August 2022

Buster Welch Passes 

ShopTalk! has learned that legendary horseman Buster Welch recently passed away in Abilene, Texas, at the age of 94. Buster was arguably the most influential figure in the history of cutting horses and was the innovator of the modern cutting saddle. For more on Buster Welch, please check out our interview with him in the July 2021 issue of ShopTalk! Magazine. 

Fay Owen “Buster” Welch   1928-2022 

Photograph Courtesy of Nick Pernokas 

Fifth Annual Leather Crafter’s Reunion – Not Your Average Trade Show 

By Liisa Andreassen 

When you ask any one of the participants who attended the recent Leather Crafter’s Reunion in Missouri’s Roaring State Park, they tend to take a dreamy deep sigh and tell you they can’t wait for next year. This year’s reunion was held from June 8-11th and about 33 people attended.  

Doris Marlene, the show’s founder and organizer, said the turnout was a bit smaller this year compared to previous years and attributes that to people just starting to emerge from COVID and higher gas prices. Despite these challenges, a good time was had by all.  

Reunion roots  

Marlene was not always into leather crafting, but after brain surgery in 2004, she started looking around for something to do. Around 2008, she got into leather work after buying a load of stamps at a flea market.  Her mom used to do it when she was a kid. From there, it just spiraled and she wound up taking over the Facebook group, Leather Work Patterns, a group of about 45,000 members which is where she met many of the folks who attend these reunions today.  

George Canfield, co-owner, EDC Leather, a group member, kind of pushed her into doing it.  

“The idea of organizing such an event just sort of got me out of my comfort zone in so many ways,” she says. “I’m actually more of a hermit, and crowds tend to give me anxiety, but for about two years he kept after me so I finally gave in.” 

Marlene says the worst part about organizing the event is asking for help and donations. The best part is that the instructors keep 100 percent of their class fees.  

“I couldn’t do this without the sponsors and I’m so grateful for them,” she says.  

“Having these gatherings in a park only adds to the laid-back feeling,” Marlene says.   

So how does she choose where the event will be held? She does her research. She looks at what they have for classrooms, cabins, shelters and other activities. She wants participants to bring their families so there will be something for everyone to enjoy.  

“I want people to feel like they’re on a vacation with the added plus of being able to take a class or two,” she says.  

What are reunion-goers saying?   

For Kathy Flanagan, an award-winning leather artist, her reason for attending is two-fold – to instruct and to see friends. This year, she taught two classes – both having to do with figure carving and embossing.  

“We’re a tight-knit bunch, much like a family, and I love being around them,” she says.  

Canfield, the original instigator behind it all, gave a class on pricing and costing. He says it’s his favorite event of the year.  

“At other events you always have to be ‘on.’ Here, you just get to sit down with friends and have a ball. It’s just so relaxed and I actually look forward to not always having access to cell service,” he laughs.  

George Wingo of Catfish Leather Creations, agrees with Canfield about being disconnected. 

“It’s just not like other events and shows,” he says. “As someone who loves to fish and spend time in the woods, I really enjoy the natural setting. It’s right up my alley.”  

Donna Taylor, another leather worker, has attended every year but one. She builds half western chaps and taught two classes this year where she had about 10 students in each class.  

“Even though we hadn’t seen each other for a while because of COVID, we all just picked up where we left off,” she says. “You always come away from these events having learned something new. Everyone wants to help and teach each other.”  

Michael Francis was a newcomer to this year’s event, but he says now he’s hooked and plans to attend next year too. Francis led a class on moccasin making, something he’s been teaching for 35 years.  

“Everyone has enthusiasm and there’s just an eagerness to learn and share knowledge,” he says. “Mostly, it was just fun.”  

And, everyone admires the work that Marlene puts into organizing these events and they’re all looking forward to keeping the tradition and momentum going. They also like the fact that the events are held at different locations because it offers the opportunity to see and experience new things. It makes it accessible for different people to attend. Next year’s reunion is scheduled from June 15-17th at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, a beautiful park in Nebraska with loads of things to do. Next year’s event may also include things like a swap/trade and games at the meet and greet.  

“Honestly, it can’t come soon enough. I hope to see many more people there,” Marlene says.  

Learn more here: 

July 2022

Jurgen Volbach in Texas! 

      By Nick Pernokas 

Readers of ShopTalk! Magazine need no introduction to German leather artist Jurgen Volbach. On June 4 -5, Jurgen put on a workshop at Jim Linnell’s Elktracks Studio in Venus, Texas. Students came from around the United States to learn more about 3D leather embossing, an art that Jurgen is well known for. Jurgen is also popular as an instructor, because his class is easy to follow, and students at any level of expertise are able to participate. 

At this recent workshop, students were provided with all of the materials, and an excellent step by step pamphlet with instructions for creating a beautiful picture of two horses embracing. Even the picture was carefully chosen by Jurgen as one that was beautiful, but easier to get right because it only showed half of each horses face. The students could focus on detail, but not have to worry about symmetry. 

“It makes a problem if you must make two of these (eyes or nostrils next to each other),” says Jurgen. “The mirror effect is a problem for most (students). I’m looking for patterns that people do not have these problems with at first.” 

In two days, the leather crafters learned how to transfer the image to 5/6 ounce Hermann Oak Leather, and then how to mold the portrait from the base leather. They were then shown how to fill in the back of the horse heads with Renia 3-D Embossing Filler, which Jurgen uses. The details were added with Jurgen’s unique modeling tools which were designed with small curves and blades specifically for this work. In fact, Jurgen can create the entire piece with only three of his tools. 

“I’ve taken some other classes from Jurgen, and you always learn something different,” says leather crafter Bruce Coonrod. “He’s really come up with some neat ideas. It’s stuff we’re not used to.” 

Perhaps more importantly the leatherworkers, who had extremely varied backgrounds, were able to come together in a fellowship that was obvious at the end of the day when they told stories over some excellent German beer. 

“Jurgen is very talented,” says Jim Linnell. “He is self-taught; he was a jeweler first, so he comes at things from a different perspective than we do. The people who have come here have had their views broadened about what can be done with a piece of leather.” 

Elktracks Studio is not only a museum and shrine to the history of leatherwork as art, but it offers many educational opportunities as well. To find out more about what’s coming up, contact Jim Linnell at 817-727-7098 or go to 

IoDF to officially partner with Real Leather. Stay Different. International Student Design Competition 2022: 

Educating the Next Generation of Creatives by Re-Shaping our Fashion Futures. 

-       Partnership aims to democratize education through a new discourse on fashion futures. 

-       IoDF’s IRL x URL academy delivers a free digital futures and sustainability workshop, aiming to empower global students of tomorrow.  

-       Industry innovation leads IoDF Co-Founders, Leanne Elliott Young and Cattytay will sit as judges at the global final. 

(31 May 2022): Institute of Digital Fashion are excited to announce their official partnership with Real Leather. Stay Different. International Student Design Competition 2022 (RLSD ‘22), bringing education into the future with digital skills. 

IoDF have a strong ethos of supporting the makers of our next generation with an aim to re-build, re-educate, and re-position the industry’s thinking into a new vernacular with innovation at the core. The project partnership with Real Leather. Stay Different. brings to the forefront a common set of values to support emerging creatives through education.  

As part of the partnership, IoDF will host a digital fashion workshop. The public workshop, which takes place on 15th June, is open to fashion students globally. It will give them the opportunity to better understand the future of digital design, its sustainability benefits and how metaverse innovations can be implemented within their creative practices to further reduce waste. Ultimately raising awareness of responsibly sourced leather as a natural material in the process.  

In addition, IoDF co-founders, Leanne and Cattytay will be part of the judging panel of this year’s RLSD ‘22 global final, which takes place in London on 15th September. As part of the prize package, IoDF will also create a digital asset of the apparel category winner’s work – enabling the design to come to life through an innovative AR try-on that can be experienced digitally. 

IoDF’s official partnership with Real Leather. Stay Different. sparks an integral shift happening in the industry; the need to bring wider inclusive and sustainable methods to high fashion and leather goods whilst educating the younger generation on the importance of digital futures and how the industry can develop sustainable solutions.  

The competition is open to students studying art and design or those who have graduated from art and design higher education within the last two years. The Real Leather. Stay Different. International Student Design Competition 2022 is run in partnership with ArtsThread, with a core mission to encourage a new generation of designers to reconsider their relationship with leather and other natural materials to create stunning designs where longevity and minimal environmental impact is key. 

RLSD ‘22 competition participants will be challenged to design a single piece of clothing (*min 50% leather), footwear or accessory. Shortlisted finalists will be invited to present their design concept to the judges during a live showcase final, with an all-expenses paid trip to London, during Fashion Week in September.  

IoDF Co-Founders, Leanne Elliott Young and Cattytay will be joining the judging panel at the RLSD ‘22 global final on 15th September 2022, alongside industry leads including; Christopher Koerber, Managing Director of HUGO BOSS Ticino, Rosie Wollacott Phillips, Group Sustainability Manager of Mulberry, celebrity fashion stylist, Mike Adler and the 2021 winner, and FIT NYC graduate, Emily Omesi. 

As part of the prize for making the global final, finalists will have their design professionally made to present to the judges. The competition is now live, with entries being accepted until 30th June: 



“Pushing technology as a solution to not just sell more clothes, but to disrupt the way the system concepts, produces, creates and educates is core to the work we deliver at IoDF. Teaching these 3D making skills are integral, our work is rooted deeply in creating an opportunity for further social discourse on fashions futures and supporting in democratising digital especially towards the talent of the future. Working with Real Leather, Stay Different on this project has brought to light the importance of education and making digital fashion more accessible.” – Leanne Elliott Young, IoDF Co-Founder & CEO 


“With digital artisan, an asset can reach out to millions around the globe at once. It helps to generate a new form of emotional connectivity, creating a higher quality product that holds both physical and digital layering. It was important to us at IoDF to partner with RLSD on this project to support and encourage the younger generation to utilise digital as a tool for pushing sustainability solutions across their work.” – Cattytay, IoDF Co-Founder & Creative Director  



“The competition’s mission is to spark the interest of young designers to work with responsibly produced real leather which puts hides that otherwise go to landfill, to good use. Too many of our fashion choices end up in landfill, creating an unwanted legacy from today’s society that will damage the environment for centuries. Working with IoDF gives us the opportunity to empower the next generation with digital skills that reduce waste in the design process.” – Steve Sothmann, on behalf of Real Leather. Stay Different. 

Jones & Naudin Buys 150-year-old Business – Booth & Company 

by Liisa Andreassen 

Something new is happening at Booth & Company, a 150-year-old leather industry company. Ken Chapman, the company’s most recent owner, has turned over the reins to Linda Arnold, who also owns Jones & Naudin Leather, a glove manufacturer in upstate New York.  

Chapman has worked in tanneries since 1968, and knew the business inside and out, but decided it was time to step away. He knew Linda was the woman for the job.  

“I’ve known Ken since 1970, and he was our rep for foreign sources of untanned leather. I got to know him and we became friends,” Linda says. “I was honored when he offered to sell the company to me and I can only hope that I will be able to follow in his footsteps. He’s such a personable man.” 

There will be a little learning curve for Linda, who is the third-generation owner of a company that primarily makes leather gloves. She says that while they mostly work with very large companies at Jones & Naudin, she’s excited to work with smaller ones.  

Additionally, Booth & Company leathers are primarily from English tanners for the equine trade and for re-enactments. These leathers take more than a year to tan and they’re among the finest in the world. 

“I’m used to leather that takes a month to tan, so it’s been interesting to learn about these leathers as well as the equine industry. Everyone I’ve talked with so far has been eager to share their knowledge and is looking forward to a continued working relationship,” she says. “I plan to continue to develop and curate these relationships.” 

Linda’s son, Scott, will work with her in the new business and she hopes to hire one more person to handle the accounting end of things. Scott will focus on items such as building out Booth & Company’s website, as well as beefing up social media channels and setting up more e-commerce. The companies will remain separate from each other and all of the products will remain the same.   

“Our plan is to increase our overall brand awareness,” Linda says. “We’ll continue to run the company much like Ken did – hands-on and friendly.”  

June 2022

Three Cowboy Saddle Makers

By Nick Pernokas 

ShopTalk! has learned of the passing of several top saddlemakers over the past year. R.D. Mork, Bob Moline and Bob Marrs all made their mark in the saddle industry. All three were also cowboys who had lived the cowboy dream astride their own creations. 

Roger Dean Mork was raised on a family farm in northeastern Iowa. The family had work horses, R.D.’s first experience with the horse business. Eventually, R.D. went to work for noted horse trainer Jack Brainard in Wisconsin. There he discovered the Quarter Horse business. Monte Foreman was a friend of Jack’s and frequently visited. R.D. was impressed with Monte’s forward seat, bulkless rigged saddles, made by Fallis Saddlery, and the things that Monte could do in them. 

The mid Fifties found R.D. working for all-around hand John Ed Rogers in Texas. This was followed by a stint on the Matador Land and Cattle Company, where R.D. spent a lot of time in a line camp. It was here that he pulled apart a custom saddle he wasn’t happy with and rebuilt it. This trial and error was the beginning of his saddlemaking career. He tried to do repair work for cowboys with good saddles, so that he could study them. 

“I never spent a day in another saddle shop. I learned an awful lot by surveying other people’s work,” R.D . told me in  2010. “You can learn both what to do and what not to do.” 

In the Sixties, R.D. worked for Cletus Hulling in Illinois. Cletus was shipping Quarter Horses by the carload back east from the ranches of the West to feed the booming horse business. He had about 800 horses on hand all the time. Two of his neighbors were saddlemakers Ben Veach and Price McLauchlin. R.D. became friends with both and considered Price to be the greatest saddlemaker, and person, that he had ever known. 

Back in Texas, recovering from a broken leg sustained on the Phillips Ranch, R.D. built his first saddle. He decided that it was a steadier form of income than working for other people and he supplemented it by shoeing horses. In the early Seventies, R.D. opened a saddle shop in Sioux City, Iowa. Another shop in Nebraska followed, but then wanderlust overtook R.D. again and he built a mobile shop in a trailer. By the Eighties, the cutting industry was booming in Texas, and R.D. followed the cutting events. He tried to stay in Dublin, Texas, for a few years at the Funderburgh Ranch, but a shop in town just wasn’t what he wanted. R.D. hit the road again and followed the cutting circuit for 10 years. He built a good cutting saddle that was used by many of the top cutters of the time. 

“It sounds like I was on the drift all the time, but I was always working.” 

The last time I saw R.D., he stopped at my place with an old dog named Blue that was his traveling companion and a car full of saddle trees he’d designed, a saddle and various side pulls and gear he was working on. 

R.D. Mork passed away on January 20, 2021, at the age of 83. 

Born in 1938, Bob Moline started out as a jockey in West Texas, when he was 12. When he got too big, he went to work for the Fulton Ranch doing cowboy work on horseback. In his spare time, Bob also boxed and in 1959, a boxing promoter invited him to come to Fort Worth. Bob needed to make a little money and he’d heard that Ryon saddle shop was the place to go.  

“Windy Ryon asked me what I could do and I said nothing, but I was willing to learn,” Bob told me in 2005. 

Bob started out cleaning saddles and oiling. He learned to do the sewing for other saddlemakers. In three months, he got his first new saddle to work on. Bob had sketched since he was a kid and really took to the leather artwork. He liked drawing new tooling patterns. Soon, Bob had learned to tool and was working on the fancier saddles. He remembered that some of the old time saddlemakers working there “would not tell you anything and sometimes they would tell you the wrong thing.” Still, he and some of the other younger saddlemakers persevered. 

“Any time I would suggest something, Windy would let me try it.” 

Bob designed a new hoof pick holder pattern that was used on many cutting saddles for years, as well as fitting the seat jockey tighter against the swell, with a point at the junction of the gullet and skirts. In the late Sixties, when Buster Welch came into the shop and asked Windy to make the first flat seat cutting saddle, Bob was the one to do it. Every time an artist came in to order something, Windy would introduce him to Bob. Encouragement from guys like Orren Mixer, George Phippen and Joe Beeler inspired Bob to get serious with his art. Bob still considered himself a saddlemaker, but he did a cover for the Paint Horse Journal, as well as the covers for several of Ryon’s famous catalogues. When he put his work in an art show in Austin, and sold out, he realized that he could make money with art too. 

In 1973, Bob left Ryon. He did many of the illustrations for a book called XIT. The saddlemaking took a back seat. He also illustrated a book on Colt handguns. Every project would lead to another. Bob began doing bronze sculptures, including a collection of historical saddles. Eventually, he returned to building saddles for people that he met through the art world. After a four-year stint with a store that combined art and saddlery, Bob opened his own saddle shop in Fort Worth. He catered to a predominantly cutting clientele. His saddles and art were always signed with an eagle feather, which was a salute to his Comanche and Pawnee heritage. If you’ve ever looked at David Stoecklein’s coffee table book, The Texas Cowboys, then you’ve held some of Bob’s work. 

 “There’s so much competition in both fields that I do and people shouldn’t compete with each other. They should compete with themselves. You should let your work speak for itself.” 

Bob‘s work did.  Norbert “Bob” Moline passed away on November 20, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Bob Marrs was born in 1927, the seventh of 11 children. His father was a cow and horse trader near Delaware, Oklahoma. When Bob was seven, his dad started putting him on colts that he snubbed to his horse. Bob was thereafter destined to be a cowboy. When he was 14, Bob went to work for the Halsell ranch. During World War II, ranches were shorthanded and Bob ended up cowboying for the Waggoner Ranch in Vernon, Texas. Soon, Bob was promoted to staying out on the range with the “wagon” most of the year. He had about 15 horses in his string; it was a riding job. In the years that followed, Bob moved west to ranches in Arizona and California. A message caught up with Bob that winter, telling him that his brother had been killed at the Battle of the Bulge. When Bob turned 18, in June of 1945, he enlisted in the army. Bob was sent to Italy at the end of the war. 

In December of 1946, Bob returned home to the girl he left behind. He married Betty Lucas in January, and went back to work for the Waggoner Ranch. A fellow cowboy there thought Bob should have a trade, now that he was married. He told Bob about a G.I. approved saddlemaking school that Bill and Jack Oliver were starting in Amarillo. Bob went for a year and learned a lot about leatherwork. There wasn’t much about saddlemaking in the curriculum that year, so Bob and Betty headed north to look for a better cowboy job. Stopping in Gunnison, Colorado, to visit a friend that he’d worked with in California, Bob heard of a good job. A western store in town had a complete saddle shop, but no saddlemaker. Soon Bob was building his first saddle, using sheets for patterns and even getting advice from the local dentist who had been a cowboy. 

“The way I went about it was pretty funny,” Bob told me in 2011. “I still learn by trial and error. Every time I make one, I try to improve on it. I don’t think I’ve ever made one where I can’t see where I could have done a little better.” 

Bob moved to a shop in Woodward, Oklahoma, and then one in Lubbock, Texas. The Fort Worth saddle shops were riding the post-war horse boom, and Bob ended up working at the Adkins-Bullinger Saddle Shop. One of the saddlemakers he worked with there was Price McLauchlin and the two became friends. Bob was fired for being too slow and he walked across the street and got hired by Leddy’s. Bob’s time at these shops taught him a lot; and he continued putting a ground seat in like Horace Parsley showed him at Leddy’s for the rest of his career. 

When Bob’s daughter, Deborah, was born, the family headed back to West Texas. Alternating ranch and saddlemaking jobs to make ends meet was tough. 

In 1951, Bob went to work for Stockman’s Saddle and Boot Shop in Amarillo. It was to be a turning point in his life. In a year, he was the manager. In 1953, the worst drought in many years hit the Panhandle. The old timers said it was like the dust bowl. Ranchers went under and so did the saddle business. The Marrs family moved to a nine-section ranch to tend to cattle and doctor them for screw worms. 

In 1954, the owner of Stockman’s came to Bob and said he was going to have to take bankruptcy. If Bob would take over the store and assume its debt, then he would give Bob the store. By borrowing on the family’s furniture and writing to all the creditors, the store became Bob Marrs’ Stockman’s Saddle Shop. When the horse boom came in the late Fifties, Bob had three other saddlemakers working for him and was making 100 saddles a year, mostly for the show horse industry. Bob and cutting trainer, Sonny Perry, designed a cutting saddle on a low moose tree that became a best seller in the Sixties, until Buster Welch came up with the flat seat cutter at Ryon’s in Fort Worth. 

In 1982, Bob was commissioned to make the “Top Hand” saddle for the Texas Ranch Roundup. This prestigious event went on to become a model for future “ranch” rodeos. Bob continued to build their trophy saddle until 2000. 

Bob sold Stockman’s in 2000, and downsized to a smaller shop at his home in southwestern Amarillo. He and Betty had always had a passion for artwork and now they had a studio to paint in as well. Bob was well known for his western art, even though he continued to build saddles for working cowboys. His shop walls were covered with photos of former employees that had done well, beloved shop dogs and celebrities who were customers.  

On the Marrs’ mantle were the two awards Bob received from the Academy of Western artists. One was the 1996 Saddle Maker of the Year award and the other was the Lifetime Achievement Award. On a pedestal nearby, a bronze “Wrangler” sculpture represented the Western Heritage Award that Bob was given by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 2001. 

In 2015, Bob announced that he was making his last saddle. The Will James style “seat rigged” saddle sported the poinsettia pattern that Bob frequently used, with a cowboy riding into the sunset on the fender. 

“It’s been a great life. I wouldn’t trade any part of it, all the cowboying and saddlemaking. It’s not everybody that gets to do what they like for all their lives.” 

This story isn’t complete yet because it doesn’t encompass Bob’s kindness. I called him one time and told him I needed a pair of period correct chaps. I told him I had a side of leather laid out, but I had a question about making the pockets look authentic. He told me that if I sent him the leather and paid the postage, he would make sure they looked right. I think of Bob every time I walk past that old pair of chaps hanging in a place of honor in my shop. 

Bob Marrs passed away on February 23, 2022. 

Keith Pommer, Saddlemaker, Passes 

Keith Pommer, 77, of Sioux Falls, SD passed on to rodeo heaven on Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the Dougherty Hospice.  

Keith’s celebration of life was held on Thursday, April 14 from 11:00 am – 2:00pm at Miller Funeral Home-Southside Chapel, 7400 S. Minnesota Ave., Sioux Falls, SD, and was followed with an interment ceremony at 3:00 pm at the South Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Sioux Falls, SD. 

Keith Gerald Pommer was born April 17, 1944 in Watertown, SD, to Clarence and Irene (Olson) Pommer.  He attended Castlewood High School until 1962.  He knew then he was to live the cowboy life.  He rodeoed, and worked around the country as a ranch hand and on horse racetracks, until he joined the Army and was stationed in Vicenza, Italy from 1965-1967.  

While in Italy, he met Odilla Menichelli.  The two were married and were blessed with a daughter, Julie Pommer in 1967, in Huron, SD. 

Keith was a professional rodeo cowboy and when the horses got stronger and the ground felt harder (Kyle Evans’ song to him), he focused on The Saddle Shop and made harness, fixed saddles and then evolved into fixing, selling, and hoarding TONS of leather sewing machines and tools.  It took 12 hours and three auction rings to get rid of this lifetime collection! He even tried to have a friend buy back his stuff!  

Keith took dancing lessons in hopes to be popular with the ladies.  He would go dancing on weekends and even taught the staff in memory care some of his smooth moves.  Keith also loved to attend auctions to find treasures, but also for the road trip and to visit his wonderful friends all around the country.  Keith loved to tease kids and was a huge animal lover. 

Keith is survived by his daughter Julie Pommer; long awaited granddaughter, Xiomara Pommer; his siblings, Cheryl Olson, Joan (Jim) McElhaney, David (Cindy) Pommer, Peggy Ogan; and numerous nieces and nephews. 

March 2022

Jesse Smith Offers Leather Covered Skulls 

Well-known saddlemaker Jesse Smith now covers skulls in leather.  He recently added this skill to his long list of offerings.  If you have a skull of your own or would like Jesse to find one for you to cover in leather, reach out and inquire at or give him a call at 719-643-5553.   

Photograph Courtesy of Jesse Smith 

February 2022

Randy Severe Passes 

                                         By Nick Pernokas 

The leather industry lost a legend, and a nice guy, when Randy Severe of Pendleton, Oregon, passed away on November 21st, after an almost two-month battle with Covid-19. Randy was a long-time member of the Pendleton Round Up board of directors and appears to have come down with it after that event this year. 

Although Randy was well known locally for his work on the Round Up, he was known more widely in the cowboy world for being part of the Severe family who have produced high-quality equipment for horsemen since the 1940s. Randy’s father, Bill, and his uncle, Duff, were Idaho cowboys who settled in Pendleton when they returned from World War II. They went to work for Hamley Saddlery, building saddles during the day and braiding rawhide at night. In 1954, they founded Severe Brothers Saddlery. They built saddles, saddletrees and they braided rawhide. Bill rodeoed and Duff showed reining and stock horses. This was the world that Randy was raised in and he and his brothers, Robin and Monte, all learned to make rawhide, braid it and cover saddletrees with it. They made their own saddletrees and then built great saddles on them. Randy spent some time in his youth cowboying on ranches in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. 

The Severes were known for more than their work though. Their shop was housed in an old army barracks that was once used by Jimmy Dolittle during World War II. Part of the shop was a bunkhouse. The door was always open for cowboys who needed a place to stay during the Round Up, and was used by folks like Larry Mahan and Casey Tibbs, as well as guys you never heard of; guys that would have otherwise slept in their cars. Casey Tibbs actually hung the sign on it that says “Hotel De Cowpunch.” Randy continued this tradition of hospitality. 

Randy was part of this heritage and he could tell you the story behind every vintage item that hung in the shop, which was like a museum. He told me one time that you couldn’t get rich in the leather business, but the satisfaction of making something nice that people will enjoy is unequaled. Randy made us all a little richer. 

Randy leaves behind his wife, Rosemary, and five children. 

 Randy Severe – November 3, 1951- November 21, 2021 

January 2022

TCAA Wrap-Up 

Great Sale Figures for the 22nd Annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Sale and Exhibition 

by Gene Fowler 

The 22nd Annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Sale and Exhibition was held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City from October 1 to January 2. Melissa Stewart, NCWHM Communications Manager, reports that of the 51 pieces in the show, 41 were sold for a total sales figure of $408, 755. Works that remained available for purchase at press time can be seen at this web page,

“The 2021 show stands out for having two years of work behind the pieces, since we had to cancel last year’s event due to COVID 19,” explains show curator Nathan Jones. “And this year’s show highlighted an organization, the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, that is at its peak. We also had more work in this show than we’ve had for the last several years.” 

The 22nd annual show also featured a new artist, Jay Adcock, who had four pieces on display: a ½ scale bridle set, a California style Quirt, a handsome Reata, and a set of California style Hobbles. Adcock grew up in a ranching family in the state that gave the world Will Rogers and currently lives near Pawhuska, Oklahoma on a cow-calf operation. Inspired by his grandfather, he began working with rawhide and leather as a youngster. He studied ranch management at Texas Christian University and rawhide braiding with Frank Hansen in Oregon. Having worked on ranches throughout the West, he now braids rawhide fulltime. In 2006 Adcock was named Braider of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. 

“Several artists this year made pieces with either entirely new techniques or other innovations,” adds Nathan Jones. “My favorites from the show are Leland Hensley’s quirt with turned cow horn embellishment, Rick Bean’s the Nashville, and Troy West’s the Longhorn. The saddles by Bean and West incorporate color and embossing techniques to create lively and fun designs. Beau Compton’s silver cross was an anchor piece for the show and attracted visitors with both its size and its detail work. Wilson Capron’s buffalo spurs showcased his skill with sculpting a form for the first time.” 

All in all, says Jones, “the 22nd annual exhibition reminded us that the TCAA is still a vibrant organization with a lot to offer the Western art world.” 

Cutlines for attached images 

-Piece 4: California style Quirt, Jay Adcock, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

-Piece 41: Santa Ynez Full Bridle Set, Nate Wald, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

-Piece 36: Lever-action Saddle Scabbard, Pedro Pedrini, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

-Piece 46: To Honor the Cowboy, John Willemsma, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

-Piece 27: “Let-loose” Hobbles, Pablo Lozano, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

-Piece 25: Hobbles (Braided & Twisted), Pablo Lozano, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

From the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum communications manager: 

If you are using the images that are not the full piece, please insert”[detail]” after the title. For example: ½ Scale Wade Saddle [detail], Pedro Pedrini, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale 2021. Photography by Carla C. Cain. 

Pendleton Leather Show is a Success 

                   By Nick Pernokas 

On November 4-6, 2021, the enthusiasm and resiliency of the leather workers in the Northwest was demonstrated at the Pendleton Leather Show. After a year of keeping their heads low due to Covid, it was apparent that local craftsmen were ready to socialize, and restock supplies at the same time.  

The event was held at the Pendleton Convention Center, only yards from the site of the legendary Pendleton Round Up Rodeo. This location, on the banks of the Umatilla River, hasn’t changed since the first Pendleton rodeo in 1910. The feeling of tradition here meshes perfectly with the traditional art of leather craft. 

1876 Media acquired the leather show in 2020. Misty Shaw, and her husband, Braydan Shaw, own 1876 Media, which also publishes ShopTalk! Magazine. As a result, Misty has become the manager, and did most of the preparation along with her crew. Some of her “crew” were actually her kids. 

“The show went really well, and there weren’t any big surprises or mishaps,” says Misty. 

700 people preregistered for the show, and 300 to 400 more attendees just showed up. Misty marketed the show predominantly through social media. Tegan Shaw, digital marketing specialist for Burns Saddlery, lent a hand to achieve this, as well as ShopTalk! Magazine Designer, Michelle Nelson. Misty feels that this marketing collaboration really helped to pull folks in. 

The classes were one of the big draws for the crowd. Nine instructors taught twenty-one classes on subjects that ranged from tooling belts to making leather jackets. 163 students took advantage of this chance to pick the brains of these experts in their respective leather disciplines. There were even a couple of free children’s classes thanks to Realeather and GRS Tools who provided free materials to the kids. 

“We had a really wide variety of classes, so there was something for everyone. Most of the classes were full to the capacity that each artisan wanted.” 

The contests on Thursday were also very popular. Two more categories, handbag and chaps, were added to the original rough out saddle competition. These were divided up into open and novice divisions. 

“The competitions went even better than we expected.” 

The Pendleton show offered a lucrative line up of prizes for their talented entries. First place in the open saddle competition was awarded about $5000 in cash and merchandise, thanks to Sunset Trails, Steel Stamps, Hansen Silver, Tandy Leather, Makers Leather, Bruce Johnson Leather Tools, ShopTalk! Magazine, and the Pendleton show itself. 

“All of our first-place winners, in the open and novice divisions, got a hefty cash prize, and a Sunset Trails silver buckle set, in addition to other sponsored items. Everyone was just thrilled, and I think the competitions will only grow for next year.” 

The judges were all proficient in their respective categories. The judges in the handbag competition were Aaron Heizer, Howard Knight, and Katy Fiorito. In the chap competition they were Joe Meling, Penney French, and Melanie Marlow.  Judging the saddle contest were Nancy Martiny, Matt Wanner, and Gary Winckler. 

“I was super impressed by how thorough they were, and the time that they took.” 

All of the contestants were emailed copies of the comprehensive judging sheets for their entry which further provided valuable feedback. 

Ballots were also given out to show attendees, and a People’s Choice Award was chosen in each category. This made it interesting. Hank Moss, who had placed fourth in the judged portion of the contest, ended up winning the People’s Choice Award in the saddle division. 

The trade show was also extremely busy. 

“The first day was a steady barrage of people coming in to attend the show. I thought it was great that the Tandy crew were running their numbers during a breather, and they were only $1500-$2000 in sales away from having their best show at Pendleton ever,” says Misty. 

Other vendors were equally as positive about their weekend, and promised that they’d be back with more merchandise next year. 

Friday night was capped off with a party at the Roy Raley Room on the fairgrounds, which allowed more time for craftsmen to socialize after hours. The Moss Brothers Band provided some great music, hors d’oeuvres were served, and an open bar kept the stories flowing.  

“It was a really good way to allow the attendees to catch up after this crazy, almost two years.” 

As an example of the leather community being a small world, the Moss brothers are actually the sons of saddle maker Hank Moss, who won the People’s Choice Award in saddle making. 

If you’d like to find out about getting in on the fun next November 3-5, visit for more information.   

NWLMC Winners 

Open Saddle 

1st Clint Lundy 

2nd Rob Frank 

3rd Alan Dewey 

Open Handbag 

1st Clair Kehrberg 

2nd Sean Meetsma 

3rd Charles Favour 

Novice Handbag 

1st Laura McDaniel 

2nd Laura McDaniel 

3rd Ashley Cavelle 

Open Chap 

1st Mark Barcus 

2nd Cory Seamann 

3rd Estrella Ray 

Novice Chap 

1st Denise Stringfellow 

2nd Denis Stringfellow 

3rd Katherine Garfield 

Pendleton Leather Show Sponsors 

ShopTalk! Magazine 

Sunset Trails 

Maker’s Leather Supply 

Orion Calf 

Vaughan Gators 

Bruce Johnson Leather Tools 

Steel Stamps 

Hansen Silver 

Weaver Leather 

Leather Wranglers 

Leather Machine Co. 


Range Magazine 

Tandy Leather 

November 2021

Long Awaited 3-D Leather Sculpting Video Now Available From Elktracks Studio 

Elktracks Studio is actively adding new videos to its extensive library of leathercraft instruction. These videos range from basic tutorials to advanced workshops that push the boundaries of what can be done with a hunk of leather, featuring instruction from Jim Linnell, Annie Libertini, Sheryl Katzke, George Hust, the late Robb Barr, and more.  

One of the most anticipated additions is a leather sculpting class with Jim Linnell. The project is centralized around how to create a 3-dimensional figure of a Texas Horned Toad out of leather, including how to paint it and mount it. Jim conducted this workshop over 3 days, beginning with lightweight tooling leather and ending up with a lifelike leather sculpture of a Texas Horned Toad. The 3 days of instruction have been edited down to a very full 3-hour downloadable video that takes students through every step of the process. Truly a project for the leather worker that is ready for a challenge. Find this video at 

*use Horned Toad Video Now Available image, Courtesy of Elktracks Studio 

Late November Means Black Friday Savings at Elktracks Studio 

The team at Elktracks Studio actively promotes the preservation and advancement of the industry through video instruction, advocating for students to purchase these videos year-round.  

This is the one exception.  

With the biggest sale of the year taking place in late November, Jim Linnell and the team at Elktracks Studio encourage students to hold off purchases in the beginning of the month to make the most of their investment in November. Typically spanning over roughly 12 days, the sale will offer over 120 videos and nearly 40 different premium patterns at 50% off; our lowest prices of the year.  

There are hundreds of hours of instruction available on everything from tooling to sculpting to coloring to braiding to embossing and so much more. Our most popular videos will be available deeply discounted, including Jim Linnell’s Swivel Knife Finesse, Annie Libertini’s Advanced Painting Workshop, Robb Barr’s Breaking Out Eagle, and Sheryl Katzke’s 4-Strand Braiding Class.  

Elktracks Studio began offering online workshops 4 years ago as part of Jim Linnell’s “retirement project” of making leatherworking more accessible and available around the world. This is an exciting time of year for the Elktracks team because it allows them to make these videos even more accessible. 

Check the website starting on November 19th to see what exciting classes you can load up on and enjoy 50% off of most of our downloadable patterns and videos through the end of the month. 

*use Jim Linnell tooling at bench image, Courtesy of Elktracks Studio 

Annual Boot & Saddle Maker’s Round Up 

By Liisa Andreassen  

This year marked Wichita Falls’ 33rd Annual Boot & Saddle Maker’s Round Up. It was held on October 1 and 2 at the Multipurpose Events Center.  

Pebble Brown, the saddle contest coordinator, said that it was nice to see a woman win this year’s beginner category.  

“It’s unusual for a woman to enter and we’d like to see more of that in the future,” Brown says. “We encourage all beginner saddle makers to enter and to spread the word about the competition. Even if you don’t win, it’s a great learning experience because you get to visit with other saddle makers and see their products.”  

Brown adds that Gracie Christian, the woman who won the beginner category, had the best one because all the parts were fitted properly and snug and her tooling was excellent with a pattern not frequently used. She also made her own hardware concho, buckles, etc. and had the best ground seat.   

