New Exhibition: Copper Mike Cole Answers Five Questions

“Copper” Mike Cole starts with vintage Harley motors and builds bikes from the ground up with antique bits and precious metals. What he cobbles together are beautiful works of motorcycle art. The exquisite finishes are composed of hand blown glass, gold metal leaf, and his signature metallurgic touch — copper. Cole’s work has long been recognized among motorcycle collectors who pay $80,000 to $200,000 for one of his bikes. Lady Gaga selected his “Precious Metal” bike to use as a backdrop for publicity photos on the release  date of her  album “Born This Way”  at a Best Buy store in New York City. Cole’s motorcycles are being discover by art collectors. His work is currently on display in a new show “Bespoke” at PJS Exhibitions through July 29. Cole was born in Brooklyn.  He live and works in Long Island, New York.

1. What drew you to bike customization?

I learned to ride on a dirt bike at the age of 14 spending a summer in Virginia with my cousin Tom and was hooked since that time. Of course my mom was dead against me owning one. Shortly before my 18th birthday I put a new one on layaway, picked it up and rode it home, and have been riding ever since. My mom always thought I would grow out of it, but I can’t seem to leave well enough alone, or leave anything original, or stock. After being around bikes for awhile I decided to build one from the ground up. That was over 15 years ago,  I learned as I went along.

2. How did you begin to work with copper?

I always loved the look of copper, and I was just drawn to it organically, so I decided to make my own gas tank and wanted to use something other then steel. I taught myself how to braise copper and fell in love with the tone and final look of the metal, whether it is patina, polished or a little of both.

3. How was it to work with Lady Gaga?

Lady Gaga’s event was for the release of her new CD, “Born this Way.” I can say she didn’t forget where she came from. She knows and appreciates all of her fans and is a completely gracious person. Not one fan was turned away. She made sure she met and gave autographs to everyone who had waited for her to get a good spot online, including some (fans) sleeping outside of the venue. She even bought them all Subway sandwiches for their wait!

4. How did your father’s work in the garment district impact your use of fashion and approach to design?

I think my dad knew I had an eye for design and that I could draw. I think working with high end retailers and their attention to detail with fine finishes definately influenced me more in my bike builds. Being an artist, a perfectionist of sorts, it just seemed to come natural to me with my background in that environment. I began to utilize these various fine finishes in my own work, and it just made sense in my mind.

5. What’s your next masterpiece?

Why thank you for the compliment. It’s funny because I have many bikes I want to build in my head so  I start to build one, then sometimes a thought or idea comes to mind and I clear that bike off my work bench and stop dead in my tracks and start creating this new thought.  It happened recently, with the steal bodied guitar. I had never built a guitar in my life and I can’t even play one. While antiquing I saw a metal steel bodied guitar. I saw a vision of a copper hand hammered (guitar) and had to build it.  It’s insane and sounds outrageous, and looks like a piece of jewelry. Then I go back to the bikes,  maybe to be pushed aside for the next vision, or not.

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