Chap builder a ‘Maverick’
December 28, 2015
Leather worker Beth Feldt has a nickname. It's Maverick.
"Uncle R.L. started calling me that 'cause I am not like my siblings," Feldt said. "I have two sisters and one brother and they all have master's degrees and stuff."
"I always tried new things that a lot of people wouldn't go try. If it works, it works," Feldt said. "If it doesn't, I learn something."
Not yet 30 years old, Feldt has been doing leather work nearly half her life.
“I discovered you can make something guys can make a living in and still make it flashy and make it their own.” Beth Feldt, leather worker
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She grew up in Cimarron, Kansas.
"Well it's Kansas," Feldt said, "so if you ranch, you farm. We had cattle and horses and grew wheat."
No one in her family built leather items, but she says, "My mom was real crafty. When I was growing up, we didn't sit in the house playing video games. We had to figure out how to do stuff, and if something broke we had to figure out how to fix it."
At age 16, Feldt went looking for a job with Mike Nail at his leather shop in Dodge City, Kansas.
"I built a zillion flip phone cases," Feldt said. "I'd build them, basket stamp and antique them. One order had 100 cell phone cases 'cause that's when everybody had a flip phone.
"Mike had tried a lot of people but he never hired anybody before. Growing up we had to be crafty, so I was able to pick it up real quick.
"He finally hired me after I hung around about a year and wouldn't leave," Feldt joked.
"I went to boot making school in Okmulgee (Oklahoma), but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. I'm too meticulous and when people give $800 for a pair of boots they want to be happy. And I wanted them to be happy, so I ended up not making any money." That was because she spent so much time working and reworking one pair of boots.
Then one day she started working on a pair of chaps. "They were lime green and pink ostrich with metallic flames because that was the materials I had. It took me two days."
While those chaps might not have been exactly what working cowboys were looking for, it was the start of what is now most of Feldt's business.
"I discovered you can make something guys can make a living in and still make it flashy and make it their own," Feldt said.
She is now a popular chap builder, especially for working cowboys in southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma.
Recently Feldt became engaged to working cowboy Zeb York. She loaded up her sewing machine and has moved with him to a ranch in Rosebud, Texas. The beauty of her craft is she can do it anywhere on any schedule.
"Most of my business now is leggins and purses," Feldt said. "Since I have been here I have done it all by hand and buckstitched everything.
"If I need to go prowl through cattle with Zeb, I can."
Last year Feldt made custom gear bags for Top Hand and Top Horse prizes at the Working Cowboys Rodeo Association qualifier in Meade, Kansas. "I donated all the labor to build them, tool them, dye and buckstitch them," Feldt said, "and Mike (Nail) donated the materials."
WRCA Top Hand finals winner Chris Potter of the Lonesome Pine team won the Top Hand honor and Toby Snyder of the Woolfolk Ranch won Top Horse on a 9-year-old granddaughter of Shining Spark.
The subject of gender never comes up with Feldt. She probably knows not many women are gainfully employed gear makers, although there are some, but she is just doing what she enjoys. She went where her talent took her and it will probably be much further.
To look at more of Feldt's work or place an order, visit her on Facebook.
"Make sure you look for Beth Maverick Feldt," she said. "There is another Beth Feldt on there, but that is not me."