In Memory of Spark's Founder
Every Spark Leatherworks bag is first-edition. Yours was hand crafted, to be sure. But there’s much more to its story than that. It was born out of Ben Roe’s dissatisfaction with a desk job. His love of motorcycles. His talent for design, and his taste for adventure. Ben had the best of everything, and was a craftsman at heart. When his idea of the best leather wasn’t on the market for a new guitar strap or vintage motorcycle seat, he decided he’d make it himself. Ben enrolled in leatherworking classes and learned everything he could about creating custom seats and bags. Over time, friends, colleagues and motorcycle enthusiasts took note of his unique details on his bike builds, leading to custom projects and commissions for leather products with heavy-duty character and style. Ben turned his attention and love for leathercraft to engineering and developing the most durable, highest possible quality messenger bags, briefcases and leather accessories– and Spark was born.
It was expected that Spark Leatherworks would be founded in Austin, TX; but after scouting trips and interviews with tanneries, foundries, and job shops; Leon, Guanajuato was the clear choice for where Spark needed to be. Leon is an industrial city, and the leather capital of the western hemisphere. It has its benefits and its downfalls, and some days, each outweighs the other. In December of 2016, Ben quit his job, packed up his life, and with the faith that he’d learn enough Spanish once he got there; he moved to Mexico.
“I love Mexican rain. It lasts 3 minutes, it’s completely horizontal, and if I stand by the open door, I can catch a free bicycle!”
Ben lived in a former convent that was famous for making its own leather and shoes for Catholic priests. Months were spent with the tanneries to engineer a brand-new leather that was perfectly flawed and flawless. Years of trial and error, color dye testing, broken fingers from stitching, and frustrating imperfections. The four colors of Spark Leatherworks gear (whiskey: a light tan, bourbon: a red/orange brown, rye: dark brown, and charcoal: black) were developed 100% free of toxic chemicals, trademarked, and patented. Each bag was double-stitched & engineered to be tough enough for use as a motorcycle saddlebag. The thread was chosen so that it’s unlikely to burn or melt when next to a hot motorcycle exhaust pipe. He strove to use as few metal pieces as possible to minimize the possibility of buckles and snaps scratching the paint on a bike. Hardware utilized fit his vision of lasting forever, was chosen for looks, and includes tried and true solutions like rifle clips and aircraft restraint buckles, made to the exact specs of existing parts in everyday use, because they’ve already been approved the FAA and the US Military. Every Spark Leatherworks bag was engineered to fit any pannier mount on nearly any motorcycle, and accompanied by a wholly new quick-release mounting system for motorcycles and bicycles both.
“Half of art is inspiration. Half is engineering. Half is drinking and fucking remembering that you’re human. The last half is letting go of the fact that I just tried to make a point with 4 halves.”
Inspired by the bag his grandfather carried as a pilot in World War II, Spark gear was finished using a 40 year-old industrial strap cutter, and custom-made needle carriages at 0.3125 cm, because everything Ben made “needs to last for two lifetimes”. Each bag has a card holder stamped with a personal serial number, and a secure body-side rear pocket to prevent theft.
Interiors of Spark Leatherworks bags are worsted wool lining with natural vachetta glove leather.
“I don’t care about time or money. Only beauty.”
Ben Roe returned to his home in Indianapolis in the fall of 2018 with this first-edition stock of Spark Leatherworks adventure gear, and in April, 2019 he opened the online store and saw his first sale.
But on April 5, 2019, at only 40 years old, after a day in his garage working on one of his beloved motorcycles, an unexpected heart attack took his life.
There will never be another Spark Leatherworks item created. Each one from this first and only edition of his Spark Leatherworks gear was as perfect as he required, and if you buy one, or inherit one: enjoy it. Yes, it is beautiful, but don’t protect it. Wear it in and watch it bloom. Pack it up and go on the wild adventures it was designed for. Ben sure did.