Recycled Art

Visit to BICAS in Tucson

Entrance to the below-ground warehouse cavern that is BICAS in Tucson, a bicyclist's communityBICAS art in the concrete entrance rampWheels sectionA study in front forksFront forks section1973 Schwinn Speedster all original
1973 Schwinn Speedster yellow, detail1973 Schwinn Speedster yellow, detail, shifter1961 Columbia girls' bike, a rare "skip-tooth chain" bikeHeadbadge, 1961 Columbia girls' bike, a rare "skip-tooth chain" bikeThe odd chain and crank of the 1961 Columbia "skip-tooth chain" bikeAn $80 mixte that needs some TLC but will be a nice bike
Red "Western Flyer"Beautiful "Free Spirit"Royce Union bike in bronzeLion on the fork of the Royce Union

Visit to BICAS in Tucson, a set on Flickr.

Yesterday we visited the community bike shop—more of a combination bike shop, bike salvage yard, community hub, education center, and art studio—called BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage).

At 12:30 on a hot (105 degrees F) June day the place was hopping already, even though it had only been open for half an hour. You descend a concrete ramp into the cavernous space, which was surprisingly cool. At least 25 people (not counting volunteers and staff) were working on bikes, looking for parts, shopping for a bike, or just browsing, like us.

BICAS is best described a bicycle education and recycling center. For extremely cheap (or by trading labor for credits) you can use their tools and very nice work stations and bike stands to fix your bike; you can take classes in basic bike maintenance or complete bike-building; make bicycle art and jewelry; buy or rent a bike; or take part in their community-based events and rides. Here's their history:

BICAS started in late 1989 as an organization called Bootstraps to Share. A group of like-minded community members came together to assist and empower the homeless population in Tucson, helping folks attain work, shelter, food, and transportation. Over the next few years, the organization focused on sustainable transportation as a requisite for sustainable work, determining their greatest impact was to provide recycled bicycles and the skills needed to maintain them. In that same period, youth became interested in the bicycle mechanics programs. Thus, BICAS in the way we know it today came into existence around 1994, although the name “BICAS” wasn't used until 1996. We have since extended our bicycle recycling, advocacy and education programs out to the entire community. Since our founding, we have trained thousands of youth and adults in the trade of bicycle repair, maintenance and safety, and restored thousands of bicycles, saving them from the waste stream.

This is the place to go if you are looking for a great deal on a classic or DIY bike. There are literally
 hundreds of bikes, frames, and parts, very well-organized around the big space. We were surprised by the number of nice classic bikes, from a $350 all-original yellow Schwinn Speedster, to a needs-TLC bronze-colored Royce Union that will fix up into a really lovely bike (I think it was about $150 or less). There was also a very interesting 1961 Columbia girls' bike that is a rare "skip-chain." The crank has widely spaced teeth and the chain has wide spaces every other link. We're looking into why this was developed. Certainly interesting!

Found objects - Travelers' Treasures Collection

These two pieces represent art made from treasures found while traveling. Pieces such as this can be some of the most treasured we have . . . with each bit reminding us of a moment, a place, a person.

Although created 10 years apart, they ironically were each inspired by focal points found along England's southern coast . . . a piece of green sea glass from near Dover, and a small granite beach cobble worn with a perfect hole.

  • Olde England: Hastings bedrock granite pebble bead, made by the Atlantic, found last year (2008); feathers from a garden rook and an African lilac-breasted roller (we were en route back from an East Africa trip, stopping to see friends in Hastings), English coins, blue beach glass, obsidian, fossil ivory (from England), and amber, including an earring whose mate I lost on that same trip.
  • Seaside England: Ten years earlier I had found the lovely tumbled green glass on a walk along the Dover shore; I drilled it, and used lilac waxed cotton to string pearls, seashells, and painted/dyed fish vertebrae beads from an old Seri Indian necklace bought along the Sea of Cortez on a trip with the same English friends we were with in Dover.
Do you have treasures from your travels? I will do commissions upon request. Please email me at this address.