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Enjoy Magazine

Nanci Rogers' Ace High Leathers

10/01/2013 02:26PM ● By Enjoy Magazine
Handmade in America is a practice Nanci Rogers highly values. An artist and entrepreneur, she has carved out a niche that bridges fashion and function in a culture where leather adorns both bodies and bikes. Not to be messed with, this petite fireball creates and embellishes custom leather products for others, then climbs on her 800-pound bike and rides away with looks of admiration following her. From hides to rides, Rogers knows her stuff.

Rogers started riding motorcycles when she was 49. Today, at 57, she has blended two passions in leather work and motorcycle safety. Rogers conducts clinics, coaches novice riders and speaks at conventions about safe riding techniques. She is dedicated to “enhance motorcycle skills and help people become efficient, safe riders.” For seven years, she headed a group called Siskiyou Lady Riders and in 2012 organized a Ladies Ride at Big Bike Weekend in Redding. She’s been invited to attend the 2015 Blue Knights national convention for motorcycle cops in Reno.

Rogers lost her job in 2005 and found herself at loose ends. She didn’t want a minimum wage job, but needed an income. Knowing that she dreams and thinks best with the road unraveling under her feet, her husband encouraged her to get on her bike and ride until she came up with some ideas.

The bud of an idea took shape as she continued to ride. She began to “play with leather,” birthing a passion that has blossomed into a unique business. With a “lust for color,” Rogers started embellishing her own bike and apparel. She launched Ace High Leathers at the 2006 Big Bike Weekend in Redding, where she became known as the “Bling Queen.” She and a team of helpers decorated commercially made chaps, gloves and purses with jewels, studs and fringe.

Four years ago, Rogers had a revelation. She had advertised handmade products, but only embellished commercially made leather items. With no prior experience, Rogers has now built up a workshop loaded with four leather sewing machines and a room full of hand tools, dyes and everything needed for creating one-of-a-kind leather garments and motorcycle gear. Custom designs now truly represent her handmade promise. Clients choose quality and thickness of leather, color, embellishments and tooling designs. All designs are made to order with specified measurements.

Interesting, sometimes surprising challenges come with orders. A motorcycle cop from Texas requested a customized bike seat embellished with a border of .357 Magnum bullets, which won “Best of Show” at an event. Recently, a regular client from Chicago sent a zebra skin with tail attached and an order for a custom vest. Instructions demanded that the back of the vest be one piece with the tail hanging down. Another client with scoliosis needed a specially designed vest that would fit her frame. Using leather stays, Rogers fashioned a corset-style vest that allowed for the special needs of her client. A customer in Iceland sent motorcycle seats to be reupholstered. Another order requested custom chaps for a motorcyclist with a 56-inch waist. She’s been called “a personal leather person” by clients who say, “I trust your judgment.”

Custom orders take time to create but her customers don’t seem to mind. They know their final product will be a work of art.

There’s been a shift in the clientele as Rogers’ reputation grows and the website gets more hits. Orders have come in from as far away as Germany and Saudi Arabia, with inquiries from Spain, Australia and Italy, among others.

The bud of an idea has flowered into a passion that blends perfectly with her love of motorcycle riding. Rogers says it’s not about the money. As her business builds, she says it’s about being a service to people and truly listening to what they envision. Her life philosophy seems best expressed by advice she gives new riders: “Whatever you focus on, that’s where you’re going to go.” •