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Article By: Amelia “Killer” Rose
Originally Published In The September 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I was about ten years ago that Matt Hurtado picked up his first leather tools, though his knack for creating art goes back to his childhood. Growing up in El Paso in an area called Dog Town was, to say the least, a little rough. Not really having a stable home life always led to moving in and out of his grandmother’s house, though his grandmother was one of the hardest working women he has ever known. Though rocky, the unstable life he experienced as a child gave him plenty of time to lose himself in art, to create, to pull things apart and figure out they worked. Back then that was what occupied most of his time, besides hustling for cash (spray painting addresses on curbs, cutting lawns, raking leaves. Ya know, the kid hustle.) In high school, when asked by his girlfriend what he wanted to do with his life, Matt responded with “Be a working artist! I want to get paid for my work!”. After that, his life as an artist was a struggle until he began leatherworking. He was creating paintings and sculptures but selling few, which for an artist is a hard pill to swallow. Matt’s leatherworking all started with his first motorcycle build. He wanted something unique and a sort of one-off for his seat, inspired by web forums, the internet, and magazines like the rag you’re reading right now. Initially, his idea was to contact one of the leatherworkers featured in Jockey Journal that he had been following, but quality work was a bit more than he could afford at the time, so he hit up his local Tandy Leather and got a few tips from the guy at the counter on how to get started. It also happens that he had recently picked up an issue of Cycle Source featuring Shirley Zanelli of Bad Ass Custom Seats that had a step-by-step guide, which helped break it down for him. With that to help him, he set about making his first seat, and while it was quite laughable at the time, he finished it and hasn’t looked back since!
After that, leatherworking had lit a whole new creative fire under his ass and has driven him to this day. Every artist dreams of being able to create a piece of custom art for someone, and Matt is able to achieve that with every new project. Despite only having started in 2008, Matt has been around leather and leatherworking pretty much his whole life. As a kid growing up in El Paso, his dad used to work at a boot factory called T.O. Stanley, where he would often bring him along sometimes to pick up his check and say hello to the other factory workers. It was always a joy to walk through and look at the different leathers used to make different boots. Another memory Matt has of leather as a child was when his grandmother would take he and his siblings on day trips across the border to Juarez, Mexico. Almost every time, the first shop he’d want to visit would be the leather worker with all of his beautiful handmade projects. Working Man’s Customs has been an official business since 2009, thanks to a friend of Matt’s who owned the local Flyrite Chopper Dealership in Austin. It started by him making a few seats to sell at the dealership, and before he knew it, he was taking orders for custom work via The Jockey Journal, Chopper Underground, and word of mouth.
Through Working Man’s Customs, Matt has had the opportunity to travel and meet some talented, wonderful people along the way. With a custom build called “The Salt Racer,” he’s been featured in Street Chopper and here in Cycle Source, which has also lead to him being invited to some of Bob Kay’s and Jeff Najar’s shows. His favorite thing about these shows is the comments he hears from people as they walk by his work. Often times, its things like “I use to do that when I was younger” or “ My dad or grandpa use to do leather work,” which is always cool, being able to strike a memory in someone. Currently, Matt is in the process of trying to create a line of reasonably priced leather goods for his website. Not everyone may have the means to have a custom-made piece, but he firmly believes that everyone should have the ability to purchase quality handmade leather goods. As for the future, Matt’s plans are simple. He recently taught himself how to do basic upholstery work, which is something he would love to use to grow his business. Another goal of his is to grow his website, which would force him to spend more time at the drawing board creating and designing new products. Outside of leatherworking, Matt has an amazing, creative wife and two beautiful teenage daughters that he tries to share his creativity and work ethic with as often as he can. He’s also been an electrician for the past 23 years, thanks to his first wife’s father, which is something he’s pretty damn proud of! And a last word of advice to those who are aspiring leather workers or even just craftsmen; “Practice, study, learn everything inside and out. When it comes time, don’t undervalue yourself! Be a standup person and stand by your work.” If you want to check out more of Matt’s incredible work and maybe call one of his pieces your own, you can head on over to www.workingmanscustoms. com and check out his Instagram: @ workingmanscustoms