Born Again Bikes
Andy Gregg of Bike Furniture Design Repurposes How We Use Wheels
Marquette Michigan – Bicycle mechanic and wheel builder Andy Gregg has become part of a lineage of innovators dating back to one of humankind’s most influential mechanical breakthroughs, the wheel. The wheel has contributed to a variety of uses throughout human history from pottery making, irrigation, milling, transportation, and now, furniture!
As the modern architecture pioneer Le Corbusier, famously put it, “The chair is a machine for sitting.” Gregg embodies the words of his role model with his Bike Furniture Design company where he is turning his lifelong obsession with wheels and cycles into stylish modern sitting machines.
Upon visiting his workshop strung from top to bottom with bicycle cast-offs and the favored tools of his trade it’s not surprising to hear that Andy has been fostering his passion for wheels since childhood. What began as a skateboarding habit gave way to BMX riding and then grew into racing.
At the age of 14 he bought his first ‘good’ bike with money from his paper route and it wasn’t long after that he began tinkering with bike pieces in new ways. Says Andy, “I suppose the first piece of ‘art’ that I made out of bike parts was when I was 15. It was a couple of links left over from a new chain I had just installed on my bike. I called it a Rubik’s Steve. I sold it (and several more) to my friends at school for 35 cents each, which was the price of a Pepsi at the time.”
As an adult he continued learning and tinkering with bikes during his work and travels through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the city streets of Chicago. His experiences with racing and working on bikes grew a deep appreciation within him for high-end designs. By the age of 21, while working at a bike shop in Aspen, CO, where high-end bikes were commonplace, he was disheartened by all of the crashed bicyles that went into the trash can. Says Andy, ” At the same time, I had the benefit of attending some workshops at the annual International Design Conference in Aspen. The exposure to these two things got me thinking…”
It was upon his return to Marquette, when studying art and design in college that his collection of spare bicycle parts found a new purpose. While working on a sculpture class assignment a pivotal moment occurred, “…then, there was a chair and it was comfortable,” Gregg says of the experience. The combination of sculpture and bicycles was a perfect fit for Gregg fueling his love for problem solving, discovery, and tools. By 1991 he was hooked on design and began incorporating his passion for craftsmanship of custom bikes and motorcycles into furniture inspired by modernist designers/architects from the early to mid-twentieth century.
A lot of ‘labor of love’ followed as Gregg figured out the proportions, materials, and processes to create and develop his new art form through trial and error. Says Gregg, “Quite often I’ve found myself staring and/or swearing at the bike parts and materials on my work bench. If that doesn’t work, I will work on another project for awhile to get some space from the challenge/design problem at hand. Other times, I will have to let it go, take a break, and go for a ride, or look for inspiration elsewhere. When I am not actively working on a design problem, the problem is still sitting quietly in the back of my mind. It is an ongoing process. I have been working through some of the same challenges for 20 years. Sometimes progress is barely measurable. It’s pretty ridiculous, really.”
Gregg’s Bike Furniture Design business has continued to grow and evolve since it’s inception in 1991 and he’s achieved a high level in his own craftsmanship attracting clients from around the world. Gregg shares the satisfaction he receives from his designs, “I enjoy seeing people interact with my work. Some people get a kick out of it, and maybe smile or laugh. I like when that happens. I also like that I get to engage and work with interesting people all over the world from my remote studio here in Marquette. Thank you, internet.”
But the ride doesn’t end here. Gregg looks forward to new inspirations that will continue to grow his work within and beyond his current design style. In closing Gregg says, “The best piece of advice I’ve received in my career is that it’s ok to make it up as you go. I would like to continue and increase working and collaborating with interior designers, architects, and other creative professionals and thinkers. Having access to all of the materials, tools, and space to create whatever I can think up is a goal. I’m open.”