Leather and Silver: Andy Stevens works in two mediums for beauty and function
After nearly 25 years creating leather and silver items, Andy Stevens has his own style that sets him apart. While he may not be able to put his finger on exactly what makes him different, his customers recognize the differences in quality and craftsmanship.
Stevens said he works hard to turn out a quality product and he looks at each order as a unique creative challenge. A self-proclaimed control freak, Stevens aims to put his own style into each piece he completes.
Stevens, who runs a commercial cow calf operation in Johnson County, Wyoming, began honing his craft in leather and eventually added silversmithing. The intricacy of his leatherwork translated to silver well and the refined look he gives to leather shines through on the silver pieces that accent leather and stand alone.
Given the traditional nature of his craft, he has found that social media has been a boon to his business. His business Facebook page is frequently updated by photos of his work. His wife Heidi, a photographer, adds her own touch by presenting the items through beautiful photos.
“My wife or I can update Facebook while we’re sitting at a kid’s basketball game,” he said. “Where we ranch, too, we can be updating while we work on a water tank. I don’t have to sit in front of a computer.”
As positive as social media has been for Stevens’ business, he said the real impact has been made on the up and coming makers arriving on the scene and beginning their businesses.
“You can create a clientele instantaneously and economically, too,” he said. “For me, I started out running ads in magazines and moved to websites, then social media.”
The silversmithing side of his business complements his leatherwork quite literally. A saddlemaker from the start, Stevens began silversmithing out of his interest in the art.
“It’s something that caught my interest,” he said. “I had a couple of good friends who were silversmiths and they took pity on me and felt like I needed help.”
What began as an aside eventually filled a need for quality silver pieces of high quality to add beauty and functionality to saddles, bridles, and even to stand alone. His smithing also allows him to depend only upon his own timeframes rather than being held up on completing an order awaiting a finished silver piece from another maker. Making each component for a customer also adds value for his customers.
After establishing himself in the business, Stevens can choose to take on only projects that ignite his imagination. He counts working ranch cowboys, those who appreciate the western lifestyle but don’t live it daily, and business men involved in the oil and gas industry among his diverse clientele.
“I’ve been in the business long enough that I can pick and choose what I want to do,” he said. “About everything I build is something I love to build.”
Stevens said he often builds a few saddles and finds himself ready for a change so he’ll change gears and build wedding rings, three piece buckles, saddle silver, silver for a briefcase, or hand tooled belts. The diversity of his projects and the diversity of his clients make for a continual creative challenge for Stevens.
Among his notable current projects are a leather ping pong table net to complement a custom furniture maker’s custom table, tooled insets for furniture, a bar face for a private bar in Las Vegas, cigar humidors, presentation boxes and shot glasses, and briefcases.
Balancing ranching and his leather and silver business is a challenge Stevens is happy to face. He and his family recently moved onto his wife’s family’s ranch and, as many of his generation are doing, they are gradually assuming more responsibility for the operation as the years wear on.
“This time of year, I start heading to the shop fulltime until we start feeding cows in late winter or spring,” he said.
The ranch runs from just east of Buffalo, Wyoming, to the Powder River and allows the family to raise their own replacement females on the ranch. The couple’s daughter, Paislee, is the sixth generation of the family to ranch in Johnson County and Stevens said she’s involved in the day to day operations as much as an 8-year old can be.
“In her mind, she runs the place,” he said. “She runs a handful of her own cows and she’s my right hand.”
As fall transitions to winter in Wyoming, Stevens will spend some of the cold days in his shop creating items for customers who don’t seem to mind waiting for custom pieces to be delivered. He no longer takes new clients in order to better serve current ones.
“I have a great clientele who keep me busy,” he said. “I’ve got some in there that are really fun because they bring projects to me that push my creative side. I love those deals that push my creative envelope.”