Jay has been earning himself a lot of success and exposure lately, largely due to his gorgeous Manta Cafe Racer, featured at the Buffalo Chips show in Sturgis last year, curated by photographer Michael Lichter, and invited to the Motor Bike Expo in Verona Italy in 2018.
It's always a treat to be able to showcase some local talent and Jay qualifies in that area in a huge way. Getting his start in collision repair, before moving into the world of custom motorcycles full time, Jay has displayed a mastery of metal rare in such a young professional and just keeps on raising the bar.
Another recent guest of ours, "Hoarder" Joe Allan, requested that we interview Jay and had a question for him as well. You'll find it in the Q&A down below.
We're going to tell you all right now, this man Jay Donovan is a thinker. During final edits this time around our spellchecker lit up, with repeated suggestions to use more concise language. Yeah, stuff that. Let the man talk. So without further ado, bring it on Jay!
Jay Donovan from Victoria BC Canada (shop name is BareSteel Design)
What’s awesome about you and your life?
Anything awesome about me comes from the wonderful life and family I was born into. My amazing parents, siblings, and friends have made me an incredibly lucky individual and given me the amazing opportunity to take my life in any direction I should choose.
* I'm gonna interject right here and point out how awesome it is that Jay recognizes and proudly acknowledges the help and advantages he's derived from his friends and family. Nothing wrong with having support in what you do, we should all be so lucky, and it's pretty rare to find such genuine gratitude these days. Good on ya Jay, way to display your positive character and bring the class!
I like to believe I am making pieces of kinetic art. Sculptures that can be admired purely through their static form and then ridden and interacted with on a personal level. Blending art and engineering into something worth more than the sum of its parts.
I hope to fulfill my own artistic ambitions by building completely one of a kind motorcycles, from as close to scratch possible, as well as enjoying the creative challenges in customizing existing platforms of many different styles and budgets.
What was the best thing to happen to you due to poor life choices?
Yet to be fulfilled, even though the beautiful irony is seen. Will keep you posted
I began developing my metalworking skills to pursue a higher level of quality and craftsmanship, knowing that those skill sets would allow me the creative freedom to make anything I could think up.
My love for Automotive Coachbuilding and the history of the men who would build a vehicle from scratch and then drive to Le mans, or any such race, to push themselves and the car to their limit, created the seemingly perfect process for attaining the highest satisfaction in creation.
While the practicality for myself to be building one of a kind vehicles is quite low, Motorcycles returned to my life as a brilliant, more interactive, and even more artistically challenging, platform where chassis, Components, Body and rider must all interact in such a visible manner .
Wonderful circumstances of life. Beyond those, the programs and instructors at Victoria HIgh School created significant opportunities that led me to my Auto Body Repair Red Seal ticket, which led me to Metal shaping and fabrication. Bringing me full circle to using those skill sets to connect with people, through creative passions, that I can only assume are there through wonderful circumstances of life.
I have had a few good ones so far. Being selected have my bike shown in Italy, during Michael Lichter's show, was certainly one of the highest, but it seems no matter how great those moments feel, the memories of the process and struggle are a stronger reinforcement to my best moments than the moments themselves.
* Jay was a featured builder at the Old Iron - Young blood exhibit, Curated by Michael Lichter, at the Buffalo Chip Event Center in Sturgis in 2017. This led directly to his being invited to display his Manta Cafe Racer at the 2018 Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy.
Too many to count. I seem to be very drawn to things seemingly out of reach, making for a constant state of discomfort with what I am trying to complete and a standard that will hopefully always remain higher than my capabilities, i.e. large scrap bin.
What was the last thing you did that made you swear later?
Nothing specific comes to mind, but deciding to try and make a living building customs motorcycle pretty well covers it. :)
* Editor's note: Gonna go out on a limb here and just say that I think Jay's gonna do okay on that score...
"Ask him if he has considered doing a small engined custom bike, maybe based on the popular Honda C70 or C90 or even a small two stroke like a Yamaha Twin Jet 100."
Yeah of course! I have actually had some vague plans to do a small cc bike for a while now. Its an engine that I absolutely love the look of, but not quite as small as a 70 or 90. As for what that engine is, I will have to make you wait and see until I actually have one in hand!
