CHERRYFIELD – Scratches, scars and other imperfections. They are usually a reason to reject something. But on a custom-made motorcycle seat, a patinated skin is perfect and gives character.
It’s these markings on animal skins that appeal to Cherryfield artist Emma Thieme, who makes custom leather motorcycle seats.
She also creates a variety of leather bags ranging from tote bags and pouches to backpacks and hip bags. She does business for Maven Leather and Seats.
âI’m mostly inspired by the leather itself,â said the owner of Maven Leather and Seats recently. “With my art, I try to show people that there is beauty in imperfection.”
Thieme goes to a tannery in central Maine to select hides.
âThe bison is my favorite,â she said. “A lot of the people who do what I do buy huge amounts of leather.” This leads to a generic look.
In contrast, Emma examines each skin to see if she wants to work with it. The more evidence a skin shows of full life, the better.
âI look for imperfections or variations in color. It’s just part of my job to remind people where leather comes from and to see the beauty in it, âshe continued. “A lot of other leatherworkers want perfection.”
Business has grown.
To that end, you’ll find Emma in her studio / store – at 6 Park Street in the historic Knapp-Saks Building in downtown Cherryfield. She worked in the 550 square foot house she and her partner CJ had built on Sprague Falls Road.
In the latter, Emma had no room to store the finished seats and handbags. The workspace was cramped. Creating custom shapes for the bike seats also requires space. She molds and cuts layer after layer of mousse to create the look she’s going for.
Its new location is also sunny thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that once displayed toys and gifts. The new quarters have ample space for benches and supplies, including rolls of skins and glass jars with solid brass fittings.
Several rolls of leather await their turn with Emma’s nimble fingers and a vintage Durkopp Adler sewing machine from Germany.
Emma uses a durable yarn bonded with ultraviolet light.
âYour product is as good as your yarn,â she said. The glued thread “really makes the leather stand out”.
Emma fell into the business. Over 10 years ago, a friend gave him a scraps leather garbage bag.
âI was intimidated,â she says. âI had never worked with leather before. But she forced it on me.
Her own motorbike carried her on the way to her current business.
âWhen I had a motorcycle, I wanted to make a custom seat for it,â she said. “Eventually, I went to school for automotive upholstery in New Jersey.”
Motorcycle seats occupy it.
Customers will send them their seats and a chat will follow on what they want.
âI create it through sculpture,â Emma said. “I use different layers of foam to make it really comfortable.”
âI’m more of a seamstress with my leatherwork,â she said. “I don’t do tooling and sculpture.”
âPeople trust me more because I have built my portfolio,â she added.
A satisfied Connecticut customer said, âBuild my [Harley-Davidson] HD Scrambler was a labor of love. But the only thing I couldn’t find was the right seat.
He found Emma in Magazine of the American Motorcyclists Association.
âWe talked on the phone about the look I was going for and wow, she took it out of the park, made a unique seat to fit my one of a kind Harley. I just sent her my 2016 Fat Boy S seats so she can âMaven-izeâ them. â
Emma also creates hand / shoulder bags and leather accessories.
âI use the bags as a good respite from the seats and vice versa,â she said.
She recently used insect and flower dyes to create a new line of bags. She has had success with the goldenrod, which she harvests behind her house.
Emma plans to continue experimenting with natural dyes.
âBecause leather is so different from skin to skin, it will accept dyeing in different ways,â she explained. She recently found a print of a “seasonal color wheel” so she can use what’s in season to achieve certain hues.
âI really care about being sustainable,â Emma said. For this purpose, his loads of leather scraps are donated to Goodwill.
This summer, Thieme plans to have a retail offering in the Park Street boutique. Currently, her leather bags and accessories are available on her website as well as in the boutique.
The boutique’s summer hours will probably be a fluke since it participates in several art exhibitions.
âI was just accepted to the American Artisans Festival in Nashville, TN,â she said.
She will also likely return to the Common Ground Fair.
âI will probably put a sign on Route 1 when studio hours are open. I want to share it with people, âshe said of her studio work. Plus, working alone all the time can be isolating.
Emma graduated in journalism from the University of Maine-Orono. She says she loves writing and producing stories for a travel website after graduation, but really wanted to have her own business.
âI can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t sew,â said Emma, ââwho was trained by her mother. “We made all my prom dresses, my evening dresses.”
And so, sewing machines have been a constant. Everywhere she moved after leaving home – whether it was her college room or an apartment – sewing machines were lying around.
âI always brought my sewing machine wherever I went. “
Emma will be hosting a grand opening for Maven Leather and Seats on May 25th. Until then, the boutique at 6 Park St. in Cherryfield is open by chance or by appointment. For more information call 385-9411, email [emailÂ protected] or visit www.mavenleather.com.