Recently I was out looking for some cool pictures to post on Facebook when I came across an interesting photo of a vase full of flowers, made entirely from motorcycle parts. I had to know more about this unbelievable creation and how it came to be. In the meantime I posted that picture and the response was crazy. Almost 2600 people have seen my post on it, just shy of 130 “liked” it, and 75 shared it from our page. I know you’re thinking that’s not a lot, BUT, I can only track the activity at my page, I am pretty sure this was shared, liked, and forwarded a few more times after that. Well after doing some digging, I found the “Dirt” on this beautiful creation and the story behind it, and feel the need to share it with you.
Our story begins about 8 years ago in a garage in Champaign, Illinois when James”Dirt” Dorner an electrician by trade took his welding skill and combined it with his love of motorcycles and appreciation for art and started creating works made entirely of resurrected Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts. Initially a creative outlet and avenue of stress relief, as each piece emerged from the pile of parts, James imagined creating bigger, more intricate pieces. As his pieces started to overwhelm his workshop, family and friends encouraged him to share his work with the public.
This is where the story takes a turn and becomes an amazing tale. As we all know, motorcycle riders have enormous hearts and are very charitable, especially when it comes to children and military. When the motorcycle club James belongs to began supporting charity events, he decided donating his artwork for raffles or auctions was going to be his way of contributing to the causes, many of them taking place at The Pink House Tavern in Ogden, Illinois.. Over the years, James’ art has raised an astonishing $60,000 for Children’s and Veteran’s charities. His highest earning item netted over $4000, with many items dotting the landscape between $1000 and $3000. The pieces range from smaller flowers to large eagles with their wings spread, with dogs, cobras, crosses, and prayer roses in between, as well as dream catchers and bouquets and vases. With the tremendous response to his labors, James decided it was time to up the ante’.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet James and was given the opportunity to watch a piece take shape right before my eyes, it is evident he has many hats on his head. Calling him an artist is not enough, he is also a craftsman, philanthropist, community activist, motorcyclist, broad shouldered down to earth guy, and Dad. Being invited into his shop I was given a first hand look at some of his creations and allowed to stare in amazement while I identified the various components incorporated in each work of art. During my time spent in the shop, he made one of the smaller flowers and put some finishing touches on an eagle someone had purchased. As we chatted, James shared some stories related to parts acquisitions, and some of the pieces stories. One amazing example was friends of his (Husband and Wife) had gotten killed on their motorcycle, and the family donated the wreckage to James with the simple request of a couple of pieces be made from the bike to be given to the family with leftover parts be used for future charity pieces. Stories of the recipients of these creations range from tears of gratitude to energizing recovery and healing processes. As a matter of fact there are a few pieces residing in area Children’s Hospitals that are said to have genuinely made a difference in the lives they have touched.. That does bring up a curious question – Where does he get all the parts for his works? Initially fellow club members started donating their old motorcycle parts. Needing more parts, a friend of his, Bob Cleary owner of Mid State Cycles in Champaign helped out as much as he could, offering up the free run of his junk parts bin. Though it provides a sizable cache of parts, Dorner is looking to for additional resources for the supplies he needs to create these breathtaking works. Swap meets are another source of materials, but buyer beware! James told me how one time he bought some fenders and a fuel tank and when he got home, found out the had been full of Bondo and were unusable.
The day I met James, he already had plans to participate in a ride that when done was going to see one of his pieces auctioned off. It was amazing to see the groups excitement as they talked with him about the piece and the possibility of having him create one for them personally. His gesture added almost $500 to the amount raised for Veterans that day.
Having surpassed his goal of raising $50,000 for charities, Dorner has decided to see if the sale of his art can support him. Rest assured he will still be donating work for charitable benefit, but will follow a dream of being a professional artist/sculpture. Not many of us get an honest chance to make a difference or make a living via our passions, James Dorner is one of the lucky ones. You can take a look at many of his pieces by logging onto his website – www.artbydirt or if you are on FaceBook look him up and friend him. I’ll let you ask him how he got the nickname “Dirt”.
*As stated in the story, James is looking for take off Harley-Davidson parts such as mufflers and heat shields, motor parts, tins, grips, pegs and so on. Why not avoid the hassle of selling your extra parts on line for a meager amount of money and let them support a charitable individual. Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.