Antler Mania. Stuart of True Gear Head tells Marcel Haan of CarArtSpot how his idea of turning headers into car art took off.
Stuart, how did you get started with this work?
Well I’ve been an avid car guy for as long as I can remember. I actually came up with the idea about 15 years ago but I didn’t do anything with it for a long time. I was helping a buddy of mine and was taking the exhaust mantle off a car and just noticed that it looked like antlers. It gave me an idea, so I tried to find a V8 with a symmetrical pair and made a set of antlers for myself out of wood. Fast forward ten years to when I had a garage and was getting into some deeper projects and had a welder. I decided to make another one which was a bit cooler. I got my artist friend to make me a skull which I welded together and hung up in my garage. It looked really cool, so I started making more of them.
Then at one point, I got a call from the Pep Boys, who are the largest parts suppliers in the States. They called me and told me that a buddy of theirs had just bought one of my antlers and the Pep Boys wanted to sell them. I thought 'Oh boy, I'm going to be rich’. That’s what I thought! They put them in Barrett Jackson auctions and had huge displays and were selling 10 – 20 per day. I was still welding them by hand in my garage and driving around looking for wheel boxes, so it was not sustainable. I couldn’t maintain it and shut the whole thing down for about three months. I realized I needed to get out from my garage and do this for real. Since I had connections with the local machine shop, I got them to start making them for me and they were so much better. The next step was getting box designs so that they could be shipped safely. Now I am selling them directly, which for me is way more fun. I am able to sell to people who are really attached to them and they often send me photo’s once they are hung up. It’s a really cool experience. They are typically the finishing piece for a man cave or a garage restoration etc. It’s really cool to share that with people and see where the antlers actually end up.
You should put those images on your website.
I should do but the antlers are very hard to take a good photo of because they have an almost mirrored finish. They are very high polished stainless steel which looks much better than chrome. With stainless steel, you get to see all the detail and the discoloration in the wells which gives a much more masculine look. The craftsmanship which goes into each piece is just incredible. Recently a couple of interior designers have picked them up as well and it's been great working with them. A lot have expressed that they want something much larger, so that’s why I came up with the trophy room collections. We are taking indy car headers which are huge and turning them into antlers. It's really fun and completely custom made. My buddies in the machine shop are tremendous workers. They are the biggest gear heads you’ve ever met and the best welders in the world. They really know their stuff and in the back of our machine room, they all have their own pet car projects.
Do you turn car parts into other things, or only Antlers?
People have been doing car part art for a long time but I think car guys tend to spend money on cars and not on art. So it’s hard to find something unique enough for people to want. It has been a long process to get to where we are today and we are going to continue to focus on antlers right now.
Do you consider yourself an artist or is this just an idea you came up with. How do see it?
I have always considered myself a designer. I do other art pieces which are similar and I do a lot of other designs for fun. I’m an engineer by occupation, so it’s kind of a mix. Most car guys who modify their cars, don't consider themselves an artist, they do it as a form of self-expression.
So your work is now being picked up by Interior Designers. How is that for you?
It’s great. They are looking for custom pieces as well which is fun, so we get to work with their design and what they are looking for. It’s interesting the direction people take our antlers in. Everyone has different interpretations of them. The good thing about our products is that it's car art but it’s not in your face. The antlers are a very organic shape. Headers are designed never to be seen. They are pure function because they are hidden. So it’s really cool, they achieve an aesthetic through their functionality.
Want to get an antler yourself or learn more about their products? Check out True Gear Head