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The Verve: Custom cars, flaming toilet seats all part of Ray Corder’s work

THURSDAY, FEB. 19, 2009

Ray Corder is a “guy’s artist,” if there is such a thing.

He became the artist he is when, as an impressionable youth, he laid eyes on a rebuilt,pimped-ut ’55 Ford convertible. “I just thought ‘wow.’ It really impressed me,” he said.

Not long after, Corder got his first job when he was 14; using masking tape, newspaper and paint, he scalloped (a term used to describe sharp, symmetrical design work) a car and that was it; his future was set in steel. “I love custom cars,” he said, “I’ve done so many.”

Corder has a photo album of more than 50 cars he has worked on though he has done many more. He started out in Michigan, where he was born and raised, and then he brought his talent to Spokane Valley in 1968. When asked how he learned his craft he tapped his temple, “In here. Self-taught I guess. You’re born with it. Either you have it or you don’t.”

Now retired after two back surgeries and a shoulder surgery, Corder cannot be idle though he has constant back pain. He’ll work on something for a while, rest and then work some more. “My mind goes all the time,” he said, “I have to do it and I’m content.”

He does a lot of his work in an unheated attached garage in his Spokane Valley home. He cuts metal into works of art like the large ship with sails he was commissioned to create. He has a 1949 Ford and a 1950 Ford to work on, and he airbrushes flames and other designs onto anything that strikes his fancy, from a refrigerator to toilet seats.

Corder likes change and that’s evident in his range of projects. He painted Disney characters on the wall of a store, airbrushed a 4-foot-by-8-foot painting of an old car for an auto shop, etched a replica of the Spokane County Courthouse onto glass for a lawyer’s office, used tires to make coffee tables, and even made a CD explaining step by step how to make a model hot rod out of cardboard.

One piece that Corder created remains permanently planted in his front yard. It is two large flowers, their petals made of fan blades that spin when the wind hits them just right. Corder’s garden will always be in bloom even through the roughest winters.

In 2000, Corder had a “rough winter”; his wife died and he decided to sell everything and move back east where he has family, but plans change.

The woman who cuts his hair set him up on a blind date with Carole Gipson. They went dancing at the Eagles Lodge and later married. “Carole’s also an artist. She does incredible drawings and so does her daughter Tina Jara,” Corder said.

“Guy’s artist” or not, he can still appreciate beauty.

If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail

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