This week I am proud to present boot maker Tim Bishop from Tucumcari, NM. He has been described as one of the “best kept secrets of the West.” Please visit his website at http://www.cowpuncherboots.com. Thank you Tim for taking time to answer the questions.
When did you start making boots and how did you get into the craft?
First attempt was in 1985, then put it aside till 1992, been at ever since.
Turning raw material into good functional using gear, that people enjoy for years.
How would you describe your boots in three words?
Hell for Stout.
Who has been the biggest influence on your boot making?
This is a hard one to answer there are several the first shop I ever went in was in Clayton, NM called Rabbit Ear Boot shop, but I cannot remember the mans name, but his boots were the epitome of cowboy boots. But I have to say the one that I studied the most was Paul Bond. Again pure hardcore cowboy. Among the list has to be James Owens in Clarendon, TX, Glen Hopson in Moriarty, NM, good friend John Higdon in Amarillo, TX, and Curly Fuqua in Tucumcari, NM. There are many more but these are the ones that I feel influenced me the most. To say that I have an obsession with cowboy boots is a understatement.
What lessons did that person teach you?
I went out to Paul’s shop in the mid 80’s and really got an education. His style is unmatched, often imitated but never duplicated, all that leather was a real treat I have been in a lot of saddle shops but that was the first Boot Co. with multiple employees. And to see that many boots…wow. I saw leather that I did not even know was used for boots. But the thing I remember the most was learning for the first time that cowboy boots were not just for cowboys. Until that trip I never gave it a thought that cowboys were the only people that wore boots. The only folks I saw growing up that were in boots were cowboys. I remember staring at the wall’s in total surprise at some of the people that I never would have thought who wore boots. There were movie stars, rock stars, pro athletes, politicians, the list goes on and on. It really opened my eyes.
I do. How can you not really? Art is in the eye. I’ve had customers call my boots art and I am not offended by that but I do not always agree with them either. I usually just say wait for a week or two of use and look at them again and you may find that your art has been decimated, they usually get a laugh. But I see a lot of boots being made nowadays that are nothing short of fine art. So I do understand how people make that connection. And rightfully so.
What lessons of life has boot making taught you?
I am not a “people person” but when you offer a service to the public you have no choice but to deal with folk’s, so for me it has made me work on my people skill’s which has only been an asset not just in business but on a personal level too. It has also taught me how to say “No”.
Have you made boots for any celebrities?
The first time I was asked this question I did not miss a beat and told the man “All my Customers are famous.” He laughed hard and said “I Love It” so I guess I will just go with that, I truly am blessed to have the customer’s I have and really appreciate them all.
Do you have any favorite stories about making boots or a particular client?
I do but not that I can tell here. I have been asked to do some pretty far out things. That is where learning to say no came about. But one that I guess I will remember forever was a man from Albuquerque called one day and said “I have never owned a pair of boots in my life but my daughter is getting married and I need a pair. I suggested a pair of store bought and he said that would not do. He requested an inlay of a Kokepelli dancer riding a bicycle so we set up a meeting and I had a drawing or two and when he arrived he said “I have a picture of what I want” I said well lets see it. So he pulls his pant leg up and on his shin was a tattoo of what he wanted, the really cool thing was, it was identical to what I had drawn it was an absolute perfect match. He said I knew this was the place to come. After a 3 hour visit I learned a lot about this man from his service to his country and what he had endured through his life, he asked for no sympathy, nor did he brag, he simply was a man with a story and a healthy attitude about life, regardless of what he had been through to him he lived every day as his last and was not going to worry about anything ever again. I was really moved by his attitude and have never forgot what I learned from him in that visit, we still talk from time to time and he still wears his boots.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next generation of boot makers?
Don’t get discouraged, find YOUR style, but don’t be afraid to show a little influence from time to time of someone you admired, and when you get older pass some of your savvy down to someone that is where you were when you started.