Local Artist Profiles
Nine profiles of local artists
(page 6 of 9)
Mind Over Matter
By Casey Nesterowich // Photographs by Justin Maconochie
This is not your father’s greasy motorcycle shop. One-way mirrored glass graces the entrance to this Auburn Hills workshop; jazz music plays overhead while coffee is freshly brewed. At first glance, it’s easy to presume the 6-foot-4 man who comes out to greet you is just another tough biker guy, but Eric Gorges is a rare craftsman — and he’ll be the first to tell you he’s just a “tatted up” geek.
This IT professional turned modern-day metalsmith specializes in building handcrafted motorcycles from the ground up — one-of-a-kind machines with price tags that average around $40,000.
Gorges remembers the exact day he decided to become a metalsmith. After being admitted to the hospital for anxiety on April 6, 1999, he decided to leave the corporate world behind. Gorges soon began an apprenticeship with well-known metal shaper Ron Fournier, and he’s never looked back.
Now Gorges is the sole owner of Voodoo Choppers, a 42-year-old adult prodigy and perfectionist focused on his own craftsmanship rather than the competition. Exposures on the Discovery Channel along with annual treks to the famed Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have helped Gorges turn his passion into a profitable business, but his work ethic and method are what differentiate him from most.
“I don’t do sketches or illustrations,” he says. “I sell by ideas, principles, and hand gestures; by discussion, reputation, and trust.”
While Gorges admits his design process isn’t for everyone, word of mouth has been a driving force for his business. He’s also expanded beyond motorcycles, creating hanging sculptures to be displayed inside a new restaurant that will open later this fall in the former Zazios in Birmingham.
Jazz music follows Gorges to the garage, where all the magic happens. Bikes are presented like sculptures: No two look the same, and all are in various stages of completion.
There are no premade parts here. Gorges handcrafts each and every component — from fenders to fuel tanks — spending days making them perfectly symmetrical. Because of the improvisational nature of his work, clients are updated as time goes on — not even the paint design is pre-planned.
The typical timeline for an original bike is six to eight months.
Gorges also does what he calls “re-births” — transforming an existing bike into a completely new machine by heavily modifying the frame and adding custom-made parts.
“It’s the complexity of keeping things simple,” he says. “The more you look at a machine, the more you see.”
And the same holds true for Gorges. The more you get to know him, the more you realize metalsmithing goes beyond a full-time job. It’s a therapeutic art form that saved his life.
eric gorges in his workshop