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Billings Gazette

Motorcycles carry artists' work down the road
July 3, 1997

They are decorative artists, self-taught, providing tattoos for motorcycles.

"Yeah, that's right, they're painless tattoos that don't bleed,'' said Steve Schlosberg, an engraving specialist etching a howling wolf on a wind guard.

"Schlos,'' a Boston denizen, was deep into his work Wednesday morning as some of the thousands of Gold Wing Road Riders converged on MetraPark for the opening of Wing Ding XIX.

The pin striping and painting booths opened Wednesday morning and most were fully booked for the four-day event within three hours.

"I work about 20 hours a day at these rallies,'' said Mike Lamborne as he painted an eagle feather on a Gold Wing fuel tank. Lamborne used to have a bike but sold it. "I have no time to ride,'' he said.

The West Virginian in is his ninth year of decorating machines.
"The good Lord blessed me with a talent, but it took some time to realize it,'' he said. ``I was a cattle farmer, a welder. I was successful for a time at each, but they fizzled out.

"I just wanted to live in West Virginia,'' he said. "I've got a farm back in the mountains and deer hunting.''

But for eight months a year, he and his wife, Shirley, are all over the country traveling the bike rally circuit. Last week they were in LaCrosse, Wis. While Mike paints, Shirley handles the customers, does the machine preps and keeps the books.

Lamborne does more than paint feathers on fenders, though.
"I do murals - trucks, walls, motor homes, churches,'' he said. "Some are 30 or 40 feet.''

The paint is a durable enamel that requires no baking.

And while customers can have any design they choose, the most popular is a Native American motif, wildlife or a combination of the two.

"The Native American theme has been very popular for the past four or five years,'' Lamborne said. "I think people are taking note of the culture.''

Sue Van Ness, whose heritage includes a Sioux great-grandfather, agrees. "It is a way for them (bike owners) to support the Indian beliefs, to sympathize with what they have been through.''

Wolves and Native American culture is " extremely popular,'' echoes husband Bill. He added that Native Americans seem to appreciate his wife's work because it is portrayed with dignity.

The motif is so popular this year that the Wing Ding T-shirt features both a wolf and Indian symbols. The theme of the gathering of about 12,000 members of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association is "running with the wolves.''

Sue's white eagle feathers are popular with Mike and Robyn Kelly of Flint, Mich. The Kellys had Sue decorate their bike a couple of years ago at a rally in Iowa.

Wednesday, Sue added the feathers to a miniature horse trailer the Kellys have acquired.

"No horse though,'' said Robyn. " It is for the dog.''

The dog, Boo, a black Labrador-beagle mix, is back home in Michigan, but soon will get to go on the road in the trailer marked "Boo's Barge.''

" We need venting in it,'' said Robyn. "The dog just loves to go.''

Sue, with no formal art training, began her work out of necessity, she said. As a younger woman, unemployed, with three kids to take care of, she began pin striping. Her business expanded through word of mouth.

"I didn't even know rallies existed,'' she said. "But Bill, he bugged me to do bigger things. I was one of 10 kids and the idea of going to big cities with thousands of people scared me.''

Now she is on the road three out of four weeks from April through October, she said.

"This is a great way to see the country,'' she said. "There is so much to see. I had no clue. It is nice to see the real, not just the pictures.''

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