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Why I Choose to Work with 'Real Life Leather'

Writer's Note: This entry was written in 2018, when I was still living in rural Maine and focusing my work on custom leather motorcycle seats.


After finishing up a ‘83 Moto Guzzi LeMans III seat today, I found myself meditating on the importance of using “real life leather” in my work. I was lucky enough to meet this particular client in person and was able to show him my studio, even pulling out the hide I planned to use for his seat and holding it up against the faded midnight blue paint of his vintage bike. 


“You’ll notice that this hide has range marks,” I said pointing to some little scrapes and bruises in the buffalo hide. 


“Yeah,” he said. “I love it.” 



Just another reason why I love working one-on-one with my clients. My work seems to attract people who are right in line with one of my main beliefs: leather should show a life. 


I hand select every hide from a historical tannery here in New England. I love these trips to the tannery. Over the years, I’ve found that I have to go with a list, because it’s easy to get sidetracked in a warehouse filled with every color and finish imaginable. 


In my motorcycle seat work, I’ve found that I’m most attracted to American buffalo hides. For one, they’re incredibly strong. We shift around a lot on our motorcycle seats, and you should know every ounce of my strength goes into wrapping your leather seat cover tight around the pan -- buffalo can take all of that and more.  


In my experiments and at some client’s requests, I’ve ordered leather hides from suppliers all over the country. And more often than not, I receive leather that is thin and lifeless, very similar to the “genuine leather” that’s so often found in our cars, cheap clothing and shoes. Yes, that is leather....technically. But it’s not inspiring to me. Every mark and imperfection has been beat out of it in the tanning and manufacturing process, and what remains is better suited for a golf cart than an iconic machine that continues to haunt so many of us. 


At Maven, my chosen medium is leather that’s industrious, maybe a little difficult to work with, but completely unique. Maybe there are a few discolorations, or range marks here and there , but those are meant to remind us that your leather once belonged to a majestic animal, and that animal had a life outdoors. 


In my view, your leather motorcycle seat shouldn’t be perfect. Because your motorcycle isn’t perfect. As riders, we’re not looking for an experience void of flaws. We've come to know the quirks and the tendencies of our machines and its these quirks that make them almost human -- not just a mode of transportation but a spirit that’s journeying with us. 

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