Our search for unique leather products hits close to home this week. While visiting my home town over Christmas, I heard of a great story involving unique custom made leather purses, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn more about them.
A Little Backstory
These purses are all made in little ol’ Riverton WY, a town with around 10,000 people in it. For Wyoming, this makes it the largest settlement within 120 miles in any direction.
The purses first started being made many years ago in a little shop called Western Supply. They were made by a good friend of the owner who would come in to the store and work on them on her days off.
Sadly, several years ago, the original maker passed away in a tragic accident, so her dear friend, and the owner of Western Supply, Rhonda Slack, took over the legacy. She made the first purse, pictured above, as a Christmas present, but as people saw the unique style and beautiful craftsmanship ,and heard the heartwarming story, she started getting orders for more. I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of her valuable time to talk to her about how the purses have changed over the years, and why they are so important for her today.
The purses started out much like the ones you see in the picture above, and without a lot of variation. Sure the color and patterns may have changed a little, but the general design was fairly identical.
Rhonda has expanded by experimenting with all kinds of new shapes, styles, designs, and materials. From Native American beading sourced from the local reservation to woolly buffalo leather, each purse now has its own unique style and personality.
That’s right, personality. These purses are all custom made, so they are designed to carry a little bit of your personality and story in them. In Rhonda’s words:
“When I find out who I’m making a purse for, I contemplate it a lot to try and put their personalities into the final product.”
And that isn’t just for people she knows personally. When you order a purse online, she’ll contact you to make sure she gets a feel for what you are looking for and who you are. She wants the purse to be an extension of yourself.
For Rhonda, the purses provide a much needed creative outlet, while also paying tribute to her late friend. It’s my personal belief that everyone has the inherent desire to create something of value and beauty, and it seems that Rhonda echoes that sentiment as she commented:
“[Making the purses] lets me be creative, and step outside the box. Each one is a little different, and I like that about them.”
In my conversation with her, it seemed that it was therapeutic for her. It makes the whole situation quite the win-win deal. The customer gets a one of a kind product with a unique story that is built to fit them, and Rhonda gets to do something that she loves to do!