Another interesting tidbit that emerged from this year’s saddle contest show had to do with a saddle that was rebuilt by Tommy Conway of Cowboy Up. Bobby McLaughlin went to visit Tommy to see if he could redo some fenders on one of his brother’s original saddles that had been run over by a truck. His brother was Don McLaughlin, a champion trick roper. Tommy said that he’d rather rebuild it. The result was a beautifully-restored saddle that has retained its 1950s vintage style. He entered it into the full floral category and it didn’t win, but it has an excellent chance of being preserved in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  

In the boot category, Mike Vaughn, the show’s boot contest coordinator, shares that it was nice to see a lot of new faces this year.   

“The seminars brought in a good group of folks and they had great questions that we were able to answer,” he says. “The Journeyman’s category, in particular, had boots that showed a lot of promise. These craftsmen looked like they were all off to a great start.”  

In addition to the saddle and boot contests, there were a series of free seminars led by master boot and saddle makers for participants to attend. They included a talk by Mark Hurley about he got started making saddles; a leather carving seminar by Jesse Smith; how to make clean and neat cuts and tools by Marty Byrd; and how to make waxed ends by Lisa Sorrell.  

Overall, the majority of vendors were pleased with their sales figures, some commenting it was their best sales as of date, and most said it was certainly beneficial that they exhibited. Vaughn said that it was great to see new vendors this year, including Hoffman Brothers, a manufacturer and equipment distributor. 

Kathy Kimmel, the show’s coordinator, said that this year’s attendees commented on how much they enjoy the show each year.  

“While doing business, buying and selling is most important, but the highlight of our show is listening to makers, ‘in the aisles,’ eagerly giving each other support,” she says. They’re asking 

each other questions and offering advice to each other and just enjoying all they have in common. I love listening to the discussions where they share their product ideas and processes. This is what keeps the leather industry thriving – everyone helping each other.” 

Kimmel is also very grateful to all those attended and exhibited.  

“It’s because of these folks that the show continues to be a success,” she says.  

Next year’s event is already on the books and scheduled for Sept 30 & Oct 1, 2022. 


2021 Saddle Contest Winners: 

  • Open Floral: Charles Barfknecht of Muenster, TX 
  • Open Geometric: Brandit Franco of San Antonio, TX 
  • Working Cowboy: Jesse Smith of Pritchett, CO 
  • Novice: Shelton Yates of Stephenville, TX 
  • Beginner: Gracie Christian of Mineola, TX 

2021 Boot Contest Winners: 

  • Journeyman Intermediate: Matt Sager of Lubbock, TX 
  • Open Dress Boot: Jarrett Van Curen of Pittsburg, TX 
  • Masters: Josh Duvall of Oklahoma City, OK 
  • Shop Boot: Brian Thomas, Tim Bishop and James Ross of Barefoot Boots 
  • Working Cowboy Intermediate: Bill Nordon of Robertsdale, AL 
  • Working Cowboy Open: Mike Allred of Whitesboro, TX 
  • Artistry Intermediate: Steve Christo of Gloucester, VA 
  • Dress Boot Intermediate: Steve Christo of Gloucester, VA 
  • Top Stitching Open: Joseph Willis of Tulsa, OK 

Photographs Courtesy of Kyleigh Winn 

Tandy Leather Partners with Challenge America Bringing Leathercraft to Veterans 

FORT WORTH, Texas – Tandy Leather is excited to announce a new partnership with Challenge America, a non-profit dedicated to connecting service members, veterans and their families to resources that build community and give purpose to their lives no matter where they live. Similar to Tandy, Challenge America integrates community building into every aspect of their programs and services.    

  With Challenge America’s CAVARTS initiative, we share a common purpose, to enable members of our communities to connect, to support one another, to learn and to thrive through the arts.  CAVARTS is a hub for Veterans, from all backgrounds that share a common interest in the arts, where they can connect with one another, participate in virtual art classes, get advice and support.    

  In partnering with Challenge America, Tandy will be CAVARTS exclusive leathercraft partner and will host monthly virtual classes on CAVARTS.  Tandy stores will also be available to host in-person classes and provide leatherworking support and advice to members of the CAVARTS community.    

  Leatherwork can be therapeutic. It can provide a mental outlet and give people purpose, especially those struggling with PSTD and other mental health challenges that are prevalent among service members and veterans.  With this partnership, Tandy will take meaningful action to positively impact the lives of service members and veterans.    


We’re excited to expand the charitable efforts of the Leather Together Foundation with this partnership and take meaningful action. Challenge America ultimately believes that community, not charity is the answer.  It’s about working together to ensure that veterans, service members and their families have access to the community support and integrated services they need to live the lives they earned and deserve.  We wholeheartedly agree and set a similar mission for the Foundation to pair charitable giving with meaningful action to positively impact the communities we serve.  


Tandy Leather Factory, Inc., (, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a specialty retailer of a broad product line including leather, leatherworking tools, buckles and adornments for belts, leather dyes and finishes, saddle and tack hardware, and do-it-yourself kits. The Company distributes its products through its 105 North American stores located in 42 US states and 7 Canadian provinces, and one store located in Spain.  Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq with the symbol “TLF”. 

Fine Art Meets Traditional Cowboy Tools in 22nd Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Sale and Exhibition 

Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA) is elevating the legacy of the traditional cowboy arts at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Saddles, bits and spurs, braided rawhide and Western silver are presented as fine art as well as functional pieces of Cowboy equipment during the 22nd Annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Annual Sale at The Cowboy.   

Fourteen of the finest traditional cowboy artists will exhibit 51 pieces of original work in Oklahoma City during the 22nd annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition & Sale, October 1, 2021 – January 2, 2022, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  

“The Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition & Sale is a highlight not only for those with an interest in the cowboy arts, but also for those with an interest in art, period,” said Museum President & CEO Natalie Shirley. “The saddle makers, bit and spur makers, silversmiths and rawhide braiders who comprise the TCAA are among the most skilled artists working today; creating extraordinarily beautiful art that evolved from the tools of the working cowboy.” 

The Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale weekend will begin with an Exclusive Preview Cocktail Reception, Friday, October 1 at 6:00 p.m. to allow potential buyers and collectors the opportunity to see the pieces the day before the sale. 

The exhibition will open to the public at 10 a.m., Saturday, October 2. Attendees to the Saturday sale are invited to mingle with the artists during Cocktails in the Galleries at 5 p.m. The Fixed-Price Draw for Art Sale will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end after 7 p.m. The evening will conclude with a Celebration Dinner at 7:30 p.m. 

For the first time ever, art buyers are invited to purchase through the Western Heritage App, available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Buyers can browse art and submit ballots once they have registered for the show and received the show key. For more information on the App, visit 

An online catalog and a proxy service are available for buyers who cannot attend the event in person. All artworks will remain on exhibit and on sale through January 2, 2022.  

To view the catalog, make a reservation, sponsor the event, or use the proxy service, visit Reservations are also available by contacting Kaylia McCracken at or 405-839-7794. Proxy service is also available by contacting Trent Riley at (405) 839-7097 or

Event sponsors include Kraig and Deborah Kirschner, Dellora A. & Lester J. Norris Foundation, and Leslie Rainbolt, M.D., MBA. 


About the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum 

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is America’s premier institution of Western history, art and culture. Founded in 1955, the Museum collects, preserves and exhibits an internationally renowned collection of Western art and artifacts while sponsoring dynamic educational programs to stimulate interest in the enduring legacy of the American West. For more information, visit 


Founded in 1998, the TCAA is dedicated to preserving and promoting the skills of saddle making, bit and spur making, silver smithing and rawhide braiding and the role of these traditional crafts in the cowboy culture of the North American West. 

October 2021

Hillside Harness Hosts First Annual Mid-Ohio Harness & Saddlery Expo 

by Liisa Andreassen 

When the owners of Weaver Leather decided to stop doing their annual auction, John Raber, owner of Hillside Harness Hardware, a third-generation, family-owned business that wholesales harness, saddlery and pet and equine products, stepped in to fill the gap. He launched the first annual Mid-Ohio Harness & Saddlery Expo and Consignment Auction which took place over two days – August 19 and 20 – at the Mt. Hope Auction Grounds; and Orus Mast Auctions helped to make it possible too.  

Everything that was consigned, from more than 160 consignors, were sold which made for more than 3,700 lot items. Consignments ranged from a variety of different sewing machines (one Adler fetched $7,500); different types of leather-related equipment such as splitters, clickers, edgers, knives; saddles and harness; and many other miscellaneous items such as sides of leather, skirting, felt, embossing rolls and cases of hardware. The total tally for all items sold amounted to approximately $360,000. Vendors and consigners, alike, were a happy lot.  

There were about 30 vendors in all and Raber says that they did well.  

“The show’s attendees really enjoyed having the vendors there,” he says. “People like to walk around and talk to the vendors and have a little something else to do while the auction is in swing. We hope to add more vendors next year.”  

Vendor booths go for $500 for a 10 x 10 and $800 for a 10 x 20. This year’s vendors included: Fraud Aware • Inkscape Printing • Kaycee Western Store • Ervin’s Metal Works • N&A Harness • Beilers MFG and Supply • Hear Inc. • Mt Products • Cobletz Supply • Sisel/Marie Miller • DoTerra oils/Beckie McKee • MDY Harness Shop • 4Life/Lester Wengerd • EC health • Trail Farm Supply • Sugar Valley Collar • The Lighthouse Installation • BioThane • Weaver Leather • Mid River Sales • Immunity Therapy • Young Living • Hawthorne Products • The Hitching Post • Hillside Harness Hardware • Wooster Community Hospital • Nutra Glo.  

There was also a keynote speaker of sorts from BioThane who gave a 15-minute presentation on the company’s values – honesty, innovation and improvement.  

The auction brought in about 400 buyers and approximately 300 of them attended a free supper, sponsored by BioThane. There was also a benefit supper catered by Haystack and a silent auction held to benefit the Troyer family. Sara Ann Troyer, a cancer patient, and mother of five, is currently in rehab after being in the hospital for six weeks.  

“Overall, I’m really happy with how this first event went,” Raber says. “It was a great sale. We had people from 21 states, including California. I’d love to see it continue to grow.” 

Next year, the second annual auction is scheduled to take place on August 18 and 19. For more information about how to be part of next year’s event, contact: Allen Mast at 330-600-0754; John Raber, Hillside Harness at 330-893-1510; or Orus Mast at 330-473-9077.  

Tex Tan Purchases All Remaining Action Company Brands 

Tex Tan has purchased all remaining brands of Action Company including Abetta, Cowboy Pro, and SaddleSmith of Texas.  They held another 3-day auction August 12-14 in McKinney, Texas for all remaining inventory and equipment that was not included in the acquisition. 

September 2021

Remembering Jim McGill 

By Liisa Andreassen 

Widely known in the leather industry for his creative bent and accomplished spirit, Marlene McGill shares with us that her husband James (Jim) Arthur McGill passed away peacefully at their home in Magnolia, Texas, on July 26th. She says whatever he set his head out to do, he did and she’s now confident that he’s in a better place and probably trying to figure out what his next project will be.  

An Oregon native, he served in the U.S. Army as a Military Confinement Specialist at Ft. Crowder, Missouri. He was also a private pilot with instrument and commercial ratings. Among his many career accomplishments, he worked as a commercial pilot for a construction company and was also a pipeline inspector. In between, and whenever there was some downtime, he could be found in his shop working on a new pair of boots, or maybe even a saddle.  

“We would have been married for 60 years this December,” Marlene says. “Our life together was filled with adventure, some chaos and craziness, and a lot of fun. We always had our hands into something.”  

In Jim’s early years, he was a saddle bronc rider in the area rodeos, which is what first got him interested in making custom saddles and boots. The first machine he bought was a Landis 3 and it cost $135.  

“He had to finance it,” Marlene shares.   

As the years wore on, he also founded a saddlemaking school in Rapid City and Whitewood, South Dakota, where he taught others how to make saddles.  

“He really started the school out of necessity,” Marlene says. “He couldn’t find anyone to help with making saddles and he needed some assistance, so he figured he would just a start a school and get some people trained the way he wanted them to. That was Jim. He took charge and knew what he wanted. He was always trying to figure out how to make something better or faster. He was somewhat of a perfectionist.”  

As he continued with his leatherwork, he grew to enjoy making boots more than saddles.  

“He could be more creative with them than with the saddles,” Mark McGill, Jim’s son, says.  

Jim was widely known in the industry for his beautiful works of art and many celebrities even have a pair of his boots, including former President George W. Bush and country singer Reba McEntire.  

He and Marlene also owned JM Custom Boot & Saddle in Magnolia, Texas, for more than 40 years, before closing its doors about two years ago. And, while leather was something Jim was certainly passionate about, his greatest love was flying. He owned several planes and taught many people to fly, just like he taught them to make saddles.  

His son was one of the people who benefited from his flying instruction. He taught him how to fly and helped him to get his private pilot’s license when he was about 17 years old.  

“One day, during instruction, we were doing touch-and-go landings, getting me ready to solo flight,” Mark recalls. “We had just landed and he told me to taxi to the end of the runway and turn around. As I got to the end of the runway he said, ‘Go ahead and let me out. You can take it from here.’ At that point, I was pretty nervous and scared, but he reassured me that I had it. Needless to say, everything went well; he was an amazing teacher.”  

Mark adds that on his last day, just before his father passed away, they had the opportunity for some quiet time.  

“This time, I was the one who got to reassure him that it was okay and that I had it and he could finally rest,” he says.   

Neither of his two children, Michelle Lopez or Mark, ever pursued leather work, but their father did teach them about the art. He made items for them, which they will cherish the rest of their years and Marlene says he made her a pair of shoes once, too.  

“He never made anyone else shoes,” she says. “I guess they’re pretty special. So was he.”  

Silver Creek Leather Partners with Magnus Opus to Expand Leatherworking Industry 

Silver Creek Leather Company has served an important role in the leather industry since its founding in 2002. In addition to manufacturing The Speedy Stitcher and selling a limited line of finished leather goods, their primary business has been to stimulate the demand for leatherworking supplies within the general hobbycraft market through the Realeather brand.  

The Realeather line of products is responsible for introducing countless makers to leather as an art medium. The distribution of these tools and materials through Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Joann Stores, Boy Scouts of America, and independent retailers helps crafters who might not otherwise be aware of leatherworking to discover the satisfaction that comes with creating with leather. 

By making leatherworking visible and available outside of dedicated leathercraft stores, the Realeather brand has had an integral role in expanding the industry by providing leather and supplies through thousands of stores across the US. This opportunity to promote and grow the craft caught the attention of Michael Magnus, founder of Magnus Opus, the advertising agency now supporting the success of the Realeather brand. 

“I’m eager to be working alongside Greg Sartor and his team at Silver Creek,” said Magnus. “They are distinctly positioned to help tens of thousands of new folks discover leatherworking every year, and I think supporting them in that mission is very, very exciting.” 

Michael Magnus worked in corporate advertising for several years before leaving the leather industry to teach marketing at a collegiate level. When his friend Jim Linnell retired, the pair started teaching online class through Elktracks Studio. Magnus is still involved with Elktracks, but now also runs his digital marketing agency full-time with a special interest in helping promote the leathercraft industry.  

“Magnus’ background with both leather and advertising makes him uniquely qualified to step in and hit the ground running,” said Greg Sartor. “The fact that he’s spent enough time with Linnell to become indoctrinated with an enthusiasm for advancing the craft makes things even easier.” 

The Magnus Opus agency is led by Michael Magnus, but also includes a roster of graphic artists, web designers, publicity professionals, and digital advertisers. Expect to see some new and exciting things from Silver Creek Leather and the Realeather brand as these two teams work together in continuing the growth and perpetuation of leathercraft. 

Tandy Leather Launches Leather Together Foundation, A New Grant Program 

FORT WORTH, Texas – We know that the unexpected can happen at any time – natural disasters, pandemics, and other extreme events – and we want to help your small business and our employees not only endure these hardships, but also thrive through them. Tandy has established two funds providing grants for financial assistance with the hope to add more in response to the needs of our community. 

The Leather Together Foundation is Tandy’s financial assistance and charitable giving program created to give back to the people of the leathercrafting community who are the heart of our business. Tandy’s mission, to build on our legacy of inspiring the timeless art and trade of leatherworking, is the core of the Leather Together Foundation’s purpose. We want to ensure that the people in our community can keep moving forward, even through difficult times, and continue to build their own legacies through leatherwork. 

The Leather Together Foundation includes a Small Business Resilience Fund managed in partnership with LiftFund that aims to aid leatherworking entrepreneurs who have been affected by hardship.  

The Foundation also aids Tandy Leather employees who have been affected by personal hardships through the Tandy Employee Foundation.  

To learn more about Tandy’s Leather Together Foundation visit 

Tandy Leather Factory, Inc., (, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a specialty retailer of a broad product line including leather, leatherworking tools, buckles and adornments for belts, leather dyes and finishes, saddle and tack hardware, and do-it-yourself kits. The Company distributes its products through its 105 North American stores located in 42 US states and 7 Canadian provinces, and one store located in Spain.  Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq with the symbol “TLF”. 

Tex Tan Press Release

James Cox of Tex Tan Western Leather Co. and the Action Company have reached an agreement for Tex Tan to purchase the remaining brands of Action – namely Abetta, Cowboy Pro, and SaddleSmith of Texas. This is an asset purchase just like previous brand purchases, with no liabilities. Tex Tan will continue with many of the products produced under those brands including the Buddy Seat (an exclusive design by Abetta), Abetta bits, spurs, and saddle pads, and also a new Abetta Synthetic Treeless Saddle. Tex Tan will reintroduce the Cowboy Kooler Insulated Saddlebag which we made years ago.  

Stay tuned!  

August 2021

Wooster Auction was a Great Success 

The Summer Western Leather and Equipment Auction held by Tex Tan Leather in Wooster, Ohio, was a great success!  They had lots of leather; over 200 sides from Hermann Oak Leather and hundreds more hides and products from Tex Tan and Moser Brands, Double K, Kentucky Leather and Hide, Roan Mountain Riding Company and others.  They sold everything from saddles, bits and spurs, leather tack, and saddle pads to grooming supplies, hardware, Fiebing products, tools and machinery, and hundreds of cutting dies.  As the old saying goes, “If they didn’t have it, then you probably didn’t need it!” 

Tex Tan has booked Wooster for their 2022 summer sale on May 31st and June 1st.  Be sure to get this date on your calendars. 

July 2021

Tex Tan Western Leather Acquires Simco / Longhorn Saddlery  

Tex Tan Western Leather, division of Old West Industries, Inc., has acquired the rights to Simco / Longorn Saddlery of McKinney, Texas. This is an asset purchase with no liabilities.  Inventory, machinery, cutting dies and raw materials were also acquired. The Simco / Longhorn Brand will be another brand of Tex Tan. Tex Tan has also acquired the remaining brush manufacture of Hoge Lumber Co. of New Knoxville, Ohio.  The new specialty brushes will be added to the Wright-Bernet brands of grooming and specialty brushes and brooms. A new online website is in the works for   

May 2021

Remembering David Homyk  

by Liisa Andreassen 

David Homyk’s love of leather all began with a primitive knife sheath that he stitched and then carved his name on when he was about seven years old. Sadly, it all recently ended when he unexpectedly passed in December 2020. He was born in Texas and wanted to retire and die there; he got his wish.   

A Military Career Saddled with Leather 

While David was career military, he never let it get in the way of his passion for leather making. In fact, he honed his skills simultaneously. After a tour in Vietnam, he was stationed in Europe in the early 70s and studied with German saddle and tack makers, but was primarily self-taught from books and watching others.  

When he returned to the U.S., he worked full-time for the Department of Defense and honed his craft after hours and on the weekends in a little shop next to a barn he built on his and his wife’s, Martha, property in 1978. He doubled its size in the 90s.   

“For the most part, when people came to visit my parents, they’d head out to the shop first,” Kristen, David’s daughter, said. “Dad loved to have company there and he’d sit and talk for hours.” 

He also enjoyed it when someone had a project where they needed some guidance or wanted to borrow equipment. He was generous with his tools and mentorship.   

“If you were planning to pick up a saddle at his workshop, you’d better plan to stay awhile,” Josh Crumpler, a customer, said. “David loved to tell stories and we’ll miss him a whole bunch.”  

David had made Josh a ranch saddle that Josh says was made with the finest craftsmanship. He was also in the middle of making him a crossbreed saddle when he passed.  

“He’d give you the shirt off his back and always worked to help with repairs and get the job done as quickly as possible. He was more like a family friend than a guy down the road who’d do a job for you,” Josh says.  

In addition to custom saddles, David made belts, briefcases, binders, knife sheaths, chaps and holsters, but Kristen says he could really make anything out of leather.  He was known for his life-like, hand-carved oak leaves, which were what most customers requested, if they could afford the time it took to carve them. He also had the ability to look at a photo of a customer’s horse or steer and carve its spitting image on a notebook.  

“He never made boots for anyone outside the family, but he made most of his own boots,” Kristen says. “He made me a pair when I was pregnant with my daughter. He owed me a pair for years because we’d purchased a piece of white kid when I was in high school. He had planned to use it for tops with black music notes, but didn’t get around to it and sold the leather to a customer for an order. The pair he made me have red kangaroo tops, black shark bottoms, riding heels like he wore on his, variegated stitching, my initials on the fronts and, since I’m an attorney, the scales of justice across the backs.” 

When he wasn’t working, his favorite place in the world was on a horse. He loved to ride and train in his spare time. A training accident in 2006 left him with several injuries, including the loss of the use of his right index finger. Being right-handed, he had to retrain himself to write and carve.  

“I doubt any customer ever saw a difference in the work,” Kristen says.  

He retired from active duty as Major David Homyk in 1986, at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, but then went back to work as a civilian instructor (and later an instructor supervisor) teaching aircraft maintenance and retired as a civilian in 2009, at Sheppard Air Force Base for a second time.  

Kristen says she has plans to sell the shop, which is steeped in the smells of 40-years’ worth of tanned leather and a tinge of cigarette smoke from the days before her dad quit smoking.  

“I really wish I could bottle that smell,” she says.    

March 2021

AWA 25th Western Gear & Trappings Winners  

The Academy of Western Artists is proud to announce the winners for the 25th Annual Will Rogers Awards.  Over the past 24 years, the very best in western gear and trappings have been recognized.  This year is no different, with a tremendously talented group of outstanding individuals.  

This year’s award presentation will be online for all to see on March 30, 2021. Tune in to see the Western Gear and Trappings winners awarded, along with the best in Pure Country, Western Swing and Western Music perform.  For the first time in history, the awards will be seen by a huge worldwide audience.   

Congratulations to the Academy of Western Artists 25th Will Rogers Gear and Trappings Winners:   

Western Art-Bill Nebeker, Prescott, AZ 

Garnet Brooks Chuckwagon-Tom Elliott, Clinton, AR 

Bootmaker-Lisa Sorrell, Guthrie, OK 

Cartoonist-Pepe Villasenor, Lexington, KY 

Master Leather Artisan-Peter Main, Houston, TX 

Spurmaker-Chris Cheney, Rexburg, ID 

Engraver-Beau Compton, Tombstone, AZ 

Saddlemaker-Gordon Andrus, Coalville, UT 

Don King Lifetime Achievement in Saddlemaking-Jesse Smith, Pritchett, CO  

The Academy of Western Artists is a non-profit 501 c 3 organization for the preservation and promotion of western culture. If you would like an ad on this year’s show, please reply to  

Tex Tan Western Leather Company Holds Auction to Drive Business Forward 

by Liisa Andreassen 

James Cox of Moser Leather Brand recently acquired the Tex Tan Western Leather Company, a large saddle making operation in Yoakum, Texas. And, the first step in moving the business forward involved a four-day liquidation auction to clear out old warehouses and raise a little capital too.   

“I heard that the business was winding down and I had been part of another liquidation sale in Maine,” Cox says. “My partner up there asked me to be on the lookout for other opportunities and when this one came along, I took the lead. A few other investors were involved in the machinery part of the acquisition, but I solely own the brand and equipment to carry on.”  

Cox reports that the auction which took place from January 15 through January 18 was a great success and that their crew of 18 got the job done. He admits that it was no small undertaking. They rented an end loader, a boom, and used the fork trucks on site to get all the items out of the buildings; especially in areas that were in buildings that were deemed unsafe. Machinery and other items were hauled out of four buildings that were either auctioned or scrapped. More than 10 containers of metal scrap were removed and six pallets of finished goods were sent to another auction because there was just not enough time to sell it all. The fourth day of auction was touted the, “Let’s make a deal cleanup day!”  

Some of the items that were auctioned off to about 65 people included vintage brass rollers, holster plates, Al Stohlman plates, hundreds of tools and more than three acres of machinery.   

Tex Tan was originally Texas Hide and Leather Company.  It was started in 1919 by Phillip Welhausen and was later expanded to include leather goods and renamed Texas Tanning and Leather and in later years Tex Tan.   

“This does not end an era,” Cox says. “There were and are many companies that have started in Yoakum that are there because of the talent of the leather workers in the area; many that were trained at Tex Tan. At one time there were over 26,000 inventoried items. We did our best to pass on as much history as possible for future leather workers to use and enjoy.”  

Cox says that he personally retrieved catalogs, art work, and props including the leather-tooled signs that were part of Jay Cassell’s personal collection.  

“We also kept several of the vintage brass embossing rolls to continue with belt manufacturing as well as several cutting dies and press plates to continue with certain models of Tex Tan Saddles that we will continue to manufacture in Texas,” Cox says.  

Moser and Wright-Bernet products are now brands of Tex Tan and those lines will continue.  The details of how it will all come together are currently in the works, but Cox reports that the money raised from the auction will go towards keeping the business strong now and in the future.  

Two additional leather and equipment auctions are scheduled for March 19 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and on June 2 and 3 in Wooster, Ohio.  

For more information: 

January 2021

Tex Tan Under New Ownership 

YOAKUM, Texas (November 27, 2020) – James Cox of Moser Leather Company (Division of Old West Industries, Inc.) and a buyer’s group consisting of Darius Ward Leather, Peterson Custom Leather, and Rockin ‘S’ Tack have entered into an agreement to purchase all Tex Tan factories of Yoakum, Texas from Action Company of McKinney, Texas.  This is an asset purchase with no liabilities.   

James Cox will remain the sole owner of the Tex Tan Western Leather trade name, Hereford Saddle Brand and other Tex Tan Brands, and will continue the manufacturing of saddles, strap goods, and belts in the USA with the Tex Tan Brand.  Most of the manufacturing will move to Ohio.  Action Company will sell the real estate.   

The four buyers will absorb some of the equipment into each of their separate operations, then proceed to have one of the biggest auctions in Texas history beginning on January 15, 2021 for 3 consecutive days.  The auction consists of the Tex Tan Saddle operation, Tex Tan tree factory, and the old Bona Allen Saddle/Hickock Belt Factories located in Yoakum, Texas.  All types of leather working equipment, tools, saddle trees, silver, hardware, stirrups, etc. will be offered.  Keep checking for details, as well as – Auctioneer ID 8433.  AuctionZip will have pictures as well.   

Effective January 1st, 2021 Moser Leather will start doing business as Tex Tan Western Leather.  Moser Leather will become one of the brands of Tex Tan for leather sales and finishing.  Current Moser addresses and Tax ID will remain the same; Moser Leather will just be doing business under the new trade name.   

December 2020

Wichita Falls’ Annual Boot and Saddle Maker Round Up – A Shared Success 

By Liisa Andreassen 

Despite COVID challenges, this year’s Annual Boot and Saddle Maker’s Round Up in Wichita Falls, Texas, carried on. This two-day event held in early October had something for everyone – leather, lasts, saddle trees, hardware, findings, silver trim, accessories, boot and saddle tools, machinery and more. And people were ready to buy.  

The Main Event 

“This year’s show exceeded far beyond what we had anticipated,” Kathy Kimmel, the event’s founder, said. “Our vendors never wavered in agreeing to push forward with the show, from the early months of March and April, until we finally got approval by the Wichita Falls Health Department in late August.  I left it up to the vendors, whether to go forward or cancel, and sincerely thank each of those vendors who made the show possible.”  

Kimmel says she spent months adding an additional 15,000 square feet to the event space to ensure social distancing between booths, in aisles and in registration areas was possible.  

While show attendance was lower (approximately 800) compared to previous years, vendors were relieved and pleased to learn that the buying was not.  

“Vendors repeatedly came to let us know that they had either done as well or exceeded previous years’ sales,” Kimmel said.  

For attendees, most were pleased, although a few were disappointed to find vendors who they had wished to buy from decided not to attend.  

“That’s totally understandable,” Kimmel said.  

There was a total of 39 vendors, which was fewer than the typical 50-55, but the 39 who did exhibit reaped high-buying volume.   

Dave Schall of Keystone Leather said this was his 17th year exhibiting as a vendor. He most enjoyed visiting with customers and vendors. 

“Overall, the mood was good,” he said. “We sold outsoles, insoles, counters and heel stacks and I left the show with only one box of product. While the show’s traffic may have been down slightly, the bootmakers who were there were positive and still building boots.”  

The Boot and Saddle Contests 

Kimmel donates space for the boot and saddle contests and Mike Vaughn, the boot contest coordinator, said he was thrilled to see everyone again.  
“I thought this year’s show was great, all things considered,” Vaughn said. “I think a lot of people are tired of COVID and were just happy to get out and do something.”  
Vaughn added that this year’s boot contest did not disappoint. Like previous years, the creativity flowed and new bootmakers proved to progress in their craft.  

“Time under your belt usually, not always, but usually takes care of a lot of issues or problems that newer bootmakers may be struggling with and there’s just no substitute for time, boots out the door and experience,” Vaughn explained.  
There were 31 boot contest entries, which doesn’t compare too badly to last year’s toll of 45. Overall, the average is about 35 to 40 entries.  

The event also hosted space for one-hour Q&A seminars on a range of topics such as leather carving and homemade tools for rigging placement and symmetrical lines led by master boot and saddlemakers:  

  • Mark Allred 
  • Mike Vaughn 
  • Mike Karnes 
  • Mark Hurley 
  • Marty Byrd 
  • Jesse Smith 
  • Marian Chappell (Carl Chappell recently passed away; his wife attended in his place and a small memorial was held instead of the seminar Carl was supposed to lead.) 

“A big shout out to Mark Hurley on his Q&A, Jesse Smith on carving and Marty 

Byrd for tips on saddlemaking,” Pebble Brown, the saddle contest coordinator, said.  

The saddle contest had 13 entries; Brown said she’d like to see that number improve.   

“I think everyone was happy to have a little normalcy in their life right now,” Brown added. “While we missed seeing some of the regular vendors, the ones who attended had a good show. The highlight for me was shopping for our business, and getting to see and visit with everyone.” 

Kimmel agrees that seeing vendors and attendees alike, super relieved and excited that they were able to buy, sell and just enjoy doing business like “ole times” or at least pretty close, was the main highlight.  

“I’m thankful for a great crew of family and friends who always attend the show and make all the months of planning worthwhile,” Kimmel said.  


Saddle Contest Winners 

  • Open Floral, Jesse Smith 
  • Open Geometric, Jr Miller 
  • Working Cowboy, Pete Matherne 
  • Beginner, Benjamin Tunnell 
  • Novice, Shelton Yates 


Boot Contest Winners 

  • Master, Jim Brainard 
  • Journeyman, Justin Diver 
  • Working Cowboy Intermediate, Nicole Spivey 
  • Working Cowboy & Top Stitching, Jarrett Van Curen 
  • Top Stitching Intermediate, Jeff Moore 
  • Artistry Intermediate, Dereck Franks 
  • Dress Intermediate, Bob Murray 
  • Artistry, Dew Westover 
  • Open Dress, Brian Thomas 
  • Shop, Debbie & Glen Meek of Leddy’s Legacy 



AA Horse Tack 

American Tanning 

Barry King Tools 

Bob Park Custom 

C Loy’s leather 

C.S. Osborne 

Custom Ink 

Double K Leather 

DW LeatherWorks 

GH Leather 

Garlin Neumann 

Goliger Leather 


Hansen Western Gear 

Hermann Oak 

Jesse Smith Saddlery 

Keystone Leather 

Larson Leather Co. 

Leather Machine Co. 

Leather Wranglers 

Lewis Leather 

Loveless Boot & Leather 

Maker’s Leather Supply 

Miller Custom Leather & Tool 

Moser Leather 

Ostrich-Gator Market 

Pikes Peak Saddlery 

Pro Series Tools 

ShopTalk! Magazine 

Snapping Turtle Leather 

Sorrell Notions & Findings 

Texas Custom Dies 

Texas Leather Trim 

Thornapple River Boots 

Thoroughbred Leather 

TLSS Boot Tools 

Van Amburg Leathers 

Vaughan Gators 

Y-Knot Lace 

Successful Injunction Wins Against California Anti-Alligator Trade Law 

By Nick Pernokas 

Recently, an anti-alligator-products trade law was halted indefinitely by an injunction resulting from a lawsuit by a coalition of individuals involved in various businesses in the alligator products industry. The law, labeled California Penal Code 653o, stemmed from a 1970s sunset-type law and had far-reaching implications for the entire leather industry.  

ShopTalk! visited with Christy Plott, one of the interested parties in this legal action that was taken against the anti-trade law. Interested party is an understatement. Christy is part of multi-generational, family leather business, American Tanning & Leather LLC. “Am Tan” is a five-generation business that is located in Griffin, Georgia. They are the oldest, and largest, alligator tannery in the country and one of the only major alligator tanneries in the world. 

The statute was written to become effective on a “future” date and it would make it illegal to trade any part or product of a dead alligator or crocodile. Until now, this law has been continuously kicked down the road through a “sunset clause” type law. Originally, this law was put on the books in California to aid Louisiana and Florida in their local conservation efforts. There was no real federal protection for these animals prior to the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Louisiana’s alligator conservation programs became successful and alligators were no longer endangered; this law was repeatedly pushed into the future due to Louisiana’s periodic lobbying. Unfortunately for the leather industry, it was never removed from the books. 

In January 2020, the law had again come up to kick in. Louisiana, the California Retailers Association and some product brands had lobbyists to try to postpone the law again. Bills were introduced to delay the bill, or to remove it all together. Unfortunately, the mood of the state had changed and the bills failed. The opposition was formidable and many groups came out to denounce illegal trade in crocodile leather. This premise was false, but as an emotional issue it gained a lot of traction with the legislature. 

“This is simply not true. I pulled the trade numbers from 2012 to 2017 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife LEMIS and CITES data,” says Christy. “Out of those five years, 1.2 million alligator products were imported into the U.S. from overseas. And 99.9 percent of those were imported legally.” 

There are only a handful of tanneries that are set up to tan these skins. The alligator skins are always tagged so the source is known. 

“We have absolutely no need or desire to buy an illegal skin because we can get plenty of skins legally.”   

In fact, many examples that were cited as being questionable were just mistakes in paperwork on legal products. 

“Legislators can be well-meaning individuals,” says Christy. “And they can think that what they’re doing is good for conservation. But they really missed the mark with this.” 

When the bills failed, it put California law in a legal conflict with the rest of the world where this trade is legal. Christy and other producers within the alligator industry worked with a law firm and found that the Endangered Species Act states that you have to have a permit to trade in alligator and crocodile. If you have a permit, then you are allowed to do it by the federal government. Federal law, in this case the Endangered Species Act, supersedes state law. They also found that the actions California took were harmful to interstate commerce. In other words, California couldn’t take action that was harmful to industries in other states like Louisiana and Florida. Together with other manufacturers and producers within the leather industry, they filed suit against the state of California to obtain an injunction against this law. Their reasoning and facts were backed up by testimony from international scientists and conservation experts.  

The state of Louisiana joined the battle and filed their own lawsuit as well. The Louisiana Alligator Farmers and Rancher’s Association, along with other tanners, farms and brands, funded the majority of the attorney’s fees, but many people involved in the leather business from around the country contributed financially as well.  

Most of the pro-alligator-trade testimony was similar to Dilys Roe’s, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. She testified, “The crocodile industry is now worth over 100 million dollars a year, the illegal trade has all but vanished and crocodiles are far more abundant than they were 50 years ago.” 

Upon reviewing the materials, the judge ruled that the trade would remain legal until the formal hearing in June. By this time, the federal government had written a directive which supported the alligator producers’ group and said that they would not enforce any felony charges for importing alligator products into California.  

