Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Duane Ballard Custom Leather" Interview

Duane Ballard is one of the best leather toolers working today. He is a true artisan and has been honing his craft since childhood. Not only does he have a knack for beating out rad designs on dead cow flesh, but he also has a penchant for building some of the sickest CB750 choppers you're likely to see. Duane recently took time out of his insanely busy schedule to answer some questions for the So'full Garage, about his craft and his bikes.
1. You and your wife Lisa moved to CA a few years back. Did you experience any culture shock or endure any major adjustment coming from the East Coast?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona so I didn't really notice any culture shock. Lisa sure did though. One thing we needed to get used to was the amount of shows and events that go on here. I never set up at a show until coming to California. We do it here because we enjoy going to the shows and setting up gives us a place in the shade to hang out more than anything else.

2. Do you find CA to be more inspiring with your work and motorcycle addiction than the East Coast, or does it even factor in?
I think it's more inspiring. There is so much going on that you constantly push yourself to make different things. I've been able to be a part of some very cool art shows since moving here. I doubt I would have been able to do that on the East Coast where we were at. There wasn't much going on in New Hampshire.

3. You’ve been honing your leathercrafting skills since you were a kid. So just how long have you been working the swivel knife?
I probably started messing with it around 11-12 years old and I'm 45 now. So a LONG time.

4. How about motorcycles, how long have you been riding? What prompted your interest in sickles?
Forever. My father rode and I'm sure the interest comes from him. He is also to blame for the Japanese bike addiction. I remember him saying he liked how HD bikes sounded and that was it.

5. You are partial to the CB750 Honda, as we here at So’full Garage are also. What was it like being the first guest to take a Japanese-based chopper back to it's homeland for the Mooneyes Show in 2010?
I was in shock they even asked. When they told me they wanted to bring two of my bikes they floored me. It was very, very cool riding the bikes in Yokohama. The Mooneyes crew was so professional and accommodating. The only thing I regret is how short the trip was. We should of stayed a few extra days to see more in Japan. The people were incredibly nice and seemed to really enjoy the bikes.

6. I’m a big fan of the styling that the 1970’s brought us in the way a chopper should look. Both of your bikes, Funkenstein and the Pink Taco, are oozing 70’s style. Do you see yourself following this theme in the future?
That's when I grew up and that's what is stuck in my head every time I think of what I want to build. I like that style but also like a few modern things, especially brakes. All my bikes run disks front and rear. I don't know if I could pull off any other style. Nothing else gets my attention like the seventies, early eighties style bikes.

7. Do you have any current bike projects in the works we can look forward to seeing?
I have a café cb750 my son and I are doing and I have another crazy project in my head I want to do.

8. What does a typical day for DB consist of?
In the morning I usually answer emails. I've always worked from home so once the house starts moving I start pounding on projects. Some days I'll go in and out working on things and some days I'm in there until ten at night. I have to be in kind of a groove to do something. If I'm not into working on something at that moment I'll leave it and come back to it. If I kept at it I'd end up not liking it and throwing it away. You wouldn't believe how many things I get to 50% or more done and then decide I just don't like it. I'll cut it in half and toss it. Drives Lisa crazy but I can't help it.

9. What kind of tunes are you diggin these days?
I listen to old punk rock more than anything else. This morning I started with Christian Death and I'm listening to Rudimentary Peni as I type this.

10. Who and/or what inpires you?
Al Stohlman and some of the other old leather workers. I also get inspiration from engravers, painters, and many other things. I'll look at something and see what I can pull out of it to put on leather.

11. You've decided to ween yourself from the day job and do leatherworking full time. What was your source of income before going full time with DB Custom Leather?
I've been doing it full time for over ten years now. Before that I did construction, land surveying and lot layout on the pc. Back in the DOS days. Old school with my father.

12. There are many motorcycle/chopper related websites these days. What is your opinion of online motorcycle forums and blogsites?
Oh God. I don't hardly ever go to motorcycle forums. It seems as if most, not all, of them turn into a fake tough guy shit storm. These guys would never say in person what they do online. To me motorcycles are supposed to be fun. So I avoid everything that could take the fun out of it. I do go to a few sites to look but you'll hardly ever see a post from me.

13. What does the future hold for you personally, as well as "Duane Ballard Custom Leather"?
I don't plan that far ahead. I just hope to be able to keep doing what I'm doing. I love that people enjoy my work and it's an honor that they would choose me to make them something. There is nothing like having someone call to tell you how excited they are when I mail them their finished project.

14. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us Duane, any last comments?
No problem. Any time. Keep building! I just had a new website built by my buddy's at Rubbertree. Keep looking for new work on it and my blog. Thank you!

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