Made For Bulleit, January 2016
With an approach that’s nothing short of emotive, meet the man building custom motorcycles with heart
“You know, this didn’t start out as a business proposition,” Los Angeles-based custom motorcycle builder Dustin Kott says, motioning around his garage. “It doesn’t even really make a lot of business sense,” he laughs. “It just started out as something I could do at the end of an 8-hour workday and find solace.” Perched between a half-finished dove grey machine with rose-gold-toned wheels almost jewellery-esque in finish, and a shiny, black vixen of a ride that purrs in silence, Kott is somewhat of a renaissance man. He talks like an architect and builds like an artist: with emotion and intent, seeking out cult, classic or just plain old parts for his elegantly cool rides, sometimes even going so far as to dig them up out of the earth. From beginnings in his home garage, a place for hanging with mates, making a lot of noise (“too much”, he laughs) and topping off the weekend with a glass in hand, to becoming one of the most sought-after motorcycle builders in LA, Kott’s one-man-show is the epitome of deep-end jumping for passion.
You can tell a lot about an artist based on their studio and Kott’s space, though hyper-masculine, is not your regular Tim “The Toolman” Taylor man cave. Rusted tanks, old parts and an antique bike hang from the ceiling, and in every corner lives a tool, a cog, a tyre, a part or a memento – most notably, a poster of James Dean, who watches over the workshop with an icy stare. There’s a sophistication here and I get the feeling that every object has purpose; that every element of this small garage is in place for a reason.
It’s in this special type of consideration where Kott moves and communicates. He pushes boundaries and builds with a bad ass slant, but the difference between him and the big guys is that for him, it’s personal. If you’re lucky enough to snag a Kott Motorcycle, be prepared for it to come with a piece of this maker’s heart. As tough as they look, these bikes aren’t necessarily made for abrasion, nor to inject fear into the hearts of mothers worldwide, but built to reflect the rider, the maker and the romance of the open road.
Kott says motorcycles have always made the world feel like a bigger place for him, that they represented freedom and escapism. As a boy, he would ride his dirt bike into the sunset, leaving the world and its shackles in the dust. Clearly, this feeling still stirs in him today. “I never wanted to do that in a car,” he says. “There’s something about the vulnerability of being on two wheels.” So is it the journey or the destination that matters most? For him, I would argue the former. To most, a vehicle may simply be a means to an end, a lift to a destination, the space between; but for Kott, once he has put the final polish on one of his delicately mean machines, sparked the starter and hit the road, he’s already arrived.
Made For was a branded content series for Bulleit Bourbon. Photography by Katrina Parker, video directed by David Child.