TERRE HAUTE, Ind (WTWO/WAWV) — Terre Haute native Mike Ralston taught himself how to pin-stripe and has been pin-striping by hand for 65 years, often donating the money from his projects to charity.
Currently working from his home, Ralston started pin-striping when he was a kid, but he really got to focus his skill when he began practicing on old cars in the neighborhood junkyard.
“I’ve been pinstriping for about 65 years, I started when I was about 14 years old. I loved art, that’s the only class I could get an A in, was art. So I loved art and I love cars, so the two kinda went together,” Ralston explained. “The pin-striping back then was just kind of really getting started back in the ’50s. And so a friend of mine bought my first pin-striping brush. I grew up next to a junkyard right down the street from me. And I’d go there every day and practice on different cars. And my mom would call and say, ‘quit letting Mike come down there, he comes back greasy every night when he comes home.’”
As Ralston has moved on from practicing on junkyard cars, his passion for pin-striping carried over onto other objects as well.
“Everything that stood still, I painted it. From bathtubs to airplanes to cars and trucks, to kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, I just can’t tell you all the different things I’ve pin-striped over the years,” Ralston said. “It’s really been an interesting time. I’ve met some wonderful people. And some of my people that are in the same craft that I am, we all get together once a year and we do panels and everything and we do it for Diabetes for Kids, and all the money we raise goes to Diabetes for Kids.”
Making a name for himself in the world of pin-striping, Ralston eventually began to create other forms of art as well. Starting about five years ago, Ralston began to make sculptures, tables, lamps, and other furniture that he added his pin-striping to, often going to Goodwill to get supplies and things to paint on.
“I make sculptures out of car parts. All these pieces are made out of top thrill dragster cars. I’ll go through the dumpster and get the stuff out,” Ralston explained.
Throughout the years, Ralston has taught himself and honed his skills into something not only he enjoys, but that he can share with others.
“I learned this all myself. Nobody showed me how to do it, it was just through practice and doing it that I was able to do it. I love it just as much today as I did when I started back then. It’s no different. It gives me a good feeling. The Lord blessed me with this talent many years ago. It’s a talent you can utilize out, and it’s an expression,” Ralston said.