Sleeping Under Sewing Machines: My Journey into Motorcycle Upholstery
Website: New Church Moto
Pretty much from the time I was born I was around industrial sewing machines, and was raised in a family of entrepreneurs so I have that blood pumping through my veins and I don't know any other way. In 1982, the year I was born, my dad opened Long Valley Canvas Co. in McCall, Idaho. He learned to sew from my mom, and I think he took one class to learn how to make boat covers. He made everything from backpacks and duffel bags to boat covers, awnings and tents. He actually came up with a design for a reusable canvas shopping bag called the BYOB in like 1991, which was unheard of at the time, especially in our small mountain town.
When I was about 5 or 6, I learned how to sew and haven't stopped since! I think my first business venture was making those stupid hair "scrunchies" and sold them at the farmers market. From then until now I've sewn pretty much everything you could imagine! I went to fashion school, had a brief stint making clothes and lingerie but that didn't really work for me. I worked wardrobe in the film industry for some years when I lived in LA and the bay area. After I gave that up I was sewing heavy duty bags and vintage wedding dresses back to back until I moved back to Portland, where I have been for the last 4 years. Right when I moved back I got a job at Langlitz Leathers, sewing motorcycle apparel. I also developed some products for the Japanese market, but after two years I got the itch and had to do something else.
That's when I started doing motorcycle upholstery just for friends and then word of mouth started to get out and about 6 months later I bit the bullet and quit Langlitz altogether, took out all my retirement money and bought my own machine, a walking foot Juki. For the first 6 months I worked in a dark garage filled with spiders and wood dust, then Thor from SeeSee motorcycles let me use an extra space he had in his workshop at the time and that got me on my feet when I could barely afford to put food on my table! I had no upholstery experience so I literally taught myself through blood, sweat and tears. Luckily it translated pretty well from my fashion background, and though my ways may be unconventional according to "industry standards" I've gotten this far with little to no hang ups, so I guess it's working!
At first, I was mostly doing stock style re-covers and some cafe style stuff. Since then it's expanded to brat style seats, king/queen seats, solo seats, p-pads, etc. Mostly I use vinyl unless the customer requests leather, and for nicer show bikes or special builds. But pretty much anything is possible! I don't do fabrication, so the customer will usually send me the seat, stock or custom and then I either cut the foam down or build it up and make a custom cover for it. Tuck and roll, diamonds, pentagrams, unicorns, whatever (within reason) they want for the design. I don't do crazy new style chopper seats with flames and skulls embroidered and if you ask me to do a gold wing seat I will most definitely say no. Sometimes I do sport bike seats, but only if it's interesting and I can use some of my aesthetic in there! Haha. I also sponsor local road racers and flat track racers here in Portland. I've started expanding into things such as leather pouches and other accessories. I can honestly say it's been three years and I'm not bored so that's a good sign for me. I feel it's a perfect mix of creating something useful and beautiful, and since each project is relatively quick turnaround, I'm always onto something new and I don't really have time to get antsy. To be able to help bring peoples vision to life is pretty satisfying. I always have my own opinion which I'm never afraid to vocalize, haha! But luckily people trust my eye so i've never had any sort of disagreement or anything. No lawsuits yet..haha.