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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Ryerse

Things I Make - the Decoupage Bike

When I do a show, I hear at least 25 people say, "I'm going to do that. I have stuff saved in a box to do that." Another 20 people ask, "Do you teach classes?" I would, I suppose, but I would have to actually DO it. And I just have stuff saved somewhere to teach a class. I'm going to do that sometime ... for now, I'm just going to show you how to do things on my blog.

This morning, I'm going to show how I made my decoupage bike. Which is in Eureka Springs right now. But I'm going to get it and bring it home to Fayetteville this week. Sometime. You know, in all my free time. That I always think I'm going to have in the summer. When in reality, I have three times as much to do and less time to do it in. Because I sleep in til 7:30. Because I CAN! So the bike ... First I collected images from 1950s travel magazines of bikes. I trimmed them a bit, but waited to really trim them until I knew where I was going to place them on the actual bike. Then, for some contrast and interest, I pulled maps from a torn 1900s geography book. This was great to work with because the pages were quite thick, but they were also fragile because they were so old. The paper gets tissue thin when you add the glue, so you have to really think about how you are  going to use the paper before you glob it up.

The bike, I should mention, was a 10 dollar score at Potter's House Thrift. I was at the back of the store (ok, I was leaving the bathroom! I had a lot of coffee with Kathy  that morning) and saw it on my way to the front where I was going for a cart. A man was walking toward me when I literally grabbed the handle bars without breaking stride. I just knew by the shape of it that it was what I wanted, and glancing down to see the 10 dollar price tag just confirmed my hopes. The man coming my direction let out a "OH MAN!  as the bike went past him. "Original pedals!" He declared. He would have swooped my bike up if I had not grabbed it that second. My friend Grace would not rest until she discovered it was not a Schwinn, as I assumed, but rather a Manton and Smith Golden Eagle Pacer.  

I always really struggle to know if I'm going to alter a vintage item. There are two chairs in my garage right now that I'm wrestling with this very second. There are two things I just never want to do...wreck a truly fine antique or use bad grammar on a tv interview (so far in the two tv interviews I have done, I managed to use correct grammar. Life goal accomplished.) All that to say, I do a lot of research before radically alter something old. This bike, however, had been unevenly oversprayed somehow with what looked like polyurethane and would have had to be stripped completely to restore it.  It would have been equal work to take it back as it would to take it forward, so I dug in.

This would probably be a good outdoor project, since the glue and paper fall all over the place, but it was pouring rain when I worked on this and also, it looked pretty in my studio. So that's where I did it. I used a brush to paint on Modge Podge, smoothed out the paper as I went, adding small strips to cover all the metal. When the glue dried, I covered it with three coats of Modge Podge, waiting for about 15 minutes between each coat. I let this harden completely before spraying the whole thing with Krylon triple thick glaze to seal it. (Don't worry, I sprayed it outside. It had stopped raining by then.) Because the original striped seat was also oversprayed with the nasty yellowed polyurethane or ???  I spray painted the seat as well. I started with a tangerine orange but switched to bubblegum pink, both colors in the antique maps.

The bike should be fully functional and could be hosed off if needed. Should a person decoupage a bike? Why would they want to? That falls in the realm of true artistic opinion. I did it because I wanted to. The bike could be used as is or it could be hung as a sculptural piece. Obviously, using it will result in wear and tear. I'm fine with it either way. I just want it to be loved.

Follow up notes: This will fade in sunlight and you must get the spray sealer all the way UNDER the fenders to prevent water from seeping into the paper on the top of the fenders. And lastly, this bike has been sold!

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