from the guys down at City Hall, I raced over to Burlington, upon returning from VA, to deliver the sculptures, and picked up the rebuilt starter from a make shift shop in an old brick building. When I got home, I crawled up under my van (parked on a semi busy street), and tried instal the thing. It was not easy! While I was smart enough to wearing googles, bits of grease were falling onto my goggles. And the starter weighed a TON, probably about 25 pounds actually, which I had to support with one arm, while trying to ratchet on with left, all the while trying to keep these cryptic oily shims in place. UGGG. Bolt they gave me was wrong size too short. So zip up road to part store for right size bolt. Crawl back under van, and resume procudure sans forklift. Finally it dawned on me, why this was really not working.... The 2nd bolt that I had presumed missing was not missing because it fell out, it was missing because the shaft had Broken off....leaving the bolt's stock still lodged in the hole! FUCKING HELL. Back to the drawing board. I trudged back to the Downtown Automotive shop behind my studio, for yet more advice (they had also been a wonderful source of councel in this undertaking, which I probably wouldn't have, with out), and also to weigh out, once again, wether this this was really worth toiling with after all. When I told Greg, the mechanic, what I had found, and asked if there was any way out of THIS one, or was my goose finally cooked?, he looked me knowingly in the eye, and taunted "I told what you should do with that Van". "Yeah, yeah, I remember what you told me very well!" (which of course was to scrap it). A man seated in the office, looked down in shook his head, I guess at my stupidity, or the futility of the situation, or both. Greg told me there was in fact a way out, in fact called an "EASY OUT" a special drill bit. Easy out, well I'll be. Sure hadn't expected any easy ways out of this one! Greg and the old man gave me another look and shook their heads, as I trotted out the door towards the hardware store; hope springs eternal in the young, desperate and foolish..
  Well when I arrived at the hardware store, my good friend Herb Handley, accompanied by the requisite old man, quickly disposed me of my glee..."Ha!" Chortled his old grizzled friend, "they call it an easy out, but there ain't nothin easy 'bout it!". Oh, I see.."you've got to drive that thing straight into the eye of that bolt! If you don't, it'll bite it off, and then your stuck with an easy out lodged in there too!" He cackled. Yes, you get all flavors of advice and encouragement in Siler City. And this generation seems to  take particular pleasure in the naive misteps of my own generation...
  So back to the van I trudged, wondering how much thicker I get get myself into this mess?.....No doubt,  probably I good bit...
So I took lunch, and a little power nap. I know I had to be fresh to bore that hole, because it had to be dead on. I only had one chance, and I didn't not have time nor elbow space on my side...
  So eventually, I knew it was now or never, and marched down to the van, to let be what would be. If it didn't work out, I guess I'd just have to get somebody to tow it somewhere, I didn't know where.
   I picked at the bolt with the drill bit I'd bought for the job, it didn't seem to want to catch any where near the center. But it HAD to, so I had to keep trying. eventually I got it to catch somewhere that seemed as close as I could get it, and then adjusted alittle once it had bitten. My drill was right up against the engine block, so in many ways, I was at the mercy of both of these intstruments' casing contours...in many ways it would be a matter of luck, if they would let me get the clear shot I needed. Fortunately, it seemed like they Might just allow it. It seemed to be going in straight, as best I could tell looking behind the drill in the dark, so eventually I had to trust my sense of 'plumb' (not that the van was level), and drive it home. Thunk, the drill bit pierced the back end of the broken bit of bolt, and it was done. I backed out the bit, and squirted some WD-40 in the hole I had just bored, hoping some of it would run down around the threads holding it cemented in place, instead of leaking back out of the hole onto me, as most of it seemed to be doing.  Then came the moment of truth (actually ran back to shop at this point, to make sure I was aware of the main ways to screw this up). So back on my back, I loaded the corkscrewed bit into my drill, and sunk it in. To my total and utter amazement, the slug of bolt metal just SLID out of the hole, and sat there, pierced on the drill bit before my stunned eyes. I could not believe them. It was as if the bush pig, just sort of crawled up and hurled himself on the hunters spear....
My nerves elecrtic, hairs on end, grin impossible to restrain, laughter laughing itself, a ran to the auto shop, spear and impailed trophy in hand, grinning like a fool.

Once I had shared OUR triumph, as I felt like they had pulled a splinter from my paw..
I climbed into the drivers seat, for the second moment of truth of the day. Time to see what its got. Because I knew, that I could just as easily still not start, and I tried to prepare myself for this solomn possiblity, as best I could. I put the key in the ignition.. and got not nothing.    I tried agian, this time a staggering choke, I pumped the gas, and for the first time in months is dispair, the engine ROARED to life again, billowing smoke from its tail pipe, clearly happy to resurected. It was SUCH a happy sound, that, though I hadn't really planned what to do it I DID get it started, I put it into drive, and down the road we slid..right on out to the highway. NO STOPPIN BABY!!! As I pulled onto Hwy 64, a dusky setting sun glowing in my rear view mirror, I gave Stacye a call at Blue Heron, to let her know that a big blue van was headed her way.
   And as I hauled ass down the highway in this old blue van, knowing it was fleeing a fate of certain death and doom and resentment in Siler City, headed to a promised land of biodiesel refineries, and people who like to share things, it strangely began to feel like I was driving a much younger van..It seemed to WANT to get out of there, and to get where it was going! And though it might sound trite to say so, as I drove East across Chatham County on 64, past the various Alston road, through those darkening, cooling fields and woods, I thought of the slaves who had probably, not THAT long ago, run, dashed, through those very same woods, headed North, to Snow Camp, to be ushered to a 'promised land', bearing in their hearts a roaring, burning coal: hope of survival, and a better life.