What inspired you to become a bootmaker?
I grew up in the shop as a young child. My mother and my grandfather did as well. The shop was always our favorite place to be when we were children and I spent most of my early childhood there. I decided after being in the Houston area for 15 years, going to school for audio engineering and interning in a recording studio for a year and a half, producing music, being a DJ and 12+ years in the food-service industry, that I wanted to pursue a career where I worked for myself and used my many talents to make a living. I moved to Abilene in May of 2009 and started learning the process. In May this year I will have been making boots for ten years, over a quarter of my life, as I turn 36 at the end of this month. In short, my grandfather, Tex Robin, inspired me to become a boot maker.
Who were your teachers? What was it like to learn from them?
The only person who has taught me the trade is my grandfather. Learning from my grandfather has been a great adventure. I learn more every day that we work together. The best reward so far is the recognition I have earned, not only from the customers and collectors, but long-time bootmakers like my grandfather as well. Most importantly though, has been spending time with family and watching my son grow up with him and in the shop as well.
What advice would you give to young bootmakers just starting out?
Some of the most memorable advice my grandfather gave me was to stick to one thing and be the best at it. That’s why we only make a four-piece cowboy boot with designs my grandfather has used for decades. We strive to be the best at it. The best advice I can offer is never stop making boots. Once you start it’s a lifelong commitment that will take the rest of your life to learn. Focus on the basic core of making boots, then when you can learn the fancy stuff later. Take advice along the way and keep the highest standards possible. Finally charge for everything you do, when you give it away for free you hurts you in the long run as well as the industry in general. Charge what you are worth it helps us all.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of the craft?
My expectations for the future of the craft would first of all be to continue the family trade my great grandfather started and my grandfather has continued since 1945. I would love to be able to teach my son the trade as well while I watch him grow up in the shop. I love seeing not only the new but legacy boot makers as well, push the standards of the trade higher and higher every year while preserving the traditional way of doing things the right way. Finally, God willing, I hope I can make boots as long as my grandfather has gotten to.
What were some of your early struggles and successes as a young bootmaker?
The earliest struggles with me were converting my ideas into something Paw Paw would let me make lol. There is a big generation gap between us which makes our taste in style and color vastly different. When you first learn to make boots, you want to do inlays and eagles and 6-7 row tops. It’s hard but necessary to focus on learning the basics of what makes boot making an art and not having the most elaborate top design ever. Focusing on the core skills and not the inlays and fancy designs was the hardest when I first began but, was has ultimately what caused me to excel the most and be the best possible.
My most memorable successes as a young boot maker have included:
2009 Best in Journeyman Class – Wichita Falls Boot and Saddlemakers Round Up (I won my Artisan this year!)
Also at the Wichita Falls Boot and Saddlemakers Round Up...
- 2010 Best in Artistry Class
- 2010 Best in Working Cowboy Class
- 2011 Best in Artistry Class
- 2012 Best in Top Stitching Class
- 2013 Best in Dress Boot Class
- 2013 Best Professionals Choice
2014 Appeared in April edition of Shop Talk! Magazine with my grandfather
2017 Appeared in Winter edition of Texas Heritage for Living with my grandfather
Being a self-employed bootmaker for 8+ years is my favorite of all. It’s allowed me to be there for my family anytime they need me and I’ve gotten to enjoy every major moment of my son’s life so far. Making a living doing something you love was is a big part of why I love making boots.
Tex Robin Boots • Justin T. Walker
The Cowboy Bootmakers. Memories and photos collected by Dana Perrotti, 2019.