The case was reviewed in the Ninth Circuit Court in California. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proceedings took place on Zoom. 

“We had a really fabulous judge. When you read her opinion, you can see that she really dug in to understand all of the issues.” 

The judge granted an injunction. 

“It was a real win for us. It feels good,” says Christy. 

California is about 25 percent of the U.S. market for alligator products in the U.S. In addition, California ports are the gateway to Asia for US leather products. If the law had remained in effect, it would have hurt not only the brands that sell these exotic leather products in California, but also the specialty tanneries, which are not set up to tan any other kind of leather. It would have hurt the rural communities where these animals are farmed or sourced and it would have hurt the alligator population, which would suffer the fate of other species that are not viewed as valued commodities, but instead as dangerous predators.  

Although an indefinite injunction was won by the alligator industry, there is more work to be done. The law is still on the books and to avoid going through this again if the political winds change in the future, a permanent settlement with the state of California needs to be achieved. 

“Our goal is to make sure that this can’t happen in other states. The intent of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) laws, and endangered species laws, is to make sure trade is not detrimental to the survival of a species. We have a very clear record on every species of crocodilian that has recovered from endangered species status that show that sustainable-use programs work.” 

The reason for this is that the people who care the most about increasing the crocodile population are those who have an economic incentive to do so. In some communities around the world, the crocodile population is justly considered a dangerous nuisance. The leather industry has conveyed a monetary value to the animal that balances this out. This is not just in skins, but in industries that poor rural communities would not have otherwise. Very few predatory animals around the world have seen a resurgence in numbers from an endangered status like the alligator and crocodile. 

The campaign to repeal this law will continue and it indirectly affects all of us in the leather products industry. Up to date, the cost of litigation has been about $3 million. They still need your help. Any donations can be sent to the Louisiana Alligator Farmers and Ranchers Association, a nonprofit organization, with a note mentioning that you’d like it applied for this purpose.  

To find out more about this continuing situation, or to find out how you can help, contact Christy at 770-228-4433 or , or Stephen Sagrera, president of the LAFRA, at  

Photographs Courtesy of American Tanning & Leather LLC 

November 2020

Remembering Carl Chappell

Three friends share sweet memories of a third-generation Texas bootmaker

by Liisa Andreassen

Carlton (Carl) T. Chappell was a third-generation, award-winning bootmaker who lived in Saint Jo, Texas, with his wife Marian. He passed away on Sept. 14, but his legacy lives on. Carl started in the leathercraft business in 1964 by building belts, knife sheaths, holsters and other small leather projects in his uncle’s Western Art & Saddle Shop in Alamosa, Colorado.  In 1982, he moved his family to Saint Jo to learn the art and craft of bootmaking from his father who had been making boots since 1945.  After training with his father and perfecting his skills, Carl opened up his own boot shop where he continued to push bootmaking boundaries in stitching, tooling and artistic design. 

Carl was well known for the custom fit of the boots and could fit those hard-to-fit feet like no other. He was best known for his dress cowboy boots, which included multiple rows of intricate stitching, fancy inlays, decorative collars, beading, candy-stripe piping, filigree work, carving and hand-tooling. 

“Carl’s boots were always creative, artistic and somewhat different,” Mark Fletcher, a boot collector and enthusiast, says. “I think he was one of the first bootmakers to put tooling on the soles and the sides.”

Mark met Carl at the Texas Boot and Saddle Makers Round Up about 15 years ago.

“My first impression of Carl was that he was a funny guy,” he says. “Brian Thompson had made a pair of boots that had several panels of colors at the top and I recall Carl saying to him, ‘Brian, if you ran out of material, you could have called me.’ That was Carl. Easy to be with, always joking.”

Mark was particularly impressed by how quickly Carl was willing to share his knowledge with others – specifically young bootmakers.  He volunteered to teach classes at the Round Ups for two to three years and helping to mentor people just seemed to come naturally for him.

Mike Vaughn of Mike Vaughn’s Handmade Boots said that Carl showed up at his shop about 30 years ago and the two have been “picking” at each other ever since.”

“We’ve always picked back and forth at each other,” Mike says. “It’s just what we did. He always had a good heart and good intentions.”

Mike remembers back to when Carl had a one-room shop in his house, right when he started out in the business.

Carl’s house was only about 20 minutes away from Mike’s and whenever he stopped over, Carl’s wife, Marian, was there to greet him with a smile.

“You hardly didn’t see one without the other,” Mike says.

Dew Westover, of Dew’s Custom Handmade Boots, says that the passing of Carl is a great loss to the boot world.

Like Mark, Dew met Carl at a Texas Round Up nearly 18 years ago.

“I was walking around a corner and we literally ran into each other,” he says. “We got to talking and I really enjoyed being around him. He was always fun and joking. Everything was copasetic when you were with Carl.”

Dew enrolled in Carl’s bootmaker’s school in 2002 and that was the beginning of a long friendship. He says that Carl taught him the finer points of bootmaking and always challenged him to do more, do better and go that next step.

“I truly can’t think of anyone else who was so open with his knowledge. He had such a desire to share what he knew with others and he was a true master of the craft. His artistic abilities were out of this world,” Dew says. “Everybody knew Carl and Carl knew everybody.”

All three friends agree that life’s going to be a lot different without Carl around.

Wayne Decker Passes

By Nick Pernokas

The little boy was waiting for his dad after work that day, a pencil and a piece of paper in his hand. As soon as his father sat down at the kitchen table, the boy asked him to draw a horse. The father obliged him and drew a horse. The little boy studied the picture for a minute and then, with a seven-year-old’s honesty, said, “I can draw a better horse than that.” After a few minutes of concentration, he produced a good sketch of a horse, which he proudly showed his dad.

Wayne Decker continued pursuing his love for art for many years after his first sketch. He moved on to sketching the windmills on his grandfather’s farm, but eventually real life stepped in and he would move on to other artistic mediums. He was introduced to leather tooling and braiding when he was an Eagle Scout.

When Wayne graduated from high school in Austin, Texas, in 1974, he joined the military. Wayne proudly served in both the US Marine Corps, and the US Air Force. Upon mustering out of the service, Wayne returned to his cowboy roots and started riding bulls. A badly broken leg put an end to Wayne’s rodeo career, so he started looking for a job with better benefits. At the time, the oil business was booming in Texas. In 1981, Wayne went to work for the first of several oil and gas companies.

In 1985, Wayne met Sue Roberson. She was impressed with his wit and his charm. It was to be a long-lasting impression. The next year they were married. They settled in the Round Rock, Texas area, on a place that Wayne called the “Deckarosa.” Their son, Colton, was born in 1993.

As an insight into Wayne’s character, he picked out a tree on their place and named it the “Tree of Knowledge.” It was where he and Colton would go for their father-son talks. There were rules though. You didn’t cuss or raise your voice with each other at the tree. Some talks were long and serious. Others were simple lessons like, “You love people and use things; you don’t love things and use people.”

Wayne started team roping in his forties. He loved heading. Sue remembers listening to Wayne rope the dummy for hours after she’d gone to bed. Wayne became good friends with a lot of younger guys who were roping at that time. They would come over and rope with him, and they’d go to ropings together. Some of them became interested in leather work through Wayne.

“He became a mentor to them, and they’re like our children now. If you made a friend with Wayne Decker, you were a friend for life,” says Sue.

One of these was leathercrafter Seth Stidham from Johnson City, Texas. When Seth was in high school in 1998, he used to come over to Wayne’s arena to rope. Years later, when Seth became interested in leather work, Wayne helped him with his tooling.

Seth and his wife, Jasmin, opened Stidham Outfitters and Custom Leather. Seth made high-end, carved leather products for the store. Wayne continued to mentor Seth on his leather work. Seth really wanted to learn how to make saddles. A couple years ago, Wayne and Seth decided to collaborate on a saddle to enter at Wichita Falls. Wayne told Seth that he would give him his saddle patterns.

“We were kind of a team. He’d tell me what I needed to work on. I talked to him at least two days a week,” says Seth. “He was probably tired of my questions. He was always there. He’d let you know the truth about what you were building”.

Wayne had a lifelong interest in leather. He made a lot of smaller items, like bible covers and belts, during his tenure in the oil business. His Bar U Custom Leather was named after the brand that had been in his family for 150 years. In 2009, his beautiful floral carved saddle won the Champion Novice Award at the Boot and Saddle Maker’s Roundup in Wichita Falls.

Wayne continued his day job in the energy business, working in field operations as a gauger. Gaugers confirm oil and gas field production levels, while maintaining oil and gas equipment. Wayne would check operations on various drilling rigs in the area he was working in. It was a job with long hours and lots of downtime. Towards the end of his career with the oil companies, he would tool leather parts on a marble slab on his metal desk at night when he was on call. Needless to say, the desk had a permanent bow in it by the time Wayne left. After 30 years with the natural gas industry, Wayne retired in 2011. He now had time to pursue his first love, leather work.

Bar U Custom Leather became a full-time job. Wayne had worked at perfecting his Sheridan-style tooling. Now he put it on saddles, belts, shaving kits and rope can covers. He experimented with color, and did some beautiful washes that looked like watercolors.  He drew Sheridan-style tooling for tattoos. When Wayne and Sue went to eat at the Macaroni Grill, he would have a crayon in hand by the time the bread came. By the time they left, the tablecloth would be covered with Sheridan tooling patterns.

As obsessed as Wayne was with precision in his carving, he also strived for perfection in his finishing work. He put his heart into each piece he created.

Wayne was noted for his keen sense of humor. In 2014, he attended a tooling seminar put on by noted saddlemaker Cary Schwarz. Cary asked the class how many drew their patterns before they started carving and tooling. Wayne didn’t raise his hand. Cary had them draw a pattern and Wayne was the first to finish.  Cary walked over, looked at Wayne’s drawing and glanced at him. Wayne just looked at Cary with a mischievous grin and said, “I didn’t say I couldn’t draw, I just said I didn’t.” 

Wayne made a bible cover for Jeff Copenhaver, a preacher and world champion roper. Jeff asked if the bible cover would make him a better preacher and Wayne told him no. Wayne said that once the congregation saw the bible cover, they wouldn’t be listening to a word he said.

Wayne came from a background where he couldn’t always afford to purchase the things that he wanted. He developed an eye for quality so that he could buy the best item when he did save up enough. More importantly, he learned to make many of the things that he wanted. Recently he said, “When I offer the finest leather products I can to the public, they’re most often something I really would like to keep for myself.”

“He wanted to do his best for everyone,” says Sue.

Wayne was extremely sociable, and when he wasn’t working in his shop, he could usually be found in someone else’s. He loved to visit with leather craftsmen, and in fact earned his nickname, “Lil’ Wayne,” during a visit to saddlemaker Monty Reedy’s shop. It was music genre day at the shop and Lil’ Wayne was on the playlist. One thing led to another as it so often does. The nickname stuck.

Wayne kept his cancer diagnosis fairly private and approached it with strength, humor, courage and a positive attitude. One day, Seth Stidham received a text from Wayne. It told him that he needed to come over to Round Rock so Wayne could give him the patterns for the Wichita Falls saddle. Seth hadn’t seen Wayne in a while and didn’t realize how sick he really was.

“He could barely get up to the table, but we traced off all of his patterns and parts. It meant a lot,” says Seth.

Wayne died the next week.

Most of the time, when writing these pieces after the fact, it’s difficult to find enough material in a short period of time. In the case of Wayne Decker, I was flooded with posts and remembrances about his personality, sense of humor and love of people. I guess I was one of the lucky ones, too. I had a cup of coffee with him one time.

RIP Wayne Decker

February 8, 1956 – September 10, 2020

October 2020


In October 2019, the outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland, announced a new partnership with Other Half Processing to build a responsible leather supply chain sourced from ranches that employ verified regenerative practices, according to an  article in Environment & Energy Leader (E+E Leader).

“The company’s use of these hides in its production directly supports the farmers, ranchers and tribes who raise their livestock in a regenerative system,” the article stated.

“Ranchers and farmers who use regenerative grazing practices manage their cattle in a way that mimics the natural movement of herd animals. Such grazing allows for more rest and re-growth of grasses, which can lead to better food for livestock and healthier soil as these grasses pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground.

“The brand has banned the sourcing of hides from certain countries or regions where they have learned of animal husbandry concerns. Through individual agreements from suppliers and improved traceability audits through the Leather Working Group assessment, the brand is improving its capabilities to ensure hides are sourced from acceptable locations,” according to E+E Leader.

In May 2020, Timberland deepened its commitment to regenerative agriculture by announcing a partnership with The Savory Institute, a nonprofit focused on holistic land management. Timberland plans to launch a boot collection this fall, featuring “leather from verified regenerative ranches sourced through Savory,” a report in Fashionista stated.

 Timberland sources the majority of its hides from U.S. cattle raised for food and processed according to USDA guidelines. By establishing rigorous standards, the brand aims to significantly reduce the environmental impact of every product they make and to increase their use of recycled, organic and renewable materials. Some of their product goals include:

• 100% of footwear will include at least one material containing recycled, organic or renewable (ROR) content

• 100% of footwear and outerwear leather will be sourced from tanneries that have earned a Gold or Silver rating from Leather Working Group for following best environmental practices. 

• 100% of apparel cotton will come from organic, U.S.-origin or Better Cotton Initiative — certified sources.

• 100% of footwear and apparel will be PVC-free.

Robb Barr, Other Hide Crafter Videos Rereleased Digitally 

In the late 90s, George Hurst owned and operated Hide Crafter Leather, where he sold leather, tools, and instructional videos. The videos that he produced in this collection featured outstanding leather artists, several of whom have been recognized as Al Stohlman Award winners, sharing insights and techniques in creating masterwork pieces of leather art.

When Hurst was recruited to work back at Tandy Leather again, he sold the assets of Hide Crafters Leather Co. to a group including Silver Creek Leather Co., manufacturer of Realeather® Crafts and the Speedy Stitcher. Some of the videos remained in production for sale as DVDs, but others became collector’s items and were not widely available to the leatherworking community due to the cost and limitations of production and distribution.  

Greg Sartor and Jim Linnell have a shared passion for promoting leathercraft and preserving it’s history, so Silver Creek Leather Co. has collaborated with Elktracks Studio on these videos to bring them back into circulation. 

“This is a big win for the industry,” said Jim Linnell. “Silver Creek for years has helped countless Boy Scouts, crafters, and artisans discover leather and build their foundation of skills. The release of this collection digitally as a joint effort with Elktracks takes that a step further in supporting leatherworkers at all levels to continue to learn, explore, and push the boundaries of what can be done with leather.”

The collection is in the process of being converted to a digital format and made available for purchase as a downloadable video on, and can be found under the “Instructional Videos” tab as the “Hide Crafter Collection”. Check back frequently for new additions or subscribe to the Elktracks Studio newsletter for regular updates.

51st Annual Harness Makers Get-Together Minutes

Date: July 18, 2020

Hosts: Beiler’s Mfg & Supply in Ronks, PA – Christ Beiler Family & Employees

Meeting: Meeting was called to order at 11:00pm by chairman Reuben Byler.  Reuben welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming.  He thanked the Christ Beiler family and employees for being hosts and getting ready for the event.  Christ introduced his family and employees and gave a report of the auction the day before.  The prices were a little soft, but everything went well.  He thanked everyone that helped get things ready and helped during the auction.  Reuben thanked Hermann Oak for donating a side of leather for the leather cutting demo.

Committee: Committee members were introduced: Reuben Byler-Middlefield, OH, Mose Beachy-Baltic, OH, Wayne Chupp-Fredericksburg, OH, Mark Brenneman-Springs, PA, Jonas Stoltzfus-Honeybrook, PA, Gary Miller-Arthur, IL, Mahlon Yoder-Middlebury, IN, new member replacing Mark Brenneman is Sam Kauffman-Loganton, PA.

Former Committee Members: Dan Lapp, Eli Schlabach, Jim Weaver, Atlee Yoder and Andrew Hostetler.

Reports: Jim Weaver from Weaver Leather gave report on upcoming Weaver Consignment Auction that will be held in December of this year at the Mt. Hope Expo building in Mt. Hope, OH due to COVID-19 pandemic.  He expressed appreciation for our support.  March had a 40% drop in sales.  In April they were making face shields.  In May things started moving again.  In June the Equine division had a 51% increase alone.  Right now, they have a part night shift and 72-hour shipping instead of the normal 24-hour they usually have.  The tariff is still in effect and they don’t see any changes anytime soon.

Hermann Oak: Doug Morrison and Todd Salzman gave update on the tannery and thanked everyone for the support and for having them there.

Keith Palmer Auction of South Dakota: Dan Lapp and Eli Schlabach gave a report on the dispersal of Keith’s auction.  They went out and helped get things ready.  He had lots of items.  Eli and his wife sorted machine parts for three days, and Dan and his wife sorted tools for three days.  The auction totaled around $80,000.  Keith was in a nursing home at the time.  Dan took the responsibilities of Keith the day of the auction and brought him out to the sale.  Keith could not believe he had so much stuff.  Keith seldom missed a Weaver Auction.

Tent: The large tent was again paid for by the Bio Plastic Company.  A special thanks to them even though they couldn’t be present this time.

Demo: A 30-minute leather cutting demonstration was done at 10:00am by Joe Bowman Jr. of Bowman Harness.  He illustrated what to look for in a hide before cutting, where to cut out pieces that need more strength and what weight to look for different items with a Q&A session at the end.  It was well covered.  Thanks to Junior for doing this for us.  Let’s pass on our knowledge, what we’ve learned from our forefathers to the next generation.

Death Reports: Since last gathering… gone, but not forgotten.

Abe D. Miller (formerly Millers Harness-also former committee member) OH

Eli D. Weaver (Mt Eaton Harness-known as Speck Sammy) OH

Jonas R. Yoder (Yoder Nylon Works) OH

Mrs. Bobb Coblentz (Coblentz Collar) OH

Omar Beiler (Beiler Mfg & Supply) PA
Samuel Fisher (? Harness Shop) PA

Death is a heartache only one can heal, precious are the memories no one can steal.

Most Miles Traveled: Dickie Harold from Arkansas (known as Arkansas Hillbilly) – 1,200 miles

Oldest Man Present: John J. Beiler from PA, 84-years-old and Ben Beiler from PA, 84-years-old

Longest in Business: 1960 – Mervin Martin (Martin’s Harness Shop) PA

Newest in Business: March 2020 – Mose Lapp (Pine View Harness) PA

Shops Present at Gathering:

PA-47, OH-10, IL-4, MD-3, NY-2, IN-2, SC-1, WY-1, NC-1, MI-1, AR-1 = 73 Businesses

Attendance: Approximately 250-275 with children, approximately 193 persons signed in

Door prizes donated by:

Hillside Harness

Mid River Sales

Sew Pro

Shetler’s Collar

Spring Valley Harness

Keystone Supply

Troyer Rope

Chupp Blacksmith

Sugar Valley Collar

Weaver Leather

Beiler’s Mfg & Supply

Country Side Sales

Sweat Pad Shop

Beachy’s Nylon Harness

Brenneman’s Leather Goods

N&A Harness

Bowman Harness

Fishers Harness

Yonies Harness

Keystone Supply: They had a box of miscellaneous hardware on their table and everyone was to guess the weight.  The one closest got the box of hardware.  The winner was Michael M. Beachy, OH.  He guessed 47.42 pounds and the actual weight was 47.32 pounds.

Committee Members

Chairman: Reuben Byler (Bylers Harness Shop) 16404 Nauvoo Road, Middlefield, OH 44062 (440) 632-1496

Secretary: Mose Beachy (Beachy’s Nylon Harness) 2815 TR 182, Baltic, OH, 43804 (330) 897-1350

Treasurer: Gary Miller (Miller’s Harness Shop) 431 N CR 100 E, Arthur, IL 61911 (217) 543-6268

Committee: Jonas Stoltzfus (Stoltzfus Harness Shop) 246 Maple St., Honeybrook, PA 19344 (610) 273-2294

Committee: Wayne Chupp (Chupp Blacksmith) 9407 TR 609, Fredericksburg, OH 44627

Committee: Mahlon Yoder (M.D.Y. Harness) 1455 S 1100 W, Middlebury, IN 46540 (574) 825-8151

Committee: Sam Kauffman (Kauffman’s Store) 22 Meadow Lane, Loganton, PA 17747 (570) 725-3679

Suggested Meal Price

Adults: $13.00                  Children: $8.00

Imprinted mugs, cup, journals and tape measures were available at a reasonable cost. 

2021 Next Year’s Meeting will be held at Borntrager Harness Shop in Cashton, WI

September 2020

Complete Liquidation of World Class Leather Tanning Operation

August 13, 2020 – Myron Bowling Auctioneers

Myron Bowling Auctioneers will conduct an industrial auction for Tasman Industries, a world class prime leather tannery and leather goods manufacturer due to the business closing.
This industrial webcast only auction is scheduled for Monday, September 28th at 9AM EDT at 9 Main Street in Hartland, Maine 04943. The auction features (2) Cartigliano vacuum dryers, (2) Tomboni 850-ton upending hydro plating/embossing presses, Cartigliano impregnators, a Roto-Press Super-Rotograin finishing machine, Mosconi Verona & Woburn hide splitters, Koch & Fratelli/Carlessi toggle drying ovens, Cartigliano staker/leather softening machines, Gemata and Cosmoted roto-coat machines, Hampton and other spray paint booth lines, (4) Unimatic color wheel tumblers, new As 2018, a Poletto dry mill tumbler, Bergi, Aletti and Aulson buffing lines, a Vorne measuring machine, 2012 Cleaver Brooks, Ames and other boilers, Ingersoll-Rand and Atlas Copco air compressors to 150-HP, dryers and chillers, dust collectors, a Lantech Q-Series stretch wrapper, test and toolroom equipment, forklifts to 16,000-lb. capacity, scissor lifts, trucks and more.

Inspection is scheduled from Thursday, September 24th through Sunday, September 27th from 9AM – 4PM each day. For more information about this auction, contact Myron Bowling 513-604-4957,

About Myron Bowling Auctioneers

The company was founded by Myron Bowling in 1975 and incorporated in 1985. It has since grown to become one of the nation’s largest industrial auctioneering firms. Headquartered in Hamilton, Ohio, the company conducts approximately 80 auctions for privately and publicly held companies, the United States Bankruptcy Court and other lending institutions and turnaround management companies throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

August 2020

Annie Libertini’s Portrait Workshops Now Available to Learn From Home

In the absence of in-person classes due to the pandemic, award-winning artist Annie Libertini has recently completed a 5-part video series on tooling and coloring leather portraits. Libertini has gained a reputation for her work as both an artisan and a teacher, with many of her human profiles being recognized with first place ribbons.

This series is an in-depth analysis about how to effectively capture a subject’s likeness, to not only create a portrait, but a portrait that looks like them. Each of the five videos run over two hours, examining how to tool eyes and eyebrows, noses and mouths, hair and accessories, creating skin and hair specific color, with a final video on bringing them all together in a final project.

Students of the initial sold-out live series praised Libertini’s ability to teach this course, many of them producing their own unique masterpieces throughout the process. The recording of those online classes are now available as a digital download for anyone wanting to push the boundaries of their leatherwork.

To find these and other videos by Annie Libertini, visit and choose the “Annie Libertini Collection” option from the “Instructional Videos” dropdown menu.

Western Leather Early Summer Auction Held Amid Pandemic

The annual Western Leather Early Summer Auction was held on May 28-29 in Wooster, Ohio amid the COVID-19 threat.  “We had a very good sale considering many stayed away due to the Corona Pandemic situation,” commented James Cox, event coordinator and owner of Cox Auctioneers, among other companies.  The Wayne County Fairgrounds was a great place to hold the auction since it is located just off US Route 30, between I-71 and I-77.  The auction was held in two exhibit halls allowing plenty of room for attendees to practice social distancing during the show.  “Attendance was low, but we sold enough to satisfy our sellers and book for next year,” Cox said.  There was a large assortment of items for attendees to purchase at the auction which included leather, hardware, tools, tack and even finished goods.  They also had a variety of equipment that was consigned.  “Everyone had a good time and enjoyed getting out for a change.  We hope to see you all at our fall auctions coming up in Vinita, Oklahoma and Lawrenceburg, Indiana!” exclaimed Cox. 

George Martin Passes

By Nick Pernokas

Some men are known by their occupation, and some by what they love to do. George Martin straddled that line. George was born in 1945 in California. He spent his formative years on his grandfather, Roy Martin’s, ranch in Northern California. Roy was a talented cowboy, and George emulated him. Roy had been a bronc rider, and eventually George began riding saddle broncs competitively.  George’s family moved to the Falls River area of Oregon when he was in high school.

It was from Portland, Oregon that George was inducted into the Marines. He served his country in a tour of duty in Vietnam, but he didn’t like the military regimen enough to make it a career. When George mustered out, he was looking for a quieter life.

In 1969, George married a former cowgirl, and bull rider, Sharron.

In 1971, George went to work in an Oregon shoe shop. The owner taught him how to repair shoes, and George bought that shop that same year. George still felt the pull of the West, and he continued to do anything that he could on horseback. He also wanted to produce something with his leatherwork that would connect him back to his western roots.

Around 1974 George learned to build saddles from Frank Crail in Salem, Oregon. In 1978, the family moved to Wickenburg, Arizona. George opened a saddle shop and shoe shop there under the name of Martin Saddlery. George did the actual saddle construction, and Sharron , who had learned to tool in 4-H, did all of the leather carving.  

The mechanics of saddle making fascinated George. He liked to tinker with the way the saddles were built.

“He always tried to improve them for the cowboy and the horse,” remembers Kelly Martin, his daughter, who is also a custom boot maker. ”He was always looking for the ultimate cowboy tool.”

George team roped competitively in many of the local jackpots that Wickenburg is famous for. Kelly became a good roper, and frequently roped with George.

George used his shoe repair knowledge to fix and improve a lot of western boots. He invented a “cowboy half sole” that he thought was safer, especially for bronc riders who rode with oxbow stirrups. The back of the sole came back in a feathered down “v” shape, and touched the heel. This kept the sole from peeling where the edge of the stirrup rested, and prevented cowboys from getting hung up in it.

Making a boot was the next thing that George wanted to tackle. He tore apart an old pair of boots, and used them as a template to build a new pair. When they didn’t turn out well, he decided he needed some guidance. In 1982, George attended Randal Merrell’s boot making school in Utah. Soon he added boots to his repertoire. Sharron continued to add the artistic element to the business by stitching the boot tops. George’s durable boots quickly became popular with the cowboys. He always preached that western boots needed to be built, “cowboy tough”.

George built anything and everything in his shop. His products included knife sheaths, holsters, belts and purses. George also loved to teach. He always made time if it was needed to help someone. George believed that repair work was the best training method.  One day Al Reynolds wandered in, and wanted to learn to make boots. George pointed him towards the leather bin and said, “There’s the leather, it ain’t going to make itself.”

George didn’t have the desire to enter contests for his work, but he was really happy when someone he had helped did well. In later years when Al Reynolds became an award winning boot maker, George said, “It’s a piss poor teacher that the student doesn’t get better than the teacher. I was proud of him.”

Kelly started working in the shop after school. “I don’t know how many boots and saddles I cleaned, and picked stitches on,” says Kelly. When Kelly finally decided that she wanted to make boots, George was thrilled.

George was known for his keen sense of humor. When another saddle maker, with the same name became well known, George changed the name of his business to Brand X Saddlery. When he was asked why, he replied,”Because we’re the other guys”.

The other half of George’s life was dedicated to cowboying.  

“No matter what else he was in this world, he was a cowboy,” remembers Kelly. “He loved moving cows. Branding time was his favorite. He was a hell of a roper. He told me, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this.””

George enjoyed the lure of new country. In the fashion of the archetypical drifting cowboy, he was always ready for new ranges with new scenery. Every few years he’d tell Sharron that it was time to move on, and she would enthusiastically pack up the household, and be ready to go.

“My mom would have followed him to the ends of the earth”, says Kelly.” I had an interesting life. We did a lot of neat stuff, but we always did it together. I hit the lottery in the Dad department.”

George would move his equipment, and the family, to a ranch job when he got tired of dealing with the public. Eventually he would tire of that, and the family would be back in the saddle and boot business in a town. George roamed cowboy country in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon.

“We moved all over the Northwest and Southwest.”

Kelly learned more than boot making from George. On one of their moves, lightning struck the stock truck that they had many of their possessions in. George told the family that it was just “stuff”, and that they had everything that was important; each other. Kelly also inherited his love of roping and riding.

“I would get kicked out of school so I could go work with Dad.”   

George was proud of, and lived by, the cowboy code, where a man’s word was bound by a handshake.   

George’s optimism was infectious. When someone was having a bad day in the pasture or the shop, he’d say that, “tomorrow is another day.”

In 2002, Sharron passed away.

In his later years, George lived with Kelly in Battle Mountain, Nevada. He worked at neighbors’ brandings, and would still swing a rope in ranch style competitions.  George enjoyed working in Kelly’s “Martin & Co.” custom boot shop. He was able to pass on some of his ranching experiences to both of her children, as well as to her grandchildren. All of them are involved in the western lifestyle to some degree. Although it wasn’t easy, George was still doing leatherwork up until 4 months before he died.

“There wasn’t anything else in this world that my dad wanted to do other than, as he called it, Cowboy Stuff.  He lived his dream. Not everyone can say that.”

The night that George passed away, Kelly was asked what occupation to put on the death certificate. The answer popped out of her mouth, but the coroner misunderstood, and wrote” rancher”. Kelly corrected him, and he filled in the word “Cowboy”.

“I’ve chased cows up on the mountain, where the earth does touch the sky,

I’ve chased them in the valleys where it’s not but alkali,

I’ve chased them in Arizona amongst the bald cholla and mesquite,

Down in the Big Bend, that slick rock country sure is neat,

The only way to see it is from a saddle seat,

Been out on the staked plain in New Mexico, where the yucca plants do grow,

And down in the Bruneau in Southern Idaho.”

Written by: George Martin

Jan 1, 1945- June 11, 2020

July 2020

Weaver Leather becomes distributor of Strap-Eze

John Bianchi of Frontier Gunleather names Weaver Leather as major national distributor for the Strap-Eze strap cutter, featuring new improved design for easy high-speed belt and strap cutting.

Strap-Eze is the first major strap cutter design in over 100 years and is made entirely in the USA. 

Master bootmaker Al Reynolds of Wickenburg, Arizona passed away on May 24, 2020. In this photo, Al had just received the top award at the 2018 Roundup, winning the Master category in the boot contest.

Al Reynolds Passes

By Nick Pernokas

The western boot industry lost a well-loved member recently.

Alfred Reynolds was born on May 17, 1941, in Philadelphia. The Reynolds family moved to Chicago when he was five, and this was where he discovered his love of horses. Like many young boys of the time, Al was inspired by his celluloid cowboy heroes and it was something that never left him. Al’s parents frequently took him to a local riding stable so he could ride.

“He was a horse kid from word go,” says Dione, Al’s wife. “It was just something in his blood. He just loved it.”

It was in a Chicago park where Al was first exposed to leatherwork. He told a journalist many years later, “When I was five or six years old, WWII was just over and my folks had moved to Chicago. In Chicago, they had neighborhood parks and on Fridays they had sock hops that were manned by disabled WWII veterans. They always brought leatherwork. I had seen that and it fascinated me.”

Al was drafted and he ended up in the 327th Airborne Division in recon. Al found that he loved jumping out of planes. But Al felt that he needed something to do with his hands in his spare time. He remembered those veterans from many years before, and he began to teach himself leatherwork. Soon, he was making a few wallets for other servicemen. In 1963, Al was discharged from the Army.

Al moved to northern Wisconsin, where he became a town marshal and then later, a deputy sheriff. He also owned and ran a cattle ranch. Al learned to make tack and saddles, and became very proficient. Once Al learned the basics of making something, he would try to push it to its artistic limits. His saddles, spur straps and holsters were beautiful.

In Wisconsin, he was severely injured in a horse wreck. His broken leg wasn’t set properly, resulting in Al’s cowboy boots no longer fitting comfortably. He began thinking about building a boot that would give him the comfort that he needed.

A doctor suggested that he would feel better in a warmer climate. Al and his wife, Dione, moved to Wickenburg, Arizona, in 1984. It was only natural that he would become acquainted with Jim Custer, a quintessential cowboy who lived there. Jim was a former roughstock rodeo cowboy, a former stuntman and a well-known team roper. He also had a thriving silver business and he made a lot of trophy buckles. Al began making belts for Jim’s buckles. Al also met local bootmaker George Martin who owned a leather shop. Soon, he was making leather tack items for him as well.

Kelly Martin, a custom boot maker and George’s daughter, says “Al would come to hang out in the shop. He was super artistic. A crazy, amazing artistic man.”

Al made no secret of his desire to build boots. George decided that he would teach Al to build a basic boot. He taught him the mechanics of bootmaking. The two became very close friends and enjoyed working in the shop together.

George Martin remembers, “Al was a hell of a bootmaker! And my friend.”

“We loved him,” says Kelly.

Al had his own shop in Wickenburg. It was an extremely well-organized and neat shop. The area was good for business. There were many recreational cowboys who came to that part of Arizona to enjoy the numerous dude ranches. They became a major source of Al’s clients for custom boots. Many also became friends.

“He was always busy,” remembers Dione.

For many years, Al went to the Wichita Falls Boot and Saddle Maker’s Round Up.  He enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow bootmakers and he liked to see what they were working on. He was hesitant to enter a pair of his own boots though, but the other bootmakers always tried to get him to bring some. Al was reserved and never wanted to be in the spotlight. Finally, with Dione’s, and George Martin’s encouragement, Al broke down and made a pair for the show. These boots were the first of multiple awards for the humble man. He won many divisions, as well as the Master Boot Maker Award three times.

“It’s a piss-poor teacher that the student doesn’t get better than the teacher,” laughs George Martin. “I was proud of him.”

Austin bootmaker Lee Miller knew Al through the Wichita Falls shows.

“Al was a humble man. Everybody liked him.  All of his imagination was poured into his bootmaking,” says Lee. “He was constantly trying to get better.”

Lee remembers how Al’s hands were really hurting him at the end of his career. He was impressed with the way Al pushed through it to create masterpieces to bring to the show.

“Al’s work fit into the Arizona style of bootmaker, with high heels, tall tops and a flamboyant style, in an old west tradition,” says Lee. “The term buckaroo might be applicable.”

In 2016, Michigan shoemaker and repairman Bobby Hay was trying to improve his techniques when he became interested in western boots. He visited with many western bootmakers and attended the Wichita Falls show. One day, Lee Miller introduced him to Al. Bobby learned that Al was contemplating retirement and was interested in selling some of his tools. Bobby was interested in more than that. A deal was made. Bobby apprenticed under Al for about eight months, beginning in October 2017. Bobby found Al to be a patient teacher who showed him some unusual ways to do things. Al became both a humble mentor and a friend to Bobby.

“Being able to work with Al Reynolds really helped to take me to the next level. I really owe a lot to him,” says Bobby.

Bobby ended up buying most of Al’s boot shop and moving it back to Michigan. Al told Lee Miller that he was thrilled at the outcome.

This past January, Kelly stopped to visit Al. He told her that he had something to give her. It was his boot bible, with every pattern for every pair of boots that he’d ever made.

“Al was like another dad to me. He was an amazing human being,” says Kelly. “For him to give me that meant that he was proud of me.”

“It’s kind of like a sickness. I can’t make enough of them,” Al said in later years. “There’s all these ideas rolling around in your head, and you have to transfer them to drawings and then make the drawings work for the sewing machine. I have books just full of drawings. It never ends.” 

Unfortunately for all of us, it did.

Al Reynolds passed away on May 24, 2020.

“It’s been amazing…the wonderful life we had. Everybody loved Al,” says Dione.

June 2020

Dusty Johnson Passes

By Nick Pernokas

ShopTalk! is saddened to learn of the passing of famed saddle maker Dusty Johnson on April 24, 2020. Dusty, who was known for his 1998 book on saddles, “Saddle Savvy,” had also written a previous book on saddle construction, as well as producing videos on saddle, chaps and holster construction.

Dusty grew up in Arizona and began leather carving at the age of 12. At the age of 14, he worked for Porter’s Saddlery. He spent 20 years as a farrier, as well as working at many ranches. He attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he studied business management. Always an entrepreneur, he operated a jewelry manufacturing company, worked for an advertising agency, was a real estate broker, worked for various publications, and was the editor of a Midwestern newspaper. He played the flute for many years, as well performing magic professionally. His expertise included card tricks, bullwhip tricks, and gun spinning.

