Holyoke leatherworker Mateo Guadalupe creates one-of-a-kind “luxe leather amulets” for all bodies at Leather Coven.
Like the shiny silver rivet pressed between two slight pieces of hand-cut leather, Mateo Guadalupe’s artistry exists at an intersection. There’s his expert process of handcrafting leather accessories, and there’s his explicitly queer and anti-capitalist political intention and direction. Guadalupe does not offer specific sizes for most of his items. Instead, customers submit their measurements to Guadalupe so he can craft for them a unique “luxe leather amulet” that, literally and figuratively, holds them perfectly.
“As a young femme growing up, I made a lot of my own clothes and accessories,” Guadalupe says. “I used to be someone who had a large chest, and it was really hard to shop for things that fit and were really sexy.”
Now, Guadalupe recognizes that lots of folks still face this same issue and crafts his accessories to suit all body types, imbuing them with a physical and psycho-spiritual power. “I definitely think of myself as a bruja and in some ways I feel like this is a healing practice,” Guadalupe says.“And not just for me, but for other people who have had such fraught relationships with their bodies, clothing their bodies, or accessorizing their bodies and having access to those things.”
It’s Guadalupe’s process and intentions that subvert the typical capitalist process of buying clothes. He transforms what can be an unpleasant experience for gender nonconforming people and/or people with larger bodies into an empowering, accommodating, and inclusive service. “It’s important to me to never say no to someone’s sizing. There’s no reason why I can’t create something for any kind of body,” says Guadalupe. “As a fat person, as a fat femme, as someone who has in the past moved through the world as a fat woman, creating sizes that are real and accessible to all people was always going to be a core part of my business practice.”
In addition to his unique process and intimate knowledge of complex identity politics associated with queer bodies and capitalism, Guadalupe reveres the practice of leatherworking and the material itself. “I recognize and really honor that leather is an ancient material in a lot of ways,” he says, noting his uncle in Mexico City is a self-taught leatherworker. “I have this ancestral tie to leatherwork. Because of [these ties to the] Mexican and indigenous parts of my family, it feels like a very sacred and important material.
“I also recognize that leather is a really sacred and important material for my queer ancestors of spirit and the queer community, creating space to affirm our cultures and our freaky perverse communities,” he adds.
The design of Guadalupe’s leather accessories are evocative, diverse, and sexy. He uses white and black leather, thick and thin cuts, and lots of studs. “I feel very inspired by legacies of gay bars, bathhouses, ’70s porn theaters, and all the different spaces that queer people have had to create to find liberation and pleasure,” he says. Guadalupe does have the perfect customer in mind when improvising and creating a new non-commissioned work (which can take weeks, months and, in one case, a few years). “I feel like Prince is my dream customer in a lot of ways,” he says. “When people ask, ‘Who are you designing for?’ I feel like Prince is on the list.”