An 1893 Kingston Building Houses Two American-Made Shops
Jay Teske and Hadas Liebermann | Kingston, NY
For husband-and-wife team Jay Teske and Hadas Liebermann, the close-knit artistic community of Kingston instantly felt like home – not only for their small family, but also for their two thriving businesses. Pirate Upholstery, founded in 2006, makes custom upholstered motorcycle seats and the couple’s newest venture, Jay Teske Leather Co., creates high-quality American-made leather goods for motorcycles, home, and office. “We are committed to sourcing our materials from the USA whenever possible,” says Hadas.
Both businesses are housed in the bottom floor of the 1893 two-story brick building the couple purchased five years ago. They spent the first year renovating the upstairs apartment where the couple lives with their young son. Now they are busy renovating the bottom floor into two separate workspaces, one for each company.
The inception of both companies was an organic process that stems from Jay’s restless creative spirit. “I can’t see myself doing one thing forever. It just drives me crazy,” he says. “I’ve found that after 10 years it’s just like, enough, something different.” True to his word, Jay left tattoo artistry after 10 years to start Pirate Upholstery. Inspired by antique motorcycles, his custom seats are so wildly popular that he is now the go-to upholsterer for industry icon Orange County Choppers (of Discovery Channel’s American Choppers fame). The relationship recently led to a collaboration on the new WWE Championship title belt and a seat for basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal.
Upon customer request, Jay began creating detachable motorcycle saddlebags to complement his custom seats. “When we started advertising our saddlebag, several people asked if it was a briefcase and that gave us the idea and confidence to move beyond motorcycle goods,” Hadas recalls. Since founding the company in 2014, Jay Teske Leather Co. has thrived – so much so that it was a Martha Stewart American Made 2014 finalist. “We are almost always inspired by vintage leather goods,” Hadas says of the bags, briefcases, portfolios, key fobs, air plant holders, luggage tags, and more that Jay makes. “We saw a portfolio from the 1920s that was literally falling apart at the seams and Jay immediately whipped out his sketchbook and started sketching.”
So what do the next 10 years look like for Jay and Hadas? “I have no idea!” says Jay. “But hopefully,” adds Hadas, “Pirate Upholstery and Jay Teske Leather Co. will continue to grow in that time and we can see what new adventures lie ahead.”
“We met each other sixteen years ago in Ocean Township, NJ, the town we both grew up in. We moved from the city to the Hudson Valley in 2006 and discovered Kingston two years later. It is a great place to live and own a small business because of the continual inspiration that comes from its creative community.”
“My favorite machine is my Adler 205. I have owned many machines and this one never lets me down.”
“Working with bridle leather is very unforgiving. Every hide is different and each part of the hide has its own characteristics. When making a new pattern, prototype or final product, I need to closely inspect the hide.”
“We bought our brick building, which was built in 1893, five years ago and are always in the midst of serious renovations. Our two year old son thinks we are construction workers. We keep talking about how great it will be when it’s all done, but the truth is, we won’t know what to do with ourselves.”
“This design slowly evolved from a custom project for someone’s motorcycle saddlebag. I had never made a saddlebag that was so thin before and the customer requested that it be relatively easy to take off his bike and into his office. Once the detachable saddlebag was done, I made another and put it in the window. Passerbys started stopping in and asking if they could see the briefcase. After explaining it wasn’t a briefcase to many people, we realized that it was time to take a hint and start redesigning the saddlebag into a briefcase.”
“Natural vegetable-tanned leather in all its glory. This leather quickly absorbs the oils from your hands and ages into a beautiful dark brown over time. Customers prefer brown leather from the start, but this patina is something that you simply can’t buy. We find ourselves urging our customers to buy our goods in natural leather because we love and appreciate the patina so much.”
“One of our friends brought in an old leather portfolio that was falling apart at the seams asking me to fix it. I laughed and showed him that it was beyond repair – the leather was frail and the stitching had disintegrated. He didn’t take no for an answer so I told him I’d take a closer look at it. I knew there was no saving the original, but after a few sketches and many prototypes, I was able to give him something that would last for another hundred years.”
“I drew this up fifteen years ago as an idea for my back piece (tattoo), but that never happened! So when I was thinking of designs to hand-tool for my sidecar, this seemed to fit just right.”
“These are photos of Hadas’ parents in Israel in the 1960s. She came across them while looking at old photo books. She remembers finding the one of her father and then holding her breath as she quickly searched through another book hoping there would be one of her mother. We were just opening up Pirate Upholstery at the time so she knew these would be perfect.”
“I’m attaching the semi-permanent piece of the motorcycle saddlebag with my big helper. If there’s a tool involved, our son is immediately drawn to the action.”