His best loved occupation was as the owner and saddle maker at Pleasant Valley Saddle Shop and School in Loveland, Colorado. There he produced saddles, tack, and holsters, many of which harkened back to the silver embellished styles of the film and T.V. cowboys of the 1950’s era. Dusty also taught his craft to students from around the world and leaves behind a considerable body of work related to it. In 2002 the Johnsons moved to Prescott, Arizona, where he continued his leather work. He also began to collect Porsche cars.

Dusty is survived by his wife Sharon, two daughters, as well as grandchildren. Dusty Johnson will be sadly missed by the leather industry. 

May 2020

#leathertogether: Tandy Leather, the Leathercraft Community, and our response to COVID-19

FORT WORTH, Texas –For many of us the last few weeks have felt at once like a lifetime and the blink of an eye. At Tandy we have been closely following the guidance of the CDC and local health officials to make day-by-day, location-by-location decisions on how to best protect our customers and employees from the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to keep our promise to build on our 100-year legacy of inspiring the timeless art and trade of leatherworking. As we consider how we will move into the future, we find it helps to look to our past.

Like many members of our community, Tandy began as a small business. Founded in Fort Worth, Texas in 1919, we got our start selling supplies for shoe repair. That was until World War II when civilian leather rationing required Dave L. Tandy and then partner Norton Hinkley to reevaluate their business model. Dave’s son Charles reported that upon visiting a military hospital he saw patients keeping busy by making things with leather. Thus, a new Tandy was born, one that supplied the armed forces with leather and leathercrafting supplies. Charles recognized the need to support and build a community, not just run a business. That’s still at the heart of Tandy’s mission—we know you count on us. That’s why we plan to face down the next 100 years just like the first—with a willingness to adapt and innovate, and a renewed commitment to support the enduring spirit and indomitable creative energy of our community of leatherworkers.

So, what are we doing that’s so different? At the time of this release, we have taken the step to close all our locations to the public even where we have not yet been required. This decision does not come lightly—our stores are the heart of our business, and an extension of your businesses and your communities. They are a place for you to come together, learn, share, and work. It’s where you stock up on the essentials. So, while we can’t invite you in-store, we are working behind the scenes to deliver the supplies, resources, and the sense of community you’ve come to rely on from Tandy.

To shop, you can visit and have your supplies delivered to your door. If you need assistance or have questions, you can call 877-LEATHER and we will connect you with someone who can help. To share and stay up-to-date, follow us @tandyleather. We will be rolling out virtual classes and other online resources to help you continue honing your craft. Our Open Tables may be closed, but we still want to #leathertogether—tag us when sharing your projects!

We’re here to help you Make Your Mark™ for as long as we can. That commitment is what made us who we are today, it’s our legacy, and we believe it’s our future—it has everything to do with you. We will miss seeing you at our stores and are looking forward to the day we can re-open our doors and our worktables. We’re in this together, just farther apart. In the meantime, we’ll #leathertogether.

Tandy Leather Factory, Inc., headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a specialty wholesaler and retailer of leather, leatherworking tools, buckles and adornments for belts, leather dyes and finishes, saddle and tack hardware, and do-it-yourself kits. The Company distributes its products through its 115 North American stores located in 42 US states and 7 Canadian provinces, and an International store located in Spain. Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq with the symbol “TLF”.


‘Real Leather. Stay Different.’ Design Competition Kicks Off in the United Kingdom 

Global competition celebrates the versatility, beauty and sustainability of U.S. hides and leather 

Washington, DC, March 12, 2020 – Real Leather. Stay Different., the worldwide campaign that celebrates the versatility, beauty and sustainability of U.S. leather, announced the launch of its first-ever Global Design Competition in the United Kingdom. The competition, which is co-organized by the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) and Leather UK, will provide an exciting forum for design students from prestigious British design universities to develop and produce trend-setting, inventive and inspiring leather consumer products.  

“Through the Real Leather. Stay Different. Global Design Competition, consumers around the world are increasingly realizing the impeccable quality, durability and sustainability of U.S.-sourced leather,” said LHCA President Stephen Sothmann. “We are thrilled to be working in partnership with our colleagues in the UK to support the next generation of British designers in their quest to design versatile, beautiful leather products that consumers love.” 

“British designers are some of the most ingenious trendsetters in the fashion world,” said Leather UK Director Kerry Senior. “Our collaboration with the Leather and Hide Council of America provides a unique opportunity to showcase the enviable qualities that make leather timeless by providing young British designers a forum to develop chic leather goods that reflect their individuality and vision.”    

Design students participating in the competition will feature U.S. hides and leather in their designs across several categories: apparel, footwear and fashion accessories. Students are encouraged to showcase their individuality by using leather to create unique, compelling designs that appeal to style-conscious fashion consumers. Leather can be used exclusively or in combination with other natural materials suggested by contestants, but must be the principal material of the final good produced.   

Five respected design universities in the UK have agreed to participate in the competition: The University of South Wales, The University of Northampton, The London College of Fashion, Manchester Metropolitan University and De Montfort University. 

Competition entries must include concept sketches, a technical drawing with detailed specifications and an illustration showcasing from where students drew their inspiration. Entrants will also have to produce a prototype of their design for the final judging stage, which will take place in May 2020. Participants will be assessed on the innovative, visually appealing style of their entries.    

The winners in each category will receive an all-expenses paid training opportunity in the U.S., sponsored by LHCA. Runners-up in each category will receive a free, one-week Creative Leather Applications course at the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at the University of Northampton. Plus, an opportunity to win a week’s work experience at one of the UK’s biggest fashion houses, Mulberry, will be decided through a public vote via Woobox on the Real Leather. Stay Different Facebook page.   

Real Leather. Stay Different. design competitions are simultaneously occurring in China and Taiwan. Photos, interviews and videos detailing the progress of the global competition will be featured on our Facebook page and on  

About LHCA 

Formed by the 2020 merger of the United States Hide, Skin and Leather Association (USHSLA) and Leather Industries of America (LIA), the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) is a full-service industry trade association representing the entire U.S. leather supply chain, including meatpackers, hides and skins processors, traders, leather tanners, finished leather goods producers, footwear companies, chemical suppliers, machinery producers, trade media and market reporters, freight forwarders, transportation service providers, financial institutions and more.  The association provides its members with government, public relations, and international trade assistance and support.  LHCA is a cooperator organization under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s foreign market development programs, assisting U.S. firms develop new markets for U.S. agricultural exports. LHCA is at the forefront of the industry’s needs, providing members with education and technical information to compete in today’s global marketplace.     

About Leather UK 

Leather UK is committed to protecting the unique identity of leather as a sustainable and beautiful product and working together as one united sector to promote the UK leather brand at home and abroad. Leather UK supports the whole of the leather supply chain, from processing raw hides to producing leather goods, and all businesses that work intrinsically within the leather industry. Leather UK’s members include tanneries, leather finishers, leather merchants, service providers, manufacturers, leather goods producers, students and anyone else working within the leather sector. Leather UK also works at the international level through membership of the EU leather association, COTANCE, and its role as the secretariat for the International Council of Tanners. 

April 2020

Rutilo Osornio, Adam Trenk, Jody Ramer – Billy Cook Harness and Saddle Manufacturing Inc. Leadership Team as of January 1, 2020.

In Good Hands

Adam Trenk, Esq., secures the future of Genuine Billy Cook Harness and Saddle Manufacturing, Inc.

By Delores Kuhlwein

Alvin Trenk didn’t realize he was creating a legacy the day he found himself in Greenville, Texas, wandering into Billy Cook’s original shop back in 1975.  He bought two saddles that day for his sons, Steven and Jeffrey, and Steven’s young son, Adam Trenk, grew up sitting in those seats. 

Then when Adam was 14, he got his first horse and was gifted an old Billy Cook that belonged to his aunt for his first saddle.  When he outgrew it in 1999, he purchased a model 2020 Billy Cook Roping Saddle…one he still uses to this day. “I started a lot of colts in it my summers in Montana, and it has seen long days on the trail,” Trenk explains. “Though built for arena roping, I found it to be incredibly versatile and useful for ranch work.”

That positive experience was a powerful inspiration behind the recent acquisition of Genuine Billy Cook Harness and Saddle Manufacturing, Inc. by Trenk, the Cave Creek horseman well-known for his esteemed position as partner for Rose Law Group of Scottsdale, and his advocacy for equestrian rights in Arizona.

The quality of the tack Trenk valued since his youth exists because of persistence and talent of a celebrated man who insisted on creating it with the highest standards. 

Steven Trenk (left, Adam’s late uncle), Alvin Trenk (middle, Adam’s grandfather) and Jeffrey Trenk (right, Adam’s late uncle) taken in the late 1970s riding their Billy Cook Saddles.

A Rich History

Upon returning home from serving his country after being drafted in the U.S. Army, a young horseman named Billy Cook pursued his passion as a novice saddlemaker, opening his first saddle shop in Greenville, Texas, in 1953. 

He built 75 saddles that year and his business continued to expand due to the growing reputation of his saddles for quality craftsmanship, affordability and functionality.

The popularity of the saddles stamped with a “Billy Cook Maker” mark soared, resulting in the partnership of Billy Cook with a company called Potts-Longhorn, enabling the production of 1200 saddles a year by the end of the 1950s.  When recession hit in the 1980s, Potts-Longhorn went under and Cook struck out on his own once again, eventually moving to Sulphur, Oklahoma, in 1991.

In the same year, he filed a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the maker’s mark, Billy Cook Maker USA Genuine Sulphur, OK.

However, when Potts-Longhorn had gone out of business, a bank had foreclosed its assets and resold them to Simco Leather Company in 1990.  The assets included “general intangibles” containing a reference to the name “Billy Cook Saddlery,” which had been used in marketing materials when Cook had worked with Potts-Longhorn. Cook disputed giving or selling the rights to use his name, but did not have the financial means to fight a large conglomerate and was unable to force them to quit using his name in his lifetime.

The familiar question in the industry, “Is it a genuine Billy Cook?” stems from the 30-year period when Simco was producing the inferior product. The genuine saddles made under the purview of Billy Cook brandish a maker’s mark that reads “Billy Cook Maker USA Genuine Sulphur, OK,” and the Simco saddles are stamped “Billy Cook Saddlery Greenville, TX.”

Genuine Billy Cook products are built on sturdy trees and are meticulously hand built. In fact, Cook earned international recognition for his exquisite leather-tooling ability and creativity.  He continued to design saddles that were handmade in the Sulphur factory, until he passed away at age 89 on October 1, 2019.

The Future of Genuine Billy Cook Harness and Saddle Manufacturing, Inc.

As Billy Cook aged, his protégés Jody Ramer and Rutilo Osornio continued to build saddles and tack the way Billy had taught them. Ramer ran the saddle production line from 1995 until 2009, and returned in 2017. Osornio, a gifted leather artisan, had been with Billy since 1979.

The future of the Billy Cook Harness & Saddle Manufacturing, Inc. was uncertain following Billy’s passing, until Trenk stepped in to make the purchase. In essence, Trenk has secured the legacy of the American-made saddle, and the oldest saddle factory in the U.S., in business since 1953. 

To answer what may be on many horse enthusiasts’ minds, the shop will still remain in Sulphur, Oklahoma, under the expert guidance of Ramer and Osornio.  Trenk’s ownership of the business adds one more dimension to his amazing ability to diversify his career repertoire.  

“I have always worked more than one job,” explains Trenk, who served on the Cave Creek Town Council and had a property management business at the start of his legal career.  After leaving the Council approximately five years ago, he began to work alongside his family’s aviation business in New York.  He still serves as the executive director of an industry advocacy group called Helicopters Tourism and Jobs Council, Inc., which services his family’s company and its competitors in the industry.

“That role had me accustomed to travel, spending about one week a month out of town since 2015,” he says.  “The biggest change will be that I will be visiting Oklahoma now. However, working remotely from there will be no different than anywhere else.” 

With his partnership at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale, Trenk has a deep bench consisting of the best legal minds in Arizona to help him with providing attention to his clients’ immediate needs.  “I was licensed to practice law in Kentucky in 2019, in order to be able to provide services to the racehorse and show horse clientele I have. I now plan to get licensed in Oklahoma, and anticipate that my presence there will result in generating new business for the firm,” Trenk explains.

Using his diverse set of skills to benefit the company connected to the saddles that stood the test of time for his family and himself, and to bring Genuine Billy Cook Harness and Saddle Manufacturing, Inc. to the forefront, is an exciting venture for Trenk.  The pride demonstrated by Cook since 1953 is just as evident in the words of Trenk today: 

“We operate the oldest saddle factory in the U.S., in business and operating since 1953,” Trenk says. “We build a variety of saddles that are distributed to retailers throughout the country, and can be found on e-commerce sites online or at your local tack shop. We also will take custom orders for absolutely anything our customers want. If you see something you like the look of but want to tweak it, call us. We can also build wallets, purses, belts, gun holsters, chaps, and more out of the leather that you want.”

For the latest news and updates, follow Genuine Billy Cook Harness and Saddle Manufacturing, Inc., on Instagram @genuinebillycook, or contact the shop directly for your order by phone at (580) 622-5505 or by email at

Article printed with permission and courtesy of Arizona Horse Connection Magazine.

History of American West Told Through Floral Pattern Designs

 Leather artisan Jim Linnell documents regional evolution of Western styles in new pattern pack

When many leatherworkers see Western floral patterns, there is the assumption that designs sharing similar features must be the same. Even more educated leatherworkers may refer to the entire category of Western floral patterns collectively as “Sheridan style” carvings.

The development of Western floral patterns has a rich history that mirrors the growth of the United States. Different saddle shops from across America popularized various elements of designs, and a saddle maker would often travel from shop to shop across the frontier trying to make it out West. This germinated unique floral designs across a budding young country, each with their own distinct style, evolving from region to region based on the flora in that area.

“It is important that today’s generation of leather craftsmen understand the rich heritage of our carving styles,” said Jim Linnell, Founder of Elktracks Studio. “We have all been handed the responsibility to preserve the history of the craft, so that it can be appreciated and enjoyed by those that will follow in our footsteps. It is an inheritance that we all must pass forward.”

In his most recent pattern pack, Linnell shares insights on the history that influenced today’s Western floral styles. In this collection of Roper Wallet patterns, leather enthusiasts will be introduced to a brief history of Texas, Arizona, California, Northwest, and Sheridan styles of carving. There’s also the inclusion of Victorian style floral patterns, with examination of how many modern Western designs evolved from these classic elements. These regional styles have formed the foundation upon which today’s Western floral designs were built.

The pattern pack is available on the Elktracks Studio website ( with a number of other leatherworking patterns to be explored. The pattern pack can be purchased as a downloadable pdf file or a printed version can be delivered by mail. A limited number of special edition bound books were produced for this collection, which are also available on the website.

For those who would like further demonstration, Linnell has downloadable video workshops available on the Elktracks Studio site that supplement each of these styles. These 2-hour instructional carving videos can be found among other videos on Western floral design within the Instructional video collection on the website.

Tad Mizwa’s Legacy Will Live On

By Nick Pernokas

It’s always gratifying when a piece of writing influences events in a good way. In the January issue of Shop Talk! Magazine, we published an article about noted leather craftsman Tad Mizwa. In addition, we published a sidebar that allowed our readers to see Tad’s Master Stamper Collection. This was Tad’s personal collection of leather plaques, tooled for him by some of his well-known contemporaries and friends. These world-class leather carvers included Bill Gardner, Don Butler, Ray Pohja, Don King, Ray Holes, Jeremiah Watt, and as we discovered by a handwritten note, Eddie Brooks.

Since Tad’s passing in 2019, Tad’s daughter, Michelle Eutsler, has stored the collection safely near Houston. With the publication of the article, several people started talking about making the collection available for the general public to appreciate.  On February 18, 2020, this idea became a reality as Michelle presented the collection to Jim Linnell of Elktracks Studio in Venus, Texas.

“I hope that others can see this work, and appreciate it, and maybe that will inspire them to do an art that my Daddy loved so well. I know it’s in good hands,” said Michelle.

Elktracks Studio is a teaching facility for leatherwork, as well as a museum that houses tools and memorabilia related to the industry. Jim Linnell is internationally well-known for his teaching of the craft, as well as his knowledge of the history of it.  Jim teaches regional styles of leather work, and this collection includes work from men who actually influenced many of those styles.

“The collection is phenomenal. The amount of history here is unbelievable. It will be very useful in teaching that next generation about the richness of the heritage we have in western leather carving. It’s something that can’t be lost,” said Jim.

John Kelley, a friend of Tad’s and a fellow collector and leather craftsman, was instrumental in the preservation of the Mizwa collection. In addition, John donated a miniature Texas Trail Saddle that Tad had made, mounted on a saddle stand and tooled base that Tad also made. This will also have a permanent home in the Elktracks Studio collection.

“Tad Mizwa was a special man. He loved the art of saddlemaking and the art of tooling. In my mind, he would want this work, which he went to great pains to collect, to be seen and not hidden away. It will have a lot of exposure to people who are on the path of learning about leather. I think Tad would be very pleased,” said John.

For information on this collection or Elktracks Studio, go to

Real Leather is the Sustainable Choice

New infographic shows environmental costs of synthetics, imitations

Washington, DC, February 26, 2020 – Leather has been a preferred material for millennia because of its durability, versatility and beauty. But today’s environmentally-conscious consumers have another reason to embrace leather: it is a natural material that is more sustainable than its synthetic imitations. A new infographic from the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) shines a light on the environmental costs of using synthetics, mostly made from plastics and other non-renewable sources, as opposed to real leather in finished consumer goods.

“What is fashionable can also be sustainable,” said LHCA President Stephen Sothmann. “As consumers, retailers and brands weigh the versatility, beauty, durability and sustainability of leather compared to its imitations, it’s clear: there’s simply no substitute for real leather.”

Processing hides from livestock into leather is one of the oldest forms of recycling. The U.S. leather industry purchases hides, which are natural by-products of meat and dairy consumption that would otherwise go to waste, and transforms them into durable, versatile and beautiful real leather products. However, the recent rise of synthetics in consumer products, and shift away from real leather, risk disrupting this critical recycling process and causing irreparable environmental damage.       

In 2019, for example, U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicate the U.S. processed more than 33 million head of cattle for food. U.S. export data and industry estimations suggest that approximately 27.5 million of the more than 33 million available U.S. cattle hides were used in domestic and global leather production. 

This means nearly 5.5 million hides, or 17 percent of total U.S. hide production, were either destroyed or discarded in landfills – a number that will likely increase if trends continue in the use of synthetics to produce finished goods in place of real leather. Those 5.5 million discarded or destroyed hides could have instead been used to produce leather for approximately 99 million pairs of shoes, 110 million footballs or two million sofas, for instance. 

“There is no better, more environmentally-friendly alternative to using hides from animals processed for food than to make real leather,” Sothmann added. “Without the leather industry, nearly two billion pounds of unused cattle hides would be diverted to landfills, placing tremendous pressure on the environment that would be further compounded by the shift to synthetic imitations produced from plastic and other non-renewable sources.”

Not only do products that use real leather last longer, thereby reducing consumer waste, but they are also naturally biodegradable, and may decompose in less than 50 years. Synthetics derived from petrochemicals, however, could take as many as 500 years to break down – a strain too burdensome for the planet as the pace of climate change hastens.

The new infographic, along with additional information about the sustainability of real leather, can be found on and using the hashtag #chooserealleather.

About LHCA

Formed by the 2020 merger of the United States Hide, Skin and Leather Association (USHSLA) and Leather Industries of America (LIA), the Leather and Hide Council of America (LHCA) is a full-service industry trade association representing the entire U.S. leather supply chain, including meatpackers, hides and skins processors, traders, leather tanners, finished leather goods producers, footwear companies, chemical suppliers, machinery producers, trade media and market reporters, freight forwarders, transportation service providers, financial institutions and more.  The association provides its members with government, public relations, and international trade assistance and support.  LHCA is a cooperator organization under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s foreign market development programs, assisting U.S. firms develop new markets for U.S. agricultural exports. LHCA is at the forefront of the industry’s needs, providing members with education and technical information to compete in today’s global marketplace.                                                                                    

December 2019

Hide & Horn Podcast Celebrates Wyoming Saddlemakers

The art of custom saddlemaking is a uniquely American art form, blending rugged functionality with high quality craftsmanship and artistic design. A tool symbolic of the American West, through the influence of Don King and the Sheridan Style the saddle is recognized for the variety of artistic expression in the multiple tools used to stamp, tool, and carve leather. And while the ranching industry continues to drastically change, saddlemaking over the past ten to fifteen years has experienced a Renaissance, drawing on the influences from the past while continuing to develop new ideas, incorporate various inspirations, and continue to contribute to the craft.

The Hide & Horn Podcastseeks to highlight the work of contemporary saddle makers through their own words, demonstrating their continued esteem in society, and promoting an awareness and appreciation for handmade saddles through the experiences of those who build them. Narrated by folklorist Ian Hallagan, episodes explore how saddlemakers became saddlemakers, examining the development of their work, and perspectives on the industry as a whole. Through the impact of social media to stories covering everything from museum curation and inspiration from unlikely places, to bar fights and wild bears, Hide & Horn celebrates the experiences of saddlemakers across the American West.

The inaugural series begins in Wyoming, a state rich in ranching heritage and custom saddlemaking, both within Sheridan as well as across the state. With the first episode exploring the history of ranching and saddlemaking, successive episodes feature contemporary saddlemakers drawing on the past, while referencing styles that keep the craft immersed in the contemporary. Through the rise of social media, people across the globe have become increasingly interconnected. This is the same for the saddlemaking world, where the work of Israeli and Russian woodcarvers serve as points of inspiration, while the Sheridan style has been exported to countries like Japan and China to be reinterpreted and combined with local traditions. It is today, as some argue, that the industry has experienced some of the most talented and creative artistic expressions in custom saddlemaking.

Episodes of Hide & Horn are available across multiple podcasting platforms:

Apple Podcasts:

Google Podcasts:



Follow us online to keep up to date on episodes, news, and other relevant information:



Pendleton Leather Show Adds Northwest Handbag Contest

By Liisa Andreassen

The Pendleton Leather Show was held from November 1-2 at the Pendleton Convention Center in Pendleton, OR. As always, there was no admission fee to enter the show. The show consisted of a trade show, classes, a concert by Adrian Buckaroogirl with an opening act by a local band – the Moss Brothers – a handbag contest, and more.

“Adrian was so much fun – both at the concert – and as a judge for the Northwest Handbag Contest,” Vandy Douglas, the event’s coordinator, says. “We’re always brainstorming ways to increase attendance in general and the handbag idea was a really great addition to this year’s show.”

The structure of the handbag contest was based on the saddle contest: three independent judges with different, but pertinent backgrounds, a scoresheet to evaluate each entry, and the main focus on learning from those scoresheets. This contest was in place of the saddle contest and there were more than 30 entries with 28 who made the cut – that was above and beyond their expectations.

This year’s show also had a marked increase in overall participation.  There were about 900 participants and many new faces, including international visitors from China, Germany and Canada. Among the new vendors were American Leather Direct, Florida Alligator Marketing & Education, Fandek Stirrups, CRJ Ventures & Fiebings.

The classes featured a wide-range of subject matter and the instructors were all dedicated to teaching their craft so students would come away with new skills and confidence. Some of the most popular classes included, “An introduction to Engraving,” by Nevada Watt; “Foundations in Floral Carving” by Joe Meling; “Fine Assembly Work” by Takeshi Yonezawa; “Beadmaking Embellishments” by Annie Margarita; “Wool Rug Making” by Julie Pierce; “Cutting In, Beveling and Bar Grounding” by Gordon Andrus; and “Chink Making” by Julie Baugher Leather School. Braydan Shaw’s seminar, “Business Knowledge” was also well attended. Shaw is the sixth generation owner and president of Burns, a 143-year-old same-family western retail and manufacturing company. He oversees all divisions of the company which includes Burns Management Services, Burns Saddlery, Burns Custom Hats, Sunset Trails Silver, Burns Boots, three retail locations, and Shop Talk! Magazine.

Douglas says that they really worked to maximize the number of classes taught this year and they added a huge projection screen with a PowerPoint loop of show information, schedules, sponsors and the like in the convention center’s main hall.

The vendors, who are the backbone of the show, traveled from all over the western U.S. and were specifically related to the leather crafting industry. They displayed a diverse selection of goods ranging from hardware, saddle trees and stirrups to fancy conchos, stamping tools, saddlery tools, boot making supplies and a host of other leather-making accessories.

This year’s VIP party, in addition to hosting vendors and teachers, also invited all students and contestants to join for light appetizers and a shopping preview.

“Many students maximize their time learning and have little to no chance to shop with the vendors,” Douglas says. “This preview provided students with the opportunity and also benefited the vendors. Nearly all vendors reported brisk or record-breaking sales this year. We plan to expand on this idea for next year.”

Throughout the weekend there were drawings to win “Leather Bucks” – $100 vouchers that could be spent with any of the show’s 29 vendors. Everyone who registered when entering the trade show and all students taking any class were eligible for the Leather Bucks drawings.  A total of $1,000 in Leather Bucks were given away.

Next year’s show is planned for November 5-7. Learn more here:

Northwest Handbag Contest

The handbag makers were from AZ, FL, OK, ID, MT, WA, OR, CA, TX.  Social media participation was overwhelming and a contest collecting votes on Facebook also took place. Travel Pendleton sponsored the “People’s Choice Award” this year.

Open Division

1st place: #107 Yonezawa Leather, Takeshi Yonezawa, Beaverton, OR, 397 points, over $1,100 prize package

2nd place: #147 Charles Favour, Camp Verde, AZ,  389 points, over $500 in prizes

3rd place: #121 Dan Sterrett, Spokane, WA 379 points, over $300 in prizes

4th place: #113 Emily Myers, Fairfax, OK, 376 points

5th place: #143 Conley Walker, Weiser, ID, 362 points

Novice Division

1st place: Marty Kuiken, Lyons, OR

2nd place: Kathy Jurgens, Ellensburg, WA

3rd place: Pooty Dagnon, Loomis, WA

Travel Pendleton People’s Choice Award: #107 Yonezawa Leather, Takeshi Yonezawa $200 award

Tandy Leather Introduces TandyPro® Templates by Maker’s Leather Supply

FORT WORTH, Texas – Tandy Leather has partnered with Maker’s Leather Supply to introduce a co-branded line of reusable, acrylic templates, branded as TandyPro® Templates by Maker’s Leather Supply. Tandy is bringing the line to stores and online with an introductory collection of 32 templates, including a wide range of styles of small leather goods such as wallets, dopp kits, and valet trays, as well as foundational tools like French curves and centering rulers.

These professional grade templates are manufactured in durable acrylic and are intended to be used time and time again. Created by leathercrafter Aaron Heizer, owner of Maker’s Leather Supply, the templates are based on patterns of his own design and are meant to help other leathercrafters bring their ideas to life. Maker’s and Tandy are aligned in their commitment to offering customers quality, hardworking products in support of their craft.

The addition of TandyPro® Templates to Tandy’s assortment enhances the flexibility of the current offerings, allowing customers more ways to harness their own creativity. Director of Product Management, Lauren Nowell says of the partnership, “We are excited about the opportunity these templates give our customers – they can use their own tools and leather to create truly original pieces exactly as they imagined them.”

TandyPro® Templates by Maker’s Leather Supply are currently carried in all Tandy Leather stores. Select templates are available online, and shoppers can follow along with Heizer’s tutorials via the individual products hosted at Retail customers are encouraged to contact their local Tandy store to learn more about the templates, while Commercial customers can contact Tandy’s Commercial Division via email at


Tandy Leather Factory, Inc., (, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a specialty retailer of a broad product line including leather, leatherworking tools, buckles and adornments for belts, leather dyes and finishes, saddle and tack hardware, and do-it-yourself kits. The Company distributes its products through its 114 North American stores located in 42 US states and 7 Canadian provinces, and one International store located in Spain. Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq with the symbol “TLF”.

November 2019

Tandy Leather Introduces a New Level of Quality and Craftsmanship with TandyPro® by Cobra

FORT WORTH, Texas – Tandy Leather has partnered with the Leather Machine Co. to introduce a co-branded line of leatherworking machines, under the brand TandyPro® by Cobra.  Tandy will carry a line of 16 co-branded machines, including a wide range of sewing, skiving, splitting, burnishing and strap cutting machines with varying features and capabilities. These heavy-duty machines were manufactured specifically for the leathercrafter, having the ability to handle thick layers of leather and run for hours during ongoing production. 

With more than 90 years of industry experience, Leather Machine Co., the owners of the Cobra brand, established their strong reputation by devoting a high level of leathercrafting expertise into the design and manufacturing of each machine. David Spiegel, from the Leather Machine Co., remarked on their commitment to quality and customer service. “We define customer service” says Spiegel. Each TandyPro by Cobra machine comes with a Manufacturer’s Limited Lifetime Warranty and customer support from Leather Machine Co.

Initially, TandyPro by Cobra products will be sold from a catalog in all Tandy Leather stores, with demo models available in 14 stores in the United States and Canada.  For a limited-time, customers will receive a free drop-down guide or work platform with their purchase of a TandyPro by Cobra sewing machine. Customers are encouraged to contact their local Tandy Leather store to learn more about this special offer, and to request a catalog and demo.

With the announcement of this partnership, Janet Carr, CEO of Tandy Leather, expressed her excitement. “We’re thrilled to be working with the Leather Machine Co. to introduce TandyPro by Cobra.  The new TandyPro by Cobra line of machines was inspired by a shared commitment to leatherworking. Our stores provide a new outlet for Cobra, one where customers can try before they buy. Bringing our two respected brands together in a new partnership will bring a whole new level of quality and craftsmanship to our customers.”, comments Carr.

Tandy Leather Factory, Inc., (, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a specialty retailer of a broad product line including leather, leatherworking tools, buckles and adornments for belts, leather dyes and finishes, saddle and tack hardware, and do-it-yourself kits. The Company distributes its products through its 115 North American stores located in 42 US states and 7 Canadian provinces, and two International stores located in the United Kingdom and Spain.  Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq with the symbol “TLF”.

The 31st Custom Boot & Saddle Maker’s Roundup: A Leather Industry Vendor’s Paradise

By Liisa Andreassen

This year marked the 31st Annual Custom Boot & Saddle Maker’s Roundup in Wichita Falls, Texas. Held on October 4th and 5th at MPEC (multipurpose events center), Kathy Kimmell, co-founder, says it was another great year and one her husband, Eddie (the show’s original founder who passed away a few months before the 30th Annual Roundup), would have enjoyed too. Kathy says his spirit is still very much a part of the show.

“When Eddie agreed to take on putting this show together more than 30 years ago, he’d only do so as long as it would not turn into a corporate event,” Kathy says.

She’s managed to maintain that mission and says the show has no sponsors, but is designed to be accessible to everyone, to encourage people to learn and to take care of its vendors.

This year’s attendance was approximately 1,180, not including vendors. There were 145 vendors working in 54 booths. When asked to provide a sampling of companies who attended, Kathy hesitated and said, “They’re all equally important. I’d hate to mention a few and leave out others.”

The show also features free seminars where people can learn about things like pattern making and dyeing techniques and there’s also a boot and saddle making contest.

Greg Carmack of Orion Calf, Ltd., had a booth selling leather and dyes and Katie FioRito from Bend, Oregon, held a dye demo in the booth too.  He said this was the busiest he’s ever been at the show and he didn’t sit down once in the booth for two days.

“No complaints,” he says.

There was also a dye workshop held the day after the show where nine people attended the class and learned about the basics of the Orion Dye Technique.

“Katie gave detailed instruction for techniques and had participants then reproduce what she had shown.” Carmack says. “She then added the next technique, which built on the foundations of the previously taught task, making sure everyone understood and could replicate.”

It was not a product building class, but a dye techniques class. Each participant could ask specific questions about their own applications and get answers.

While the seminars and demos are great added features, Kathy is quick to point out that they, along with the contests, are not the main thrust of the trade show. 

“Our mission has always been to connect the vendors and the working businessmen/women in the leather industry and to help benefit them in their businesses. And to that we focus first, and it has been a blessing to many,” she says.

That said, the contests provide an opportunity for people to get to see the finished product and to learn from others’ work.

“They see and visit with each other about it,” she says. “And I have to give a shout out to Shop Talk! as they’ve always been there to give the contest participants that exposure and satisfaction they desire.”

Kathy is especially proud of the fact that some of the show’s vendors and participants have been attending for more than 20 years.

“That alone is worth highlighting. We’re a cohesive bunch of folks,” she says. “We operate on ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality. Seriously, very few changes are made from year to year.

If our vendors have requests, we listen. They make the show happen.”

The show has no registration fee or entry fee for seminars. It’s designed to make everyone feel welcomed in a laid-back atmosphere, where people are either learning to make or already making leather products.  Kathy says the show has also turned into somewhat of a reunion.

“It’s a happy place. You get to do business, but you also get the joy of seeing old friends you’ve made in the industry; it’s fun while you work,” she says.

Information about next year’s show and contests will be coming soon:

Saddlemaker and Bootmaker Contest Winners

Saddlemaker’s Contest

Working Cowboy Winner:  Adam Tanner, Weatherford, TX                         

Open Floral Winner: Terry Henson, Azle, TX 

Geometric Winner: Alvin Brenneman, Falls City, NE         

Novice Winner: Darrin Yelverton, Bourg, LA 

Beginner Winner: Brittany Wells, Nacogdoches, TX

Bootmaker’s Contest

Journeyman Boot Winner: Jeff Moore, Ft. Worth, TX 

Top Stitching Intermediate Winner: Matt Defer, Henrietta, TX 

Top Stitching Open Winner: Jarrett Van Curen, Pittsburg, TX 

Working Cowboy Intermediate Winner: Dereck Franks, Indiahoma, TX 

Working Cowboy Open Winner: Dan Hickman, Waggoner, OK 

Dress Boot Intermediate Winner: Bill Nordan, Robertsdale, AL 

Dress Boot Open Winner: Matt Hopson, Bowie, TX 

Artistry Intermediate Winner: Tyler Walterscheid, Muenster, TX 

Artistry Open Winner: Justin Walker, Abilene, TX 

Shop Boot Winners: Brian Thomas, Abilene, TX; James Ross, Slaton, TX; Tim Bishop, Tucumcari, NM 

Master Winner: Lisa Sorrell, Guthrie, OK


Awards of up to $3,000 for Apprentices to train with Master Artists in the Folk and Traditional Arts of Texas

Austin, Texas – October 2, 2019 – Texas Folklife  is excited to announce  the 2020 application for the Apprenticeships in the Folk & Traditional Arts Program is now available to the public. It is available at:

Program guidelines, a video overview of the program, and additional information are available through this link on the Texas Folklife website. The postmark deadline for applications is Friday, November 15, 2019, at 5:00 p.m.

Texas Folklife’s Apprenticeships in the Folk Arts program provides awards of up to $3,000 for master artists to train qualified apprentices in any folk and traditional arts discipline. The apprenticeship program allows an apprentice to improve and refine their craft under the direction of an experienced master artist over a period of several months. This provides the opportunity for the apprentice to continue their craft at a higher level, which they can, in turn, teach to others.

Since 1987, Texas Folklife has awarded apprenticeships to over 250 master artist and apprentices to pass on and refine their knowledge of their art form, continuing the diverse traditional art forms in Texas. Apprenticeships have included everything from conjunto accordion and custom spurmaking to South Indian vocal music and African dance. To see a list of previous Apprenticeship awardees and their traditions, visit

Who Can Apply?

Master artists and apprentices should apply together and submit one application. Apprentices should have a significant amount of experience with their chosen tradition and be strongly committed to improving their skills and working with the community in order to carry on the tradition. Master artists should be among the finest practitioners of their craft in their community. Applications from all traditions are welcome.

Master artists from the surrounding states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are eligible to apply. Apprentices must still reside in Texas in order to be considered. Additionally, an Online Resource Packet is available to program applicants. This packet provides examples of top applications and supporting materials. A FAQ is also provided with answers to common questions. This can be found by visiting

What are the Folk & Traditional Arts?

