My interest in leathercraft began in the Boy Scouts. Stamping designs in leather, making comb cases and wallets, I made gifts for my family and myself. Years later, applying to colleges and jobs, I listed Leathercraft as my hobby.
I served in the USAF Hospital Squadron. With my discharge, and influenced by the independence of the early 70s, I took a job in Shoe Repair and began my family. I went on to do customer repairs and alterations for a national outfit of Western Boot factories while they were in full swing making boots for the Urban Cowboy crowd. During this time, I was mentored by a retired shoemaker from a shoemaking family in Utah. And I made my first pair of Cowboy boots.
It was in those years that I needed to see how my work stacked up in the minds of my peers. So, I entered annual competitions put on by the Shoe Service Institute of America. I was awarded the Grand National Silver Cup for my entry in 1983. Then a group of investors selected me to open a small chain of While-You-Wait Shoe Repair Shops in the LA area. The magnitude and pace of that kind of work just did not settle well with me. So, my wife and I moved to the California Bay Area and opened our own shop. Alas, again not the life I was looking for. With her loving support, I moved us to Phoenix taking a job with a leather goods manufacturer, and eventually managing their belt production department.
Around this time, I knew I needed to search myself and make some changes. Using a program popular at the time, I spent a year or so doing serious self-reflection. I recalled it was the service part of what I did that most resonated with me. Once again assessing the situation, my wife and I moved to Prescott. I found what I was meant to do all along, making custom boots, being of service in a more specific way, and through my passion of leatherwork. And, it has paid off. Among several awards, I’ve had the privilege in 2015 of receiving the Will Rodgers Award as Bootmaker of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists.
“I don’t make cowboy boots. I make Western boots. The difference? One has the manure on the outside.”
I heard this years ago and I’ve been using it ever since. It reflects my approach. First of all, I’m not cowboy. But, as I’ve done a lot of boot repair for so many years, I can say I’ve scraped a lot of “cowboy” off of boots. To me the difference between the two is, who’s going to wear them and what are they going to do in them?
Years ago, I was asked to fulfill the lifelong wish of the 70-year-old wife of a doctor moving from “back East” to Prescott. She had dreamed of having a pair of handmade boots. I knew I couldn’t make hers as stout as I‘d just made for a Grand Canyon “Packer” trekking up and down the Canyon trail. He was 25, and his life was in his boots. In her case, she had a life-long longing to “feel” Western.
When thinking of my customer, I think of “Western” as broader than “Cowboy”. There are five different fundamental styles within the genre that I strive to master. With a good ear for my customer, I can match their vision for style and comfort.
My boot designs reflect an appreciation for how the elements and principles of design come together to say who this unique person is. Appreciating how boot styles and design fundamentals work together is what I love most about what I do. It’s my hope that these are reflective in all I do.
Now, with an interest in more and different stylings and designs, I’m digging out some of my other patterns for new projects.
The “About” for those is still to be written. Stay tuned.