* See Hoarder Joe's interview with Killman Customs by clicking here !!
I have been discussing the idea of collaborating with a brilliant designer Tamas Jakus, of Jakusa design out of Hungary, for a concept of his I fell in love with after seeing it on Instagram. That is something I will be sharing more of soon on the socials, as well as an entirely scratch built design of my own creation, that I have been working on for some time now, which will also start taking form in the near future.
The projects themselves are always nice to look at, but I must admit I don't form too much sentiment for the bikes themselves once completed. There are two things I keep close in the office and impactful reminders. One being a comical birthday card from my Sister which reminds me that some of the negative associations I have connected to money overlook all the good that can be done with it and what true positive value it can have.
The other is a Photo of my late Uncle with his old Suzuki completely torn apart in my moms living room. Much like the origins of many great automotive companies today it reminds me of how much can be done with minimal resources.
Prior to motorcycles I completed the body and paint work on a chopped and channeled 1930 model A, owned by a local gentleman. I spent two years of evenings and weekends to get it done.
My natural curiosity and hope to make an impact led me to investing all the knowledge and skill I had to offer, making the car he had thought up and put so much work into, the best it could be.
Seeing the level of satisfaction from the owner as the car came to life, and enjoyment he has gotten from it and will continue to get for a long time yet, is something that is still with me today. More than likely reinforcing my own desires for building custom, individual tailored machines.
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Favorite motorcycle-related story?
The success of other Builders I admire. To name a few Craig Rodsmith, Max Hazan and Christian Sosa are all people who as individuals have captured so much of what I see worth striving for in this industry and passion. If you have not looked into their stories I highly recommend it.
Favorite non-motorcycle-related story?
easy version would be the film "About Time".
Who do you want us to interview next and what do you want us to ask them?
I would have to say Christian Sosa, A phenomenal metalworker with a brilliant mindset, and there is not a great deal of interviewed content out there. As far as what to ask him, I would like to know who have been his biggest inspirations.
Who, or who’s work, do you have a crush on right now?
Builders as per mentioned but as far as designers go at the moment, I am really enjoying Jakusa Designs work, the team at @asparkowl, @iwai.tatsuya, and @the_kyza to mention a few.
Got any heroes or role models?
Apart from anyone I may have mentioned, the answer is quite simply anyone else I may encounter through my life, for their own particular reasons. Though, unfortunately, I can be sure I will not get to know many of them well enough to find out what they may be.
The custom motorcycle world is an industry not based in necessity but rather a usually expensive means to create diversity. During the 14 and 1500's the infrastructure in Florence, Italy created a healthy and booming middle class giving rise to many of the most historically treasured artists we cherish today. I would just like to see more of the custom industry in general. To see more people able to afford the money or time to diversify themselves through creativity.
I would help my family, so that they all have as much help possible to pursue their passions and goals.
I would like to create a platform where I could fulfill my own growth as an artist and custom builder, while helping to contribute and grow the community of people who share values as well as a love or simply an interest in motorcycles, creativity, or the social company of one another. To provide knowledge and shop resources to curious people looking to grow or learn new skills, while still having the opportunity for my own outlet would be my ideal set up.
* Editor's note: Smart answer, you're still in the will. Also, where do I sign up? And somebody give this man a million dollars already!
Enjoying taking part in the events and community that go along with this craft. Next on the list Is taking my bike to Austin Texas for the "Handbuilt Motorcycle Show" this April. If anyone knows a good shipper or is heading down from the northwest with some trailer room, let me know!
* If you get caught short Jay, we have a trailer hitch and are easily swayed...
Tell us anything else you want us to share for you.
Jay's perspective on custom motorcycles as functioning pieces of art is one that is near and dear to a lot of the very best. It's absolutely a point of view that will serve him well in his future endeavours. If there's more like Jay on the way up, the future of custom building is in safe hands indeed and we look forward to meeting them all and watching the magic happen!
Thank you Jay Donovan for sharing your thoughts with us today. It's been great getting to know you better and I think we can all agree that we look forward to watching what should be the long and rewarding career ahead of you!