Erin: What are you curious about?
Thomas: Wow, everything. Right now, it’s continuing to develop and design products outside of bikes as well as products related to bikes and the outdoors. We're currently working on motorcycle products. The things I'm curious about are the things I make in my shop and I'm lucky enough to be in business for myself.
Erin: Describe your work and describe your process.
Thomas: Well my work involves designing and fabricating for individuals. My main focus is working closely with a customer to create something unique to them that has longevity. The connection between myself and the customer and is most important and is also the most satisfying part of the process. Without getting too involved in the step-by-step making, it's about lending my passions and know how to other people who enjoy and support what I do.
Erin: How old were you when you learned to ride a bike and how did you take biking from a hobby into a career?
Thomas: I remember when I learned to first ride a bike. I was maybe two or three, I’m guessing. Yes, definitely two or three because I was on a bike with training wheels and I’m one of five siblings so I would follow brothers and sisters around trying to keep up with them. Growing up I would spend summers in Maine and ride my bike all summer long. I went to college in Portland, Oregon and used my bike primarily to commute around the city and that kind of opened me up to a much larger community. After school I moved to Brooklyn and had a similar kind of experience and I really evaluated the utilitarian aspect of riding, not to mention the sense of freedom that it gave me- movement through the city. And so it was something I wanted to focus more on...continuing to foster that connection. That really motivated me to make bikes. I basically split my time between making bikes and as an art handler for galleries until I had enough work making bikes full time and that was in 2009.
Erin: How did you learn to make bikes?
Thomas: Through the internet, through talking to local builders, through trial and error. I got a tank and started practicing welding. I never went to school for it.
Erin: You are the Godfather of Brooklyn collaborations. Etwas made sheaths for your axes, Surname Goods makes your bike boxes and bike stands, just to name a few. How has the Brooklyn maker scene evolved over the years?
Thomas: I’m not really sure how it has evolved. I just found people who I enjoy working with and are friends of mine. Also it's more fun to work with other people. It’s just like an artist collaboration, working together, playing music together- it feels better. I am still learning about the climate of the Brooklyn maker scene and I'm not really sure I've seen any changes, but I do think it's pretty good time.
Erin: As well as bikes you also ride a motorbike - what’s your fascination with two wheeled vehicles?
Thomas: I guess it feels more like an extension of one’s body than being on a machine. It's unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced and for me, allows for a greater extension of my body. I'm starting to explore motorcycles now as they are just a different kind of beast with different functionality and engineering. I'm always interested in understanding new things and how they make me feel. I’m growing as a person and exploring.
Erin: What’s your favorite bike route in Brooklyn and NY?
Thomas: Running around on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is my favorite place to ride. I head over the Williamsburg Bridge and into the city. It's best at night with some friends...and maybe a drink or two...
Erin: You spend a lot of time outdoors and we’re selling some of your hatchets and knives on the site - tell us why nature is so important to you?
Thomas: It's beautiful and allows me to get a better sense of simplicity and to make sure I’m paying attention to the important things in life. Also, I love fitness and excitement and I love pushing the boundaries. And relaxation.
Erin: As a camper, skier, surfer and biker, tell us what your dream trip would look like.
Thomas: Lake Tahoe would be pretty sweet, but I think the next place on my list that I really want to go to is Alaska. I think that doing some kind of backcountry camping/skiing trip would be pretty epic and or just being in Alaska where the outdoors is on steroids.
Erin: What’s important to you about Brooklyn?
Thomas: I know what's important to me is maintaining, fostering and finding new quality relationships with people who are genuinely interested and motivated to do things better. I guess that spans from just talking to people to going see art shows to collaborating with one another. I feel like the people are very real here and it's not perfect but it's pretty rad. I wish it was closer to more stuff, but I'm getting better and better at finding a way to get out and enjoy what’s outside of the city.
Erin: You raised money through a successful Kickstarter in 2013 - tell us the story of that? Would you run another in the future?
Thomas: Kickstarter was very good. It wasn't necessarily good because we exceeded our goal and made a lot of money. We didn't really make a lot of money. It was basically the marketing aspect of it and the marketing outreach that Kickstarter allowed us to have. I learned a lot though about business in different aspects of my company which I don't have intuitive experience with or is not inherent to me and my work. I'm not sure I would do another Kickstarter, however it gave me the tools to make investments in myself and to help grow the business and give ways for people to come and support it.
Erin: What are you working on next?
Thomas: I can't tell you that.
Erin: What superpower would you have and why?
Thomas: I think I would have the ability to fly because I have so many flying dreams and they're so awesome. It would be awesome to be able to fly on a bike, too.
Erin: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and by whom?
Thomas: I don't really take advice. Not because I think I'm awesome, but I have a hard time really hearing it and so the best way I learn is by doing and making mistakes and faults and so I guess the best advice to me is through my own mistakes and mishaps.
Erin: Why should someone buy a handmade bike? What are the differences from a mass-produced frame?
Thomas: You have more of a connection to where the product is coming from instead of from a mass production line. I have my hands on every single bike so you know you that I was the maker of your bike and that it's somewhat unique in that it’s one of 100 or 200 bikes rather than one in 1 million. You're somebody who cares about supporting US-made and locally made products and skilled makers. These are quality products and you care about that. Not to mention great design.