This is my friend Alex Ehlen.
I’ve never actually met Alex. You see, he works at Flint Group’s Fargo office, Flint Communications, and I work at the Duluth office, WestmorelandFlint. But, the other day, I interviewed him to write this post. So we’re good friends now.
What I learned about my friend Alex
As a creative and interactive designer, Alex lends his artistic prowess in all aspects of traditional and digital mediums, from concept to design. He joined our team this fall after working for a Minneapolis-based firm, where he helped build big-name brands like Indian Motorcycles, GT Bicycles, Land O’Lakes and Caribou Coffee.
He also has a really cute bulldog named Frankie.
I know this is a lot of dog photos, but I can’t resist – she’s just so dang cute! Plus, as I’ve said before, I have two of my own.
On the weekends, you’ll find my friend Alex in his garage building things.
Making something out of nothing
“I love the challenge and satisfaction of taking a pile of pieces or parts and turning it into something that has function,” Alex told me.
He’s built all sorts of things, like a workbench, lighting pieces, a concrete-topped table and these bike fenders:
But his passion, he says, is working on motorcycles, a hobby I learned true riders and mechanics call, “wrenching.”
Alex bought his first motorcycle, a ’74 Honda CB450, from Craigslist for $150. This was four years ago, and he had no experience working on or riding one. He told me that he’d wanted a motorcycle for a while and thought, ‘What better way to learn than by immersing myself in in?’
“I figured the price was right, and if I messed anything up, I’d be able to at least break even by parting it out,” he said.
Isn’t his ambition inspiring? Here’s what the motorcycle looked like when he bought it:
Here’s what it looked like after Alex spent an entire summer tracking down missing parts, rebuilding the ones that were there and putting it all together.
He says he learned a lot about motorcycles, but more importantly, he learned a lot about himself – including the value of confidence, persistence and patience.
By fall 2009, he had a running, driving and titled motorcycle.
“It’s very satisfying to learn how to ride a motorcycle on one you just brought back from the dead,” he told me.
Alex’s bike isn’t for touring or long distances, so he mostly just rides around town, including to work occasionally. He told me it only has a solo seat, which crushed my dreams of bumming a ride.
“I built it for one person so I don’t have to be responsible for anyone else. It’s risky enough with just yourself,” he said. I told him I thought that was considerate, even though I was disappointed.
What happens in the garage doesn’t stay in the garage
Alex says he’s firm believer that inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. In fact, when he’s building at home, he’ll often think of solutions to creative problems at work.
“Building things is a great time for personal reflection or deep thinking. It’s like meditating,” he told me. “It’s taught me about learning new skills on my own and the value of persistence and patience – all qualities I can apply to my career.”
Get to know a Flintster! Q + A with Alex
What was your first job?
What did it teach you?
The value of a good education and the importance of nonstick cookware.
What scent do you love?
Burning wood —-> Campfire Cologne.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Dog treat maybe? Tasted like a Slim Jim.
Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
I have a tendency to knoll.
What is something you’ve learned in the last week?
If you accidentally close a tab in Firefox or Chrome, Command+Shift+T will bring it back.
Kittens Got Claws by Whitesnake.
What’s your favorite kind of sandwich?
Philly Cheese Steak or a Reuben.
If you were on the front page of the paper, what might the headline read?
“Unassuming man may actually be the nicest person on the planet.”