Designer Michael Hudecek makes wares for peddling. His unique creations are functional, durable and unique. They're made with creatively repurposed materials and born with the spirit of Cleveland's streets. Three years ago, Hudecek began renting a studio in the Screw Factory in Lakewood, and last year officially registered his company: Forest City Portage. Here, OhioAuthority learns more about Hudecek and his brand of mobile artistry.
OhioAuthority: Where did your interest in cycling come from?
Michael Hudecek: I really began cycling as a necessity when I was young. I have fond memories of riding bikes with my friends to Cudell Rec Center to take tennis lessons. It was the first time where I understood the independence that bicycles can provide. Unlike automobiles that require fuel to run and busses that keep their own schedule, bicycles are restricted only by their users. I rekindled my love of the steel steed in College at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where I escaped the monotony of life in a rural town by touring Houston Woods State Park just moments outside of town.
OA: How does Cleveland support your interest?
MH: Since returning to Cleveland, my interest has very much been fostered by interaction with serious cycling nuts who use cycling as transportation as well as recreation. The Pedal Republik of Cleveland Hard Court Bicycle Polo Club provides an athletic bent with physical challenges and competition not easily found once the organized sports of high school are gone. The reemergence of a strong Critical Mass ride thanks to Shawn Mariani and Jeffrey Sugalski has helped build a sense of a larger cycling population across differed demographics. My involvement in efforts to get bike lanes on the innerbelt bridge through the Access for All Campaign allowed me to focus my own struggles as a car-free Clevelander toward a positive gain for all of Cleveland.
OA: When did you launch Forest City Portage and how did you conceive the idea?
MH: I began making bags and cycling accessories in 2007 as a bit of a challenge to myself to create a custom messenger bag without the high costs. I soon learned that it's really difficult and that the people hand-creating bike bags are real artisans. Along the way, however, I became obsessed with mastering the craft and now own two industrial sewing machines and have hundreds of yards of fabric and thousands of notions!
OA: How does Cleveland's bicycle culture inform your designs and creations?
MH: As a self-taught designer and artist, much of my work in the early days were, like many early projects, unabashed takes on bags I had seen or used. As I have grown in skill and understanding of my trade (and ridden through a few more winters), my designs have increasingly been born of experience and out of suggestions of people I have met along the way. I try to keep the lines of the bags clean and finished with a rugged base. My love for Cleveland has definitely inspired a few of the custom designs I have done, and later this year I plan on releasing a retail line based entirely around the images and colorways of Northeast Ohio.
My interest in cycling also stems from an environmental awareness and my use of salvaged materials from seatbelt webbing and buckles to tweed suits, sailcloth and post consumer waste from Cogswell Creations (an inflatables manufacturer in the Screw Factory).
OA: What are your most popular items?
MH: While I specializing in custom appliqué on courier bags and backpacks, my most popular items are belts made from salvaged buckles and webbing from American automobiles and hip pouches for cycling.