Winzeler shifts into different gear for show
Winzeler Gear president John Winzeler tries on one of the pieces created by School of the Art Institure of Chicago student Joe Leamanczyk during the "Head Gear" show at Winzeler Gear in Harwood Heights. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
NAME: Winzeler Gear
ADDRESS: 7355 W. Wilson Ave., Harwood Heights
Updated: June 28, 2012 12:49PM
Mechanical gears and art don’t often show up in the same thought.
Unless you’re John Winzeler, president of Winzeler Gear in Harwood Heights.
Winzeler produces gears primarily for the automotive industry. The gears that make your windshield wipers and windows move and your transmission shift are probably Winzeler gears. Winzeler gears can also be found in computer printers, various home appliances, garage door openers, snowblowers and lawn mowers.
John Winzeler, the third generation to run the company started by Harold Winzeler in 1940 with his father John, who had founded the Winzeler Metal Stamping Co. in 1908, became involved in the arts about 20 years ago, after the kids left the house.
“That’s the way I live,” he said. “I have to use my right brain and not just my left brain. Going to museums and getting involved with young, creative people is a way to stimulate my brain.”
He currently sits on an advisory committee for the fashion school and the industrial design school at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. But, more importantly, he’s providing opportunities to artists to show their work and gain some real world experience.
Such was the case May 2, when Winzeler Gear hosted a show featuring gear headwear designed by students in the Advanced Headwear Concepts class at the School of the Art Institute and awarded $2,000 in scholarships to the top three designers deemed by judges from the fashion industry.
This was the second fashion show inspired by Winzeler Gear. The first was in 2005, when students designed dresses based on their experiences after visiting the manufacturing plant.
John Winzeler said he was looking forward to collaborating with the School of the Art Institute again, after Adjunct Assistant Professor Eia Radosavljevic suggested working together again, but had to put those plans on hold when the economy tanked.
Once John Winzeler felt the company was in the clear, he invited students to tour and even work in the plant throughout this semester as part of the project.
“The idea really came from John Winzeler,” said Radosavljevic, who teaches the advanced headwear class. “Which is cool that it came from the owner of a manufacturing plant.”
The show, which will remain in Winzeler Gear’s Gallery 43 through June 1, featured headwear inspired by gears and some made of gears.
Gears, Radosavljevic said, lend themselves well to the headwear design project because of their shapes and sizes, as well as many of them looking like hats with circular shapes and openings in the middle. But, the most important aspect of the project, she added, was the collaboration with Winzeler Gear. The collaboration taught students about meeting deadlines and working with other designers and people integral to getting out a finished product.
“It shows students how inspiration can come from most anywhere,” she said. “John Winzeler is in business, he needs to get things done. It was a good learning experience.”
John Winzeler knows that a healthy economy needs well-prepared workers among other factors, so he’s happy to provide these kinds of opportunities. But, he also does it just for the love of art.
“We’re in a creative field,” he said. “My interest today has changed from engineering, which is my formal education background, to being more involved in the arts and how do we reach out to Chicago and the community.”
Regardless of why he enters into collaborations with artists, just that he does is much appreciated.
“He has a love of art, fashion, teaching, young people,” Radosavljevic said. “He’s a real gem of a person.”