When tattoo artist Jay Teske left his needle gun behind to chase the open road on a motorcycle in 2006, he didn’t expect it to turn his career around. What began as a love for riding became a love for leather, and soon after his trip, Teske began crafting custom bike seats. After garnering attention for his dedication and mastery of hide, he was commissioned to design title belts for the WWE world champions. Five years ago, he and his wife slash business partner Hadas Liebermann founded Jay Teske Leather Company in Kingston, New York, taking the business from studio to storefront, where shoppers can find anything from a key fob to a panhandle grip, all made of Teske’s vegetable tanned cowhide. Visit the Teskes next time you’re in Kingston, and meet Jay in this week’s #MakerMonday below!
A custom swing by Teske takes backyard fun to a luxury level.
Andrew Joseph: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Jay Teske: It’s really important to me to spend time with my boys every day. We live above our shop, so I have the flexibility to go back down into the shop after the kids are in bed if I am working with a deadline. We try to have one vacation a year where it’s just us and we can unplug and explore.
Andrew: Vintage or new?
Jay: BOTH! In my work, I draw a lot on vintage design. I appreciate the time, effort, and construction that was put into vintage objects. In my personal life, I also sway towards vintage styles – I have a 1962 Vespa VBA scooter and a 1969 Vespa P scooter – they always need work… which is where NEW sometimes comes in.
Andrew: Most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?
Jay: My wife and I quit our jobs to travel around Southeast Asia by motorcycle in 2006. I was working as a tattoo artist in NYC at the time and I was ready to leave that behind and pursue leather work full time. We also wanted to move out of the city, so it was the perfect time to escape on an adventure. We bought a Minsk (an old Russian motorcycle) for $250 when we arrived in Vietnam and toured around Asia for six months. We volunteered at a Buddhist orphanage in Hue, Vietnam for three months where I taught art. At the end of our trip, we sold the Minsk for half price to the adventurer.
Never one to shelve ideas, Teske utilizes his leather craftsmanship to create products for both the home and the great outdoors.
Andrew: Favorite bad movie?
Jay: Battlestar Gallactica – I don’t even know if it’s meant to be a spoof or if it’s just a bad sci-fi movie, but it’s so bad, it’s good.
Andrew: A skill you’re working on mastering?
Jay: I have been following several shoe makers over the past few years, and I would really love to give it a go eventually. For now, I’m working on my welding techniques as I have been doing a lot of my own metal work for custom door pulls – and I’d love to be able to tackle everything from start to finish.
Andrew: What are you most excited about at this time in your life?
Jay: We are building a house! Well not yet, but we bought a piece of property three miles from our shop and we are in the design stages now. We will be our own general contractors, so we are soaking up all of the new energy efficient methods and materials and spending our free time planning.
About The Maker | With a passion for vintage and antique motorcycles, Jay Teske found his way into custom motorcycle seat upholstery in 2006 after leaving the NYC tattoo trade behind to tour Asia by motorcycle with his wife and business partner, Hadas Liebermann. For over ten years, Jay crafted bespoke motorcycle seats. His work has been seen on the Discovery Channel’s “American Choppers” as well as several World Wrestling Entertainment championships, for which he was commissioned to construct the title belts. In 2014, Jay and his wife launched Jay Teske Leather Co.
Jay Teske Leather Co. is committed to using top of the line hides from the remaining two American tanneries that specialize in bridle leathers. Having visited one of the century-old tanneries in Pennsylvania, Jay had a chance to not only see the tanning process first hand but to meet the workers behind the process. Feeling a strong connection to the leather, the tanning process and the workers behind it all, Jay is able to translate that tangible energy into his leather goods.
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