An insect made of welded car parts. Not one, but many. Inside a kiosk on at 1745 Cedar.
Peter Mitchell – the Peter of Peter’s Automotive – starting making the bugs in his spare time when his shop was on San Pablo Avenue. He displayed them on the shop roof, tolerating the occasional theft, even applauding the enterprise required to get to the bugs and deeming the theft somewhat flattering. When somebody stole ten in one night, that was too much.
Mitchell learned to weld as a boy on his family farm. He started making his car-part bugs on an inspired whim. He describes the process: “On a weekend, I would dump out a barrel of old car parts and see what I saw. When I saw what I would make, it didn’t take more than a few minutes to actually make it.”
His bugs were seen around Berkeley. There were several at the old Brennan’s on University and at the Eva Yarmo’s shop
About 15 years ago, Mitchell moved his shop to what had been Stu Anderson’s, a garage on Cedar at Grant that specialized in repairing Jaguars. Before that it had been a Union 76 gas station.
There were once many more bugs than those that are today inside the kiosk.
Outside the kiosk there are flowers.
Flowers made with welded car parts, of course. On the walls of the garage are four signs created by Mitchell.
V took over Peter’s Automotive a few years back. He specializes in Japanese cars. He has a vague interest in the bugs inside the kiosk.
V used to have the key to the padlock on the kiosk but couldn’t find it when I visited him. Mitchell says he can’t remember the combination. Whether it is a keyed lock or combination lock, it isn’t likely to be opened in the near future.
Or so I thought.
With the help of Leonard Pitt, I tracked Mitchell down and he agreed to meet me at the kiosk. He tried possible combinations – birthday, social security number, address – and – BINGO – got it open. For the first time in many years the bugs got fresh air.
They got air and we got a chance for better photos.
Are you getting the picture? Yikes. Good stuff!
V came over to check things out.
He told us that there was one bug still inside the garage, one that he had just recently taken down from wires suspending it from the ceiling.
What a difference life inside the shop as opposed to closed up in the kiosk makes.
Mitchell took us down Cedar to his home to see one more.
This is Gregor Samsa. Mitchell made Gregor for a professor at Cal who was teaching Kafka’s Metamorphis.
Mitchell now divides his time between the East Village and Berkeley, his home since 1970. He finds Berkeley less creative and whimsical than it once was, and it is hard to argue with that assessment. But it is still creative, and it is still whimsical. And his welded car-part insects live on in their kiosk. Mark Bulwinkle has known Mitchell for years and Mitchell worked out of Bulwinkle’s Hannah Street shop when he needed to bend big pieces of metal. Bulwinkle sees Mitchell from time to time when Mitchell is in Berkeley – “One of the last of a breed, from back then.” Bulwinkle too loves Mitchell’s bugs. That is some heavyweight praise.
My friend was excited about a shipment from Gabby – a modest collection of giant insect movie posters. It obviously fit in with Peter Mitchell’s bugs here. I tore him away from the posters to review these photos. His judgment?