What inspired you to become a bootmaker?
I started my journey to cowboy boots as a child. My dad is a ranch foreman in South Texas and my parents had cowboy boots made by Lee Miller in the 1980s. I couldn’t have imagined anything more beautiful. I received my first pair of handmade boots as a high school graduation present from M.L. Leddy’s–I still wear them regularly. During the recession, I was sewing and selling bags and accessories–I quickly started working with leather and had the opportunity to go to Penland School of Crafts for a shoe class. Penland changed my life
–I realized that shoemaking was for me. The combination of brute force and artistic expression utilised my skill set best. My brain and body hurt at the end of the day, which is a true pleasure. As I was acquiring tools, I realized that I could actually make cowboy boots, something I never thought was possible. I cold called Seth Teichert, a bootmaker in MacKay, Idaho, and went over for a visit. I loved him and his family and asked them to take me on as a student. Our work was funded by Idaho Commission on the Arts. Five years after starting this journey, I’m set up in my own shop and am paying the bills on nights and weekends.
Who are your teachers? What is it like to learn from them?
Jessica Brommer, a shoemaker in Santa Fe, was the teacher that kept me in the game. Seth Teichert, of MacKay, Idaho, served as my mentor in an official capacity for 2 years and is still unofficially my mentor.
Seth has a leadership role in his church and his words of wisdom easily translated to me cussing at piles of leather. Since I’ve been sewing for about 30 years and had previously made shoes, we quickly stepped into a rhythm of working side by side, with me asking a ton of questions and just chit chat. We both learned a lot about bootmaking and why things work the way they do.
What’s been your experience as an apprentice bootmaker?
The best way to describe my experience as an apprentice was that I was welcomed in to my mentor’s family. Seth is in his 30s, which is probably a little different than most mentors, and they have a house full of great kids. They live close to me, as the crow flies, but because of the dirt mountain pass, it could take over two hours to get to their house in the winter–I stayed with them a number of times. The whole family would be working in the shop–sweeping, standing on a step stool passing pegs, and taking turns hammering. This warm environment was encouraging and made it a lot easier to work 10-12 hour days. Since Seth was so far, we would work together for a day or two, and then I would head home to work on my own–homework, per se. This gave me an opportunity to make mistakes, practice, learn, and come back with new questions, ideas, and problems to solve.
What is the best bootmaking advice that you have gotten?
My mentor Seth, and his wife, Natalie, have four children. The two rules in their boot shop are no crying and no bleeding. These rules are technically for the kids, but I’ve implemented those rules in my own shop, If things are going poorly, it’s time to step away–I usually go outside.
How do you plan to perpetuate the craft?
The best thing I can do to perpetuate our craft is to share it with and educate the broader community. In 2018, I participated in the Wood River Valley Studio Tour, welcoming over 200 people in to my boot shop to show them tools, machinery, patterns, and more. In 2019, I’m helping organize a Women’s Gearmaker’s Symposium in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with Idaho Commission on the Arts. This event will gather women gearmakers (silver, saddles, rawhide braiding, boots, and more) for networking, a public demonstration, and educational classes for artists in a male dominated field.
Morgan Buckert Custom Boots
The Cowboy Bootmakers. Memories and photos collected by Dana Perrotti, 2019.