When I came across Matt Hurtado's work through instagram ( Working Man Customs) a while back, the first thought that came to my mind was Arizona Highways Magazine. Matt's work would easily be gracing the pages of the magazine with his custom leather work, seats, jewelry and motorcycles. Any man that can build a motorcycle from the ground up definitely gets a high five and a gold star in my book. Building motorcycles requires not only design detailing but the additional skills to keep one safe and functioning, a mindful engineering. His craftsmanship carries a timeless spirit with it and one of that stirs adventure within the soul. As a woman who has a serious weakness for motorcycles and the open highways, I really respect the way Matt bridges both in his craft. When I'm ready to overcome my fear of riding a chopper, I'm heading straight into the shop of this Man Maker. Take a peak at this interview below.
What is your brand/name:
My name is Matthew Hurtado and the company name is Working Man's Customs.
What is your heritage:
I am of Spanish and Native American decent
What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture)
*The number one inspiration is quality work/craftsmanship at a reasonable price. I'm not here to gouge anyone and believe quality should be within everyone's reach.
*Second inspiration would be working aesthetics from architecture and art history (modernism, art deco, eclecticism, etc...) into my motorcycle designs.
*For my leather the main inspiration is the clean, bold designs of tattoo art.
What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:
*Communication. Clear, concise communication with clients is a must. You've got to know who you are as an artist and be able to communicate this effectively to prospective and active customers.
*Marketing. It's definitely an odd feeling to have to promote yourself, but social media, a brand message, etc...all go a long way to speak to your individual vision as an artist.
What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?
What moved you to make with your hands:
Working Man's Customs was created out of necessity. Years ago i commissioned a bike build from a shop in Texarkana, TX. I was eager to own a bike and kinda check out from the craziness of my life at the time. I was going through a divorce, where I lost everything, including seeing my kids on a daily basis--that was by far the worst part.
So, I commissioned a bike that was delivered 3 months later. In hindsight, only paying $3500 for a custom motorcycle should have been a red flag right off the bat. LOL.
I was a novice at the time and did not see the obvious signs of a poorly built motorcycle. On the third time out, riding the bike around Austin's back roads, I got what they call the "death wobble" and ended up in a ditch on the side of a road. Luckily I landed on my feet and walked away with only a few scratches. Unluckily the bike was a total loss. This is when I realized the poor quality of craftsmanship that had gone into it. The neck of the bike was filled with handfulls of Bondo which reveled large areas that were welded poorly to say the least.
At this point I lost trust in others, but I knew I could trust myself to do a better job. I enrolled in welding school, learned how to weld, and began to rebuild the bike for myself. During this process, I knew I wanted a custom seat as well and sought out the best guy in the business. Well, knowing nothing about leather I didn't realize what quality craftsmanship costs. It was a little shocking to say the least.
With that being said, my next step was to Tandy's Leather Supply for a starter kit and a couple of books to teach myself. One thing leads to another right?
Word spread and I was asked if I could make a seat for someone, then if I could build a bike for someone else, then it was another seat... Custom orders started to come in consistently and I decided to open Working Man's Customs. As an artist, it was a great way to get paid for my art. Building motorcycles and making leather products are just extensions of my creativity and I can honestly say that a piece of me goes into every product whether it's metal or leather.
If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:
Taos, New Mexico. The High Desert brings my soul peace. It's where I can focus, ground myself, and reconnect with the Great Spirit.
3 Favorite songs at the moment:
* "Church" by Gary Clark Jr.
* "The A-Team" theme song
* "Disintegration" The Cure
What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice?
*Be yourself and not afraid to speak your mind/artistic vision. You're perspective has just as much validity as anyone else's.
What advice would your 65 year old self give to you today?
What change would you most like to see in the world?
*For people to have more tolerance and compassion towards one another.
Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisan/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?
*Artisan/handmade goods make us (both the maker and consumer) slow down and appreciate the roots that we all came from. Too often in this world we speed through everything without taking the moment to think about, to savor, to enjoy the quality of something. Life is more than just finding instant gratification.
Please take a look at Matt's jewelry work at:
IG: @Thespanishcaravan and @Workingmancustoms