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Tale of a Motorcycle Man

Jan 18, 2013

by Tara Young

This fall, at the excellent the Camden International Film Festival in Camden, Maine, I had the chance to see Seth Brown’s remarkable Deus ex Machina. In this short film, Seth creates a beautiful portrait of his friend and mentor, Jack Churchill, a former cinematographer who now repairs and builds motorcycles. The bike he builds in the film is like nothing I’ve ever seen — a steampunk monster of a motorcycle, pieced together from a gazillion parts.

For Jack, bike building is about the process and losing yourself in the work. For Seth, making the film was an opportunity to learn about his mentor in a world apart from film, and to discover something about himself along the way. As he explains, “When I first started the project, Jack was tearing apart this bike, a machine designed to have its parts totally hidden from view. The film was my way of dissecting him and putting it all on the outside — a medley of moments and personality quirks that makes this man work.”

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2 Featured Comments

  • polarity

    Cat Ivins from polarity said 6 years ago Featured

    I love how Jack talks about showing the pieces that are usually hidden, surrounding ourselves with what feels comfortable, the meditation of the process, dealing with with you've got in terms of problems - such great metaphors for creating an authentic life ... loved this video, what a joyful way to start the day.

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 6 years ago Featured

    "Minimalist constructivist" -- that's the term my late design partner would have used to describe some of the aesthetics in this video. It meant that all construction should be essential and honest, nothing hidden, covered up, deceptively decorative, or masked. It meant that every weld had to be perfect, and every surface addressed with a beautiful grinding pattern or visible resolution. Art, craft, function, and intention were exposed on every level. There was no place to hide. It meant that every dimension of a piece revealed the skill and personality of the maker. I think it's the highest form of any craft.

63 comments

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 6 years ago

    I hadn't thought about modern 'design' is quite that way, but Jack is right: it seeks to hide all the pieces. Much modern design is extremely remarkable and beautiful (think Frank Lloyd Wright) but I believe many 'modern designers' have used the simple lines and flat surfaces of this style as a way of masking their lack of talent and imagination (think drop ceilings and ugly strip malls). The bright side is that there is a renaissance taking place where the pieces and the parts and all the beautiful little details are taking center stage once more! And Etsy is playing no small role, thanks to showcasing the work of steampunk artists, typewriter-fixers, crafters whose intricate stitches are showing, and with the likes of this wonderful Motorcyle Man. There is a beautiful future awaiting art and architecture, and that future is arriving now.

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Love :)

  • memckeen

    LovelySquid from LovelySquid said 6 years ago

    Great film! I'm thrilled to see a neighbor being featured.

  • oldandboard

    oldandboard from OldandBoard said 6 years ago

    Cool find.

  • thehobotrain

    Renee from thehobotrain said 6 years ago

    Awesome! ♥

  • Waterrose

    Rose Waterrose from Waterrose said 6 years ago

    An incredible amazing mess....what beauty...the bike and the film.

  • DewyMorningVintage

    DewyMorningVintage from DewyMorningVintage said 6 years ago

    I'm glad you have found your 'bliss' in life. When you do something and time and the world don't exist, living in the moment and being truly present. That is all you can ask for. I congratulate you on your amazingly creative motorcycle and finding the secret to a happy and fulfilling life. :)

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 6 years ago

    Fabulous... just fabulous! Somewhere in the depths of my shed I have a 1958 Triumph Tiger Cub in bits in boxes... maybe this will be the year it gets put back together. Thank you for a wonderful film, about a wonderful man & his wonderful vision.

  • TreadleLady

    Donna Kohler from TreadleLady said 6 years ago

    Fun film, I enjoyed it and had to laugh at how it ended. I can sure relate to old mechanics but mine are iron ladies and gents as I call them. No electricity, no gas, just foot power to drive my sewing machines that are 50 to 120 years old and still make beautiful stitches. It's time to get a little dirt and grime under my fingernails and clean another beauty, an 1890s German built beauty is waiting to be presentable and working again. It's films like this that get our creative minds thinking, hmmmm, never have seen a steampunk style treadle machine.

  • AlisaDesign

    Alisa from AlisaDesign said 6 years ago

    Interesting film!

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 6 years ago

    Love the imagination!

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    Annette from TheLeveretsNest said 6 years ago

    very nice bike! in all it's rawness and 'truth', very nice process :) alot of people will appreciate this, that's for sure, thank you for sharing!

  • emwi

    Emily Wirt from emwi said 6 years ago

    Great video! I love seeing how people rebuild motorcycles. My boyfriend is into that, and he loves the blog motomucci.com. Great place to see some good motorcycle rebuilds. Thanks for sharing!

