LADY BEARS: INTERVIEW WITH THE MAKERS OF THE PIN–UP MAHARAM BEARS
Kate and Jeanne have been manufacturing leather goods for almost a quarter century. While their specialty used to be fetish wear, nowadays the industrious couple has become most renowned for their cuddly leather teddy bears. On the occasion of Kate and Jeanne’s collaboration on a line of exclusive leather bears with PIN–UP and design company Maharam, PIN–UP founder Felix Burrichter called them up in their rural Nova Scotia hideaway to find out more.
How did you begin making the leather teddy bears?
We started out in the adult industry in Florida in the 90s. We were making a lot of cuffs, collars, flogs, a lot of men’s personal items, strap-on harnesses, that sort of stuff. One day we were asked to make a unique prize for the Mr. Florida Leather contest, and at the same time we also needed gifts for the family. All we had was leather, so we came up with the idea of the leather teddy bear.
Do you solely focus on the bears now? Or are you also still making other stuff?
We do still make the others stuff, but we’re not pushing it. We tried for a while to get into the biker world, but they can be a little cheap. If it’s not the actual motorcycle, they don’t want to spend money on it. [Laughs.]
Are you bikers yourself?
Jeanne used to ride, and I’m a biker groupie. [Laughs.] But, the bears are taking over and we’re happy for that. It’s funny, you don’t think you’re ever going to get tired of working in the adult industry, but after 24 years, you get tired of it.
Well, you know, you want something to cuddle with after a while. The bears are perfect that. Do you actually have real bears up in Nova Scotia?
Oh yes, definitely.
Yes. Even in the driveway! We’ve seen them. One just walked right across the yard while we were sitting eating lunch. And one, about a month ago, was a young one, walking down the driveway. I looked up just in time to see it.
How many hours a day to you spend working with the bears — the leather bears, not the real bears? What’s a normal working day like?
Well, it depends on the weather. If there’s no snow and it’s not cold, a typical day we get up, have our coffee and tea. We’re Buddhists so we do our chants, then we go on a stroll with my dog, and then we just get into making stuff. We work according to how much work we have in house. It’s great. We can work all we want. Jeanne says she’s working harder now than she was 20 years ago.
Where did you get your first bear pattern from, are you still working from the same pattern?
The first pattern we got, we didn’t like. It was a silly looking bear and it was a lot of work. So, then we got the second pattern and Jeanne tweaked it. It was actually like the third generation of the bear. And then, together with Maharam, we tweaked it again. The bears always kind of leaned back, but Maharam wanted them to be able to sit up on their own.
Where did you use to source your leather? And how is the Maharam leather different from what you normally use?
Before we were getting leather from wholesale warehouses in California or in New Jersey, but we were always buying seconds. Once we moved up to Nova Scotia we were ordering leather online. There’s a huge difference between the leather we were used to working with and Maharam’s. It’s like the difference between driving a Ford and driving a Lexus. Normally our leather’s a three, but the Maharam PIN–UP Bear leather is a ten.
Interview by Felix Burrichter.