My hometown, Portland, Oregon, has an inordinate number of custom bicycle frame studios. Many builders flocked here over the past decade to be at the center of the American bike culture renaissance. Joseph Ahearne is among the first wave of hand builders that put Portland on the map.
For Joseph Ahearne, one of the Pacific Northwest’s finest bicycle frame builders, a badge means much more than a logo. An Ahearne custom frame (not to mention custom forks, stems and racks) is a labor of love. The badge tells the story of the bike and its maker.
HAND BUILT WITH LOVE AND FURY
Joseph Ahearne is complicated and intense – a perfectionist working in a profession steeped in historical tradition, yet his designs are inventive and progressive. Each custom frame involves hundreds of choices, some structural, some aesthetic, some personal. Though no two are the same, his hand is evident in every frame he builds.
Joseph wanted to distill several major themes into his head tube badge: his philosophy on frame building, his interests in Eastern religions and yoga, his shop and his city. He wanted to pull them together in a sort of emblematic crest or coat of arms.
Here are my notes from our initial meeting. We developed a list of the elements he felt were most important to represent both his frames and his philosophy. This began a correspondence over a series of months.
Early in the process, Joseph wrote, “I really like old head tube badges; ones with fancy, regal, squiggly, crest-like designs. Amazing how they once were such an important part of the bike. The designs were so fabulous and ornate, or simple and blocky, but they really tried to show something about the aesthetic sense of the company, the builder, whatever. I want to harken back to that, to some degree. I would like to see some sort of Celtic theme, knots or what-not, and, beside the Ahearne logo it should say somewhere, ‘Hand built with love and fury. Portland, Oregon.’ The rest is open.”
This was to be a collaborative creative project. However, as in all my commissions, the goal of the client was my top priority.
Here are some initial sketches to illustrate the “process of process”. As a starting point, I presented Joseph with this series of drawings. It was a way to suggest some options and establish directions to pursue or reject.
The monkey represents the Hindu god Hanuman. The salmon is not only native to the Pacific Northwest, but it is a fish that Joseph pursued as a onetime professional fisherman. The lotus reflects his interest in yoga, and the vice is his most cherished tool in his shop.
Once we nailed down all the iconic elements, we started working on ways to integrate them with his initial, A for Ahearne, the winged wheel and his motto, ‘Hand built with love and fury. Portland, Or’.
Over many months of trial and error, we finally came up with a solution that worked. Delivering the artwork is only half the process of producing a cast head tube badge. There was much more work ahead of us.
Luckily, a company in Rhode Island, hookfast.com, and its representative Dan Gorriaran, were up to the challenge of taking my two dimensional drawing and converting it into a three dimensional miniature bas relief!
Hookfast cast a proof of the head badge in lead. Joseph and I made some minor tweaks to the proof and . . . then the final prototype.
After nearly two years of a back and forth process, the badge was completed, “With love and fury, in Portland, OR!”
Check out Joseph Ahearne’s website to read more about the new badge and his beautiful bicycles.