Visionary. Designer. Tool maker. Photographer. Founder of Fixed Magazine and Fixedgearlondon. Andy Ellis is a modern Renaissance man. That's why we were stoked to work with him on our latest edition of #Wrenched, a low brow city guide from people we look up to. #Wrenched_london is Andy's handy work. Hear what keeps the fire burning in Andy.
You have just released Issue #15 of Fixed Magazine, what have you learned over the past five years of publishing the magazine? Have you made any truly epic mistakes that turned out to be great learning opportunities?
When I started Fixed Mag, I had no idea how to publish a printed magazine. It has been a steep learning curve especially since I'm self taught. I guess the main thing I have learned over the years is "if you need something doing, do it yourself" Not everyone has the same passion and drive that I do for Fixed Gear. I try to make things happen without the need to hassle anyone else. I guess I'm hoping that the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams ethos comes true! (if you build it, they will come).
I don't believe in mistakes. I'm trying to make / build a culture through the magazine. I'm not in this for the money, I'm in it because I'm passionate about riding Fixed! The magazine would still happen, even if It had to be printed on a sheet of used paper that's folded in half. I'm prepared for anything that happens concerning Fixed Mag so I don't believe mistakes can happen… does that make sense?
Your magazine has a distinct look that has helped shape the fixed gear culture. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I just try to keep everything simple. We strive to have exclusive photographs that have not been all over the internet and we always have stories that are direct from the riders. I have always struggled with the over design of things, some things just do not need to be there! I like understated obscure design, I like the work that Marc Newson, Jonathan Ive and Dieter Rams have put out. The fixed gear bike is also an understated obscure object so it works for me.
You’ve talked a lot about your love for the purity of fixed gear riding, but you come from a skating background. What initially drew you to fixed gear bikes?
I was in my final year studying product design at St Martin's in 2003 and I rode to and from university everyday (about 10 miles per day) on a terrible mountain bike. This was mainly because they had just introduced ticket barriers at Charing Cross Train station and I could not afford to buy tickets to travel… the mountain bike was the only option I had left. Whilst riding the 40 minute journey to St Martin's I saw messengers and commuters riding these strange bikes that had no brakes or gears and they were traveling much faster than I was. I was interested in these bikes from a design perspective at first, because it seemed like the perfect balance of form and function. As soon as I got my 1st fixed gear bike, it confirmed to me that not only did these bikes look perfect, they also functioned perfectly. I was hooked. For me it's the brakeless aspect that gives you the same feeling as skateboarding, it keeps your wits about you and in turn makes you a safer rider. I skate often and I use my bike to get to and from the skate spots throughout the city, this way I get to skate and ride more places than most as the bike is the easiest way to get around in any city.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of bike brands, from 14 Bike Co to Wolvh Clothing what was unique about working with Chrome?
I have been following what Chrome has been doing for the last few years now. I first saw the Wrenched SF city guide when it came out and I was given a copy of the Wrenched NY whilst at Eurobike. These guides feature a lot of people I look up to and also friends of mine from skateboarding and the fixed gear scene. It was so sick to know where they recommend you go visit in their own city that it made me want to try and make the London version happen! I contacted Chrome (luckily they knew who I was ;) and they agreed to make it happen. The most unique thing about working with Chrome has been the fact that we have a similar ethos about the way we think things should be. This has made our working relationship an extremely awesome experience for me.
What prompted you to make the Lockwhip tool?
I was sick of carrying three heavy tools around with me! So I sketched a tool that had all of these tools in one. The thing I tried to do was make the lock whip tool reflect the form/function balance that is inherent in a fixed gear bike. Nothing over the top and everything you need to survive. I had a prototype made and carried it around with me for a few months, the first instance that I needed the tool (lockring came loose) I almost forgot that it was in the bottom of my bag! After I fixed the lockring and proved to myself that the lockwhip was discreet and effective, I knew I had to put it into production.
In the process of curating #wrenched-london, what new discoveries did you make about your hometown?
I discovered that most of the awesome people featured like a lot of the same things! Most of them have not met each other ever, so it's interesting to see that they frequent the same places. I went to the vast majority of the places detailed in #wrenched_london to photograph these places, doing this helped me discover some cool places. I'd never been to the Hunterian Museum before but because it had been mentioned a couple of times I decided to take a visit and it ended up being one of the places that I picked to go see. #Wrenched brings people together in many ways and I know that people that grab a copy will find some inspiration somewhere within the pages…
If you could describe a quintessential London moment, what would it be?
For me It would be riding in traffic on a typical damp drizzly London morning in heavy rush hour traffic, traveling from west to east on Clerkenwell Road. Commuters are trying to race you, I'll cut through some red lights to keep a steady pace and no taxi drivers will bother to shout at you because they don't want to get wet. The rain puts a dampener on most people, but not me! I've always said "It's never the wrong weather, always the wrong clothes."
You have your fingers in a lot of pots, what do you do to find balance in your life?
I choose the pots I want to put my fingers in! When I graduated from St Martin's I made a choice to work for myself, I never let the need for money dictate my life. It's always been my goal to do what I'm passionate about. I want to make a mark on the world in my lifetime, but I want it to be the best mark I can possibly leave. I recently got married and meeting my wife Kellen was the most awesome thing that ever happened to me! Meeting her made me want to be even better at everything and together we make a great team, we have lots planned for the future. I find balance from doing a little bit of everything all the time, designing stuff, making graphics, sketching, writing, photography, skateboarding, riding fixed, etc. If I chose to do one thing, I think I would get tired of it quite quickly…
Is there any advice you would give to your younger self if you had a time machine and could go back ten years?
Hmmm… I would not want to change a thing!
Who has more bikes, you or your wife Kellen? How about tattoos?
Haha! I have definitely have more bikes and Kellen definitely has more tattoos because I don't have any!