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Happy Trails with Dawni O'Bryan: Tipton Leather

By Dawni O'Bryan

March 15, 2023

Horse people love the smell of leather. It usually means there is something new to put on their horse or on them that typifies the western lifestyle. Growing up in a leather shop, watching his uncle, Raymond Tipton, work his magic in Ponca City, OK, Kelly Tipton was helping out and learning a trade at the same time. Watching and gleaning from his uncle is what got him interested and started in the business, the Tiptons decided to open their own leather shop. Since 2011, their workshop, located on Highway 27 in Syracuse, KS, has been the home of Tipton Leather owned by Kelly and Tera Tipton. To further their knowledge and expertise of the trade, they have attended weekend seminars put on by the Colorado Saddle Makers Association. They specialize in cowboy gear such as saddles, chaps, belts, headstalls, and tapaderos (stirrup covers) that any working cowboy might want and need. The quality craftsmanship has earned Tipton Leather a reputation in western Kansas and southeast Colorado among ranching cowboys and rodeo cowboys alike.

While visiting with Kelly, he mentioned that his Facebook page (Tipton Leather) has garnered him some clients from New York and even New Zealand. He does not attend trade shows as his current clientele keeps him and his wife quite busy. The Working Ranch Cowboy Association has their annual finals in Amarillo, TX and Tipton Leather got some good exposure there when the four-time national champions of the WRCA (Jolly Ranch and S&L Cattle) consisting of Jesse Jolly, Kyle Spitz, Phy Lord, Dustin Bowling, Nick Peterson, and Will Shaffer were sporting some of Tipton’s gear. Of course, two pairs of chaps and spur straps have been purchased by the O’Bryan household, as well.

So for 12 years, the Tiptons have been cutting, stamping, gluing, and tooling fine leather cowboy tack. Their newest employee (future employee) is Reno McCoy Tipton that is only four months old. Tera and Reno usually come out to the shop in the afternoons. I teased Kelly that he is getting that smell of leather into his system so he will be willing and able to carry on the trade when he grows up.

It takes Kelly approximately two weeks to start and finish a saddle. He claims that wintertime, especially around Christmastime, is his busiest time. He said that the COVID pandemic didn’t hinder any leather supply chain, but the hardware (buckles, conchos, etc.) had some disruption. His favorite things to make are chaps and saddles. He works full time Monday through Thursday in the leather shop and on Fridays he works at Syracuse Commission Company.

The Tiptons are great artisans of the leather medium as exemplified in the beautiful saddles and chaps that have been turned out of their shop. Functional and stylish items for young and old buckaroos are available by placing an order through contact on Facebook.

Why are leather workers the best kind of craftsmen? They always give it their awl.

Some women love diamonds, others love a horse, a barn, and the smell of leather.

Happy Trails.

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