Custom-Built Business

Born a craftsman, Jay Teske’s talents led him from tattoo artist to  American Choppers  to the creation of Jay Teske Leather Co. Photo by Brandon Schulman.

Born a craftsman, Jay Teske’s talents led him from tattoo artist to American Choppers to the creation of Jay Teske Leather Co. Photo by Brandon Schulman.

From American Choppers to his own company, Jay Teske takes on the leather trade.

Written by Jenn Thornton

A born craftsman, New Jersey native Jay Teske grew up working with his hands. He got his first table saw at 12, worked as a New York City tattoo artist in his twenties and, in between clients, made his first motorcycle seat—out of necessity. One of the rides he had restored needed a new seat cover, so, he says unceremoniously, “I figured I’d give it a go.” Teske’s friends opened a motorcycle shop, they saw his seats and “it all kept rolling from there.” 

In 2006, Teske left the tattoo trade for a motorcycle tour of Southeast Asia. He returned and launched Pirate Upholstery, specializing in custom motorcycle seats. Teske’s talent led to American Choppers. It was a smash-hit and so were the seats he fabricated for the show’s outrageous custom builds. “Working with Paul Jr. & Paul Sr. was always an experience requiring flexibility and creativity,” says Teske. “I use those same skills daily.”

And yet much has changed for Teske—not the least of which is leaving the motorcycle world behind (he still has a vintage 1962 Vespa VBB and 1979 Vespa PX200E with sidecar). “After ten years of making custom motorcycle seats only, it was time to move on,” Teske confesses. While not as big of a detour as, say, Southeast Asia, the decision proved pivotal. He opened Jay Teske Leather Co. then shuttered Pirate Upholstery. The shift in business brought a shift in interest and today Teske is working with a heavier bridle leather.

A Jay Teske-created leather motorcycle seat. Photo by Brandon Schulman.

A Jay Teske-created leather motorcycle seat. Photo by Brandon Schulman.

Jay Teske Leather Co. makes all of their products in their Kingston, New York workshop. Photo by Brandon Schulman.

Jay Teske Leather Co. makes all of their products in their Kingston, New York workshop. Photo by Brandon Schulman.

Jay Teske leather train case. Photo by Kelli Williams.

Jay Teske leather train case. Photo by Kelli Williams.

Jay Teske Leather Co. sources all its leather from Wickett & Craig—a more than century-old leather tannery in Pennsylvania that specializes in veg-tan leathers. “I use their English Bridle leather for almost all of my products,” says Teske. “It is within 500 miles of my shop, therefore sustainably sourced, and the quality can’t be beat. They employ 100 employees and are a family-owned business. It’s important to us to be supporting local,” which is quintessentially American of him. “We are proud to make all of our products in our workshop in Kingston, New York—a thriving small city filled with artisans and makers,” adds Teske. “The local maker community is an inspiration to us—we all support each other. Supporting local business and buying American-made products when possible are vital to our lives and community.”

A burgeoning brand that produces an array of products, from home and office goods, to Everyday Carry items such as wallets, belts, key fobs, to the newly launched Architectural Details line, Jay Teske Leather Co. is a business propped up by its commitment to craftsmanship and country, both of which offer value and reassurance. Leather is a material with a rich history in America. “There is a timeless quality to a handmade leather wallet,” says Teske as an example, “and I feel that we are gravitating back towards having less items in our lives, and with that, increasing the quality of the items we do decide to purchase.” And quality from the Jay Teske Leather Co. is assured. jayteske.com

Jay Teske bicycle beer carrier. Photo by Kelli Williams.

Jay Teske bicycle beer carrier. Photo by Kelli Williams.