There's nothing we love more than discovering kindred spirits in the motorcycle world. Over the past few years we've shared hundreds of miles and countless beers with these types of individuals who share a similar love for the two-wheeled machine. But every now and then we're fortunate to come across someone like Vassili who has allowed the essence of the motorcycle to fuel more than just his need for adventure. In this case, it's building motorcycles on a whole 'nother, shall we say, smaller level. We met up with Vassili of PaperbikesNYCin his Williamsburg loft to chat more about what makes him tick, cut, and fold and to learn more about his tiny paper sculptures. -GSCo
Interview and Images: Chris Logsdon
Let's start with an introduction. Who are you, what do you do, where do you live, what do you ride?
VS: My name is Vassili Shishkin, by day I'm a Financial Manager for an Arts Education Nonprofit in downtown Brooklyn, NY. By night I choose to obsess over motorcycles, bikes, cars and just technology in general, thinking of how I can combine my day and night activities. I reside in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia which I left when I was 13 to get a little taste of Upstate New York - but I've lived all over Brooklyn for the last 15 years. Brooklyn is just getting better and better, especially the last few years with the wave of all the cool Moto-related businesses popping up all over. I ride a 2006 Ducati Monster 620. It's my very first bike and I'm loving it. Please don't tell that to my 4 bicycles collecting dust in the basement. I'm pretty sure they are mad at the little romance between the Duc and myself.
What in the world drove you to making tiny weeny paper motorcycles?
VS: I've been in love with 2-wheeled machines and papercraft my whole life. My dad taught me how to ride a bicycle when I was 5, no training wheels in sight, and I clearly remember the overwhelming and wild feeling of joy the first time I found that balance - pretty much the same feeling every time one hops on a motorcycle and goes for a rip. Figuring out how to build papercraft models of anything, but mostly cars and bikes as a little kid gave me freedom to build any toy I wanted with the most basic of supplies. There is simply no feeling like creating something with your own hands...
VS: Two decades later I was looking around online for a simple bicycle or a motorcycle papercraft model to build and display on top of my computer monitor - so everyone can see how much of a bike nerd I am. All I found were these over-complicated and intense exact replicas with 100's of parts which would require days to complete - so I decided to created my own model - simple and straight forward. Something that can be completed start to finish in one sitting. I wanted the finished model to be small, simple yet detailed, and have as few parts as possible, with all of it fitting on a single sheet of paper. That more or less dictated the size. Then I wanted to see how small I can go and fit a model onto a regular post card. Now, there are many models and sizes available, anywhere from tiny 2.5" long miniatures to almost 2 feet long monsters. (No pun intended, since the large model is based on my Ducati). I basically started by recreating my stable of real life bicycles, my mountain bike, bmx bike, downhill ride, and a staple fixed gear (a must in Williamsburg) - at which point I got my first motorcycle, Ducati Monster and wanted to recreate that- which started a new chapter for Paperbikes - the motorcycle models.
It's seems your paper bikes are inspired by a certain type of motorcycle.
VS: That's right. While I have plans to create a model of every motorcycle type under the sun, the first few models are based on stripped down naked bikes, initially inspired specifically by older and original generation Ducati Monsters. That's the motorcycle I've always been attracted to. My whole life I never wanted just any bike, I wanted a Ducati Monster, with the exposed trellis frame and a round headlight. Starting with my very first bicycle I always tried to remove every single piece that is not needed, that is extra, that is there simply for fashion and no function or added weight - and to me, naked bikes, scramblers, street trackers, brats are the definition of "nothing extra".
What is the process behind laying down such a complex machine like a motorcycle into simple shapes?
VS: I find it very important that the wheelbase length and rake/head-tube angle are spot on and realistic, whether its a motorcycle or a bicycle model. If those dimensions and angles are off, the person looking at it will subconsciously know that something is wrong and it will lose its realistic appeal. Even though these models could be seen almost as basic gist of their real life counterparts I want them to feel like they could function if they were built to full scale. Next, the proportions of the gas tank and the seat are very important, everything has to be in balance. Finally, I want it to be complex yet simple enough where it won't intimidate the builder and they can know right from the start that they can complete the project.
What do want your customers to take away from constructing their own paper bike?
VS: The finished model may appear as a collection of simple shapes, but I want everyone to immediately recognize what kind/type of bike it is and relate to it. I started out with building bicycle models and wanted to create an almost education model - where you are essentially "welding" the frame out of paper. You got your head tube, top tube, down tube, seat tube, seatstays and chainstays, bottom bracket, fork, bars, seat, wheels. All the parts of a real bicycle are there. Same with a motorcycle, although its a bit more simplified with gas tank, engine, swing arm, shock, fork, seat, handlebars, headlight, exhausts, wheels. I want people to zone out in the process of creating with their hands. Taking a flat piece of paper and creating a three dimensional model. Pretending like they are building that badass bike in their garage, just out of paper - that's what I do at least. The best part - you can customize your Paperbike any way you want once you see how its built. All it takes is some card stock, a pencil, scissors and some glue and you can create any mod your heart desires. I want to excite people with creating, the same way I'm excited when coming up with them.
Looking forward, what are the plans for your paper bikes? Where do you see this going?
VS: The plan is to build an extensive variety of models and eventually cover every type and make of 2 wheeled machines, while always keeping the style and feel of what makes Paperbikes unique. A complete collection of sorts. Improving all aspects of creation and production, making the process of building the model just as exciting as enjoying the finished product. Experimenting with other materials and scales. Eventually I want to get into building real motorcycles, and I wholeheartedly plan on creating full size Paperbike motorcycles based on my models, sketches and ideas. The ultimate would be to hop on a Paperbike and ride the damn thing!
Follow Vassili and his PaperBikes on Instagram @paperbikesnyc and on Twitter @paperbikes or order your own Paperbike HERE.