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Spoken Art Decals Turn Bikes Into a Blank Canvas

By Patty Wetli | December 20, 2013 6:16am
 Spoken Art turns bikes into a fashion statement.
Bike as Canvas
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Bikes are sure to find their way under a number of Christmas trees this holiday season, decked out in ribbons and bows.

If a pair of young entrepreneurs had their way, bikes would be wrapped 365 days a year.

John Dickson and Aaron Schleichkorn, both 24, are the duo behind Spoken Art, a nascent business enterprise that received a major boost in exposure thanks to Divvy.

The pair are responsible for the candy cane-themed HoliDivvy bike, decorated in 64 of Spoken Art's custom-made reflective decals.

"The patterning was the most difficult part," said Dickson. "It took a couple of days of solid work to wrap."

Spoken Art's decals aren't typically that labor intensive to apply. They come in a variety of designs that cyclists can easily affix to any part of a bike or helmet. And they're just as easy to remove, meaning users can swap out designs and placement as often as they'd like.

Spoken Art in Motion
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Spoken Art

"It's a way for your bike to reflect who you are, what you stand for," Schleichkorn said.

"It's kind of like fashion, it can change over time," added Dickson. "Just because you get an interesting bike doesn't mean it expresses your interests. I've probably re-wrapped my bike three or four times."

The decals are functional as well, making bikes and their riders easier to spot at night.

Dickson and Schleichkorn, both graduates of Northside College Prep High School, have been making bike art since 2011.

Avid cyclists, they were looking for a way to translate the freedom of the riding experience to the ride itself.

"We wanted to create art that is used like a mobile version of street art," Dickson said.

Combining Dickson's background in math and Schleichkorn's in printmaking, they created a "bike suit" that debuted at the 2011 Winter Bike Art Show. The concept — triangle-shaped pieces of printed fabric attached to a bike's frame — was a hit aesthetically but the design proved both expensive and impractical.

Riders asked for more utility, which eventually led to the development of the reflective decals.

"They offer visibility and fashion," Dickson said. "Our joint mission is getting more riders out and making it safer, and giving a platform to artists."

Spoken Art offers royalties to designers who contribute their artwork to the company.

"We have our own style," which leans towards geometric patterns, Schleichkorn said. Opening up the design to other artists expands Spoken Art's palette of options.

Dickson can even envision a future where Spoken Art becomes "Threadless for bikes," allowing customers to submit their own artwork.

That would be a big leap forward for the young company. Though Dickson said, "We've made significantly more sales from HoliDivvy," the guys are still trying to get their products into bike shops — the decals are presently available only online.

Both have day jobs outside of Spoken Art, with Dickson teaching part-time at Near North Montessori and Schleichkorn taking on contract web design and marketing gigs.

They work out of a basement in Lincoln Square — Dickson lives in North Center, Schleichkorn in Ravenswood Gardens — and borrowed their business address from Schleichkorn's dad, who runs Custom Medical Stock Photo in Irving Park.

"We're making small but steady strides," said Dickson.

The challenge now is to build on the increased interest generated by the HoliDivvy promotion, keeping one step ahead of the competition.

"There are a couple of similar businesses," Dickson said. "It's kind of an arms race to see who can make the coolest decal."