At the ripe old age of 6, Ray received his first ride around the block on the back of his oldest brother Don’s 1958 Panhead dresser, serving as Ray’s first injection of fuel in his veins, combusting into a lifelong love for the Harley-Davidson brand.
Ray watched his brother customize bikes, and occasionally being allowed to help clean or wrench, were catalysts to Ray becoming a young, much sought-after custom painter. While still in high school, Willie G. Davidson saw a custom-painted Sportster tank in a show that Ray painted a mural on, pinstriped, and gold-leafed. Willie contacted Ray to do some paintwork on prototypes at the factory. This work led to regular calls for graphic design work, custom paint for special editions, and design work for the Motorclothes or Parts & Accessories side of the business.
In 1993 Willie asked Ray to officially come on board. It was here that Ray learned the value, and developed expertise, in designing for the masses. Ray says “It’s the difference between creating fine vs. commercial art”. Being groomed by Willie and his right-hand man Louie Netz, Ray honed his talents for motorcycle design. When Willie decided to retire, he chose Ray to succeed him in leading the Styling department.
There were many now-iconic Harley-Davidson graphics and bikes Ray designed through the years. The first bike, 1994 Bad Boy, was actually a test for Ray before he was asked to join Harley-Davidson permanently.
An example of the many graphics Ray has designed, was the name “Sturgis” hand painted for a limited-edition shirt that Willie created especially for the event each year. Sturgis city officials later contacted H-D to see if they could use the script. It is now the official trademark of the city and can be found on the signs welcoming you to town.
From the inside of the Motor Company, Ray is most proud of the creative Styling team he helped build. A team effort in every sense of the word, together they inspired coworkers and customers around the world with beautiful rolling sculpture.
Outside the Company, Ray feels blessed to have played a small part in this inspiring, global motorcycle industry by putting so many smiles on people’s faces around the world. Freeing their souls with his “art”. Ultimately the friendships made are most treasured!
In 2003 Ray co-founded “Pinstripe Legends” as a way to give back to the profession that gave so much to him. The group’s mission is to expand the awareness of pinstriping as fine art. Annually 75 pinstripers from around the world descend on Milwaukee at the World of Wheels show to paint all weekend. This art is auctioned daily with all proceeds going to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. To date, the group has raised just shy of one million dollars!
In 2020, after 40 years of designing for Harley Davidson, 27 years of it as an official employee, Ray retired from Harley-Davidson. Leaving the corporate world behind, Ray continues to follow his passion for creating art and freeing souls one customer at a time... and a little travel thrown in there with his wife Mary, feeding their wanderlust addiction!
Ray is truly blessed, indeed!