This week, I am excited to share with you all another great leather worker. This time, however, a boot maker. I will start this off by saying that Dustin Lauw is a downright good dude. Period. I had the pleasure of meeting him at last years Wichita Falls Boot & Saddle Makers Roundup. He is personable, genuine, and seemed just as excited to chat with a nobody, such as myself, as I was to meet and chat with him being such an accomplished maker. He is honest, gives good advice, and does incredible work.
Please be sure to
check out the links at the end of the article and to give Dustin a follow and check out more of his work.
Jesse: Can you introduce yourself. Where are you based out of, and tell us what your craft is?
Maker: My name is Dustin Lauw. I’m from Salado, Texas. I make custom fitted cowboy boots for a living.
Jesse: How long have you been making_______?
Dustin: I’ve had my hands on custom cowboy boots for approximately 16 years. I have been making on my own for the past 5 years; the last year being full time.
Jesse: What got you interested in this craft?
Dustin: I am a fourth-generation leather worker. At the age of 18 I wanted to be a saddle maker. Quite by accident I found out about custom cowboys’ boots. I ordered my first pair and was blown away by the fit and the colorful inlay work in the leather. By my second pair, I lost all interest in saddles and leather tooling.
Jesse: How did you get your start?
Dustin: I got my start by approaching the maker who made my first two pair of boots and asked him to teach me. He agreed and it was the start of this incredible journey. We bonded like father and son. He soon became my best friend and was by my side throughout all of my life milestones.
Jesse: Are you a fulltime, part-time, or hobbyist maker?
Dustin: I am a full-time maker and log in an average of 12 hours a day, six days a week. I reserve Sunday’s for church and family.
Jesse: Is there anyone you can think of that has been a mentor, inspiration, or has been a big influence on your work?
Dustin: Duck Menzies was the maker who mentored me. I could write a book about that guy. As said previously, he was my best friend. He was with me as the best man at my wedding. He was the first person at the hospital when my son was born, and there when an infant daughter passed away. He spoon fed me when I was in the hospital with an auto-immune disease years ago. Duck was the most influential person in my life. I was very fortunate to have him as long as I did. He passed away 5 years ago. I inherited his shop and customer base.
Jesse: If you could go back to when you first started, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Dustin: If I could go back and give myself advice, I’d tell myself not to sweat the small stuff. Expect criticism. Expect outright hostility. But persevere. Giving up is not an option because boy, one day you’re going to shine like a new dime.
Jesse: Continuing on the thread of advice, what would you tell someone who is wanting to take the leap into becoming a maker, or is just starting out?
Dustin: I’ve been fortunate that several new makers have approached me for advice. I tell them all this: you are only going to get out of this as you are willing to put into it. Practice. Expect late nights. If you have a full-time job, expect to even go some nights without any sleep. But practice. It’ll pay off, I promise.
Jesse: Can you think of an aspect of your craft/business that you have/do struggle with?
Dustin: For me the struggle was always the accounting aspect of business. I hate doing taxes. I hate doing paperwork. I’d rather be making. I’d rather be sitting at a sewing machine.
Jesse: Besides what you make, do you have any other interests? (sports, gaming, gardening, or making other things)
Dustin: Lately I’ve really let boot making consume me. I joke and say I have no social life. In fact, I say when I walk out the front door of my shop, I lose my super powers and become regular ol’ Dustin. In spite of that, I like pre-60s cars and hot rods. I own a 1924 Ford Model T hot rod. I really enjoy the Kustom Kulture movement, because there is so much artwork and custom-built cars that really appeals to my personality. My alter personality also enjoys team roping, which I did for a number of years. I know the two subcultures clash, but as I age, cruising a hot rod is much easier on the body than getting bucked off a horse.
Jesse: What are your thoughts on the Maker Movement that has been happening over the past few years or so? With increased numbers of people wanting to make things, it seems like a bit of a renaissance happening, with people becoming interested in what many see as dying crafts.
Dustin: The makers movement, Wow. The future belongs to us! Proof? Go into any grocery store, walk back to the beer isle, and you will find a big section featuring microbrews. People are bucking the Walmart’s, Targets, Budweiser, and Nike’s. People are getting tired of disposable. The consumer wants a product that will last, a product that is different and reflects their personality, and a product in which they can look the maker in the eye. In the world of leathercraft, we can provide all those qualities to the consumer. And they know “you get what you pay for”. Look on Instagram. Full of makers. Boot/shoe makers, blacksmiths and metal fabricators, tattoo artists, old school barbershops, custom firearm and car builders, etc. Small batch is the future. I may not change the world by discovering a cure for cancer, or doing something really notable like that, but I am proud to be a part of this movement in consumerism.
Jesse: (Borrowing from another blog) Is there any new cultural/trending thing that you are interested in at the moment, not necessarily associated with your craft? Like a recently discovered book, movie, music, blog, podcast, restaurant, etc.?
Dustin: Trends that I’m interested in? I feel like a trend isn’t lasting; it’s temporary and will either evolve into something else or go away all together. I enjoy art and music. As stated above, the Kustom Kulture subculture is full of art. I don’t recall who said this quote, but “the more absurd the art, the truer it is.” I believe this. I want so badly to go to the Burning Man festival. Maybe in a year or two. As far as my musical tastes, it’s funny, I guess I’m not your stereotypical, cowboy hat wearing, country music listening bootmaker. If you come into my shop, you’ll hear music by Dinosaur Jr, the Reverend Horton Heat, Violent Femmes, social Distortion, Sonic Youth blaring from the speakers. I get weird looks from my older customers. Music has always and will always stand the test of time. Music to me, is the purest form of art.
Jesse: Finally, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer some of these questions and share with us what you do. If you have anything else you’d like to share, suggestions for future interview questions, or individuals that you recommend for this Interview Series, please let me know.
Dustin: Thanks for the interview. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing our craft go forward. I’m looking forward to seeing what limits will be pushed.
Again, I want to thank Dustin for taking the time to share his story with us. I look forward to October and seeing Dustin again at the Boot & Saddle Makers Roundup this year. Where I may or may not, (but definitely do) owe him a round of Crown & Coke. I just might have to make an excuse to go down to Salado and get fitted for a new pair of boots!
If you would like to order a pair of custom boots from Dustin, he can be contacted at: 254/681-5300
Or through the following Social Media Outlets.
Be sure to check out Dustin’s IG @ducksheritagelether
And his Facebook HERE
Reference to Kustom Kulture mentioned: http://www.ratfink.com/kustom-kulture.php