The traditional arts, commonly referred to as folklife, folklore, traditional culture, or simply tradition, are art forms practiced by groups who share similar cultural values, and/or a common heritage. The traditional arts are often learned informally, passed from generation to generation orally. These skills and trades are taught to apprentices under the direct supervision of a master artist, who is recognized as an expert in their field. The apprentice not only learns the art or craft directly through an experienced individual, but also how to teach it to his/her own apprentices. This system assures the perpetuation of these skills through successive generations and facilitates the longevity of cultural practices.

New for 2020 Program

New for this year, apprentices are able to request up to $250 to cover travel expenses associated with the apprenticeship. Costs will be budgeted through the existing $3,000; they are not separate.

A review panel made up of folk & traditional arts specialists and past program participants will meet in December to evaluate applications. Applicants will be notified of their awards in January 2020. At that time a press release will be sent out to announce the 2020 Apprentice Program awardees. Program Awardees will participate in an interview with Texas Folklife, where they will discuss their experience with the tradition, its significance, its continuation, and demonstrate what has been learned through the apprenticeship. Apprentices will also illustrate their training through a public performance at the conclusion of the apprenticeship period.

“The Apprenticeship Program highlights the diverse range of traditional artistic expression across the Lone Star State,” said Programs & Grants Coordinator Ian Hallagan. “These traditions are taught in homes, shops, and studios, passing down these traditions to guarantee their continuation into the future. The Apprenticeship Program supports this direct transmission of cultural heritage and knowledge between artist and tradition bearer, bringing greater awareness to these art forms while celebrating an essential area of artistic expression in our state. From the smallest rural community to the largest city, Texas enjoys a rich variety of traditions that all contribute to what it means to be Texan.”

This program is made possible in part by the board and members of Texas Folklife and from a State Partnership award from the National Endowment from the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, in partnership with the Texas Commission on the Arts. Additional support provided by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin, believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future.

Video overview of the Apprenticeship Program:

Interactive map of recent Apprenticeship Program participants:

Photos of Past Apprenticeship Program Participants:

About Texas Folklife

Texas Folklife is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to the presentation and preservation of the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Since 1984, Texas Folklife has honored the cultural traditions passed down within communities, explored their importance in contemporary society, and celebrated them by providing accessible and joyful arts experiences.

1708 Houston St.
Austin, Texas 78756
T (512) 441-9255

F (844) 386-2091

Media information: Charlie Lockwood (512)441-9255 /

Program information: Ian Hallagan (512) 441-9255 /

September 2019

50th Annual Harness Maker’s Get-Together 

July 19, 2019 

The 50th Annual Harness Maker’s Get-Together was held at Mullet’s Harness Shop LLC from Middlefield, OH.  It was hosted by the Joseph Mulley family. 

The meeting was called to order at 11:00 by Kevin Yoder.  Kevin welcomed everyone and thanked the Mullets for hosting the auction and the get-together. 

There was a grab bag drawing for the children, one for each child up to 6 and one from 6 and up. 

Joseph introduced his family and their employees.  He also thanked everyone for coming and gave a report on the auction the day before. He thought it was a descent auction.  The leather prices were a little soft.  Also some of the hardware and machinery was down a little.  He also gave a little history of the shop. 

The minutes of the 2018 get-together were read by Kevin Yoder. 

Committee members introduced were Reuben Byler from Middlefield, OH, Mose Beachy from Baltic, OH, Wayne Chupp from Fredericksburg, OH, Jonas Stoltzfus from Honey Brook, PA, Kevin Yoder from Nappanee, IN, Gary Miller from Arthur, IL, and Mark Brenneman from Springs, PA.  Also introduced was Mahlon Yoder from Middlebury, IN.  He will be replacing Kevin Yoder.  Reuben Byler will be the new chariman. 

Former committee members introduced were Jim Weaver, Atlee Yoder, Lloyd Miller, Eli Schlabaugh, Andrew Hostetler, and Eli Miller. 

Jim Weaver gave a short report on the Weaver Auction in June.  It was smaller than last year.  Prices were about average. 

The 25% tariff on the imports increased the price of hardware.  It is too much to absorb.  

Kevin thanked Scott Hanna for paying for the tents. 

Tanners recognized were Doug Morrison from Hermann Oak.  He said he expects the hide prices to be fairly stable for the rest of the year.  Also recognized was Jim Cox from Moser Leather. 

Scott Hanna from Biothane was also recognized.  He invited everyone to their open house on October 17, 2019. 

Next year’s gathering will probably be in PA.  Please watch for the location. 

The shop longest in business was Mose Miller from Munfordville, KY, started in 1967 (Miller’s Wholesale Harness). 

The newest in business was Lonnie Kuhns from Nappanee, IN, started in November of last year (Diamond Leather). 

Most miles traveled were by Jerry Borntrager from MN (Rocking J Leather).   

Oldest man present was Eli Miller at 85 years old. 

Shops present were: IN 7, MI 1, IA 1, WI 1, MN 1, NY 2, PA 16, OH 25, KY 1, SC 1 and IL 4. 

Door prizes were donated by: 

Hillside HarnessCenter Square Harness 

Mullet’s HarnessHillside Horse Sew-it 

Buckhorn HarnessN&A Harness 

Miller PadsBuckeye Whips 

Beachy’s NylonShetler’s Collars 

Mid River SalesStauffer’s Harness 

Sugar Valley CollarsBeiler’s Mfg. 

Troyer’s RopeMoser Leather 

Fredericksburg HarnessChupp Brothers 

Brenneman’s LeatherBowman’s Bits 

Chupp BlacksmithCoblentz Collar 

Coblentz SupplyBowman Harness 

Sew ProBiothane 

Weaver LeatherSunset Designs 

Suggested meal prices:$12.00 Adults$8.00 Children 

Committee Members 

Reuben BylerMose Beachy 

Byler’s Harness ShopBeachy’s Nylon Harness 

1604 Nauvoo Rd.2815 T R 182 

Middlefield, OH 43804Baltic, OH 43804 


Jonas StoltzfusWayne Chupp 

Stoltzfus Harness ShopChupp Blacksmith 

246 Maple St.9107 T R 609 

Honey Brook, PA 19344Fredericksburg, OH 44627 


Gary MillerMahlon Yoder 

Miller’s Harness ShopM.D.Y. Horseshoeing & Harness Shop 

431 N CR 100 E 1455 S 1100 W 

Arthur, IL 61911Middlebury, IN 46540 


Mark Brenneman 

Mark’s Harness Shop 

1089 Springs Rd 

Springs, PA 15562 


Law Tanning Welcomes VP of Product Development and Marketing 

July 10, 2019 

Milwaukee, WI – Law Tanning announced that it has added Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, Whitney Tinsley to the leadership team.  

In her role, Whitney will collaborate with the technical team to expand Law Tanning Company’s portfolio of leather offerings to appeal to an even broader customer base. In addition, she will execute all marketing initiatives for the Milwaukee-based leather producer.  Whitney will lead the development of marketing strategies to support consistent business growth and enhance brand equity and awareness.  

Whitney was most recently the Director of Education at Moore & Giles in Lynchburg, Virginia where she developed and administered all educational programs, including online continuing education, showroom education and outreach for retailers. Prior to that, Whitney directed the product development and marketing campaigns at the Tasman Leather Group in Hartland, Maine as the VP of Marketing and Brand Development. From 2011-2013, Whitney was a brand representative for Hancock & Moore Furniture of Hickory, North Carolina. Whitney’s experience and technical understanding of leather and leather goods provides her with a unique perspective into the industry. 

“We are pleased to announce the arrival of our newest VP of Product Development and Marketing, Whitney Tinsley.  Whitney brings a wealth of knowledge of both the leather industry and modern marketing techniques.  Her leadership will be key in the cultivation of future growth at Law Tanning; reaching new markets and customers throughout the globe,” said Ryan Law, President. 

About Law Tanning 

Law Tanning Company is an international leader in the production of fine leathers. Located in Milwaukee, WI, Law Tanning Company is the most diverse leather producer in North America, tanning cowhide (grain and splits), genuine American bison, pig, deer, elk and kangaroo.  

Law produces both grain and crust finished leather. With a diverse customer base, Law produces leather for a range of industries including footwear, fashion accessories, sporting goods, glove and industrial and small leather goods. 


Ryan Law 

1616 W. Pierce Street 

Milwaukee, WI 53204 

Office: (414) 645-7500 

August 2019

Weaver Leather Auction Connects Buyers and Sellers

By Liisa Andreassen

The Weaver Leather Auction, hosted by Weaver Leather, started in 1984 as a way for people to buy and sell equipment. From humble beginnings, it’s grown into a yearly anticipated event. This year saw nearly 400 registered buyers and a total attendance of about 500. It’s the largest auction of its kind and consignments include new and used machinery, hand tools, leather hides and webbing.

In addition to providing a venue for sales, Jim Weaver, supply sales manager at Weaver Leather, says, “This is also a great time for our customers to come together and share ideas and to tour our 300,000-square-foot facility. It provides us with the opportunity to say thank you to our customers for their continued support throughout the years.”

This year, a 5 percent cash-and-carry discount of all Weaver Leather’s in-house products was offered and for every $100 bought in house, customers were entered into a drawing to win anything from a sewing machine to hand tools.

On the first day of the auction, leather is sold, followed by hand tools and equipment on day two. The goods are housed in three tents and are mostly consigned products from Weaver Leather’s customers and vendors. Weaver Leather will consign some items every year, but it’s mostly from outside parties.

Weaver shares that the auction also provides an opportunity to showcase their talented employees. For example, this year, Chuck Dorsett, leathercraft product manager, demonstrated leatherworking techniques and a few vendor/partners also showed off various levels of leatherworking and silver engraving skills.

“The highlight from this year’s event was that the rain held off until the last truck loaded on Thursday evening and then the skies opened up,” Weaver says.

The auction will continue to be a Weaver Leather tradition and next year’s auction is already on the books for the third week in June.

“I really enjoy seeing all of our customers every year at this event and getting to catch up with them,” Weaver says. For more information about Weaver Leather, visit 

Fourth Annual Leather Crafter’s Reunion Binds Industry Niche Together

By Liisa Andreassen

The Leather Crafter’s Reunion is an annual “meet & greet” event that brings together leathercrafters from all corners of the leather universe for one weekend to share information, techniques and general networking. This year’s reunion was the fourth in a row and it was sponsored and hosted by Weaver Leather in Mount Hope, Ohio.

Structured a bit differently from years past, where it’s been held in various state parks in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri, this year’s event closely coincided with Weaver Leather’s annual auction on June 19th and 20th. The reunion followed from June 21st-23rd. Classes were held on the 21st and 22nd. “Each year has been a success and getting better. Our goal is to get to know each other and join in on some amazing classes. The atmosphere is relaxed and we don’t have any vendors, so you don’t go home broke,” Doris Marlene, the event’s coordinator and leathercrafter hobbyist, joked.

There are also no competitions, so there’s no pressure to win anything.

“Our goal is to just have a family-style vacation with other leathercrafters,” Marlene says. “We all have the leather in common, but want to have a place to build friendships through the workshops and socializing. We seem to start out colleagues, then friends and quickly become like family.”

Marlene explains that the event is funded through the auction and raffle. All the money for the classes is paid directly to the instructors. This helps to keep the classes affordable so more people have access to them.

“This year, it was an honor to be invited to hold it at Weaver Leather,” she says. “They gave everyone in attendance a discount, had lunch catered in both days and also provided a BBQ dinner on Saturday night.”

Instructors included Jurgen Volbach, who traveled from Cologne, Germany, Jim Linnell, Tony Allen Bernier and John Karnes who shared their knowledge. Classes included Fundamentals of 3-D Tooling, Dyeing and Finishing Leather, and an Embossed Eagle Leather Workshop. George Wingo was also on hand to sharpen tools for attendees.

“When the event is held in the parks, I really don’t get a chance to take a class because I’m too busy organizing everything. This year was different. It was the first year I took a class. I chose Jurgen’s, as I’ll probably never get to Germany. Volbach is a master leathersmith and a great guy,” Marlene says. “His class was very enjoyable and there were a lot of laughs.”

Next year the event will return to Roaring River State Park in Missouri, June 11th-14th.

“It’s a beautiful park where folks can go fishing and hiking,” Marlene says. “Anyone want to join me? We’ll have icebreaker games, a social hour, classes and more.”

Visit the Facebook page for more information about workshops, donations and sponsors:


By Lynn Ascrizzi

To come upon a school that teaches authentic, handmade boot and shoemaking techniques, from scratch, is like finding a polished crystal in the dust. But recently, that rare experience has grown even scarcer. In the world of hard-to-find, footwear instruction, there is now one less gem.

“I have absolutely retired,” said longtime teacher William “Bill” Shanor, cofounder with his wife, Julie Bonney-Shanor, of Bonney & Wills School of Shoemaking & Design, based in Ashland, Oregon. They’ve been running their well-knownenterprise in that location for two decades.

“Several shoemaking schools went out of business in the 20 years that we were running ours. It’s a tough gig. You have to be a pit bull,” Shanor remarked with humor.

He began his 47-year-long leatherworking career as a boot maker and shoe repair shop owner. He and Bonney-Shanor, a former medical laboratory manager, were married in 2002. One morning, he said to her, “Let’s do a shoemaking school. She said, OK.”

The first thing he taught was Renaissance moccasins.It wasn’t long before the curriculum expanded to making women’s pumps and fashion boots, men’s shoes, and hiking and western boots.

Opening the school in Ashland turned out to be a positive decision. “I never made a decent living, until I started the school. It was nice to make a living wage and do what I loved. Ninety-nine percent of the classes we ran were filled up,” he said.

What made the school a success? “I didn’t mind getting up at 4 a.m.,” Shanor said. “We worked hard and were not averse to putting in 80 hours a week when a class was on. I’d be in the shop way before the students got there, and way after they left. The work of creativity is hard. Everybody who is creative has worked their butts off.”

And, he had high praise for his wife’s vital role in the business. “Julie did everything logistic, paper-wise, like bookkeeping, scheduling, managing the website, inquiries and more. She is the ‘detail rock.’ And, she is quite a shoemaker. Three years ago, she took all the category prizes, except one, at the Footwear Makers’ Symposium. She is also an exceptional photographer and singer.”

The symposium was organized by the Footwear Makers’ Guild, founded in Ashland, with 75 members. The organization, created to preserve the footwear making tradition and “to bring the experience of handmade shoes into the next generation,” is now based in Savannah, Georgia, according to its website information. Currently, it has an online presence of 13,000.

The shoemaking school in Ashland has closed officially, but the individual lives it touched has grown from a handful into hundreds. Shanor estimates that at least 600 students have been taught there since the school began.

“Each student was a lot of work. When you have a class of five newbies, with sharp tools and pointed instruments, you have to keep them from hurting themselves. You have to be hypervigilant. A high-speed sander can eat your knuckles off, in a heartbeat. Students had no idea what they were in for. They’d have meltdowns and euphoric epiphanies. Some were there for the wrong reasons. Some didn’t know which end of the hammer to grab.

“But we never had a student who didn’t complete their shoes and walk out the door with them,” he continued. “We made a concerted effort to fit people with the footwear they were making. We had over 2,500 pairs of lasts and many styles of lasts. We tried to give them the full experience.”

One abundant year, the school ran 17 classes with five students in each class. “About eight or nine years ago, we were so busy, we couldn’t even breathe.  When a class was over, I could hardly stand. We started having fewer classes — one class every two or three weeks,” he recalled.

In recent years, the school’s seven-day shoemaking class costs $1,975, per individual. He and his wife sought to provide a high–quality experience. For one, they ordered the best quality leather possible. Some suppliers they dealt with were C Loy’s Leather in El Paso, Texas; A & A Crack & Sons of Northhampton, England; Hide House in Napa, California; G H Leather in Houston, Texas, “and a whole bucket of others,” he said.

Folks seeking a shoemaking teacher did well to choose someone of Shanor’s caliber. “Most people underestimate the students. If a student comes and they’re on fire, I set the bar way high. And, they always get there. I try to teach concepts. I want people to think like a shoemaker, even if they struggle, cry and moan. It’s the only way they can get there,” he said, of his shoemaking philosophy.

By this past June, Shanor and his wife, Bonney-Shanor, who prefers to stay out of the limelight, already had begun to dismantle their school where so many dedicated hours had been spent. By the end of this year, their former student, Ken Bode of Eugene, Oregon, will be buying the business “lock, stock and barrel — all the equipment and all the filing cabinets full of stuff, and the patterns — everything we can put in a truck,” Shanor said. “He is setting up a location for the shop equipment in Eugene. I don’t know if he wants to teach shoemaking, but I am sure he wants to perpetuate the shoemaking trade.”

Bode is president of KB Renaissance, Inc., a company that designs, manufactures and installs automated dairy equipment. He completed his first shoemaking class at the Ashland school about seven years ago. “He took a hiking boot course, and he was hooked,” Shanor remembered fondly. “Altogether, he has taken about five or six classes. He is a colleague now. His most recent shoe was world class. He has a full setup to make shoes right now. It’s his passion, not his living.”

Well, you can take the teacher out of the shoemaking school, but you can’t take the know-how out of the master shoemaker. Shanor is no longer teaching classes of new students, but he is reaching out to some former students, “to pay it forward, and help them and be their advocate. I’m not going to burn any bridges,” he explained.

So, for a lucky handful, it appears that plans for his gifts as a shoemaking instructor will live on. “If they call me on the phone and convince me they’re on fire, we’ll work something out. If someone has heart and soul, I’m willing to be their advocate. I also do fee-based consulting. Most of the time though, I answer questions and have a nice conversation. It’s a small community,” he said, of the people who populate the world of hand-built shoes.

In fact, this past June, right after he and his wife attended a Native American flute festival in Midway, Oregon, they drove down to Salt Lake City to the 43rd Utah Arts Festival, a juried show. They wanted to surprise their friends and former students, Dustin Lyon and Tiera Ptacek, cofounders of Alkahest Moccasins & Leathercrafts, based in Joseph, Oregon. The couple was displaying their leather goods at the arts festival.

“There was a lot of stunning stuff at the show. They were the top moccasin makers there,” Shanor said. “We love them. We have even driven all the way to Joseph to visit them. They’re sweet people. They needed mentoring, and they’re willing to take a risk.”

In retirement, he and his wife plan to stay at their Ashland home and activate their multifaceted talents by fully pursuing interests that got put on the back burner over the years. Indeed, they have already begun to unfold their wings.

This past June, Bonney-Shanor sang in the Masterwork Festival Chorus, led by composer Kirby Shaw, at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She plans to pursue her love of singing, and also, to hone her photography skills.

“I’m 74,” Bill Shanor, said. “I want to pursue music, and I’d like to travel and sit on my butt on my front porch, and drink coffee and read books. I read a minimum of one book a week. I have bad arthritis in both thumbs. I love the trade, but I have other things to do in life.

“I may keep a basic set of tools,” he mused further. But, his major passion these days is musical. “I plan to become a more proficient Native American flute player. I just finished making four pairs of high-end shoes and did a trade with a flute maker for flutes. I’ve set up a complete music room, with 34 flutes. I am also taking up the Chinese Xiao, an ancient, end-blown flute that will play many scales,” he said.


William Shanor & Julie Bonney
Bonney & Wills School of Shoemaking & Design
Ashland, OR 97520

Footwear Makers Guild
125 West Duffy Street
Savannah, GA 31401
Facebook: Footwear Makers Forum

July 2019


Every ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ something truly revolutionary comes along for leather crafters. Legendary Holster Maker, John Bianchi has ‘done it again’! Not only did he revolutionize the entire leather holster and belt industry during his 60 years as the premier innovator with new product designs, technology, tooling and manufacturing methods, the Bianchi Brand is known worldwide for top quality innovation.

After 10 years of test and development a brand new strap cutter has come on the market.  Strap-Eze™ provides faster, more comfortable, more reliable strap cutting with much less effort than ever before. Made in the USA, Strap-Eze™ features a quick change, replaceable utility knife blade, quick, accurate adjustment for belt widths and quick change from right to left hand. The unique design of Strap-Eze™ protects the blade and the user.

Strap-Eze™, precision machined in the USA from space age material, is destined to revolutionize the entire leather craft industry! Bianchi’s fresh approach to belt cutting features a dynamic alignment of the cutting blade at a precise angle and in direct line with the user’s wrist, arm and elbow for maximum leverage and ease of use.

For the past 150 years leather craftsmen have struggled with the same ‘Old Fashioned’ designed strap cutters.  New materials, methods and design technology have made the old strap cutters obsolete.  Get your Strap-Eze™ today at Frontier Gunleather, 760-895-4401 or

June 2019

The First Prineville Leather Show is a Success

By Nick Pernokas

The first annual Prineville Leather Show was held on April 26-27, at the Crook County Fairgrounds in Prineville, Oregon. The trade show is the brainchild of leather artist Melanie Marlow. Melanie’s background undoubtedly contributed to its success.

Melanie’s dad, George Ziermann, was involved in the logging industry. When logging started to decline, he learned to make boots that could stand up to the conditions he had worked in. Eventually, he sold his boot business to Scott Bergen, but he still does some specialty work with orthopedic surgeons. Melanie went into ranching and in 2005, the leather business. Her shop, Painted Hills Custom Leather, produces clothing, chaps, holsters and chinks. Melanie has even shipped a briefcase to Athens, Greece. Melanie does most of the leatherwork herself, while her dad focuses on his footwear.

Melanie has developed a niche by sponsoring rodeo queens on a national level. This exposure gives her more time in the shop to build things, rather than being on the road promoting and selling.

Melanie had attended the Pendleton Leather Show for years, and knew that Northwest leatherworkers needed more of this type of access to vendors and their wares. She thought that a spring show would be a welcome addition to the local leather industry, and would also take advantage of Oregon’s nice weather at that time of year.

This year’s leather show, in the Grizzly Mountain Pavilion, only had 32 10×10-foot spaces available. Melanie limited the number of spaces a vendor could buy and still filled the building to capacity.

“Everyone did very, very well,” says Melanie. “Halfway through the first day, they were already asking if I had applications for next year.”

Tim Alden brought 11 Cobra sewing machines and sold eight of them the first day.

Next year there will be even more room. The show will remain at the fairgrounds, but Melanie has booked the indoor arena, so that the show can continue to grow. Melanie plans on adding classes to her program, and has had several well-known craftsmen say that they would be interested in giving them.

Melanie made her event attractive to the public by not charging admission, and by having “leather dollars” that were given away periodically during the day for use at vendor’s booths. Registration for the dollars, and other raffles, boosted her mailing list for future events. A Western fast-draw contest and a junior rodeo held on the fairgrounds at the same time, created more crossover traffic for the vendors. A group of rodeo queens were also on site, visiting with customers and signing autographs. Central Oregon has a thriving leathercraft business, but the show also attracted many craftsmen from neighboring states. Bag makers and strap goods artisans seemed to dominate the sales on Friday, but a lot of saddlemakers showed up on Saturday.

What is surprising is that the show was put on with a minimum of staff. Because Melanie is on the Prineville Chamber of Commerce, they offered her a lot of support in areas like printing flyers. Now that the Chamber has seen the revenue that a leather show can generate locally, they are very enthusiastic for next year. The local Lions Club jumped on board as well, and provided food.

“I want it to get bigger, and better,” says Melanie.

If you’d like to get in on this up-and-coming trade show, call Melanie at (541) 881-6419, or visit the Prineville Leather Show Facebook page. Melanie’s work can be viewed on the Painted Hills Custom Leather Facebook page or at

Painted Hills Custom Leather

250 NE 3rd Street

Prineville, Oregon

Thaddeus “Tad” S. Mizwa

July 4, 1927 – April 3, 2019

Thaddeus “Tad” S. Mizwa, born in Springfield, Massachusetts on July 4, 1927, passed away peacefully on April 3, 2019 at the age of 91. He was the son of Katherine Twarog and Stephen Paul Mizwa, who founded and was president of The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York City. Tad served on its Board of Trustees until the fall of 1970. Tad graduated from Amherst in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts and then received a Master of Arts from Teachers College, Columbia University. He later became an accomplished trick roper and leather tooler. He studied under the best to become a world renowned saddle maker. Tad owned Tad’s Saddlery and Western Wear in Highland Village in Houston from 1953-1962. Tad did post-graduate work in the spring of 1963 at the University of Houston in journalism. Tad was the editor of the Conroe Courier from 1963-1967. In 1967, he moved his family back to Houston to join Cordovan Corporation and became the advertising manager and editor of Horseman Magazine. Tad eventually developed and published Western Outfitter for the western apparel trade. He later became the publisher of Texas Fisherman and Jet Cargo News within the Cordovan Corporation umbrella. Tad authored three books in the area of western merchandising, and “A Lifetime with Boots” with Sam Lucchese. He received the President’s Award and two Silver Spur Awards from the Western & English Manufacturers Association, and the “Al” Bronze Statue Award from the Western & English Retailers of America, all for outstanding services and contributions to the western industry.

Tad also served on many committees with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Association. He was an Elder of First Presbyterian Church of Houston, Texas, and was a baritone in the Chancel Choir for over 40 years, which he loved dearly. When he “retired” he volunteered for Aids Foundation-Houston, Stone Soup and Nehemiah Center, all while starting up his saddle making again. He perfected historical life size and 40% scale miniature saddles commissioned by various museums in the U.S., including making full-size and miniature replicas of a conquistador, a vaquero and a trail riding saddle for the Witte Museum of San Antonio’s exhibit, “Thundering Hooves-500 Years of Horsepower.” That exhibit traveled all over the country. He moved with wife Mary Jane to Leona, Texas in 1999, where Mary Jane’s family settled in the late 1800’s. They built a large ranch house with a 1500 square foot leather shop. There, Tad continued to hand-craft 40% miniature saddles which found their way to collectors around the world and into the homes of many friends and family. His Tom Mix miniature saddle was part of The Story of Texas exhibit in the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, which opened in Austin, Texas in April, 2001. It was on display until May, 2004. Tad’s work both in full size and 40% miniature saddles has appeared in six museum exhibits since 1993. After 60 years of perfecting his leatherworking craft, which included 52 miniature saddles, a stroke in 2003 abruptly ended his leatherworking for good. Yet Tad never complained. He continued writing western articles and mentoring up and coming leather craftsman.

Tad was predeceased by his parents Katherine Twarog and Stephen Paul Mizwa, his first wife of 10 years, Genevieve Brunoski-Mizwa, wife of 50 years, Mary Jane House Mizwa, and sister Helen Mizwa Reynolds. He is survived by son John Mizwa, son Michael Mizwa and wife Mary Johnston Mizwa, daughter Michelle Mizwa Eutsler and husband Robert Eutsler, and son Stephen Mizwa and wife Delia Escalante Mizwa, all of Houston, Texas. He is survived by grandchildren Rob Eutsler, Mary Elizabeth Browne Attwood, Baird Eutsler, John Browne, III, William Johnston, Hannah Mizwa, Kayla Mizwa, Holly Mizwa and John “Tad” Mizwa, great-granddaughter Emma Attwood, and his beloved nieces, nephews and cousins.
Our family graciously appreciates the excellent care that Tad received from the staff at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the medical center and Houston Hospice –Holcombe.

Funeral Services were held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, 2019, at Evans Chapel United Methodist Church, located at 4133 FM 977 West, Normangee, Texas (4 miles west of I-45 at Leona, Texas).

Tenth Annual B&B Boot Maker’s Gathering Raises Craft Awareness

By Liisa Andreassen

The 10th annual B&B Boot Maker’s Gathering was held on April 27th, and it turned out to be a huge success, with about 100 people in attendance from all around the country. Leather enthusiasts as well as bootmakers turned up. The event, started by Duck Menzies, was originally designed to be an informal social gathering for bootmakers.

Since Duck’s passing five years ago, the event was passed down to Lee and Carrlyn Miller of Texas Traditions Boots, who then handed the reins to Dustin and Cheryl Lauw of Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots two years ago.

“I was a longtime apprentice of Duck’s and eventually took over his business, Boots by Duck, and appropriately changed the name to what it is today – Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots,” Dustin says. “Duck was a great mentor of mine and we are honored to have the opportunity to continue the tradition.”

This year’s gathering was held at Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots in Salado, Texas, and continued in the same tradition as years gone by. Bootmakers caught up with each other, swapped stories from the previous year and enjoyed some fellowship.

The event was catered by saddlemaker Wayne Duncan of Half Fast Barbecue. After lunch, everyone relaxed and visited. During lunch, door prizes graciously donated by several vendors and friends of the leather community – notably C. Loy’s Leathers, Maker’s Leather Supply, Orion Calf LTD and Scot Sommerlatte Originals – were passed out to a lucky few.

The Lauws are hopeful that next year’s attendance will exceed this year’s and include more prizes. They also plan to add speakers and demonstrations.

Dustin, a fourth-generation leather craftsman said, “The ultimate goal is to raise interest in our craft, and to expose young people in the craft to the more experienced makers. This year was awesome, but next year will be even better.”

Expert Leathercraft Instruction Now Available Online

Jim Linnell offers downloadable video workshops through Elktracks Studio

Award-winning leather artist Jim Linnell is now offering expert leathercraft instruction online through Elktracks Studio. Live classes are hosted digitally twice a month, recorded, and then made available as downloadable video workshops on the website.

Quality leathercraft training is now accessible all over the world, on your schedule, and from the comfort of your personal workspace. Linnell’s website,, features a growing library of educational videos, sharing his experience and insights on such topics as tooling, dyeing, embossing, painting, figure carving, pictorial carving, and much more.

Hours of professional instruction are available as downloadable video workshops that are yours to watch at your own pace, as many times as you’d like. Each class typically ranges in cost from $30-$45, which makes skillful guidance available for leatherworkers at an affordable price.

Additionally, Linnell has created a detailed “Leathercraft Basics” tutorial that is available for free under the Videos section of the website. Leatherworkers will also find a wide selection of free patterns available at

Landis Sales and Service Purchases Hard-to-Find Parts

By Liisa Andreassen

When Landis Machine of St. Louis, Missouri, closed down, all of their remaining parts for the Landis #16 stitcher were sold to a holster maker, who was a major user of the Landis stitcher. Over the years, the parts were used to maintain their own machines, but were not available for anyone else to use. That’s all changed.

After 40 years in storage, Landis Sales and Service in Arthur, Illinois, is excited to announce that these parts will now be available for others to purchase. Eli Schlabach, owner Landis Sales and Service, actually rebuilds Landis 16 machines and said, “With our already existing parts stock, this new acquisition will be a big plus for anyone using Landis #16 stitchers.”

To date, the only other way for people to find parts for these machines was to dismantle an old one and try to use the parts. However, Schlabach explains that, more than likely, these parts would have been worn out.

Schlabach explained that they are also working on delving into the history of the Landis Machine Company and hope to share more information on that front soon.

Landis Sales and Service

Eli Schlabach


May 2019
Accomplished country music singer and songwriter Bill Mack was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s AWA Awards Ceremony.

Academy of Western Artists Recognizes Talent and Tradition

 By Liisa Andreassen

The Academy of Western Artists (AWA) is an organization that honors individuals who have preserved and perpetuated the heritage of the American cowboy. It works to preserve traditional values and hosts an annual awards show. Its director, Bobby Newton, hosted the first ceremony in 1996 in Fort Worth, Texas, and it honored performers and artisans active in the contemporary cowboy and western movement. While the event evolves, the tradition continues today.

“There’s a renaissance happening to bring quality work back,” Newton says. “We’re seeing more and more people getting into saddle and spur making. In fact, it’s a real growth industry.”

This year’s ceremony took place on March 14, at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. There were approximately 300 attendees.

And the award goes to…

“The Willy,” the AWA award named after the humorist, Will Rogers, goes to artists with talents ranging from writing and music to leatherworking.  Specifically, there are three categories: practical arts (i.e., spurmaker, saddle making and engraving); fine arts (i.e., oils, bronzes, sculpture, cowboy cartooning); and performing arts (i.e., western music, western swing music, pure country music). To date, the AWA has given away more than 800 of the “Willy” statues.

Newton, the event’s organizer, was also the publisher of Rope Burns, a western newspaper. As a result of his work there, he came in to contact with many fabulous and talented western artisans and craftsmen who, according to Newton, “were working at prices way below what they should have been.”

“We recognized the craftsmen along with the others and, because of attending our show, the Traditional Cowboy Artists of America was formed at the National Cowboy Museum,” Newton says. “Through our work and that of other events, the quality of the workmanship went to a much, much larger market.  We also saw more and more people starting careers in the arts and others getting involved, as collectors, makers, etc., which has raised the prices to new record levels.  We cannot take all the credit, but we were the first to promote the arts.”

Keeping the tradition alive

As a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, Newton admits that it’s getting harder and harder, financially, to keep the event going each year, but the visibility and credibility gets greater and greater.

“We’ve had artists from all over the U.S., Argentina, Australia, England, and throughout Canada attend the awards ceremony,” he says. “We continually add and lose categories as we grow.  Some are phased out or simply don’t have any submissions, while others just grow and grow.”

There’s no criteria to enter. Interested artisans just need to visit the website: and follow the submission instructions.

“It’s not a competition,” Newton explains. “It’s a recognition for their work and standing within the peer community for the art and craftsmen.”

Each category has a separate blind jury of peers to make the final selections. All of the submissions go to Newton and are then sent on to their specific area.  Each and every member of the blind jury is hand-picked and most have been involved their entire life.

“It’s a very prestigious honor to be selected,” Newton says.

The ceremony consists of a high-end dinner and award show held in the Brown Lupton Ballroom on the campus of Texas Christian University.

“It’s a fabulous facility with gourmet dining,” Newton says. “There are music venues in the stockyards and other facilities the evening before for those who come in early.”

Newton says he looks forward to the event each and every year.

“We’ve never had a bad one and I can’t single out one year after another,” he says. “We’ve had Don King, Cindy Walker, Randy Travis, Ferlin Husky, Lynn Anderson, Scott Hardy, Don Heisman and the list goes on and on. Each year is better than the last and the first year was great!”

A modest man, Newton says he has no talent in any of the areas, but is strictly “an outsider who wanted to see the best in the western world get recognized for what they do.”

It appears that he’s succeeded.

2018: AWA Winners

Artist: Shawn Cameron, Arizona
Cartoonist: Kristen Lloyd, Utah
Spurmaker: Bill Madole, Oklahoma
Engraver: Matt Litz, Texas
Bootmaker: Dave Wheeler, Texas
Braider: Bret Haskett, Idaho
Saddlemaker: Ken Tipton, Nevada
Master Leather Artisan: Tony Laier, Colorado
Hitcher: Donna Murray, Alberta, Canada
The prestigious Don King Memorial Saddlemaker of the Year is Pete Gorrell, Hawaii
The Garnet Brooks Chuckwagon of the Year is Keith Middleton, Texas

Nominations for 2019 are being accepted now.

Keystone Leather Acquires RJF Leather

Keystone Leather acquired RJF Leather, and all production for both companies is proudly achieved in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  They strive to exceed their customer’s expectations in quality and service.  Most orders are shipped within 2 days.  RJF Leather offers Premium Natural Double Shoulders, Strap Leather Bends, Bridle Bends and Sides, Latigo Sides, Drum Dyed Backs, Drum Dyed Double Shoulders and Drum Dyed Double Bends.  Their premium leathers have been used by skilled craftsmen for decades making holsters, belts, sheaths, and casegoods.  Please visit their new websites and

Andrew “Jack” Hughes, founder and owner of American Saddlery, Big Horn and ShoTan Leather passed away at the age of 87 on February 17, 2019

Andrew “Jack” Hughes

January 4, 1932 – February 17, 2019

Andrew Jack Hughes, age 87, passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 17, 2019, at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tn. He was born January 4, 1932, in Blairsville, Georgia, to Edward and Elsie Hughes. Jack proudly served his country as a Radio Operator in the Air Force from 1951-1955. Jack had a passion for saddlery, and founded his company American Saddlery in 1974 and later added on several other companies, including Big Horn and ShoTan Leather. Jack was an active member of Gideons International and served as a Deacon at South Seminole Baptist Church where he also enjoyed singing in the Adult Choir. Jack is survived by his wife of 66 years, Mildred Hert Hughes, Daughter, Debbie Hughes, Son, Andrew (Kimberly) Hughes, Grandsons Jarrod (Katie) Nunley, Levi and Ian Hughes, Brothers, Richard(Midge) Hughes, Don(Frankie) Hughes, Royce(Muriel) Hughes, Paul Hughes and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Elsie Hughes and his sister, Helen Cook.

