Art Car Making and Driving is an Experience!

Art car making and driving is an experience!

One of the unique things about building an art car is that it is hard to hide in the studio. I worked on my first car for four months in my driveway.  In process, I met many neighbors that I would never have met and got to talk to them about my work.

I also had to reach out to other art car artists about how to do what I wanted to do. That meant finding the art car groups on the web and asking questions about processes. When no one knew the answer one of my questions (how to attach fabric to the car without getting bleed through and how to protect it in the sun) I had to use my knowledge from art quilt making to solve those problems through trial and error.  I also found out there was an art car club, so once I had a start on the car, my husband and I attended a few meetings and made lots of friends.

I was not really prepared for the attention being a daily art car driver can bring. It’s a little like being a celebrity. Every time I leave the grocery store, I  find people crowded around my car. Teenagers look up from texting to snap a photo of me when I pass them at the bus stop.  I am a one-car parade wherever I go.

Driving my car to an art opening or a local festival brings lots of photo ops and opportunities to hand out business cards, postcards and to talk about my work.  I am getting better about talking about my work as I have ample times to practice on the people stopping me in parking lots to ask about the car.

I also garnered lots of new invitations to art openings and other artsy events by having the notoriety of being an art car artist.  Art Car artists are unique even in a city like large city like Houston, which is the Art Car Capital of the World.  There are less than 100 dedicated art car drivers in Houston, even though the annual Art Car Parade in May rolls several hundred cars in the parade, many are temporary and just made for the parade by local schools and other groups.

Art cars are a standard feature in many local Houston parades, so those artists with permanent cars find many times to parade in their vehicles. There is now an illuminated art car parade called Gloworama.

Local schools and hospitals and retirement homes often ask for art car artists to visit and show off their cars while galas and other VIP events sometimes offer honorariums for the artists to bring out art cars to act as party props.

Because the art car is basically a rolling piece of art, it can reach a whole new audience. It can be taken to many unusual events like Renaissance fairs, and Burning Man type outdoor festivals.  One artist I know, Bonnie Blue, uses her car Women Who Rock as part of her booth when she sells her hand painted rocks and boots.

I have driven my car to local car events and well and have received warm receptions from the drivers of classic and vintage cars. My second art car “Along Came a Spider” has lace and lacing and lighting and is a 1982 Fiat Spider with a giant metal spider on top that my son Perry and a friend, Ben Gibson built.

The images I have collected of my car make great advertising. The postcards I printed with pictures of my art car on one side and my quilts and website address on the other side were very popular when I was an Artist in Residence at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.

Other people enjoy capturing my car in photos and I have found my car on blogs and websites. I have been interviewed for the Houston evening News and I was even seen for a fleeting instant on a recent episode of America’s Got Talent in the opening section about Houston.

Making and driving an art car is truly a life changing experience. The total overall effect of the thousands of smiles I have gotten as I drive the streets of my hometown in my various art cars has made my life better.  The drudgery of a trip to grocery is transformed into an adventure.  And I  always arrive in style at every party if I come in an art car!  When my husband and I took my first art car out to a local Burning Man type Festival,  we found friends that we will have for life: people who live life with a real zest for fun and creativity. They drive their art cars out for Santa Rampages and for off the grid Illuminated Cruises.

But watch out! Because they are just so much fun, art car making is catching!

“You missed a spot!”  was the taunt that my husband and son made when I was making the Piecemobile.

But now a few years later after riding in my art car, my husband has created the Peace Expedition and my son has made the Kia Pet, both art cars. My son’s friend Jerred drives a new art car. My friend Chris has an elaborate first art car in the making, and entire group of friends in Galveston created an art truck that they drove in the last Mardi Gras Parade.

I have recently bought a VW Beetle that I am going to make into an art car. Should it become a Lightning Bug? A Lady Bug? These are the questions that keep me up at night!  Maybe worlds will collide again and it will be a Bed Bug.  Whatever happens, I am sure it will be magic!

PS…The Bug got traded in for a Mustang…..stay tuned!

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