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Creating cowboy gear

Jamie Mamer combined a lifelong love of horses with her need to create crafts, when she began producing her line of beautifully handcrafted cowboy gear. Some of her items include custom leather chaps, tack, saddles, wool saddle pads and horsehair hitching — a unique craft using twisted horsehair to make one-of-a-kind designs for items like hatbands, bridles and belts.

“I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan. My sister had a Barbie dollhouse and I played with model horses in a ‘barn’ my dad built. I made saddles and bridles for them when I was eight,” she said.

Mamer became intrigued with horsehair hitching while studying for a degree in animal science at the University of Saskatchewan. She did some research online, bought a book by Shoni Maulding, and launched into her first project — a hitched headstall with a minimal amount of leather to attach the buckles and bit. Horsehair hitching uses strands of horsetail hair to create beautiful, durable designs. “The items often have intricate design work and can be personalized. I’ve made a few memoirs for people who’ve had horses they had to say goodbye to,” she says.

Horsehair hitching is extremely time consuming and requires a great deal of focus. It was taught in state prisons for a time but it’s a dying art, and Mamer feels it’s important for the younger generation to keep it going.

Mamer started making her own bridles when she was looking for quality headstalls that would stand up to the longevity of the horsehair hitching she wanted to incorporate. From there she started sewing leather chaps and chinks, learning more about the art of tooling.

Saddle making followed for this busy woman who lives in Hanley, Sask. and works full time as an animal technician at the University of Saskatchewan.

“I took a course from a saddle maker in St. Brieux named Bill Wilm, who gave me some guidance with the tooling as well. I took that and added my own flare to it, now doing all my own patterns, by first putting them on paper and then having them come to life on leather.”

Mamer’s goal is to build the business slowly, do it properly and with integrity. “I’m pretty demanding of myself. I feel that if people have made the step and shown interest in my work, I owe it to them to provide the best product that I can give them. They’re going to be my best marketing. If my chaps are on somebody in a show ring and it sparks an interest for someone else, that’s the best advertising I can do. And the most rewarding as well,” she adds.

Eager to begin showing her work, Mamer collaborated with a web designer (Barn Spider Designs) in Melville to develop her logo Two Shoes Handcrafted Cowboy Gear for her website, signs and business cards. For several years she attended community events where word soon began to spread. Trade shows and other events across Saskatchewan such as cutting horse shows and cowboy poetry gatherings followed, some of which also included western art and gear shows. “Those have been fantastic places to meet other artists and make contacts. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on my work which has been very encouraging,” she said.

Mamer’s business has grown steadily and she receives enough orders to keep her busy. “One of my goals is to be up there with the big boys in the leather world. Not necessarily competing with them but to be considered in the same league. The leather craft industry is male dominant, but I’ve never felt that to be a setback. It’s a challenge. The unique artists are those who can develop their own flare. Every artist has the ability to take what they’ve been taught and create their own spin on it.”

For more information on Jamie Mamer’s handcrafted cowboy gear, visit www.two-shoes.ca. †

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