March 2019
Cowboy Angel Murillo passed away in January in Pendleton, Oregon. He was known in town as the “hat guy” at Hamley’s Western Store.

Remembering a Young Cowboy  

By Liisa Andreassen  

He loved the ranch and the cowboy way of life. Sadly, this young cowboy, Angel Murillo, passed away this January after an unfortunate train accident in Pendleton, Oregon.  He was only 24. Angel was born in Hood River, Oregon, to Trinidad and Rosalia Murillo and graduated from Columbia High School in White Salmon, WashingtonHe was actively involved in 4-H and FFA and graduated from Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton with three associate degrees: livestock production, agricultural business and crop science. He made the honor roll two years in a row and served as the vice president of the new FFA collegiate chapter. 

His high school agriculture teacher, Emily Gehrig, who delivered the eulogy at his memorial service, said that she enjoyed seeing Angel grow into a confident young man following his passions. 

A man of many talents – and a little mischief too… 

“He always wanted to be a genuine cowboy,” Emily Gehrig says. “He was creative and artistic and he found a way to combine those passions.”  

She recalls that he would turn in assignments with beautifully drawn images of sheep and horses. 

“He would just throw the assignments away after I graded them, and I was constantly fishing them out of the trash,” she says.  

She also recalls taking Angel and several other boys on a senior high school trip to visit Pendleton, so they could learn more about pursuing higher education opportunities in agriculture.  

“While visiting the town, I ran into Papa Murphy’s to pick up some pizzas while the boys waited in the van,” she says. “When I returned to the parking lot, I saw one of the boys was roped. Imagine that? They were busted. Angel always carried around this orange rope with him and the boys were playing running and heeling in the parking lot. One of the boys got caught and roped. It was something else. They were all having great fun.”  

Angel grew up on the Kreps Ranch near Glenwood. He enjoyed playing in the dirt, riding horses, helping with the daily chores and feeding cows in the winter. When Angel graduated and moved to Pendleton, he continued to work on the ranch every weekend helping his dad round up cows or feed. He just loved the ranch and the cowboy way of life.  

He was also a devoted employee at Hamley Western Store in Pendleton. He worked as a hat shaper and most recently as a saddle maker. He won first place in the novice class for saddle making at the 2018 Pendleton Leather Show, as well as the people’s choice award. He also spent many an evening in the weight room at Pendleton’s Club 24.  

Penny French, manager of the Hamley Western Store, said this was a difficult time for her and the staffThe store’s Facebook page contained a post stating Angel “was one of the nicest and most honest young men around and we are going to miss him terribly.”  

At one point, Penny and Angel both worked on the sales floor and she eventually became Angel’s supervisor.  

I got to spend the past five-plus years working with him,” she says. “He became a friend and it was a pleasure to watch him grow and mature.” 

And when she says “grow” – she means it literally.  

“He worked out, ran and rode his bicycle all over town,” she says. “He was in great shape. And, he always showed up for work looking like the gentleman cowboy he was.”  

Angel loved good boots, good hats and good-looking clothes and Penny adds that whenever a vendor came to the store to showcase merchandise for selection, she always consulted Angel and took his advice as to what they should buy.   

He was the kind of employee who was never afraid to try something new.  For a period of time, Brett Maddox, whose dad owns American Hat, worked at Hamley’s too. Brett was an excellent hat shaper and he taught Angel how to shape a hat, too.  People came from all over just to see Angel and have their hats worked on by him.  

“Angel was pretty proud (in his humble way) of that ability, and he got to interact with lots of pretty young ladies on various rodeo courts who brought their court hats in to get that perfect look.  He obviously enjoyed the young lady part  that great Angel smile was evident on those occasions,” Penny says.  

According to Penny, Angel was just beginning to shine. He began in the early years at Hamley’s by doing saddle repairs and saddle cleaning and oiling, but his curiosity and natural creativity soon led him to wanting to build saddles himself. He made his first saddle for his dad.   

He was off and running and Pedro Pedrini, saddle shop foreman and Hamley Saddle School instructor, had great plans for our young man,” Penny says.  

Angel also had an amazing appetite and, according to Hamley’s bookkeeper, Holly Harrison, she couldn’t trust him with her raspberries.  

Anything that was offered in the employee break area was fair game, and he did a fine job of keeping that refrigerator clean and tidy.  That boy never turned any food down – legendary,” Harrison says.  

Pat Beard, another Hamley colleague said, “Angel was one of the most polite people I ever met, in every situation.  It’s not always the same, with his generation, but it didn’t matter with Angel – always ‘yes sir; yes, ma’am.’  He said that’s how his mama taught him and he never varied.  Respectful, polite, considerate.” 

Angel was known for soaking up everything that interested him. He would take it all in, sitting quietly and listening.   

He was a sponge when he wanted to learn something new  saddles, hats, horses, roping,” Pat says. He was intent on becoming very good at what he did.” 

When he had some quiet time on the sales floor, he could often be found sketching and he gave a drawing to pretty much everyone.  

We will treasure those,” Pat says.  

January 2019

Pendleton Leather Show Going Strong

By Liisa Andreassen

This past November marked the passing of another Pendleton Leather Show in Pendleton, Oregon. This year’s show consisted of a trade show, classes and a saddle contest. Historically, Pendleton is a leather-working town and is also home to one of the best PRCA rodeos in the country and to the famed shop, Hamley’s Saddle.

Vandy Douglas, the event’s coordinator, started producing the show in 2012. Prior to that it was organized by Ferdco Sewing Machines and was started approximately 20 years ago by the Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal.

“We count ourselves fortunate to have Pendleton as the location,” Douglas says. “The area has such history. Over the years, we’ve worked closely with the Chamber/Travel Pendleton and the Convention Center to improve the show’s experience. This is the only show of its type in the area and we’re constantly striving to increase its reach to bring even more attendees from a wider audience.”

The show was attended by about 800 people and held at the Pendleton Convention Center; admission was free. The 30+ vendors were mostly from the western U.S. and specifically from the leather crafting industry.

“The vendors are the backbone of our show,” Douglas says. “They displayed a diverse selection of goods such as leather, hardware, saddle trees, stirrups, fancy conchos, stamping tools, saddlery tools, bootmaking supplies, glue, conditioners, dyes and much more.”

The classes featured ranged from chink measuring and fitting to floral pattern drawing and hand sewing. There were even free kids’ classes that highlighted engraving and the basics of leather crafting.

“We’d like to increase the number of kids who attend, so we can teach them the foundational skills of Western craft and possibly inspire a life-long pursuit in a few,” Douglas says. “We’re looking forward to an expanded roster next year and hope to make it a destination for leather crafters of all types.”

Douglas adds that they’re always interested in talking with people about types of vendors they’d like to see to make it a well-rounded event.

Plans for 2019 are already in the works. There are going to be more contests and classes. Tours of Pendleton area attractions, in addition to many other activities, will be offered too. Visit the website for details: and also check Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates throughout the year.

2018 Roughout Saddle Contest Results  
Open Division

1: Steve McKay, McKay Saddles, Burns, OR, 662 points

2: Doug Koontz, DK Saddlery, Buhl, ID, 637 points

3: Trevor Alexander, Salina, UT, 601 points

4: Aaron Gilkey, Rock Star Custom Leather, Selma OR, 449 points

Novice Division

1: Angel Murillo, Pendleton, OR

2: Ryan Archibald, Salina, UT

People’s Choice Award: Angel Murillo

The winners split prize packages totaling over $3,000 with donations from Hermann Oak Leather, Hansen Silver, Douglas Tools, Steel Stamps, Bee Natural, Oregon Leather, Leather Wranglers, Barry King Tools, Gomph-Hackbarth Tools, Maverick Leather, Jueschke Tools, Shop Talk! Magazine and Pendleton Leather Show.

December 2018

Moser Leather Sells Latta Manufacturing

Moser Leather has sold Latta Mfg., a manufacturing division that specializes in saddlery equipment, to Ludwig and Marglin Company of Blanco, Texas. Ludwig and Marglin, formerly of New Braunfels, Texas, recently moved to Blanco. The new owner, Craig Gourley can be reached at 830-833-3074. Moser is focusing on its core business of leathers, its RENEWED MANUFACTURING OF LEATHER LACES, and saddlery and stable supply lines of the business.

November 2018

In Memoriam
Nat Fleming, 1921-2018
Weldon Burgoon, 1930-2018

By Gene Fowler

Heaven got a lot more Texas in the last few months as two of the finest cowboys who ever called the big state home rode off into the sunset one last time. Nat Fleming operated the Cow Lot Western wear store in Wichita Falls from 1952 to 2006, and Weldon Burgoon ran Weldon’s Saddle Shop and Western Wear in Denton from 1957 to 2017.

“You can tell by looking if it’s from the Cow Lot” was Nat’s slogan, and Weldon took to the airwaves to say, “Here’s your chance to buy from a real cowboy.”

Nat learned about leather and bootmakers in 1947 when he went to work for Wichita Falls’ Dixon Boot Company. Generations of Texoma Country cowboys and cowgirls knew there was nothing like a Nat Fleming fit. And many a country-western star bought Cow Lot boots when they were in the Red River territory. He also enjoyed a radio and TV career, hosting The Nat Fleming Show on Wichita Falls airwaves. When I interviewed Nat by phone some years back (see Shop Talk!, February 2017), he spoke about the time in the early ‘50s when he drove Hank Williams from Wichita Falls to Dallas. “Hank wrote an entire song on the trip,” Nat recalled.

When a customer would buy a new hat at the Cow Lot, they would often leave their old, much-lived-in hat for Nat to hang up on the rafters. When the store closed, some 500 of “Nat’s Hats” were installed in a permanent exhibit at Wichita Falls’ Museum of North Texas History. A temporary exhibit through the end of 2018, Boots On, North Texas, commemorates Dixon, Nocona, Westex, and other boot companies that once called the Red River area home.

Growing up in the Denton area in the Great Depression, Weldon Burgoon (see Shop Talk!, October 2018) began crafting leather items because money was too tight for store-bought. He was a professional calf-roper for a time after high school, and in 2010 he was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. In addition to his work as a saddlemaker, Weldon helped start the Denton County Livestock Association’s Youth Fair and Rodeo, where kids can show animals and compete in agriculture and rodeo competitions. He also played a prominent role in the North Texas Fair and Rodeo.

“Burgoon was a revered figure in Denton and often served as a visual reminder of what the city used to be like,” wrote Caitlyn Jones in the Denton Record-Chronicle. “Never without his boots, belt buckle or cowboy hat, Burgoon took up the torch of preserving the Western way of life in a place where feed stores gave way to bars and farm land transformed into subdivisions.”

Grandson Clint Wilkinson, who creates handmade leather items in a part of the building that served as Weldon’s saddle shop, has started a small museum in his shop to preserve his grandfather’s memory. “I’ve got things from his bit and spur collection,” says Clint, “and some of the saddles he’s made and some he’s collected. And there’s also some plaques and awards from his career.”

In a Facebook post honoring his “Paw Paw,” Clint wrote, “I’m continuing his legacy the only way I know how, which is through leather. I will never fill his boots. They’re too big and they need to be left alone anyhow.”

IMG_0560 (1)

A Tribute to Dave Little

By Danna Burns-Shaw

Renowned boot-maker Dave Little passed away September 24th after a two year battle with kidney disease. In true Dave fashion he decided when it was time to go, stating he had had a good life and was tired.

Before boot-making, Dave served 25 years in the Air Force retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant. Following his years of service, he joined the family business of boot making, a business his grandfather began in 1915.

Dave and his wife, Mary Jane took over the business (Littles Boots) in 1975. Dave decided to limit the company’s production to high-end, completely custom, handmade Western dress boots. With decades of developing the best boot possible, Dave’s desire to build the best western boot in the world became a reality.

Dave truly loved building high-quality boots. He taught many craftsmen this masterful skill and was able to create an outstanding team of boot-makers.

Dave and Mary Jane gave many years of love and dedication to Little’s Boots, the longest of any of the previous owners. Dave was thrilled that his daughter, Sharon and son, Duane took over as owners and operators when he retired at the age of 85.

Dave loved and enjoyed life. His military career allowed him to travel. He leaves his family many memories of camping all over Europe. Growing up, all his children worked at the boot shop where they learned a good work ethic. His favorite times were gathered at a table sharing a meal with family and friends. Anyone that knew Dave respected him, and will miss his genuine laugh.

While Dave Little the man is no longer with us, his legacy of quality, artistry and value inspires and lives on through his descendants who now run Littles Boots in San Antonio, Texas.

Surviving is his loving wife of 65 years, Mary Jane Little nee Bolner; sons: David (LeeAnn) Little, Duane Little, daughters: Sharon Little and Sandra (Mike) McNease; grandchildren: Kevin (Erica) McNease, Jennifer McNease, Sarah (fiancé Christian) McNease, Morgan (Royal) Brown, and Zachary Little; great-grandchild, Cayden McNease and a baby girl.

The 2018 Western Design Conference – From Cowboy to Contemporary  

By Liisa Andreassen

This past September marked 26 years for the Western Design Conference Exhibit + Sale produced by the Western Design Conference (WDC) in Jackson Hole, WY. This four-day, multimillion-dollar annual event awards more than $20,000 for design excellence and brings together artisans, collectors, interior designers, architects and fashion designers who all have one thing in common – a passion for the west.

Ranging in style from rugged to chic, contemporary American artists who create museum-quality functional art that represent today’s thriving western culture are the core of the event.  Exhibit + Sale attendees get to meet the makers of handcrafted works in furniture, fashion, jewelry, home and lifestyle accessories and can purchase directly from the artisans with no commissions paid.

This year, a new exhibit floor layout improved flow and the hugely popular opening night festivities only added to the event’s enduring ability to unite design enthusiasts in a meaningful and entertaining way.

The Opening Preview Party + Fashion Show provided attendees with a first peek along with the opportunity to buy direct and distinctive creations of every price point from more than 100 juried artists, as well as the chance to wander through the Designer Show House’s five exquisitely conceived rooms. A live auction, sumptuous local cuisine, a runway fashion show and specially-crafted cocktails at five open bars were all part of the festivities.

The “Artitude Adjustment” happy hours also provided a fun venue for attendees and artisans to sip cocktails and talk shop.

Allison Merritt, executive director, WDC, continues the strong commitment to Western arts with an expansive national reach that draws artists and visitors from across the country. Each year more than 3,500 locals and tourists attend the event and artists/designers are accepted through the WDC jury process to showcase work at the Snow King Event Center.

The WDC affords artists the opportunity to tell their story to the judges. Last year there were 52 juried entries; this year there were 73.

“This number ebbs and flows,” Merritt says. “We know that the knowledge and inspiration of materials used, design process, and concepts should be shared not only with the public, but also with our panel of experts.”

Juried presentations take place by genre in a randomly selected order. As the committee views each piece, an auditor assists the judges by reading aloud the artist’s written comments. The submissions are scored by the judges based on:

  • Quality of Craftsmanship
  • Effective Adaptation of Materials
  • Functionality
  • Design Quality
  • Originality

After scoring each piece, judges discuss their respective scores and collectively determine the winner in each category. This year $20,250 was awarded from among 73 juried pedestal exhibitors, 19 fashion collections and six interior designers.

“We embrace innovative ideas and heritage techniques,” Merritt says.

Award Winner Highlights

  • Best of Show: Hollifield Bamboo Fly Rods
  • Best Collection – Fashion Show – Rebecca’s
  • Western Spirit Award: Michael J. Guli Designs/River Crossing
  • Historical Craftsmanship: Norseman Designs West/Christina Chapman
  • Interior Design: Harker Design
  • Exhibitor’s Choice: A tie between Prairie Sky Designs and J. L. Blair Saddlery

For a full list of all winners and categories, visit:


“Rounding-Up” 30 Years of Boots and Saddles

By Jennifer June

This year was the 30th Annual Custom Boot & Saddle Maker’s Roundup. Eddie and Kathy Kimmel noted the milestone, but for them it was really just another show. Then without warning, all of that changed; Eddie Kimmel passed away on July 14th.

In spite of their grief, the Kimmel family regrouped and gave us a wonderful show. The Morris family was on hand to help, as they have for many years. Dale Morris drove the forklift in Eddie’s place and made sure the seminars ran smoothly. Teresa Morris greeted everyone at the door and supported Kathy and Kathy’s daughter, Jodie Tucker, who were both at the registration table.

These two days in Wichita Falls have always felt like part-trade show, part-family reunion. This year we were missing Eddie, as well as bootmaker Dave Little of San Antonio,Texas, who passed away on September 24th, at the age 87. (Please see sidebar for remembrances.)

Instead of a mournful event, the Roundup became one of gratitude. Many of us were grateful for a chance to once again spend time with old friends. Bootmakers Ray Dorwart (Guthrie, OK), Len Boden (Sweetwater, TX), Cricket Garcia (Eagle Pass, TX)  and Pablo Jass (Lampasas, TX) all made surprise appearances.

After doing business over the phone for months, or years, the show is a chance to put faces to names, and see the leather colors in person. This year there were 58 vendors. Whether you are buying leather, tools or machines, the best selection is on Friday…and the best deals are on Saturday. Bootmaker Wes Shugart drove from Nashville to Wichita Falls with his shopping list in hand. He was convinced he bought the last piece of white kangaroo on the planet. We will be watching his Instagram posts (@musiccityleather) for a look at that inlay.

You arrive with a list, but then you discover new vendors and things you never expected. Sean Aquino was new to the show this year. When every detail counts, his Fine Leatherworking Tools are specially crafted for hand sewing and edging quality leather goods.

Sorrell Notions and Findings (Guthrie, OK) had new items like thread for stitching soles, in strong new colors like red, yellow and green. Lisa Sorrell uses the products she imports and sells. She can tell you how much she personally likes the water-based glues — specifically the Renia – Aquilim SG – the glue she is now using in her inlay work, describing how it almost turns leather into a “Post-it note.” Lisa only needs to glue one surface, and no longer needs to spend time removing excess rubber cement once she is done stitching her boot tops.

Saving money on shipping costs was one more good reason to buy at the show, whether it was saddle skirting or a big jug of glue. And of course, everyone had their fingers crossed that they would win some “Roundup Dollars.”

Unlike other leather shows, all the seminars at the Roundup are free. Most were standing room only, like the Q&A panel featuring Texas bootmakers Mike Allred (Whitesboro,TX), Lee Miller (Austin, TX) and Mike Vaughn (Bowie, TX) and this year’s guest-star, Alan Bell (Abilene, TX).

The crowd asked tough questions about patternmaking and fit. Mike Allred took the boot off of his foot (a bright-orange boot visible from the back row) for panelists to use explaining their answers. Some questions got the same answer up and down the table…other questions got two, three or even four different answers. The panelists remain good friends despite their differing opinions on leather vs. celastic toe boxes. One question that’s hard even for a master bootmaker to answer: “Do I try something new or go back to the way I was taught?” The one thing they all agreed on is that building a good boot takes practice.

Why aren’t there more saddle-making seminars? All Kathy Kimmel needs are a couple of volunteers…

Mike Vaughn counted 31 pairs of boots in the contest this year, a few more than last year. Pebble and Robert Browne, owners of Brown’s Custom Leather in Paradise, Texas, are caretakers of the saddle contest; 14 saddles were entered this year. Pebble wants new saddle makers to step up and enter the beginner category with their very first saddle. She told everybody else to think about bringing in a customer’s saddle order, “Don’t tell them it’s done until after the contest!” Each contest is judged by anonymous judges. Buckles and bragging rights go to the winners.

When Kathy Kimmel was asked if she’d like to say anything about this year’s show, she said, “I just want to thank everybody for coming …and we hope to see you next year.”

Information about next year’s show and contests will be coming soon at

We Will Miss Eddie Kimmel

Eddie Kimmel’s presence was felt throughout the show; Heath Tucker, Eddie’s son-in-law said, “Eddie must be looking out for us this year because we haven’t had a hitch.”

A large photo of Eddie sat close to the registration desk, near Eddie’s “usual spot.” Only unlike Eddie…it stayed put the whole time. People remarked about how they kept catching themselves wanting to talk with Eddie. Here are a few of their remembrances:

“My grandad raised me… [he called] people like Eddie “white hatters” because they wore white hats and they were good people…that’s what I thought of Eddie. He was a white hatter.”  — Alan R. Bell (Abilene, TX)

“After Duck passed away, not really knowing if I was credit worthy or if I was trustworthy… I would order materials from Eddie. Eddie told me, “Pay me in the next 30 days.” That had a really big impression on me…that he put that trust in me. Eddie gave me a really good start.” — Dustin Lauw (Salado, TX)

“Eddie did whatever he could for the industry. He was just interested in helping everyone out. He would pick up a lot of stuff that no one else would pick up and he ran with it. He just did everything for everybody.”  — Brian Thomas (Abilene, TX)

“It didn’t matter how busy Eddie was at the show. Even if you caught him traveling from one end of the show to the other, when you were talking to Eddie he gave you his full attention. You knew he wanted to help you anyway he could.” — Jennifer June (El Cerrito, CA)


Memories of Dave Little

Dave Little will be remembered for years to come for his generous spirit and the beautiful boots built in his shop. He greeted you like family. The shop is in good hands with Sharon and Duane Little, but Dave Little will be greatly missed.

“One day I went down to his shop, and he just treated me like royalty. I didn’t come announced or anything. Dave took me through the showroom and then to the shop where everyone was working…I got a full tour of Little Boots. I wasn’t expecting that.” — Mark Fletcher (Plano, TX)

“I’ll miss Dave. I started my apprenticeship in 1982 with my dad and that was about the time the Texas Boots book came out.  There were 12 pictures of Dave Little boots; they really inspired me. Still do.” — Deana McGuffin (Albuquerque, NM)

Over the years, he always tried to buy me a steak dinner. I never took him up on it. Early on, I would call him when I was having trouble with a pattern…he was always trying to help.  — Lee Miller (Austin, TX)

October 2018
Kimmel B (1)

Boot Maker Eddie Kimmel Passes

By Nick Pernokas

Eddie Kimmel was born in Spur, Texas, on August 16, 1949. Spur sits on the plains in the middle of West Texas cowboy country. It’s ironic that Eddie was never really into ranching or cowboying as a young man, but sometimes fate has a sense of humor. His family moved to Comanche, Texas, when he was 10. In Comanche, Eddie met a local girl named Kathy.

Eddie and Kathy Kimmel were married in 1968. Eddie was going to school with plans to become a teacher. Fortunately for the leather industry, he decided that teaching was not what he wanted to do.

By the late 1970s, Eddie was a successful tile layer. Unfortunately, the housing market slowed and things were bleak in the construction business. In 1979, Eddie was looking for something else to do, when he happened to run into a gentleman in Comanche one day. This individual owned a boot shop in town with several boot makers, but he had other interests as well. He told Eddie that he was looking for a manager for the boot shop, so he wouldn’t have to be there all the time. Eddie didn’t know much about the boot business, but he liked to build things.

The boot shop gained a new manager in Eddie and he also began to learn how to build boots from the boot makers. Within six months, Eddie knew that he wanted to build boots for a living. Eddie and Kathy purchased the shop. In 1980, they moved the shop out to their home. In 1987, they built their current shop. With only two or three employees, Kimmel Boots were producing around 450 pairs of boots a year. Eddie would build the lasts and cut out the leather, and his boot makers would finish the boot. Eddie thought that this was the best way for him to produce a high-end custom boot.

“That was how he made it successful,” says Kathy. “I don’t think there was any place he would have rather been than right out there in that boot shop.”

Eddie made a lot of friends in the boot industry. His competitors were also his friends, and he enjoyed talking boots with them. One problem they all faced: having to buy in quantity to get the materials they might need for a small number of boots. Eddie tried to start a boot maker’s co-op, so boot makers could buy in quantity and share the materials, but that didn’t go over with other boot makers. Eddie had always been good about sharing his inventory with other boot makers in need, and he found he really liked that end of the business. A few years ago, he and Kathy formed a more formal company to wholesale boot making materials to fellow boot makers.

“Eddie really enjoyed that because he would have a business that was separate from the boot business, but he still got to visit daily with all those boot makers,” says Kathy.

On January 1, 2018, Eddie’s son-in-law, Heath Tucker, took over the actual boot shop. The shop continues to produce the same, high-quality custom boots in the same location, under the name Kimmel Boot Company. Eddie’s wholesale supply company continues as Eddie had planned, as Kimmel Boots.

“The supply business was Eddie’s joy, and I enjoy it also,” says Kathy.

Kathy feels that Eddie had irreplaceable knowledge that he shared with his boot making customers. Eddie resisted creating a website for it because he didn’t want to lose the personal touch. Kathy and Heath will try to maintain that level of service, to honor Eddie’s spirit.

“That’s what got him up in the morning,” says Kathy, “getting to visit with those people every day on the phone.”

Eddie and Kathy took over the Custom Boot and Saddle Maker’s Roundup in the mid- 1990s.  It had outgrown its Burnet, Texas, location so they moved it to Brownwood.  In reality, the Roundup probably wouldn’t be in existence today if it wasn’t for Eddie and Kathy. The Roundup continued to grow and became an important event in the leather industry, where vendors and makers could come together. In 2001, it moved to its current location in Wichita Falls.

Eddie had open-heart surgery in 1999; he was left with 35 percent of his heart functioning. Eddie didn’t let it slow him down.

Greg Carmack, longtime friend and custom boot maker, was in his early teens and working for another boot maker in 1983, when he met Eddie for the first time. The sole stitcher in the shop he worked for had broken, so his boss called Eddie to see if they could sew 30-40 pairs of repair boots on Eddie’s stitcher. Eddie said, “Sure.”

“We took over his sole stitcher,” says Greg. “I just remember how nice that was. I just never had him tell me no. And that was a fault of his actually. He was a little too good to people.”

Eddie was once offered a yearly contract for boots that was a really nice deal. He felt that he wouldn’t be able to meet the deadlines with all of his other obligations, so he referred it to Greg. It has turned into a really profitable endeavor over the years for Greg.

“That’s the kind of guy he was,” says Greg. “I don’t want to mess with it, but I’ll   damn sure help this guy.”

Custom boot maker Mike Vaughn was friends with Eddie for 30 years. They talked boots on the phone a couple of times a week.

“Eddie enjoyed helping the smaller shops out, selling them what they needed for just that pair of boots. He was a really, really good ambassador for the custom boot industry,” says Mike. “I’m not going to lie to you. I sure miss talking to him.”

Eddie liked things uncomplicated. He didn’t even have a cell phone. Eddie was a homebody and loved tinkering with things around his place. Some of Kathy’s fondest memories are of Eddie grilling in the backyard with his family.

“Eddie was a good man. He was a great family man. He was a good husband, a good father, a good grandpa and a good papa. He was so talented; he could do so many things. He was my best friend. He had a good life,” says Kathy.

On July 15, 2018, after a day playing with his family, Eddie’s heart gave out unexpectedly. But, Eddie had used it well.

Eddie is survived by his wife of 50 years, Kathy Kimmel; his children, Justin and wife Tricia Kimmel of Coleman, Texas; and Jodie and husband Heath Tucker of Comanche, Texas; four grandchildren, Bailey, Will, Austin and Kate; one sister, Suzie and husband Don Harrison of Gustine; and one sister-in-law, Sue Kimmel of Canton; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, family and friends.

Product Image_Speedy Stitcher

Silver Creek Leather Co., LLC Acquires Stewart Manufacturing, Inc.

Silver Creek Leather Co., LLC is pleased to announce the acquisition of the business assets of Stewart Manufacturing, Inc., of Poughkeepsie, New York, makers of the popular Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl.

This sale will ensure that the Speedy Stitcher will continue to be made in the USA, as it has been since it was patented in 1909.  This tool is an important aid in the leathercraft, outdoor, marine and saddlery markets, and it is so well designed that it has been basically unchanged for over 100 years.  The awl, along with high quality needles and thread is an important part of any craftsman’s tool chest for building products and making repairs to all sorts of sewn items.

The Stewart factory will be moved to the premises of Silver Creek Leather Co., at 5035 Keystone Blvd., Jeffersonville, Indiana, and be operational by August 31, 2018.  Silver Creek realizes it is important to customers that there is no disruption in service or shipments.  Silver Creek has no plans to modify or change the tools or the components, and will be using the same equipment and suppliers that have made the Speedy Stitcher successful for so many years.

Stewart Manufacturing has produced these items in their factory in Poughkeepsie, New York since 2002, being managed by company President Sheila Kelleher.  Much of the assembly and packaging work was done there by a sheltered workshop, allowing many disadvantaged individuals to find employment that made them proud contributors to the business and their community.  Silver Creek Leather plans to continue using the same type of workforce as much as possible after the move to Southern Indiana.

“Sheila Kelleher has been an important business partner and friend to us at Silver Creek Leather for many years.  We wish her and her husband Bob all the best as they are now able to pursue retirement together.  We look forward to continue the production and sale of the Speedy Stitcher and hope to grow its reach throughout the world,” said Greg Sartor, President of Silver Creek Leather.

Please direct all inquiries regarding the Speedy Stitcher to the offices of Silver Creek Leather Co. at 812-945-8520 or email to

Silver Creek Leather is the leading supplier of leathercraft products to the US craft store market.  They manufacture and distribute leather lacing, leathercraft kits, finished leather goods, tools and other supplies to chain stores such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Stores, Boy Scouts of America as well as independent specialty distributors.  These are sold under our own Realeather brand or private label in over 3,000 retail locations nationwide.  Silver Creek Leather works with tanners worldwide to source the highest quality leathers that are cut and assembled by our skilled craftsmen in our Southern Indiana facility.

49th Annual Harness Maker’s Get-Together Minutes

July 20th, 2018

The 49th Annual Harness Maker’s Get-Together was held at held at M.D.Y. Horseshoeing and Harness Shop.  It was hosted by the Mahlon Yoder family.

From 10:30 to 11:00 there was an informative meeting from the Antibaptist Financial Business out of New Columbia, PA.  It was held by Dale Savage on creating efficiency and profitability in wholesale and retail business.  It was very interesting and informative.

At 11:20 the Harness Maker’s Meeting was called to order by Kevin Yoder.  Kevin thanked the Yoders for hosting the auction and the get-together.

The committee members introduced were Reuben Byler from Middlefield, OH, Mose Beachy from Baltic, OH, Wayne Chupp from Fredericksburg, OH, Jonas Stoltzfus from Honey Brook, PA, Kevin Yoder from Nappanee, IN, Andre Hostetler from Arthur, IL,  and Mark Brenneman from Springs, PA.  Gary Miller from Arthur, IL was also introduced.  He will be taking Andrew Hostetler’s place.

Former committee members were Lloyd Miller, Jim Weaver, Eli Schlabaugh, Dan Lapp, Atlee Yoder, and Abe Miller.

Mahlon Yoder thanked everyone for coming to the auction and get-together. He introduced his wife Laura and six children.  His auction report was that hardware prices were good and the leather prices were fair.

Andrew Hosteteler read the minutes of the 2017 meeting.

Harness makers deaths in the last year were Vernon Weaver, Mose Beachy’ s mother, and Huber Gillaugh.

Jim Weaver from Weaver Leather said it was their largest auction ever, more lots of leather and equipment.

Tanners recognized were: Doug Morrison from Hermann Oak, Jeff Ballard from Thorobred Leather, and Jim Cox from Moser Leather.

Also recognized was Scott Hanna from Biothane, a special thank you to them for paying for the tent.

Also, a thank you to Chupp Brothers for the delicious dinner after the auction.

Longest in business: Bolander Harness from Gorrie, Ontario Canada since 1959

Newst in business: Miller Pad Shop from Arthur, IL since July 2018

Most miles traveled: Harolds Harness from AR

Oldest man: Ben Beiler at age 82

Shops present were: KY 2, IL 5, IA 2, MI 2, IN 21, OH 21, MD 1, NY 2, AR 2, PA 16, SC 1, MO 1, VT 1, Canada 1

We had special grab bags for children so only 18 and older registered.

Next year’s get-together is to be at:

Joe Mullet

1613 Newcomb Rd.

Middlefield, OH 44062

Phone: 440-632-1527

Door Prizes were donated by:

Fisher’s Shoe and Saddle

Beilers Manufacturing

Brenneman’s Leather Goods

Broadhead Collar Shop

Hillside Harness Hardware

Weaver Leather

Mid River Sales

Sunset Designs

Bowman’s Harness Shop

Beachy’s Nylon Harness

Chupp Blacksmith

Fairview Country Sales

Sugar Valley Collar Shop

Troyer’s Rope

Shetler’s Collar Shop

Stauffer’s Harness Shop

N & A Harness Shop

Miller’s Harness Shop

Suggested meal price was $10.00 for adults.

September 2018

The 49th Annual Harness Makers Get Together and Consignment Auction 

By Nick Pernokas 

Nice sunny weather greeted consigners and attendees from all over the country at the 49th Annual Harness Makers Get Together this year. The gathering was held in Middlebury, Indiana on July 19- 20 at MDY Horse Shoeing and Harness Shop. 

The auction, held in two rings on the first day, had some really good merchandise including 3 harness shop liquidations. One 205 Adler sewing machine was the high selling consignment at $4300.00. Eight skids of leather from various tanneries were sold as well. Lots of old and new hand tools and bench tools were sold. There were all kinds of hardware including many stainless steel pieces, which sold at, or slightly below wholesale value. 

The quality of the consignments, and the enthusiasm of the 150 buyers, was such that only a small skid of items went unsold. After the sale, everyone was treated to a grilled hamburger supper sponsored by Chupp Brothers Wholesale. 

“I just want to thank all the consigners, and the auctioneers that did all the work,” said host, and owner of MDY Harness, Mahlon Yoder.  

MDY Harness makes all types of leather, and Biothane, harness. Mahlon, and his small staff, provide a custom touch to all of the work they produce.  Mahlon also has an equine and shop related consignment auction at his 5 acre facility every May. This experience was one of the reasons he was asked to host. 

The gathering is a place that folks, like Mahlon, can have a face to face meeting with people that they only talk to over the phone during the rest of the year. 

“There are definitely people that you don’t see until the Get Together,” says Mahlon. 

This year, the gathering included a seminar that featured an Anabaptist Financial business advisor who gave advice on dealing with retail customers. Thirty vendors were also on hand to visit with customers in person. 

For a laid back atmosphere in the heart of America’s harness making industry, the Get Together is hard to beat. It moves every year to a different location, so if you’re interested in harness, and would like to attend next year, you can call committee chairman Kevin Yoder at 888-259-9448 for dates and location. To find out more about Mahlon Yoder and MDY Harness, call 574-825-8161.  

August 2018


By Lynn Ascrizzi 

Does a magnet attract metal filings? Do birds travel long distances each year to find great feeding grounds?   

This past June 13th and 14th, roughly 400 auction-goers flocked to Weaver Leather’s 34th Annual Consignment Auction, held on the grounds of the company’s large facility, set in the scenic countryside of Mount Hope, Ohio. Described as “the largest consignment auction of its kind,” they were drawn to the popular event to sell leather equipment and goods and to find terrific products and deals. 

This year’s auction, run by Weaver Leather, LLC, a leather goods manufacturer, distributor and retailer, was one of its best. “It was the fourth largest auction on record, with a record number of consignments, roughly twice as many lots as last year’s auction,” said company CEO Jason Weaver. 

“It was the fourth biggest we’d had,” added Christ Miller, who served as auction coordinator and chairman. A long-time employee, he has taken part in 29 of the company’s annual auctions. This year’s event, he said, was busting with so much machinery, that all of it couldn’t fit under the 60-foot-by-120-foot, machinery and tools tent.  Their 40-foot-by 160-foot tent for leather and nylon goods was also busting at the seams. 

“We had to set up four rows of machinery outside the tent. And, we had tons of leather that sold the first day, which included tannery overstocks. We had more chrome-tanned leather than we ever had before. We sold leather until 7:15 p.m., the first day, under that big tent and sold more the next morning. We were selling with two auctioneers both days and had a third ring for a while, Wednesday morning,” he said. Auctioneers were from Martin Auctioneers, of Intercourse, Pa. 

The auction moved fast. “We had quite a few Adler sewing machines here, and clickers and skivers, splitters, riveters, hand tools and other machinery,” Miller said. Hand tools (including hard-to-find tools) were sold the second day in the machinery tent. For the most part, the machinery and hand tools sold were used or refurbished.  

