By Danna Burns-Shaw
Most artisans strive to unfold and create a signature style that gives their work a special identification. Perhaps a bold stroke, soft lines, a special finishing touch… some sort of embellishment that will immediately identify the creative maker. Bobby Woodward has achieved a signature style through hundreds of feet of kangaroo lace and fine gemstones – gemstones that he and his beautiful wife, Kathryn, source and cut. The gemstones become cabochons that are perfectly hand bezeled with braided leather lace, to create the signature look of a Bobby Woodward bag.
Bobby was raised in the vast mountains of southwest Texas, in the Big Bend area. Bobby’s mother is a talented artist and his late grandmother was a great painter. He acquired his love of gemstones from his late father, Trey Woodward, of the world famous Woodward Ranch, known for the exclusive gems and minerals found on the ranch. Bobby is a fifth-generation Woodward and uses the gemstones in his work. He was inspired by the remarkable stone work that was not only sourced from the family properties, but was used throughout the family’s Ranch House.
As part of a rich legacy of gemologists, and being fortunate enough to have access to rare stones that were sourced on the ranch and surrounding areas, Bobby has had the opportunity to see and work with rare opals, red plume agates, lapis and many other precious stones. Bobby’s love for gems is in his DNA; he frequents gem shows like the well-known Tucson Gem Show, held each February. He is always searching and sourcing the highest grade of rock to take back to his 1000-square-foot shop in Florida, where he thoughtfully cuts each stone that will become the centerpiece of his next masterpiece.
Bobby comments, “I inlay a small piece of white sage under each stone and ask Creator to keep the stones, animals and metals connected to Mother Earth. They’re for generating good energy and medicine for the keeper of each piece. I love what I do and take a lot of pride and joy in the completion of each piece. They just seem to come alive! It’s really fantastic to see how my customers/friends fall in love with their new treasures; how each piece can become a part of who they are, when they feel a deep connection with the stones and animals used.”
Sourcing and cutting stones are some of the many things that get Bobby up in the wee hours, 3 to 4 a.m. daily and keep him in his shop until 6 p.m. He also fits in a few hours each day for working on the business: answering emails, ordering materials, shipping and doing the day-to-day paperwork. To reach his production goals requires 12+hour days. Owning your own shop requires discipline, passion, dedication and determination, as well as the overwhelming desire to create.
It was over 17 years ago that Bobby started his business. His first wife was a Japanese artist that shared her skills in leather with him, and he was inspired by the remarkable braid work of Luis Ortega as well. Woodward hoped to be able to elevate his craft to a collectible status like Ortega, work that has influenced a generation of gear makers. Ortega’s work showed the intricacy of taking eight strands of lace braiding and creating a level of craftsmanship and artistry above what the market expected. Luis, a private man, viewed his craft as a calling, yet rarely sought attention. A few of the similarities that Bobby shares with the great master that inspired him.
Many of Bobby’s customers are well-known musicians, actors and business moguls. Zac Brown has commissioned several outstanding pieces, and loves collaborating on new projects with Bobby. Once you have owned and loved a one-of-a-kind Woodward piece, you are certain to desire more of his incredible work. Artists strive to establish collectors of their work; finding and building relationships with key folks is an essential component in growing a brand. Bobby attends two shows a year. He sets up a shop in the prestigious ML Leddy booth in December at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and the Houston Rodeo in the spring. This gives him an opportunity to showcase a nice collection of his work, and meet high-end clientele that look forward to seeing him year after year – waiting with anticipation to see what his new collection will offer.
Woodward focuses on using humanely and sustainably farm-raised animals. Bobby can even use the clients’ own animal skins or family heirlooms to embellish. Bobby does all of his own silver- and goldsmithing, to create unique and exclusive hardware for each piece. Each finished piece comes with a lifetime guarantee and impeccable customer service.
You can view some of Bobby Woodward’s designs through his website at bwleathers.com and follow him on Instagram or Facebook. For inquiries or sales, please call Bobby at 512-619-3770.