Kara Ginther’s love affair with leather carving began while she was a student of textile design at the University of Wisconsin. Today, six years after her graduation, the passion is undimmed and she is fast acquiring a reputation for her beautiful and unique custom-carved bicycle seats.
“The leather bike saddle has everything I look for in a carving candidate,” she says. “It’s a high-quality, utilitarian product, with a firm surface and beautiful contrasting colours.”
Working through Bespoke Global, an international, online showcase for bespoke furniture and accessories, Ginther hand-carves each saddle to order (from $411), using fine tools more commonly applied to wood. “Clients can be as involved as they wish to be,” she says. “Some have very specific ideas, others are happy to simply trust my judgement.”
Ginther is happy to work with old saddles, but there are some restrictions regarding the designs themselves – she doesn’t like removing large areas from the surface, for example, and tends to stay away from configurations that demand straight lines and perfect angles. “My absolute ideal designs are completely organic,” she explains.
Her Diamonds design (second picture), with its rich textures, and Doug (first picture), which features whimsical birds, are both carved into Brooks leather saddles and are typical of her creations. Her favourite commission to date, however, is a saddle reproducing an image of Japanese erotica. “It required really careful attention to every detail of the original,” she says. “As a result, it became a very liberating project to work on.”
These saddles are indeed works of art, and some clients do commission them solely for display, but Ginther insists that they are meant to be used. “I have had clients riding carved saddles for eight years now,” she says. “The carving changes quite a bit with use and gets darker, but in my opinion, that just makes it more beautiful.”