A number of generous prizes sparked the event. For every $100 spent on Weaver Leather products, buyers got a ticket to enter an auction drawing. Later the tickets were put in a big barrel and drawn for eight attractive prizes. For example, the grand prize was an Adler 669 Sewing Machine; first prize was a Weaver 205 leather sewing machine; 2nd prize was $500 worth of Hermann Oak leather; 3rd prize was $400 of webbing by Brahma Webb®. The products used for prizes are offered in the Weaver Leather catalog.    

The company also offered a 5 percent “Cash & Carry” sale for their leather, hardware and all-new machinery, the whole week, starting on Monday, June 11. “We have a lot of people coming on Monday and Tuesday, dropping off products and placing their order early,” Miller explained.  

And, the company offered a 10 percent discount for their Weaver 205 sewing machine and on all Adler sewing machines, in memory of former machinery sales representative Vernon Weaver. He had retired from Weaver Leather two years ago and passed away in early June, just days before this year’s auction event. 

“There are always some new faces each year, but we had many of the same customers that attend every auction,” Jason Weaver said. “The neat thing is, that many of the new faces represented the next generation. You see some youngsters coming along with their fathers. It’s great to see things being passed down from generation to generation. One of the big benefits of the auction is that everybody can meet each other. There were a lot of fresh ideas about crafting products. It’s a good relationship-building kind of thing. We love to open our doors and show hospitality to our friends and customers.”  

Miller echoed the observation. “I saw a lot of new people here that I never saw before. A lot were from other states, like Florida, Maine and California — people of all ages.” And, he observed the usual, big concentration of folks from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Organizing a big consignment auction is a complex task, involving lots of company expertise and practiced coordination. More than 100 people helped out with the event. Designated ‘captains’ were put in charge of every area, including parking, Miller said.  

The team also had to plan for food to feed the guests. Hearty, home-style cooking was dished up by an Amish-run parochial school, located right across the road from the company. “They set up a lunch stand, and proceeds from food sales went to cover school tuition,” he said.   

In the morning, auction-goers could fill their bellies with a full-course breakfast —sausage gravy and biscuits, orange juice and a breakfast casserole made with eggs and bacon. For lunch, it was veal or chicken sandwiches, or hot dogs, a tossed salad with dressing and potato salad. “People ranted and raved about the strawberries and ice cream. A lot of the work was done by mostly the parents of the (school) children,” he added. 

Obviously, setting up the auction kept the Weaver Leather staff extra busy that month. But, a few days before the auction date, the company’s 300-plus employees had an opportunity to share a brief moment of camaraderie with fellow coworkers and to celebrate company spirit.  

“The beauty of this year’s event was, on the Friday evening before the auction, we were able to hold our Weaver company picnic beneath one of the auction tents that went up on Thursday. Afterward, we set up the auction tables, and customers started coming on Monday morning to bring consignment items,” Miller said.  


Weaver Leather 

P.O. Box 68 

7540 CR 201 

Mount Hope, OH 44660-0068 



Customer service hours:  

8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri. (EST) 



Vernon Weaver of Kidron, Ohio, a former machinery sales representative for Weaver Leather, LLC, in Mount Hope, Ohio, passed away on June 10, 2018, at the age of 71. He had retired from the leather goods manufacturer, distributor and retailer in 2016, after 35 years of service  

Weaver is the brother of the company’s former CEO Paul Weaver and the father of its current CEO, Jason Weaver. “My father had declining health,” his son said, as he shared memories of his dad’s singular character. 

“He found his niche with sewing machines. He came into the company when it was really small, with his brothers Paul and David. Dad took to the sewing machines. He ran a Union Lockstitch for many years. He could take apart an Adler or a ‘Union Lock’ (no longer in production) and put them back together.”  

His father’s knack for getting the machinery up and running is not only memorable but still influences company values, today, he said. 

“One of the cornerstones of this business is our quality in stitching. You have to make sure that sewing machines are timed right and in top working condition. They have tight tolerances. If the tension is not right, you can have skipped stitches or knots. It’s something we’ve always paid attention to — good, solid stitching. Dad had that kind of expertise and desire. He carried the torch. He had the technical ability. 

“Dad had a big influence on me,” he added, pointing out how his father treated customers and coworkers. “That service mindset, I picked up from Dad. He was so loyal, really proud of the company and of the role he had. His love and passion came through. A lot of his best friendships were with his customers. Yes, we want the sale, but we want people to be successful with a product, after the sale.” 

His father was also proud that he had a son who worked for the company he cared so much about. “It was nice for him to see me step into that role. I’ve worked here 18 years. I don’t remember life before Weaver Leather,” he said. 

During those years, he got a heap of nitty-gritty training. “I spent a lot of time in operations for order fulfillment and in the leather shipment area. I learned about leather, what leather to use in different operations, and about hides in different parts of the world,” he said. He also spent time in leather and nylon manufacturing, and for a number of years, was a leather-cutting supervisor. 

“A cornerstone of a successful leather operation is knowing how to cut leather, to understand what part of the hide to use, so you have a very high-quality product. You have to teach this principle of maximizing leather yield to the cutters,” he said. 

Christ Miller, company sales implantation manager, also reminisced about Vernon Weaver’s unique contribution.  

“I have a lot of good memories about Vernon,” he recalled. “I worked with him for 27 years. The biggest thing was his passion to get the customer the best sewing machine possible.” To do this, Vernon Weaver walked more than the extra mile.  

“He could help customers with their sewing machine problems, over the phone. And not just our customers,” Miller said. “Some of our competitors would sell these machines, and they had no idea how to fix them. Those companies would refer their customers to Vernon! And, he gladly helped them with their issues. He never charged them over the phone. He helped countless people with sewing machine issues, whether they bought them from Weaver Leather, or not. The Adler sewing machine was his specialty.” 

In the long run, “Vernon’s generous customer service actually helped give Weaver Leather a great reputation and drew more customers into the fold,” he said.  

July 2018
Bill Shackleford

Remembering William Byron (Bill) Shackelford

September 18, 1943 – April 25, 2018

Bill Shackelford passed away from congestive heart failure on Wednesday, April 25, at the age of 74 in Sheridan, Wyoming. He was a third-generation Sheridan rancher and an esteemed businessman.  He was a titan of sales and business in the Western Sales Industry, winning numerous awards and holding many official positions.  He was past president and chairman of the board for WESA which is the world’s largest Sales Organization for Western and English Equestrian-related products and was a consultant and mentor to many in the industry.

Bill was also a big contributor to the Miss Rodeo America and Miss Rodeo Wyoming Association’s. He also contributed to numerous local, state and western regional rodeos, roping’s, and horse shows.  There are few youngsters in Sheridan County who rodeo that haven’t won a bridle, breast collar, saddle pad or saddle that Bill had donated. Bill and his wife, Janice, won the prestigious sponsor of the year award for the Miss Rodeo Wyoming Association in 2008.

Bill was a true cowboy, as a teen working cattle for The Gill Cattle Company in Montana and other local area ranches.  He participated in High School and College Rodeo’s.  Bill raised longhorns and quarter horses and grew grass hay on his beautiful Sheridan ranch; he was riding and roping off his horse Coors up until last summer.  He was very happy and proud that his son, Scott and family moved to Sheridan recently to take over the family ranch.

Bill enjoyed life to the fullest and on his terms.  His word and handshake were his bond and he “suffered no fools.” He leaves those who knew him with many memories and his departure will be a huge loss for all whom he held dear.

Bill leaves behind his beloved wife Janice, and her three sons, Justin Houston (Rebecca), Jason Houston (Nikole), Jordan Seiler (Dakotah) and five grandchildren. Son Scott Shackelford (Susie), six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Daughter Lisa Shackelford and one grandson. His brother Richard (Dick) Shackelford (Gloria) and two nephews.

Bill loved and lived the true western lifestyle; he was never without his cowboy hat, a great pair of boots, a good horse and he enjoyed a good glass of scotch.  He fought gallantly against great odds the past five years…he will be greatly missed and now he can rest, as “the cowboy rides away.”

–Tribute by Janice Shackelford

Paula Leddy

Paula Leddy Passes

Paula Leddy, wife of James Leddy of James Leddy Custom Boots, passed away on June 3, 2018.  Paula was born on May 28, 1938 in Abilene, TX.  She married James Wilson Leddy on June 22, 1955.  She was a great support to her husband as they managed a boot shop and family.  Paula worked as a bootmaker, homemaker, mother, and caregiver all her life.

Paula is survived by her three children, Debbie Meek and husband Glenn, James Zeno Leddy and wife Arlene, Brent Leddy and Carol; three brothers, Zeno Wise, Jr. and wife Mary, Eddie Wise and wife Neva, Danny Wise and wife Cindy; and one sister, Linda Couturier all of Abilene. She was blessed with many grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Wear your custom made boots in heaven with pride Paula.

May 28, 1938 – June 3, 2018

Lee Liles.jpg

Lee Liles Passes

By Nick Pernokas

On May 11, 2018, the leather industry, the farrier industry, and the equine world, lost larger than life legend Lee Liles. If you were involved in any of those things, and you didn’t know Lee personally, you at least knew of him.

Raised in Mississippi, Lee Liles moved to Tennessee at the age of fifteen to start a horse shoeing career. In the Sixties he learned to shoe race horses, and ventured as far west as California. Lee also developed a love of roping. Uncle Sam put a hold on Lee’s career, and when he came back from Vietnam, Lee started back shoeing in Tennessee. He also started working in the specialized field of Tennessee Walkers. By the Eighties, the western pleasure horse business was flourishing in the South. Lee made the move to shoeing “high tech” show horses. Lee and his wife, Alma, ran a horse ranch in Collierville, Tennessee called Carrousel Farms. Always handy with fabrication, Lee dabbled in building shoeing tools, including a well known hammer. He also built shoeing rigs. Because he was working with a lot of show horse people, he began competing in the roping classes at Quarter Horse Shows. Lee had a successful career in the horse show business and won numerous national roping titles in the AQHA. He became very interested in the saddle business as he traveled in the West, and made a lot of tools for the saddle makers that he met. One of these was a device for positioning riggings on saddles, and another was a device for burnishing edges.

Lee became interested in doing his own leatherwork so he could repair his own gear. Phillip Cheaney, owner of Cheaney Tack, and a friend of Lee’s, fixed him up with some basic tools and instruction. Another friend, Jerry Hull, who owned Trophy Tack in Oklahoma, also roped with Lee, and helped him advance in his leatherwork. Eventually Lee transitioned from being a collector of saddles to building them.

Lee, Alma, and their daughter, Samantha, moved their operation to Sulphur, Oklahoma in 1998. Lee had collected horse shoeing memorabilia since he was a kid, and now he started to organize his collection. In 1999, Lee opened The National Museum of Horseshoeing Tools and Hall of Honor. The city of Sulphur presented him with the Key to the City at the official opening ceremony to the public. The museum is now the most comprehensive collection of shoeing, blacksmithing, and farrier history in the world. Lee was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame in 2004, located at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, KY.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Lee also opened 3L Custom Gun Leather at the ranch so he could continue his leatherwork. It was a state of the art shop in which Lee and one employee could quickly build almost any holster that was ordered.

I met Lee in 1987. Lee and Alma’s door was always open if you were a cowboy, and needed a place to stay. I stayed with them many times in Collierville, and I was not the only one. Lee was a generous and hospitable person.

Lee is survived by his wife, Alma Liles of Sulphur OK, daughter Samantha Liles Frank (Andrew Frank) of Dallas, TX; three siblings, Bill Liles, Danny Liles, and Tonie Rayburn; two aunts, Blondell Pearson and Mary Lynwood Liles Slankard.

Lee Liles R.I.P.

February 8, 1950 – May 11, 2018

Moser Leather Acquires the Wright-Bernet Brush Line

Moser Leather has acquired the rights to the name, and remaining horse brush inventory for the Wright-Bernet Brush line from DQB Industries of Detroit, Michigan.  DQB acquired Wright-Bernet a few years ago, and has decided to close out the line.  Moser will continue to make horse brushes on the popular lines including the Cowboy Brush and others.

June 2018


Remembering Joe Frank Patrickus, Jr. – family man and world renowned bootmaker

By Liisa Andreassen

Joe Frank Patrickus, Jr., a world famous cowboy bootmaker in Camdenton, Mo. passed away in his home on April 17, 2018. He was 71. Chicago born, he was designated a Master Bootmaker by the Missouri Folk Arts Council and recognized as such by the State of Missouri Traditional Arts Program. He was also featured in many publications and had his work shown in the George Bush Presidential Library exhibit on the Legends of the West Exhibition. In 2003, he was named as Businessman of the Year the by National Congressional Committee’s Business Advisory Council.

Joe and his wife of 50+ years, Marcella, who is still living, had eight children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He moved to Camdenton in 1975 and by 1978 he had opened his shop, JP’s Custom Handmade Boots, which quickly became a fixture in the town and his talents known around the world. Joe made custom boots for famous stars, athletes and royalty. His boyhood idol was Roy Rogers and when he was asked by Rogers to be his personal bootmaker, along with making the officially-licensed Roy Rogers boots for the public, he was over the moon. This became one of Joe’s greatest accomplishments – a dream come true.

But Joe was not focused on fame, he also made custom boots for Camdenton area citizens for special occasions such as weddings and graduations. He participated in the Missouri County Music Hall of Fame Fundraiser and said it was always exciting to introduce new people to handmade boots.

Joe was fifth-generation in his craft. Previous generations built and repaired shoes, but he took the family business to the next level and started crafting custom handmade western boots. In addition to making boots, he was also one of just a few artisans who made wooden “lasts” – the wooden form around which the boot is shaped.

His son, Joey, who will continue to run the family business and follow in his father’s footsteps says that his father was “a true artist; there was never a customer idea that he couldn’t design. He bonded with each and every one of his customers.”

Joe retired in 2011, but his son stepped in to continue with the shoe repair and boot making under his careful guidance.

“We will proudly continue the family tradition of providing quality products and outstanding customer service,” Joey says. “As my dad used to say, ‘old shoes don’t die, they just get re-soled.’”

Lewis Sales

Lewis Sales: Marking the End of an Era

Shoe-findings business is closing after 65 years
By Lynn Ascrizzi

Paul Friedman, owner and operator of Lewis Sales in Lawrence, Mass., is stepping out of a long tradition — 40 years of buying and selling materials used to make shoes, handbags, wallets and belts. “I’ll be done by the end of the year. I started in 1978,” he said.

The family business was founded by his father, Herman “Hy” Friedman, 65 years ago, in Haverhill, Mass., a city that had been a bustling hub of the U.S. shoe industry for close to 200 years. The company was located in a 23,000-square-foot, four-story brick building on Wingate Street, in an industrial area just two blocks from the Merrimac River.

The youngest of his father’s three sons, Paul Friedman first began working with his dad, at age 16, while attending Haverhill High School. “I worked during the summers and sometimes after school. I got paid $1.50 per hour. Basically, I did straightening out, putting in orders, helping Dad with whatever I could,” he said.

The family’s stake in the shoe industry, however, stretches back to Friedman’s grandfather, Morris Friedman, a Haverhill shoe manufacturer who owned and operated Unique Shoe, which specialized in women’s, wide-width shoes.

After WWII, the city’s shoe industry surged, for a time. But by 1952, Morris Friedman closed his business. Hy Friedman, who at that time had been helping his dad run the company, was left scrambling to figure out what to do next. In 1953, he launched Lewis Sales in Haverhill, naming the enterprise after his oldest son. It was located in a warehouse just down the street from his father’s former business.

Paul Friedman kept the father-son tradition going, when he began working full time for his dad shortly after graduating with a degree in business and accounting from Boston University, in 1977.

“My father’s business was in Haverhill for 30 years, and then we moved it to Lawrence, Mass., in 1983. In the old days, most of the orders, we delivered ourselves. Most of the factories we did business with, were within a half-hour drive. Nowadays, everything is shipped UPS,” he said. He took over Lewis Sales when his father semi-retired in the mid-1990s. Hy Friedman died at the age of 89, in 2006. But, by that time, business started to slow down.

“By 2013, it just died,” Friedman said. “There are less than 10 shoe factories left in New England, out of about 500, originally. Nike was one of our biggest customers, when they manufactured in Maine and New Hampshire. They had a huge factory in Saco, Maine. One day they said, that’s it.”

The Saco factory closed in 1985, the last Nike shoe plant in the U.S. Six-hundred people lost their jobs. Today, Nike’s footwear manufacturing is done in 42 countries, like Vietnam, China and Indonesia, and they employ more than 1 million workers.

“I used to ship all over the world,” he recalled, “to Jamaica, Africa, South America, Dominican Republic, Mexico. I haven’t shipped overseas in 10 years. Right now, I’m doing 90 percent closeouts. Nobody is left here in this business that sells everything I did.  It is hard to believe what happened to this industry in less than 40 years. Where did it all go?”

Since doing business in Lawrence, he has moved to four different warehouse locations and downsized considerably. “We went from a 78,000 square-foot warehouse, to one that was 50,000 square feet, to 30,000 square feet,” he said. His current warehouse is 10,000 square feet.

“It’s about one-third empty. There’s nothing to buy. There are no factories to clean out, anymore. I only sell. I don’t buy anything anymore, unless I’ve already got it sold. It was easy in the old days. It’s not fun anymore.”

As for inventory, he cited about 50,000 pounds of nylon thread, 25,000 gross of bobbins, 40,000 square feet of leather, mostly cowhide and some calfskin, and lots of miscellaneous items, like elastic, buckles, eyelets, shoelaces. “Everything is half price, and more, depending upon the quantity,” he said, at the end of April.

“At one time, I had 2,500 sewing machines. Now, there are only two shoe machinery guys left in New England — Sloan Machinery Co. in Salem, N.H., which is still open, and Pamco Shoe Machinery Co., in Lewiston, Maine, with an office in Auburn.”

Friedman, 62, lives about a half-hour from Lawrence, in Hampton Beach, N.H. He hopes to close his business by the end of the year. “I don’t have an official closing date. It’ll be when everything is gone,” he said.

In retirement, he plans to play golf and poker, “which I’m pretty good at,” he noted, of the latter. “Thank God I’ve saved for a rainy day. And, I want to thank everybody for their support over the years.”



Paul Friedman

468 Canal Street

Lawrence, Mass. 01840


An announcement from Schutz Brothers, Inc. of North Manchester, Indiana

Mitch Schutz, owner of Schutz Brothers, Inc. of North Manchester, Indiana, has announced he will be retiring and closing the 72 year old business.

Schutz Brothers was founded in 1946 by Mitch’s father, Don, and his Uncle Dick as a retail tack and gun shop. The capital for the business came from the sale of Don’s prized Arabian stallion, Indraff, who sold for $10,000 which was an astonishing amount back then!

As the brothers’ business evolved, and the popularity of the quality tack that Don made grew, a wholesale tack division was formed. With the death of Don’s brother, Dick, in 1977 the firearm division was sold and Schutz Brothers became exclusively wholesale in 1980.

Mitch’s wife, Penny, became office manager and together with Don and his wife, Delta, the couple focused the business on the manufacturing and distributing of the nation’s leading horse equipment to all 50 states and many foreign countries.

With the passing of Penny in early 2013, Mitch hired his son-in-law, Doug Hayden, to help with the day-to-day operations while Mitch and Penny’s daughter, Brogan, completed her residency as an MD specializing in pediatrics.

Mitch married Margie, a newly retired school teacher, in 2016. They plan to travel, enjoy their backwoods cabin, spend time with their grandchildren and serve others through the church.

All business dealings with Schutz Brothers will cease with the exception of the patented DARE® Cribbing Control Collar. The collar will continue to be produced and made available exclusively from Mitch and Margie Schutz.

A huge retirement auction is planned for June 29th and 30th, 2018. It will include inventory, tools, machines, antiques, fixtures, horse memorabilia and much, much more.

“I will miss the people the most,” says Mitch. “I am so grateful for the ones I had the privilege to work alongside, the vendors and customers I consider good friends and the many horse people I met along the way that so whole-heartedly supported us!”

Boot and Saddlemaker Gathering in Salado, Texas

By Jennifer June

On April 28, 2018, more than 50 bootmakers, saddlemakers and their loved ones gathered together at Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots in Salado, Texas. This was the second year that Dustin and Cheryl Lauw have hosted this special event. Kenneth Wayne Duncan (Killeen, TX) was there once again with his show-stopping BBQ trailer.

Unlike the Annual Boot & Saddlemakers Trade Show in Wichita Falls, there are no vendors, seminars or contests. There is nothing to buy, except gas for your truck and a plate of BBQ. People come from Oklahoma and all over Texas — Austin, Houston, Abilene and Dallas. Deana McGuffin and Dean Jackson travelled from New Mexico. Deana drove from Albuquerque with her two shop dogs in tow.

The sunny day was a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company… catching up on family news, sharing memories, information and sometimes offering advice. A unique place where you can hear the names of discontinued leather colors missed like old friends. Remember that tobacco color? That nicotine kangaroo?

Dean Jackson (Hobbs, NM) started making boots in 1983, when “it was tough going. Nobody talked to one another like they do now. Maybe the internet has helped, but people are more willing to share advice and supplies than before.”

Lee and Carrlyn Miller (Texas Traditions in Austin, TX) brought some beautiful vintage cowboy boots made by Charlie Dunn, Lucchese, Willie Lusk and others. They sat on top of the boot shop’s glass case, but everyone who stopped by picked them up and joined the show and tell.

Folks wandered between the tables on the lawn and Dustin’s shop all day. The only time everyone cleared out of the shop was when Dustin gathered everyone up for a few words, equal parts blessing and prayer, just before the BBQ was served.

“Dear Lord, we thank You for gathering us here today… We thank You for safe travels for everyone who made it here today. We thank You for the people who have paved the way for us… Lord, we ask that You bless this meal…Lord, we pray that You always guide our hands, guide our eyes; that the two would work together as we are doing what we do.” Amen.

How long before something becomes a tradition? That depends who you ask.

Ask about the “first” bootmaker gathering and you will hear stories going back two, nine and twenty-nine years. Kathy Kimmel remembers going to the “first gathering” at the fairgrounds in Burnet, Texas. “Just tables and chairs and sitting and talking …kind of like this.”  That was in 1989, when bootmaker Jack Reed and saddlemaker Sam Harris sent the invites for a “Boot & Saddlemakers Roundup.”  That grew to become the trade show in Wichita Falls that we know today.

It was Duck Menzies and Doug Collins who planned the next social get-together nine years ago – first, “behind the grocery store,” then, at Johnny’s BBQ in Salado. Duck had a talent for bringing people together and helping new bootmakers feel like they belonged. Thanks go to Lee and Carrlyn Miller, who brought everyone together again once Duck passed away. Duck, Steve Martin and Carl Lichte were all remembered and missed this year.

Dustin Lauw may have moved Duck’s boot shop from Temple to Salado, but the shop is just the same, right down to the spot where the hammer sits on the bench. For anyone who ever visited Duck’s shop, this makes you feel right at home. And with the hospitality of the Lauw family, the Spring Bootmaker Gathering continues to be a place where even good friends get to know each other better…Did you know that Alan Bell hasn’t owned a pair of shoes in 45 years?!

For information about next year’s event, contact Dustin Lauw (254) 681-5300.


Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots

11095 Brewer Road

Salado, TX 76571

March 2018
Pilgrim 2

Closing Its Doors: Pilgrim Shoe & Sewing Machine Co.

 By Lynn Ascrizzi

For 67 years, Pilgrim Shoe & Sewing Machine Co. played an important role as a supplier of new and rebuilt machinery and replacement parts for the shoe manufacturing and repairing industry. And, for a number of decades, it braved the sharp decline of the U.S. footwear industry, which began in the 1970s.

But by 2013, company president, Harris Feierstein, saw the need to relocate the Massachusetts business from Quincy to Woburn. “The industry shrunk to the point where, economically, it didn’t pay to maintain a 14,000-square-foot building (in Quincy) and all the equipment in it. I had to diversify to survive. I sold all the equipment and transferred only the essential parts,” he said.

For the past five years, the company no longer sold machinery for shoemaking and repairing. Instead, it specialized in replacement parts and in related items, like brushes, polishing wheels, needles and awls. His customers included a variety of other leather industries — makers of saddles, handbags, sandals and holsters.

But now, Feierstein, 79, is closing shop. “My doors will be shut in mid-April, 2018. I’m clearing out inventory. I’m selling it to machine companies, wholesalers and anyone else who wants to buy whatever they need. I’ve got approximately two-thirds of my inventory remaining. I still have a number of operating parts, and hard-to-find, new internal parts for primary machines, like Landis sole stitchers, Fortuna skivers and for 29K Singer patching machines,” he said.

Those affected most by Pilgrim’s closing will be shoe repair shops or diverse leatherworking businesses, here and abroad, who depended upon the company for hard-to-find parts.

“At any given time, I had over 20,000 parts, including many for real-old machines. So, it might only cost a business $500 to put an old machine back in operation. The only other option for that business was to spend $5,000 for a new or reconditioned machine,” he estimated.

One product line he had specialized in was replacement buffing and polishing wheels. “All the prior companies that used to represent those products, were no longer here in the U.S. I provided a definite service, mainly selling parts that people couldn’t get anywhere else, short of buying a new machine,” he said.

He acknowledged that a lot of new entrepreneurs are going into making their own footwear, saddles and all kinds of leather products. “And that’s a wonderful thing. But they buy only what they need, when they need it. That’s narrowed the field for whoever was left in the industry to absorb the bulk of the parts,” he said.

Pilgrim’s closing also marks the end of a two-generation, family business. Feierstein’s father, Julius Feierstein, founded Pilgrim in 1951.  His son joined his father in 1956 and officially took over the business in 1997. His father died at the age of 92, in 2000. “He was working every day,” his son said.

Pilgrim Shoe & Sewing Machine Co. was truly a survivor during the rapid decline in the U.S. shoe and repair industry.

“Twenty-five years ago, the shoe industry went overseas, including all the shoe machine equipment, which created a tremendous void in shoe machinery, in the U.S. That caused the importation of new, foreign machines. The industry in the U.S. dropped from approximately 600 shoe factories, down to 25, and the shoe-repair business dropped from 100,000 down to 6,000. At the height of the shoe industry, we employed 17 people, and today, I have two, plus myself,” he said.

“There is a lack of qualified mechanics to repair these machines,” he added. “There is no new American machine manufacturing for shoemaking or shoe repairing left in the U.S., today.”

He pointed out that people could buy a limited number of new machines in the U.S. And, they have the option of buying reconditioned American-made machines. “But, it’s getting harder and harder to find the replacement parts for older machines.”

Feirestein decided to close Pilgrim for both personal and business-related reasons. “I’m planning retirement, and I lost my wife, Janice, of 58 years, a month ago,” he said, this past January. “It’s not that I wasn’t going to close, but that made a final decision for me.”

He will miss many aspects of the business. “It’s a wonderful industry, something I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed — talking with people and resolving their problems,” he said.  After retirement, he plans to travel and spend more time with his two grown children and nine grandchildren.

And, for at least a year after he retires, Feirestein said that he plans to help people who might have questions about locating parts for shoe repairing and manufacturing, if they email him.


Pilgrim Shoe & Sewing Machine Co.

150-V New Boston Street

Woburn MA 01801


(Fax) 617-773-9012


2018 CSMA (Colorado Saddle Makers Association) Winter Seminar

By Danna Burns-Shaw

Burns Saddlery graciously hosted the CSMA Winter Seminar at their manufacturing facilities located in Salina, Utah January 26-28th.

Artisans and craftsmen traveled from six different states to attend the fun, informative event. Burns’ 13,000 square foot manufacturing facility was transformed into a campus for higher-learning as the nearly 100 attendees came together to share knowledge, techniques, and friendship.

Braydan Shaw, 6th generation owner of Burns Saddlery, kicked off the event with an informative, interesting lecture on doing business as an independent entrepreneur after which Matt Wanner rounded folks up and took them into the saddle shop to give a hands-on demonstration on how to make a cell phone sheath, as seen in Shop Talk! Magazine.

After a tasty lunch, Trevor Alexander, assisted by Shane Deeter and Matt Wanner, gave a helpful demo on how to put a padded inlay seat in a saddle which was followed by a fascinating demonstration on braiding a cantle binding by Loren Skyhorse.

Closing out a busy, exciting first day, the attendees were treated to a delicious dinner (sponsored by Burns) at the local Firehouse, a block from Burns Saddlery.  Outstanding food was prepared and generously furnished by Rochelle Horne, controller for Burns, along with Angie Shaw, Burns production office manager, Candace Jensen, Shop Talk! Magazine’s office manager and Susan Williams, Burns Saddlery’s manager.

Saturday’s seminar kicked off with a demonstration on covering a horn by Drew Holdaway, assisted by Trevor Alexander and Daniel Dudley.

After lunch, a fun hands-on floral tooled belt demonstration was given by Matt Wanner, Audrey Austin and Julia Clements. Over 60 people participated making their own floral tooled belt. This demonstration included lots of tapping, carving and hammering, as each person created their own belt out of leather donated by the hosts Burns Saddlery.

Saturday night, an amazing Chuck Wagon Dinner was graciously donated and prepared by master leather craftsmen, and outstanding caterer Jon Judd of San Rafael Works from Castle Dale Utah.  He was assisted by his lovely wife Cindy.

After dinner, folks gathered back at Burns Saddlery to participate in a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, where the winner Steve Morrison received a 20X Burns Custom Hat.

Sunday was a short day that included a full breakfast, a chance to finish belts and a lecture given by Bob Brenner about light weight saddles.  He also made plans for members to build two saddles at the next CSMA Seminars.

2018 Spring Seminar

April 20-22, 2018

Travel Lodge Ball Room

Grand Junction, CO

Coordinator: Bob Bennett


2018 Fall Seminar

September 28-30, 2018

Castle Rock, CO

Coordinator: Brian Warner


Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum Opening

By Cristina Faulconer

Elko Nevada was bustling early February and it wasn’t just due to the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  The excited anticipation of the opening of the new Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum also brought in some colorful characters.  The museum, which was a two year labor of love, was the partnership of John and Susan Wright of J.M Capriola and NVEnergy with John’s mother, Paula in mind.

“Initially this was a dream of Paula’s.  She knew that the building was Garcia’s home and shop.  I’m just so pleased we could bring it to life in her honor,” John Wright said.

The museum is four doors down from J.M Capriola Co. in the old G.S. Garcia building in historic downtown Elko.

The museum building, at 542 Commercial Street, was once the center of the community where ranchers, miners and businessmen could appreciate the business G.S. had created.  G.S. Garcia moved from California in the late 1800s to Elko where he immediately saw the need for exceptionally made gear in the Great Basin area.  His gear quickly became some of the most sought after and recognizable gear on the market.  Demands were high.  In the early 1900s the family business moved back to California and stayed there until the 1970s when J.M Capriola acquired the business and brought it back to Elko.

The grand opening was nothing short of grand.  The museum, which was filled wall to wall with visitors, was buzzing in awe and appreciation.  “Everyone who walked in was touched.  Doesn’t matter your age, this museum is truly for everyone,” Wright noted.  As you walk through and see the many beautiful bits, spurs, saddles and other cowboy gear, much of the collection from the Garcia vault, you can’t help but smile at the American artistry that has inspired many today.

In the future, John and Susan hope to host gear building classes on the second floor of the museum.  Wright says their goal is to “encourage and preserve the arts”.  They hope to have saddle, bit and spur making classes, along with other trade classes that the museum’s audience appreciates.

You could find just about anyone among the crowd of folks who attended the event from the traditional cowboy to next-generation enthusiasts.  Even the granddaughter of Garcia himself attended the event.  You could even find The Outside Circle, a crew of musicians that celebrate the art of the cowboy lifestyle, who ended up playing a few impromptu tunes outside the museum.

Deemed the “guardians of tradition”, John and Susan emanated the feeling of gratitude towards all that helped bring this dream to life.  That feeling brought collectors and artists together for their appreciation of this art and lifestyle.  “Cowboys are never thought of as artists but most of them are… to the core!” exclaimed Wright.

The museum opening is not the beginning or end of an era but merely a continuation of the preservation and appreciation of the ranching and cowboy lifestyle.  The crowd at the opening made that apparent.  The current exhibit of Garcia memorabilia is one you shouldn’t miss.   Many congratulations and thanks to the Wrights, NVEnergy and all who contributed in making this happen, continuing this wonderful piece of history and keeping ranching nostalgia present.

To donate to the museum please visit

Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum

542 Commercial Street

Elko, NV

January 2018
Chester Hape (3)

Chester Hape Passes

By Nick Pernokas         

On November 23, 2017, legendary saddle maker Chester Hape passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Born William Chester Hape, on March 3, 1935, Chester was raised in a ranching family around Sheridan, Wyoming. In the 1940’s, Chester hung out at Rudy Mudra’s saddle shop in Sheridan. He was fascinated by the leatherwork, and began trying to tool leather at the age of twelve. By the time he was sixteen, he was making belts and purses, and he considered himself a “fairly decent” tooler. He rode bareback broncs and roped calves in his late teens. In 1955 Chester joined the army, and was stationed in Germany as a paratrooper with the Eleventh Airborne. He developed a love for flying and jumping, as well as physical fitness and running in the service.

In 1958, Chester went to work for Lloyd Davis in his saddle shop. In 1959, Chester married Wanda, and went to work for Otto Ernst Saddlery for $1.75 an hour. Chester was just doing tooling for Ernst, but he met a young saddle maker named Don King, who was building saddles for Ernst. Don tutored Chester in saddle making, and Chester built two saddles under his guidance. Soon Chester was building saddles for the Ernst Shop.

In 1963, Chester went out on his own. He fixed up an old chicken barn on his dad’s ranch, and built saddles for himself, as well as doing piecework for Don King. In 1963, Chester got the contract to build the trophy saddles for the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association. This was followed, in 1976, by a contract with the PRCA to build their trophy saddles. This continued for fourteen years, and allowed him to make fancy, fully carved, and silver mounted saddles which were seen and noticed by many people outside of Wyoming.

Eventually, according to Chester, the PRCA became more “bottom line” oriented.

“I couldn’t give free saddles like some of the bigger companies could, so it was time for me to get out,” said Chester.

Chester had made a name for himself with the beautiful, intricate, Sheridan style tooling that he did. He became inundated with orders for gift items. As busy as he was in his shop though, Chester continued to run a Hereford cow calf operation for many years.

“I could build saddles all night, and bale hay all day, if I had to,” said Chester. He always felt that his experience on the back of a horse gave him an advantage in building saddles. “It’s like a guy who builds race cars but doesn’t know how to drive.”

After his kids were grown, Chester took swimming lessons, and found that he enjoyed that. Originally his goal had been to run triathlons, but he developed a new love for windsurfing. For almost two decades Chester “chased the wind” from the Columbia River Gorge, to places like Venezuela, The Dominican Republic, and Maui.

When problems with his hands and eyes started hampering his saddle work, Chester quit because he didn’t want to turn anything out that was less than a hundred percent.

He is survived by his three children, Camille, Juanita, and Wayne, and a sister, Jackie. He will always be remembered by those of us in the leather community for his contributions to the Sheridan style of leather tooling.

December 2017
Pendleton Pictures 324

Pendleton Leather Show Connects U.S Suppliers to Northwest

By Liisa Andreassen

The sixth annual Pendleton Leather Show proved to be a fun weekend for all. Held during the first weekend in November at the Pendleton Convention Center in Pendleton, Oregon, people gathered to learn new skills, hone old ones and to compete in the Roughout Saddle Contest.

“We’re happy to say that this was our best year yet for attendance and vendors,” says Vandy Douglas, the event’s coordinator. “We had about 800 in all.”

Douglas says that they started producing the show in 2012. Prior to that it was organized by Ferdco Sewing Machines and was started approximately 20 years ago by the Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal. The purpose of the show is to unite suppliers form all over the U.S. with customers in the Northwest.

Leather-friendly town; leather-friendly classes

Historically, Pendleton is a leather-working town and also home to one of the best PRCA rodeos in the country. It’s a very leather-friendly town and has at least five leather/saddle shops – and that’s just in the downtown area. According to Douglas, Hamley’s and Severe Brothers are the most famous.

“We’ve revitalized the show with the help of the Pendleton community and leather industry,” Douglas says. “Hamley’s hosts a reception for all of our participants at their historic Slickfork Saloon. There’s live music and a fabulous Western atmosphere.”