  • yimmekedesign

    Diana from yimmekedesign said 6 years ago

    The first thing I thought about when I saw the motorcycle was, the monster of Victor Frankenstein. An eight feet vulnerable Master creation,and once seen, you will never forget him. Now I wish I had a picture of the monster riding the monster....Exquisitely Grand !

  • AKingsThings

    Pamela King from AKingsThings said 6 years ago

    So cool...repurpose, reuse...get your hands dirty and the stress of life is left behind. Loved it, thanks

  • RoseWoolls

    Cat Babbie from RoseWoolls said 6 years ago

    Beautiful, inside and out!

  • mrscsglutenfree

    Veronica from MrsCsGlutenFree said 6 years ago

    A one of a kind mess is worth a million mass produced beauties. Good for him. We should all be able to get our hands dirty doing something we love.

  • fbstudiovt

    Laura Hale from FoundBeautyStudioArt said 6 years ago

    If you are a maker who doesn't love your raw materials, are you really a maker? You can see the love and the adoration in every move Jack makes. He accepts and welcomes the challenges and the outcomes, all in the name of the love of the materials. The transformation is his love. Who among us who take old things and make them new can discard the "gutter punk" ideal? All of us see it. It lives in every discarded piece of metal...in every thrown away book. Every single piece of tossed material is the fodder for dreams.

  • iammieCLAYshop

    iammieCLAYshop from iammieCLAYshop said 6 years ago

    Cool!

  • olusholaj

    Shola from YarningKnots said 6 years ago

    I could never get a motorcycle. Just the sound of the engine alone would drive me bonkers! Don’t get me started on the danger of a fly entering my mouth. Oh the horrors!

  • ChristineShmistine

    Christine from FineArtWithaTwist said 6 years ago

    very neat

  • renphotographycouk

    ren a from renphotographycouk said 6 years ago

    Thank you for posting it. I rode motorbikes for 11 years then had to stop. I sure didn't expect to find anything bike related in Etsy blogs :-)

  • butikonline83

    Hendri . from butikonline83 said 6 years ago

    I like your blog..thanks..^_^

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 6 years ago

    Perfect!

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    kathy johnson from ShoeClipsOnly said 6 years ago

    Wonderfully done! Thank-you for sharing.

  • keepyoubeauty

    Ruby Zhang from Keepeyesonfashion said 6 years ago

    -:) Perfect ++++

  • gregharstone

    greg harstone from ochbab said 6 years ago

    wow Jack good for you I worked as his first ass.many years ago in Sweden,and it was a blast ! He started me on my way! thinking about rebuilding my 1966 ride some where, one day in Thailand cheers Jack

  • FreshFromtheFlame

    FreshFromtheFlame from FreshFromtheFlame said 6 years ago

    It's the pride of the creating! Well said. Beautiful story!

  • polarity

    Cat Ivins from polarity said 6 years ago Featured

    I love how Jack talks about showing the pieces that are usually hidden, surrounding ourselves with what feels comfortable, the meditation of the process, dealing with with you've got in terms of problems - such great metaphors for creating an authentic life ... loved this video, what a joyful way to start the day.

  • HoneyThistle

    Wei from HoneyThistle said 6 years ago

    Creating is like meditation for me also - love the aesthetic & love the story!

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    "Where do their dreams go when they turn the key off at night?" hmmmm. So all that junk in my garage is a motorcycle? Who knew? What a wonderful spirit and a beautiful film. Thanks for sharing it.

  • jeannesu

    jeanne hinds from jeannesu said 6 years ago

    It's not about owning something, it's about creating and making and the whole process of learning. I love that . And it is so true!

  • ArtDecoDame

    Desiree from ArtDecoDame said 6 years ago

    Very cool!

  • OrangeCat6

    Ginger Hilgenberg from OrangeCat6 said 6 years ago

    Well done. The storytelling is entertaining, the images are wonderful. My husband restores old motorcycles for a living and I see the amazing metamorphosis from parts to something beautiful happen in our own shop. Motorcycles are truly magical.

  • furniply

    Ingus Jākobsons from Furniply said 6 years ago

    Cool bike! Thats what I'll be doing when get older, build bikes.

  • natalievetter

    Hans Holz from HansHolz said 6 years ago

    beautiful story! cool bike!!!

