Article By: Amelia Rose
Originally Published In The October-November 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
This month’s artist profile has been a long time coming, and let me tell you, I am so glad we were finally able to g e t him in our pages. Tay Herrera (aka Tarrera) has been creating art since he was in kindergarten. He had a natural talent for it even back then and found that, as he got older, it got him a lot of attention from the ladies. For Tay, creating is something that just comes naturally. He thinks about art all the time. He’s thinking about current or future projects, music he’s written, or a piece of jewelry he’s working on even as he’s diving his car. According to Tay, creating takes up 80% of what he thinks about, and he says that it is never because of the money. He creates simply because he loves the mind games and lessons that come with the challenging craft of hand-chiseling metal.
Tay began his career precisely 40 years ago in September of 1980. At that time, he had the help of master engraver Angelo Bee. Tay began engraving on motorcycles in 1991 when a buddy of his asked him if he wouldn’t mind engraving something small on the aluminum headlight of his Guzzi. As he was tapping away on it, he thought how cool it would be to do that sort of engraving on bikes. But the thought was soon gone, and Tay moved on with his life. Years later, he saw a show on Discovery Channel airing about the V-Rod. Soon after that, Motorcycle Mania premiered, and he noticed the trend that was developing. It completely re-energized his interest in engraving motorcycles.
At the time, he was working in the firearm engraving business alongside his father. Tays dad was a master woodworker who made high-end firearm presentation cases and detailed stock engraving. He was the chief engraver for Weatherby Rifles for 15 years. By then, Tay had gotten sick of engraving guns, so he began searching the internet for other engravers that did the kind of work he was interested in. He found only one name: C.J. Allan. Both C.J. and Tay’s father are people that fuel his creativity and give him the inspiration and motivation to continue creating. Because of C.J., Tay focused on doing something diff erent. Because he was coming from working with fi rearms, this ‘different thing’ became scrollwork. Of course, his medium of choice is metal; wood doesn’t hold up nearly as well on motorcycles, ha-ha. He also likes the fact that there are so many different types of metals that he is able to engrave on.
Tay is incredibly skilled, as you can see, and can engrave in nearly any style (including sculpture) on most metals and can engrave items like guns, motorcycle parts, and even jewelry. He is skilled with both hammer and chisel engraving, which is how he got started, and pneumatic engraving machines which he uses today. There was a time where people would talk to him and comment, saying, “You must be very passionate about your art,” and at the time, his response would be, “No, I lost that a while ago.” In this industry, the focus can often be deadline after deadline, which is truthfully exhausting. When he was engraving guns, the average time for him to fi nish was about 2 years, which is the general rule for most gun engravers. So after that, having deadlines year after year can really take the juice out of someone’s creative attitude towards their craft. Now, however, Tay’s reputation and skill is so widely known that he is able to simply pick and choose what job he’s going to accept. This dramatically helps lessen the amount of stress he was experiencing and has made engraving fun for him again.
In terms of his personal life, Tay considers himself more of a loner. He can go days in a row without seeing a single person. He fills his days tapping away on projects in his shop, which is located in a relatively busy part of Orange County. He does enjoy going out on occasion but is always the first one looking for the door. He unfortunately, doesn’t own a bike right now due to hip issues but loves riding. Tay is also an acoustic guitarist who has composed over 30 songs that no one has ever heard…Yet. He also loves dogs! Because of motorcycle engraving, Tay has been able to go places he could only have ever dreamed of. Creatively speaking, motorcycle parts make great canvases for his type of art. The large, open spaces allow him to go where he wasn’t able to with the restricting size of a rifle. He is also able to engrave things on motorcycle parts that may be considered taboo to have engraved on a gun. With motorcycle parts, he has and could engrave anything his client wants. Through his art, he has also been incredibly fortunate to have met some of the coolest and most talented people whom he now calls friends. He would never have been able to meet them had it not been for this incredible, crazy industry we all love so much. As for the future, he’s recently been considering hosting weekend engraving workshops.
It is something he is asked about quite frequently, and he would love to be able to pass on his tips and passion for the craft. He also recently received the copyright for a piece of jewelry he designed and is planning on starting the line sometime soon. If you want to check out more of Tay’s absolutely incredible work or even commission a piece from him, you can check out his website www. tarrera.com or follow him on Instagram @Tarrera!