The Pendleton Leather Show consists of classes beginning Thursday of the show week and continues throughout the show.  Classes cover basic subjects like basket stamping to more elaborate projects like tooling and painting iPad cases decorated with ospreys and trout.

For example, classes included:

  • Basics of design and engraving by Nevada Watt
  • Braiding an eight strand kangaroo bracelet by Beaner Flaten
  • Fundamentals of sharpening tools and swivel knives by Paul Zalesak/On the Edge
  • iPad case decorating with tooling and paint by Annie Margarita
  • Sewing machine fundamentals by Leather Machine Co.
  • Tooling and painting leather boxes and notebook covers by Ed LaBarre

Saddle Up!

The Roughout Saddle Contest is an event highlight. It’s the only contest of its kind with a comprehensive and extensive scoresheet that was created just for this event. The scoresheet is designed to provide immediate and specific feedback to the entrants so they can improve their work accordingly.

This year’s expert judges were:  Pedro Pedrini, Randy Severe and Conley Walker. Each contestant paid a $150 entry fee to enter one of two categories – novice for those who have built less than five saddles; and open for everyone else.

Door prizes and raffles were popular with the crowd too. People have a chance to win “Leather Dollars,” which are $100 vouchers that can be spent with any vendor at the trade show. Gift baskets and hand-tooled leather items were among the prizes. Tandy Leather, Frogjelly Leather, Leather Wranglers, Bee Natural Leathercare, The Turquoise Arrow, Richard Stapleman Boots all donated door prizes.

Planning for the 2018 show has already begun.

“We may even have a new exhibit of hand-crafted Western items that we’re very excited about,” Douglas says. “But we’re keeping that under wraps for a few months until we work out the details. We’ll also be working to attract more saddle makers for the contest and plan to use all the integrated classrooms to their fullest. Every year we add a little more to the show and every year we strive to make it the best show yet.”

For more information, visit:

Roughest Saddle Contest Winners

Novice 1st Place

George Albert

Novice 2nd Place

Aaron Gilkey

Open 1st Place

Jeff Haslam

2nd Place

Kevin Urbach

3rd Place

Clint Lundy

November 2017

Court’s Saddlery Closes

By Nick Pernokas

Kathy Court of Court’s Saddlery in College Station, Texas, recently announced that the historic business will close its doors by the end of November. Established in 1956 by Tony and Zella Court, Court’s Saddlery was unique in that the ownership had remained in their family for over fifty years of operation. They also enjoyed an excellent reputation in the western wholesale business, furnishing products and supplies to many other saddle shops and stores. At one time Court’s had a traveling salesman who would call on saddle shops and bring them supplies. In the roping world, the Dee Pickett Roping Saddle demonstrated how an endorsement could be successful, and the saddle has been ridden by many ropers over the years.

On January 9, 2011, a fire burned the venerable saddlery to the ground. The only building left standing was the one that housed the nylon products. Included in the complex of destroyed buildings were the offices with all of Court’s records. Within a few months they were operating out of temporary buildings. The old buildings had been grandfathered into to the new zoning regulations. Now they could not rebuild on the original site. Still, over the next few years they rebuilt their business on a different site.

“I don’t think we ever recovered completely from the fire” said Kathy. “That was really devastating, and it was like starting a brand new business all over again. We gave it 100 percent but I don’t think we ever completely recovered.”

Kathy also feels the way in which the market has changed and the rise of internet retailing really affected their business. Court’s found it hard to compete with internet sites that didn’t require a brick and mortar store to operate out of. Unfortunately this seems to be where many younger customers are shopping these days. Jimmy and Kathy Court had been involved in running the business since 1974. Many of their employees have been with the business for forty years. Kathy said that most of them have been finding jobs and were encouraged to leave when they did. Jimmy and Kathy’s son, Tony plans to continue his own custom saddle business.

Court’s Saddlery leaves behind a void that won’t be filled in the memories of those of us in the leather industry.


YEE-HAW! Another Great ‘Roundup’

Leather goods were flying at the 2017 Annual Boot & Saddlemakers Trade Show
By Lynn Ascrizzi

To Kathy Kimmel, the Annual Boot & Saddlemakers Trade Show, held in Wichita Falls, Texas, shines a welcoming, bright light on her long, leatherworking career.

“I consider it a blessing in my life,” she said, of the popular event that she and her husband Eddie have co-organized for 29 years. “I love it! The closer I get to show time, the more energy I get. I love the whole idea that people in the business can get in touch with each other. I love the vendors. It’s nice to see them meet with customers, one on one. At the show, you can do business and get to see friends.”

After the showgoers head for home, however, she misses all the fun and excitement. “I’m let down when it’s over,” she said. But then, there’s always next year!

Kimmel and her husband co-own Kimmel Boot Company, in Comanche, Texas. They bring to the show a ton of experience and a hometown touch that fosters a sense of community between custom leatherworkers and vendors.

The two-day trade show, also known by the boot and saddle crowd, as the “Roundup,” was held this year on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6 – 7. The event, set once again at the Wichita Falls Multiple Purpose Event Center (MPEC), attracted about 1,100 attendees, not counting the vendors, Kimmel said.

The roughly 42,000-square-foot show area that the Kimmels provide, allows exhibitors plenty of exhibit and storage space, plus room to hold free teaching seminars — sessions where folks can pick up, in an informal and relaxed setting, expert, how-to leatherworking tips, such as, “pegging and stacking heels” “crimp boards and lasts,” “leather carving,” “economics of a one-man boot shop,” and “fitting the customer’s foot.”

This year’s lively event drew about 60 vendors. For leatherworkers, the Roundup is a great place to find thousands of must-have products under one roof — fine leathers, saddle trees, boot lasts, hand tools, hardware, findings, stitchers and other machines, steel cutting dies and clickers, silver buckles, conchos and trim, and plenty more.

“Leather was flying out of there, and the Leather Machine Co. (of Ontario, California), sold half of their inventory,” said one enthusiastic participant. “It was reassuring for the industry and exciting to witness. It was also good to meet some of the incredible saddle and bootmakers from the Midwest and South. They were so humble and kind — wonderful people. The crowds were good and everyone seemed happy to be there.”

Kimmel gave a big nod to the vendors. “Without their support, there would be no show,” she said.


Besides helping to promote the custom leather industry, the Boot & Saddlemakers Trade Show nurtures a deep sense of pride and appreciation for the extraordinary set of skills involved in handcrafting leather. This gratitude is given expression each year, through its boot and saddle contests.

The saddle contest was organized this year by Pebble Brown, co-owner with her husband, Robert Brown, of Brown’s Custom Leather. The Browns literally live and work in Paradise — a small city in northeastern Texas, home to about 460 souls.

“It really is paradise,” she said. “We like to think so. I do the boot tops; he does the bottoms, to make sure they fit. We’ve been running full time for about two years. We have three grown kids and five grandchildren. Our son, Patrick, comes and helps when we get behind,” Pebble Brown said.

Their shop typically makes holsters and gun belts. “We don’t make saddles. We repair them. We’re the only repair shop for miles, and folks come from far away,” she added. Their business keeps their workshop tools humming, which include top and heavy stitchers, a curved needle machine (for attaching soles), finishers, burnishers and a post machine (for lacing boots). “We guarantee our boot repairs are out in a week. On other stuff, like saddles — it’s three weeks. I also repair purses and horse blankets.”

They buy a lot of leather at the trade show — “exotic stuff, like ostrich,” she said. “If you order online, or call, you don’t get to see what the leather you want looks like. There are so many different textures. We’re spending a lot on exotics, so we want to make sure we get the best we can. We do most of our shopping for the year at the show.”

The Browns have been coming to the Roundup for about 20 years. “It gives us a chance to get out of the shop and visit with people. We get a couple of days off. People are of the same mindset. We learn a lot of new things,” she said.

Master bootmaker Mike Vaughn, owner and operator of Mike Vaughn Handmade Boots in Bowie, Texas, honchoed the boot contest.  “I kind of feel like there’s a lot of camaraderie in the boot and saddle industry,” Vaughn said, reflecting on the high level of good-natured cooperation at the show. “And, you get to visit vendors face to face, instead of over the phone.”

Besides coordinating the boot contest, Vaughn, a bootmaker for 37 years, took time out to do a little shopping. “I bought another piece of equipment — another top stitcher machine — a Singer. I also got a lot more hand tools, like edgers and knives, from Bob Douglas of Sheridan, Wyo. And, I bought some calfskin from Greg Carmack of Carmack’s Custom Boots, of Waco, Texas.

“I really enjoy seeing all these guys and gals. The show is a good opportunity to see other people’s work. It never hurts to look at someone else’s boots and to critique yourself. If you’re struggling, you can pick other people’s brains, if what they’re doing looks better than what you’re doing. . . . Pretty much everybody I know there will sit down and help you,” he said.

Vaughn observed, however, that bootmakers are in danger of becoming a rare breed. “Without a doubt, there needs to be more young people in the custom bootmaking trade. That’s why a lot of us have a backlog of orders! In today’s world, everybody wants instant gratification. It takes years to learn bootmaking. You can’t learn it in two weeks. I’m 52. There’s probably only a handful of bootmakers that I know who are in their 50s. Most are in their 60s to 80s. We need more young ones in their 20s and 30s. That group is getting really, really small,” he said.

Pebble Brown, 50, agreed. “Not as many people know the trade, as there used to be,” she said. But, she also sees encouraging signs. “There were quite a few ‘kids’ among the saddle contest entries. Twenty-somethings. Probably half the entries were younger people. One of the young men who entered the contest was interested in the older type saddles — like the ones made in the late 1800s to early 1900s, especially, the high-back saddles,” she recalled.


The following is a list of the 2017 winners of the Boot & Saddle Contest, held this fall at the Boot & Saddle Trade Show in Wichita Falls. Altogether, eight bootmakers and 18 saddlemakers took part in the two contests. An awards program was held Oct. 7, on the last day of the show. The entries were not judged by contest coordinators. Instead, three anonymous judges were selected.


The journeyman and open division winners listed below were awarded an engraved, trophy buckle. Winners in the intermediate class were awarded plaques.

  • Journeyman Boot — Billy Cannon, Blakely, Ga.

“There are always new bootmakers coming in, which is why you have the journeyman division for people who make 15 pairs of boots a year, or less,” explained master bootmaker and contest coordinator, Mike Vaughn.

  • Intermediate Top Stitching — Alan Franklin, Mineola, Texas.

“This division was created several years ago. It’s for those fresh out of the journeyman class, who can’t compete against people with 30 to 35 years experience. I remember when I first competed, there was no such class. I had to compete against the guys doing it all their lives,” Vaughn recalled.

  • Intermediate Working Cowboy Boot — Matt Hopson, Bowie, Texas.
  • Open Top Stitching — Carl Chappell, St. Jo, Texas.

“The open category is for bootmakers who have been making boots for a living for many years. It’s a professional division,” Vaughn said.

  • Intermediate Dress Boot — Jim Brainard, Parker, Colo.
  • Open Dress Boot — Edwin Boche, Burleson, Texas.

“Dress boots are those that might be worn with a suit or slacks. They might be made with exotic leather and have a little more ornate work or inlays,” Vaughn explained.

  • Shop Boot — Tejas Custom Boots, Houston, Texas.

The shop boot division is for folks who have more than one person working in their workshop. All the other boots were made by one bootmaker. There was no master bootmaker category this year, because we only had one entry,” he said.


Winners were awarded engraved belt buckles.

 “This is my second year of running the saddle contest,” said coordinator Pebble Brown. “We’re trying to build it back. Last year, we had 12 saddlemakers enter the contest — this year, 19. Next year, we’re planning to send everybody a newsletter and take more time to get entries.”

  • Working Cowboy — Pete Matherne, Houma, LA

“This division is for heavy-duty, well-made saddles that can withstand all kinds of everyday use and cattle working — a good saddle to rope off a calf or do whatever work a cowboy needs to do,” Brown said. The saddle can have tooling and design,” she added. “Matherne’s was the sturdiest saddle. Everything he incorporated into the design fit together well.”

  • Geometric Design— Junior Miller, Junior’s Custom Saddlery, Millersburg, Ohio.

“Geometics use stamping tools. You have to get the stamp lined up exactly, and some of the tools are complicated. Basket weave and meander tools require planning, to get the stamp to do what it’s supposed to. You don’t just hammer and stamp. You can get frustrated real easy if you mess up while doing something important. Miller’s geometric designs were very striking,” Brown said.

  • Open Floral Design — Mike Eslick, Mountain View, Okla.

“Those entering this division could use any floral design they choose and also incorporate a little geometric design if they wanted, say, for a border. The majority of the floral designs, like the Sheridan, are commonly seen. Eslick’s design was original and unique, not a flower that everybody does. He designed it himself.”

  • Novice — Russ Gottlob, Diamond G. Leather, Winfield, Kan.

“The novice category is generally a class of people in their 20s to mid-30s, who are starting out,” Brown said. His (Gottlob’s) was a working saddle, put together very well. The overall appearance was good, and it was built like a working saddle needs to be built.”


Boot & Saddle Makers Trade Show

Kathy and Eddie Kimmel

Kimmel Boot Co.

2080 CR 304

Comanche, TX 76442

(325) 356-3197

Fax: (325) 356-2490

Mike Vaughn Handmade Boots

Bowie, TX 76230

Shop: (940) 872-6935

Cell: (940) 867-2173

Brown’s Custom Leather

Pebble & Robert Brown

1820 County Road

Paradise, TX 76073

(940) 210-1855

October 2017

Horse Slaughter Ban is Lifted

Below is a letter James Cox, owner of Moser Leather Company sent to the Trump Transition Team on behalf of the leather industry on November 11, 2016.  He would like to share it with the Shop Talk! community in light of a recent lift on a ban that will allow horses to be slaughtered at meat processing plants in the U.S. again.  The horse slaughter ban has mostly been in force for more than a decade.  The ban is enforced by blocking the Agricultural Department from providing inspectors at meat plants that slaughter horses and is in place through September 30.  There are no horse slaughter facilities operating the in U.S. at this time.    

Congratulations on your win Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence!  I campaigned heavily for you in my area, as well as many of my friends.  We are businessmen, and feel that your team will implement policies to unleash the American Machine again, like Reagan did years ago.  I do have some concerns about your possible trade policy that I would like to share, as well as some other points I would like to make.

I purchased what was left of a tannery back in 2002.  We are now contract tanners.  What that means is that we contract with companies here in the USA, as well as in Mexico to do our tanning.  Most of the hides that we process in Mexico are USA hides that are sent there for processing, and then sent back here to be finished into a better product.  What we do in Mexico is make a natural vegetable tanned product.  This product is then brought back here and either colored, or hot stuffed with oils and waxes to make it an upgraded product for further manufacturing.  We sell this leather to other companies for further manufacturing into belts, holsters, saddles, personal leather goods, upholstery, etc.  Our leathers are used as components in many products.  Sometimes the customer buys them in the natural state and does their own coloring or finishing; either way it is an important component in the process.  I think if you are putting a duty on any import items, especially from Mexico and Canada (those in the Nafta agreement), that you should put an exemption on products that are considered a component.  Whether this be a cut part, or a raw material that needs further processing, to be finished into a product.  Because of the EPA regulations, there are only two all-vegetable tanneries left here in the United States.  That being said, if the duty goes into place, the many other leather companies like our own that do finish work, or are distributors will be at a disadvantage.  These two tanneries may not be able to keep up with the demand of industry.  We provide a great service, and employ as many people as we can.  We subcontract with many companies here in the USA for our cooperative efforts to provide leather to many small and large manufacturers here in the states.  We work with chrome tanned tanneries here in the USA, who have upgraded their effluent and treatment systems to EPA standards (at their own expense), and help to keep many people employed at these companies.  I have been to other countries where the government works with tanneries to build treatment plants that meet the standards for health and safety, and these governments actually help to share in the cost of those facilities instead of putting the cost on the tannery.  This is the reason many of our own tanneries went out of business back in the 80’s.  We are a small company, but we are holding on, and hope that you can get money back into the pockets of Americans to help spur our industry.  Many of our products are paid for by people that have some disposable income.  We have seen a decline in this due to the lack of good paying industrial manufacturing jobs.  This is also shrinking to many degrees because of imports from China, India, and Pakistan on finished products especially in the horse and saddle industry.  There are basically no duties on products coming over from those countries to the extent that belts, bridles, saddles, etc. are sold for a 1/3 of what it would cost us to buy the leather, fabricate a product, and have a decent markup here in the USA.  This is where a duty would be most appropriate, finished products… not components or components subject to further processing like tanned leather.  I would make myself available to your administration for any advice that I could give on the subject.  I have been in this business for over 35 years myself, and my family many years before that.  We not only sell our own leather, but we represent most of the tanneries in the industry, and sell leather and machinery for them through auctions and trade shows that we host for the industry.  We do our best to sell and promote leather.

One of the other things that really hurt this industry and you could change for the better, is the Rule in place that does not allow any human consumption of horse meat in the USA, and the subsequent fall out of slaughter plants killing for this purpose.  Lindsey Graham sponsored the law, which President Bush let go through.  I am sure it was attached to something that was needed to pass at the time, or he would not have allowed it to happen.  The humane society had filed lawsuits because they thought that horses were being handled cruelly.  While I am sure this has happened on occasion, it is no worse than what has happened since this rule went into effect.  When horses were being slaughtered here in the USA, there were sale barns all across the country that people in each of those regions could bring their horses there to sale.  What this did, was create a market where people would buy horses for their own personal use, showing, working, etc., and in many cases rescuing them from the killer market buyers that were at each of those auctions.  The killer buyers created the base price, which propped up the overall horse market.  The personal buyers would pay more.  This created an overall good market for the horse industry.  Every time someone buys a horse for personal use, then they need a saddle, saddle accessories, jeans, boots, cowboy hat, spurs, shirts, etc. – the list goes on.  Since this rule has gone into place, there has been a collapse in the market place.  There are no longer localized auction barns… most of them has closed.  There are very few killer buyers, because now, the horses are being trucked to Del Rios Texas, to a slaughter house in Aquina Mexico.  This has created jobs for Mexicans, who are now exporting the meat to France, etc.  There needs to be a killer market, as well as horse meat packers here in the USA to create jobs here, and bring the horse market back… which helps all of us in the industry.  As a result of this ruling, the horse market has collapsed and people do not have a place to sell their horses for a profit.  If they need to get rid of them because of a broken leg or some other problem, then there is no one wanting these animals anymore.  Many times people are just turning them loose because they cannot afford to keep them, and the demand has went way down for anyone to take them.  The horse dealers would have to feed them, and get them out west to an acceptable market in another country.  Most of the localized horse dealers have quit selling horses because there are fewer places to buy them, thus creating a lower demand/prices for animals overall.  Turning a horse loose to starve to death, is more cruel than transporting to a market!!  Here is a link of some of the things we are currently up against, including the names of a couple of meat packers trying to do business here in the USA.  Keep in mind, the hides at these packer plants can be used to produce leather here in the USA.  Horween Tanning in Chicago, IL produces Cordovan… which is horse leather.  Here are the links:

Thank you,

James Cox

Moser Leather Company

September 2017

48th Annual Harness Maker’s Get-Together Minutes

Courtesy of John Raber of Hillside Harness Hardware

July 21, 2017

The 48th Annual Harness Maker’s Get-Together was held at Hillside Harness Hardware.  It was hosted by the John Raber family.

The meeting was called to order at 11:30 by Kevin Yoder.  Kevin thanked the Rabers for hosting the auction and get-together.

John Raber thanked everyone for coming and gave a short report on the auction the day before.  They had over 2400 lots and over 200 buyers.  They had 3 auctioneers going most of the day and finished at about 5:30.

Allen Burkholder of Weaver Leather gave a demonstration on timing and repairing a sewing machine at 10:00.  It was very worthwhile.  A special thank you to Allen and Weaver Leather.

The minutes of our 2016 gathering were read by Kevin Yoder.

Committee members introduced were Andre Hostetler of Arthur, IL, Mark Brenneman of Springs, PA, Kevin Yoder of Nappanee, IN, Jonas Stoltzfus of Honeybrook, PA, Wayne Chupp of Fredericksburg, OH, Mose Beachy of Baltic, OH, and Reuben Byler of Middlefield, OH.

Former committee members present were Eli Schlabach, Dan Lapp, Atlee Yoder and Abe Miller.

Jim Weaver gave a short report on the auction at Weaver Leather in June.  They had over 400 buyers.  They had more lots of leather than ever and the prices were a little soft at the last.  Tools and machinery were about average.

Tanners recognized were: Doug Morrison from Hermann Oak and Jim Cox from Moser Leather.

Also recognized was Scott Hanna from BioThane.  It is their 40th year.

A special thank you to Bio Plastics for paying for the tent again this year.

Harness makers deaths in the last year were Eli Beachy, Keith Travis and Frieda Mast, wife of Myron Mast.

Longest in business was Ora Knepp started in 1959.

Newest in business was Amos Schlabach (Buckhorn Harness) started in April.

Most miles traveled was Dicky Harold (Harold’s Harness) from AR, over 900 miles.

Oldest man present was Dan Kauffman, 93 years old.

Shops present were:  KY 3, IL 11, IA 5, MI 4, IN 12, OH 48, MD 2, NY 7, AR 2 and PA 35.

We had special grab bags again for children 17 and younger, then 18 and older registered.

Next year’s gathering and will be at M.D.Y. Harness in Middlebury, IN.

Door prizes were donated by:

Stauffers Harness                                                          Beiler Mfg.

Brenneman’s Leather Goods                                      Sugar Valley Collar Shop

Weaver Leather                                                             Bowman Bits

Toledo Industrial Sewing Machine                            Bowman Harness

BioThane                                                                         Hillside Harness Hardware

Fairview County Sales                                                  Chupp Brothers Wholesale

Troyer’s Rope                                                                 Beachy’s Nylon Harness

Chupp Blacksmith                                                         Mid River Sales

Coblentz Collar Shop                                                    Broadhead Collar

Don Livingston

Suggested meal price was $11.00 for adults.

August 2017

B&B Boot Makers Gathering

Where friends meet to swap info about the craft
By Lynn Ascrizzi

This past May, the 8th Annual B&B Boot Makers Gathering was held in Salado, Texas, the town where this social event has been held for the past seven years.  “It’s an artsy little town with a lot of antique and art shops and bed and breakfasts — a unique place near a major highway — Route I-35,” said Dustin Lauw, owner and operator of Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots, also located in Salado.

“It’s an annual social event, like The Boot & Saddle Makers Trade Show held in Wichita Falls,” Lauw explained. “This gathering provides another opportunity for leatherworkers to see each other in the middle of the year. It’s a small mix of the industry — most of us are very good friends. We talk about boots and our leatherwork. We don’t mind sharing information and the work we’ve done in the past six months. All kinds of people come, including some who never touched leatherwork.”

This year’s event, however, instead of being held at a local barbecue restaurant, was hosted by Lauw at his own workshop. It turns out, that the very first B&B Boot Makers Gathering had been founded and launched by his mentor, the late Texas boot maker, Duck Menzies. “It’s nice to carry on what Duck, my mentor, started,” he said. After Menzies passed away in 2014, Lee Miller, owner of Texas Traditions Cowboy Boots in Austin, Texas, handled the annual social event. He and his wife Carrlyn helped to organize the recent gathering, too. “This year, though, Lee handed the responsibility for the event to me,” Lauw said.

There is no membership or fee for the informal get-together. Those who attended this year’s event enjoyed a barbeque catered by saddlemaker Kenneth Wayne Duncan, owner of Duncan’s Saddle Shop in Killeen, Texas. And, the gathering attracted a whole bunch of talented boot makers and leatherworkers from all over Texas, and beyond, Lauw said.

One notable participant was Jennifer June of Concord, Calif., a leading expert on cowboy boots, past and present, and author of the highly praised, “Cowboy Boots: The Art & Soul” (2007). The 10th anniversary of her book was recognized at this year’s gathering, including a cake decorated to match the boot design on her book’s cover. June also posts cowboy boot information and advice at her blog site,

Lauw, a fourth-generation leatherworker, apprenticed with Duck Menzies for 12 years. When Duck passed away, he inherited the business, including his mentor’s customer base and all the orders he had while running the workshop. Before he died, Menzies told him that the shop could be his, if he agreed to teach an apprentice, and eventually, pass the business on to that person. Then, Lauw relocated the business, formerly called Boots by Duck, from Temple, Texas to Salado. In fact, he designed and set up his new workshop to be almost identical with the original site he had apprenticed in.

Most of his business is spread by word of mouth, he said. “Business is good. I’m adjusting to not having a mentor, and I’m building my customer base. Currently, I have a 12-month backlog. I take extreme pride in my inlay work, the more challenging for me, the better. I think my work can carry its own weight in the boot-making trade.”

Although the date hasn’t yet been set, the 2018 B&B Boot Makers Gathering will be held next spring, in Salado.

In the meantime, in case you’ve been wondering what, exactly, B&B stands for —  well, those initials kept a lot of event participants guessing, for quite a while. “Finally, someone figured out that they stood for ‘bitching & bragging,’ ” Lauw said.


Duck’s Heritage Cowboy Boots

11095 Brewer Road

Salado, Texas 76571

Dustin Lauw, owner & operator

For appointments & inquiries:


July 2017
Paige 1

In loving memory of 

Paige Marie Sorrell

May 10, 1997-May 12, 2017

Paige Marie Sorrell was born at home in Guthrie on May 10, 1997, the daughter of Dale and Lisa Sorrell. She found peace on May 12, 2017 at the age of 20 years and 2 days.

Paige was a bright and shining light—stubborn, wise, caring, generous, brave, and strong. She loved to read, she loved music, and she cared deeply about the rights of the downtrodden and oppressed. She made her first pair of shoes at age 12 and worked with leather after that. After graduating high school with straight A’s she received a full academic scholarship to the University of Central Oklahoma. A semester and a half later, she came home and said, “I hate college—I want to be a shoemaker.” She was an incredibly talented shoemaker and was known, loved, and respected throughout the world for her passion, her skill, and her personality.

Paige met Shane Colvin in June of 2016 and he quickly became the love of her life. She frequently remarked on how lucky she was to have found such a special relationship at a young age. Shane loved and supported her through the good times and the bad, and she leaned on his strength.

Paige Marie Sorrell is survived by her parents, Dale and Lisa Sorrell, her sister, Morgan Sorrell, and her love, Shane Colvin.

From Lisa Sorrell, Paige’s mother:

Paige took her own life on May 12, 2017, a victim of severe anxiety, depression, and anorexia. She fought her battles with grace, humor, and incredible bravery, and preferred that no one but her immediate family know of her struggles. We mourn the loss of such a special and wonderful life, and we refuse to speak of her illness or her death with shame. Mental illness is a real disease, and just like any other sickness, sometimes it wins.

SBS EQUINE Celebrating 30th Anniversary!

SBS EQUINE is celebrating its 30th year in business. SBS is a well-known pioneer and innovator of quality hoof care products.

Dr Rick Shakalis and Dr John Pautienis are considered the fathers of modern hoof sealants. Their scientific research and informative articles on hoof disease and other equine health related issues are highly regarded in the industry.

Ray Tricca, along with Drs Rick and John founded the company in Hyannis, MA in 1987.  Their mission was to produce quality hoof care products that are based on sound medical principles and are safe for horses, humans, and the environment.

After 30 years, the company is proud to have lived up to this promise.  It is interesting to note that the original founders still own and operate the business.  SBS products are sold in over 70 countries.  When asked about retiring or slowing down, Rick, John and Ray all agree that the frequent positive feedback they receive from farriers and horse owners is what gets them up every morning, “so why stop doing what you love?”

SBS manufactures over 20 hoof care products including SBS THRUSH STOP, which was named the #1 thrush remedy and “Product of The Year” in 2009 by THE HORSE-JOURNAL.  Other well known SBS brands include – SAV-A-HOOF, TOE GROW, STARTING GATE GRANULES, TOPCOAT Hoof Conditioner, and SBS CRACK FILLER KIT II.  For more information please visit

BS Trading Brothers (2)

BS Trading Co. – From Tools to Hides  

By Liisa Andreassen

Kenzie Lee Ratterree, e-commerce director for BS Trading in Burleson, Texas, says that while her father, Mark Ratterree, and his brothers, Troy and Rick Ratterree, were still in high school they got into selling tools at flea markets. Once the business became quite large, they were told they had to file as an official business with the state – and so it began. In 1978, they went to file for a business license and the burgeoning entrepreneurs were asked for their business name. They were stumped; no one had ever asked this before. They had a dog named BS, so they went with that. Today, the namesake continues.

“My grandparents, Bill and Betty, joined around this time also,” Kenzie says. “They continued selling tools at flea markets and then slowly got into rugs. Eventually, the tool side of the business evolved into air compressors and the rugs into cowhides to fit the changing markets.”

Evolving Markets Yield Change

When Bill and Betty retired in 2007, they split the company because it made more sense to have the air compressor and cowhide companies separate from each other. Additionally, they had outgrown their warehouse in Arlington, Texas. So Troy moved his compressor business to Grand Prairie, Texas, and Rick and Mark took over the cowhide business, expanding to use the entire Arlington location.  Since then, BS Trading has continued to grow and they recently purchased a new, larger warehouse in Burleson.

BS Trading was primarily selling area rugs until the early 2000s. However, when many manufacturers started selling direct, the market became flooded. As a result, they had to start selling a few cowhides as area rugs. The market became more and more flooded with rug manufacturers and every major chain was carrying their own line of rugs, so BS Trading transitioned toward the cowhides.

“At first it was just the hide, but over the last 10 years we’ve started carrying every cowhide product imaginable – patchwork rugs, pillows, bags, table runners, coasters, placemats, can coolers, benches, ottomans and more,” Kenzie says. “Since being in the hide business we’ve started selling all kinds of other hides, including Tibetan lamb, Icelandic sheep, zebra, antelope, crocodile and much more. “

The company’s primary markets are retail stores and designers, but they also sell hides and Tibetan lamb to furniture manufacturers as well.

“We are solely a wholesale business, but sell anywhere from one piece to a designer for a custom job to several hundred pieces at a time to our larger retailers. When we sold area rugs, we had retail frontage at our location in Arlington,” Kenzie explains.

Sourcing Hides

Ninety percent of the cowhides come from Brazil. The remaining 10 percent come from Argentina or Columbia, as they can get colors from these countries not commonly found in Brazil.

“Brazil tends to have better tanning quality, although both Argentina and Brazil have improved their quality in the last few years,” Kenzie says. “The Tibetan sheep is native to Northern China, so the product is made there.”

Currently, BS Trading’s best-selling cowhides are grey and champagne tones.  The Tibetan sheep has also grown in popularity over the years and is a strong seller as well.

Consumer-Driven Sustainable Growth

With 11 full-time employees, BS Trading continues to be driven by the changing markets. They have a showroom in Denver, Colorado, open year round at the Denver Mart, a permanent showroom in High Point, North Carolina, and a showplace open during the major furniture shows twice a year. A small showroom is also set up in the company’s warehouse where customers can browse their inventory.

Custom orders are welcomed, especially on patchwork rugs. They have made rugs up to 20’ x 30’ for customers and can work with designs and colors to specification. They also do custom pillows and throws, as well as custom-order plates for upholstery, in Tibetan lamb.

The company’s plans for the future are to continue to build the brand and to become more user-friendly for the customer. They also hope to source different hair on items and to have running stock on their website, so customers will be able to pick the exact hide they are buying.

“We are willing to work with any company,” Kenzie says.


Kenzie Ratterree

BS Trading Co.

253 Loy Street

Burleson, TX 76028


June 2017
PIC 9 Harry Crawford, left, & John Wright

The Leather Company Buys Sunset Leather

New owner expects increase in customers and sales
By Lynn Ascrizzi

John Wright, owner of The Leather Company in Monterey, CA, had run his business for only one and a half years when he seized upon a chance to purchase Sunset Leather Company, based in nearby Pacific Grove, CA.

Sunset’s former owner, Harry Crawford, 72, a leather craftsman for 48 years, who was retiring, initiated the sale last summer. Despite the fact that Sunset’s sales had dropped about 15 percent in the last quarter of 2016, Wright couldn’t resist. He bought the company, April 1, 2017, for $175,000.

“It’s a big jump. The merger will bring an increase in sales. We’ll have more clientele — more awareness of the business,” he said, noting that before the purchase, retail sales at The Leather Company had been increasing.

The business attracted him for several reasons, he said. “Sunset had well-established accounts and certain equipment that I didn’t have in Monterey. Also, we were doing our manufacturing in a limited, 1,000-square-foot area, and our retail had to fit in a 400-square-foot space. Sunset has a 2,500-square-foot manufacturing area, with offices. And, we didn’t have splitting machines. Sunset had two, and much larger hydraulic clickers, as well as five trained employees. I only had two, freshly trained employees.”

A convenience factor helped sweeten the deal. The two leather facilities are only 2.2 miles apart, and Wright lives in Pacific Grove.

Prior to the sale, about 50 percent of The Leather Company’s business came from selling leather tools, supplies and finished goods, such as bags, belts and backpacks. Manufacturing made up about 40 percent of its business and how-to leather classes, roughly 10 percent.

“We’re hoping to move manufacturing from the Monterey store to Sunset and increase our retail operation in Monterey,” he added. “Sunset had its own little bit of retail, so, we’re moving their retail to Monterey. But, we’re still planning to keep a little manufacturing in Monterey.”

A hands-on leather craftsman for 30 years, Wright, 50, enjoys teaching advanced leather classes and is a creative participant in the process of making handbags and other leather goods. “I usually make the prototypes, and I’m a general grunt. When it comes to tooling or other aspects, those are jobs I do myself,” he said.

He first began doing leatherwork in a garage shop in Monterey. In 1990, he opened a brick-and-mortar business called The Leather Shop, in Morro Bay, CA. While running that shop, he traveled back and forth for five years, to Thailand. His goal — to build a leather company overseas.

In 2000, he sold his business in Morro Bay to an apprentice, moved abroad and launched TLS Leather Company Ltd. in the sparsely populated, rice-farming community of Loei Province in northern Thailand.

But, in 2011, he moved back to the states to be closer to family. He made frequent trips to Thailand to oversee his business and did leatherwork in a garage. Then, in October 2015, he opened The Leather Company in a 1,800-square-foot facility in Monterey. “I got out of the garage!” he joked.

Wright still heads up the Thailand company, which operates in a 6,000-square-foot workspace and has about 25 employees. The overseas business makes bags, belts, wallets and the like, mostly in exotic leathers, and sells leather supplies and tools. Today, Wright makes fewer, exhaustive trips abroad and manages his overseas business mainly via Skype, email and phone.

“It’s a lucrative, export business — a joint overseas partnership,” he said. I lived there for about 15 years, so I have experienced staff that handles the operation.” He speaks Thai and his staff speaks English. “I trained them (staff) to make things the way they’re made in the U.S. We get a better product, because of my direct influence.”

For now, the names of his two U.S. companies will remain the same. “We’re going to keep it Sunset Leather,” he said, of his recent purchase. “I’m running The Leather Company, Sunset Leather and TLS Leather Company Ltd. as separate DBAs, but under one company name — TLS Leather Company, LLC.”

Through the Sunset purchase, Wright has picked up a number of prime manufacturing jobs. “We’re making leather menu covers for new restaurants and guitar straps for Moody Premium Guitar Straps. We just got an order to make guitar straps for Eric Clapton,” he said, of the renowned, rock ’n roll guitarist.

His enterprise also makes leather golf accessories for Pebble Beach Company, of Pebble Beach, CA, and leather door hangers, please-do-not-disturb signs and desktop tablets for high-end hotels that furnish guest rooms with amenities made of leather.

Other customers include: Jennifer Haley Handbags of Boca Raton, FL, Camino Brands, LLC, based in Orinda, CA, with a line of fashion leather accessories, and Gustin, designers of men’s jeans, shirts and accessories. “We make little wallets and belts for them,” Wright said, of Gustin.

Prices for his leather products average from $30 to $600. “We do high-end, custom designed pieces, too. All our products, made here or abroad, are sold in the U.S. through TLS Leather Company, LLC,” he said.


The Leather Company

638 Lighthouse Ave.

Monterey, CA 93940

1-(831) 717-4894


Sunset Leather Company

Russell Service Center

2088 Sunset Drive

Pacific Grove, CA 93950



Fax: 1-831-373-4730

(For information about TLS Leather Company Ltd., in Thailand, contact John Wright at The Leather Company.)