  • vinylclockwork

    Scott from vinylclockwork said 6 years ago

    Awesome Post gotta love custom bikes

  • Steampunkitis

    Susan Jane from Steampunkitis said 6 years ago

    Very cool vidio, and awsome bike, Mr.Man, YOU get Steampunk.

  • ABlindCat

    ABlindCat from ABlindCat said 6 years ago

    Nicely done. Very cool bike.

  • shoprodinia

    Rodinia from ShopRodinia said 6 years ago

    A great piece of storytelling.

  • irinisklavounou

    irini from IrinisWorld said 6 years ago

    Jack makes complete sense to me. ..... There is a profound energy to be found in the realm of chaos, and there is just one rule. Don't panic. ..... It just takes a bit of getting used to.

  • SamSammie

    Sam from SamieSam said 6 years ago

    Beautiful film making! Just sent it to a friend who is building his own bike. Awesome, thanks!

  • adamlawler

    Adam Lawler from LawlerDesign said 6 years ago

    Very well filmed! For those of you interested, there's a channel on Vimeo about people who make: https://vimeo.com/channels/thosewhomake. There are lots of great, inspiring videos like this one.

  • LuxoriaVintage

    Luxoria Vintage from LuxoriaVintage said 6 years ago

    Nice one! Love the filming.

  • halliefranco

    Hallie Franco from HallieJohanna said 6 years ago

    So intricate and raw, just stunning!

  • SimAtomicMezzaluna

    Chuck Sim from SimAtomicMezzaluna said 6 years ago

    I'd like to buy that man a beer!

  • Nikifashion

    Natalia from Nikifashion said 6 years ago

    Awesome filming!

  • pasin

    pasin from Pasin said 6 years ago

    Love the imagination!

  • owlgypsy

    Christina Young from owlgypsy said 6 years ago

    WOW. This literally gave me chills. Beautiful story! Gorgeous bike!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 from breadandroses2 said 6 years ago

    It's all process. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with another face. Thanks!

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 6 years ago

    It just feels good to watch something like this..... a different way... finding bliss in the cold array of metal... wow!!!

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 6 years ago Featured

    "Minimalist constructivist" -- that's the term my late design partner would have used to describe some of the aesthetics in this video. It meant that all construction should be essential and honest, nothing hidden, covered up, deceptively decorative, or masked. It meant that every weld had to be perfect, and every surface addressed with a beautiful grinding pattern or visible resolution. Art, craft, function, and intention were exposed on every level. There was no place to hide. It meant that every dimension of a piece revealed the skill and personality of the maker. I think it's the highest form of any craft.

  • TanteAnnies

    Tante Annie from TanteAnnies said 6 years ago

    Love this story. Love the film - beautiful images, music, composition.

  • TomerM

    Tomer Matityahu from TomerM said 6 years ago

    A special And interesting person. Very nice Movie

  • TaylorArts

    Christine and Marc from TaylorArts said 6 years ago

    Who knew making motorcycles could be so very moving. So much of what Jack says about the art of mechanics is true for our work as a painter and furniture maker. We had to share this movie with our artistic friends. Thanks for such a beautiful tale beautifully told.

  • MomsantiquesNthings

    Janine from MomsantiquesNthings said 6 years ago

    What an amazing human being, Jack your bike is fantastic, an incredible achievement and work of art! It reminds me of the movie Mad Max. Gotta share this one!

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 6 years ago

    Love the imagination and the emotion in creating and to be able to see the end product. Great film!! My husband keeps watching it.

  • madelynlouise

    madelynlouise said 6 years ago

    Reminds me of perrysmotorcycles.com - old old BMW shop been working on WWII bikes since the 60's and sidecars too - any old European bikes. Old man Perry has a lot of nostalgia like this guy, Jack's, bike. You can see some of the bikes in the Guggenheim exhibits and other museums. They are truly works of art. Good job Jack - shout out to Perry.

  • oldduc

    David Lawrence from OldDucs said 6 years ago

    What a great film! Thank you for sharing. I can relate to it so much and is why I recently started my own dream of building motorcycles!

  • marthenoordzij Admin

    Marthe Noordzij from Tieniewienie said 6 years ago

    Love it! What an inspiration to us all.

  • AmandaHofmannDesigns

    Amanda Hofmann from AmandaHofmannDesigns said 6 years ago

    Amazing and truly inspiring. Makes me want to go wrench on my bike now!

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Yarns

    Liz from Liliyu said 6 years ago

    wow, my dad sat and watched this with me he loves his vintage bikes and trike. He has a short attention span but was engrossed in this. What a wonderfully made and edited film, I enjoyed most the perspective on Jack and his love and passion for what he does.

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