Art, Stuff

Kustom Kulture: My uKes


I’ve become more specific in the things I like and care about. Call it handcrafted, bespoke, one off—you decide, but I really prefer things that have my personal imprint on them. I’ll powder coat the mundane bicycle crank in an obscure tint, thanks to Bob Barnes, put a patinated polish on a new pair of brogues, thanks Pasquale, and I’ll tweak that which doesn’t really need tweaking. I’ve posted about downsizing and editing, and one of the inherent pleasures in doing so is the chance to choose that one thing, or two, and really make it yours.

Hot Rod Magazine and it’s sister publications have moved their offices and photo studios to nearby El Segundo, and in showing off their new digs, hosted Von Fink’s car show and pinstripe event right in my backyard. My current cars don’t lend themselves to Kustom, but what a chance to take advantage of having the world’s best artists in my backyard.

After six months of trial and error, I just received a resuscitated vintage Martin Uke that had been abandoned with a crazed finish to prove it. A meticulous friend and luthier, John Kallas, put together the proper mix of lacquer to turn my eBay rescue into the “chosen one”.

Although I had never seen a matte black Uke before, a matte black Martin guitar inspired by Johnny Cash’s favorite displayed at the James Perse store in Malibu inspired me.

Not sure what I would find, I took the Martin and one of my Kamakas to the Von Fink show where Phoenix native Tony Perez, was putting his handwork on a murdered out, matte black motorcycle helmet.

I knew Tony was the man to work on my ukes, and while a bit sheepish to even ask, I did, and the process was incredible, the results amazing. Tony’s a steady handed, cool cat, and with no sketching or planning, he took on the two ukes, gave them completely different looks and, and freaked out most of the onlookers with a fantastic job.

There are a lot of bloggers who’ve done a lot of research on artisans who are doing it the “old way”. American made denim, revivals of old favorites and car/motorcycle builders who are doing it their way, one at a time.

Yesterday’s show was a chance to look at the coolest rat rods, backyard projects, and million dollar “trailer queens”. I used to be the guy who wanted to figure out how to garage just one more car, but in a new found desire to edit, Tony gave me the chance to put a little Kustom Kulture in my trunk, in a couple of uke cases.

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