Day Four, Oklahoma State Boots

Day Four: the making of the Oklahoma Boots, which are now part of the Oklahoma State Capitol permanent art collection

Today I’m going to talk a little bit about the wing and counter tips and their design inspiration.

The countertip is the design part that goes on the heel area; it features the first line of Oklahoma’s official gospel song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” This song was written by Wallace Willis, an enslaved Oklahoma man. There were dreams of Oklahoma becoming an all-Black state — a place to be free and own land and escape the shattered dreams of Reconstruction in the south. Oklahoma has many historically Black towns and is also home to Langston University, a historically Black college that opened in 1897. The counter tip is in memory of the many Black Oklahomans who sought freedom here.

The wingtip is the decorative part over the toe. A traditional boot making technique is a line of little round holes along an edge; these are called perforations. If you look closely you’ll see that the perforations on the wingtip are teardrops. This is in memory of the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of over 60,000 Native Americans from their homes to Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma. The teardrops honor the ones who died on these marches, and the ones who survived.

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Day Three, Oklahoma State Boots

Day Three: the making of the Oklahoma Boots, which are now part of the Oklahoma State Capitol permanent art collection
A one-piece boot top is one big panel of leather; the only seam is designed to go up the center back. Stitching lots of tiny details on a one-piece boot top is not too much fun because the piece is too big to fit easily through the throat of a sewing machine, and decorative stitching requires much repositioning of the work. For this reason I did as much of the stitching as possible before sewing it all together.

The Capitol building caused more mental anguish than any other design element. Straight lines are the most difficult to cut accurately and they’re the most difficult to stitch also — any small wobble is noticeable. I had never completely stitched a design element before adding it to a boot top, and I spent considerable time stressing about cutting the hole for this element exactly precisely the correct size and shape so it would fit perfectly around the stitching.
I also inlaid and stitched the Oklahoma flag before putting it into the boot top. The shape of the flag was easier but I wasn’t really confident I could do this much detail (and letters!) at this size. The day I successfully completed the Oklahoma flag was a good day.
On the other hand, that sweet little scissor tail bird was a joy to create, and makes me happy every time I look at it. I’m going to create a framed art piece of the scissor tail on a redbud branch just so I get to make this part of the design again.
And just like that, the boot tops are completed! At this point I moved on to worrying about sewing that back seam — there’s a point with one-piece tops where you’re trying to sew things onto a tube shape and it’s not always easy.
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Day Two, Oklahoma Boots

Day Two: the making of the Oklahoma Boots which are now part of the Oklahoma State Capitol permanent art collection

The Oklahoma boots have a one-piece top; instead of a seam up each side of the boot there’s a single seam in the center back. Omitting the side seam provides two large areas for design. With a normal side seam construction, the area for design is kind of an H shape because the top dips down and the tongue reaches up, narrowing the center design space. Squeezing the Capitol or the flag into the space between the top band and the tongue would have been difficult.

Original design sketch for the Oklahoma State boots. The red tail hawk feather was replaced by a frog on the actual boots.
This is what an actual design pattern looks like. I’ve stitched the design into the poster board with no thread in the needle, to create little holes for the pattern markings.
The very first part of the boots I did in leather were the top bands so this was an exciting day!
Many boot makers break off a needle and sharpen it like a little blade, then use their sewing machine to cut out inlay holes. It works well and I’ve done it that way, but I prefer to cut out each part of the design by hand with an X-Acto knife. It’s fun to see how precise I can be, and then exactly again only reversed.
I cut paper pattern pieces for *every* part of the design. That way I can accurately do the exact same thing for the right and left boot.
It’s always so fun to put little oddly-shaped bits of leather together, turn the piece over, and see a frog! Or a bison, or a bumblebee!
Putting in the inlay pieces is exciting, but it’s the stitching that truly brings it to life.
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Oklahoma Boots, part one: Wingtips, countertips, and back strap

The time has arrived and I can finally share pictures of the Oklahoma boots!

I’ll start with the design sketches I sent to the Oklahoma Arts Council for approval and how those sketches went from paper to leather. These are the sketches for the wingtip, countertip (heel decoration), and decorative strap to cover the back seam.

I’ll post more about the design and the significance of small details when I reveal the completed boots.

Sketch for wingtip, countertip, and back strap
Cut wingtip, completed oil derrick back strap
Top left: poster board pattern for wingtip, bottom left: inlaid (but not stitched) wingtip, bottom right: finished wingtip with stitching details, teardrop edge design, and secondary border

Completed wing and countertips on vamps (foot part) and counter covers (heel part)
Vamps with wingtips and counter covers with countertips, with all my tools
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Sunflower Bracelet

Title: :”Somewhere in Kansas”

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When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again

Most of my clients would choose something from my portfolio and change it up a bit if they had ideas, but I had one customer that always wanted to give me some ideas and have me design something completely new just for her. She and her husband commissioned several pairs of boots and I used to be apprehensive about her orders every time — she was LOVELY, but I felt very inadequate as an artist and designing something new on demand scared me. Looking back now, I appreciate how she forced me out of my comfort zone. This pair of boots is an excellent example of how, with her encouragement and support, I surprised myself sometimes!

Title: “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”

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Oklahoma Boots update

The Oklahoma boots are finished and I’ll deliver them today. I am so eager to share the photos with you! Until I have permission, I’ll just share the photo of the card I include with all my boots.

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2023 Cowboy Boot Calendar

I created and ordered my 2023 cowboy boot calendar today. The website will allow orders but they won’t be in stock for a couple of weeks., on the home page

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“Always Wanting You”

I remember once when I worked for Jay Griffith; we were making a pair of boots with a chocolate top and hot pink inlays. We didn’t have any hot pink thread so Jay told me to stitch around the hot pink inlays with red thread. I argued with him and came very close to refusing — completely convinced that he was wrong and the boots would look terrible — but when I finished, even I would have sworn that the red thread was indeed hot pink. That’s when I learned that thread colors on leather will surprise you occasionally and not look the way you imagined.

Boots are named “Always Wanting You”

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Bluebonnet Lane

Joe, the owner of these boots, was one of my very first customers when I started my own business. He stuck with me through poorly-made boots and boots that didn’t fit, and he always believed in me and encouraged me. I think it’s safe to say that Joe is one of the reasons I made it in the cowboy boot business — I can easily imagine giving up in despair without the support of customers like Joe.

This boot features a high vamp; the foot part extends up the leg. It’s technically difficult to do but he loved this style and requested it repeatedly until I finally worked up the courage to try it.

They’re named “Bluebonnet Lane” in honor of Joe’s home state of Texas.

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