Why I choose "real life" leather


AFTER FINISHING UP a seat today for an '83 Moto Guzzi LeMans III, 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 deep blueish-green paint of his vintage bike.

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

“Yup,” he said. “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.

American bison leather seat for an early '70s-era Norton Commando  

American bison leather seat for an early '70s-era Norton Commando 

I hand select every hide from a historical tannery in Maine. I love these trips to the tannery and 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 bison 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 seat cover tight around the pan -- bison can take all 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’s leather, technically. But it’s not inspiring to me. Every mark and imperfection has been beaten 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 heavy, maybe a little difficult to work with, but completely unique. There may be a few discolorations or range marks here and there, but those remind us that our leather once belonged to an animal, and that animal had a life outdoors. And as you ride, your leather seat is going to change. But with a little occasional care, it will remain beautiful.

In my view, the leather of your motorcycle seat shouldn’t be perfect. Because your motorcycle isn’t perfect. As riders, we’re not looking for an experience without flaws.

We come to know the quirks and the tendencies of our machines and those are what makes them almost human -- not just a mode of transportation but a spirit that’s journeying with us.



Emma Thiemeprocess