The Old West still lives in custom cowboy boot maker Mickey Mussett's shop

Categories: Art, Q&A

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Mickey Mussett at work
Custom cowboy boot maker Mickey Mussett didn't start out fancying up the elite. He's 65 now and only started making boots ten years ago, after leaving his job in advertising. The lure of leather and glue is what pulled him away and what keeps him busy now. "It's a very human and exciting thing, to make boots," he explains. "You dream with people."

Mussett runs his shop, Ghost Rider Boots, out of his garage, and he took some time to talk to us about the artistry in his craft, the spirit of the Old West and the freedom that cowboy boots give to those who wear them.

Are you from the West?

Oh, yah. I grew up here. I live in Denver, and I converted the garage into a boot shop. Rush hour is no problem.

How did you become a custom boot maker?

I was originally in advertising. All of a sudden, about ten years ago, I wasn't young and I couldn't get a job in my own profession. So I started looking for something where I would never have to hear someone say, "You're too old."

Then it got really bizarre. I had no idea what I was going to do. I love braiding my wife's hair and she cut it off, so I went looking for a leather shoelace to braid and found a leather company and there were rolls and sheets and all sorts of things and I started out doing some leather tooling and I came across a moment where my son came home from college and we were bored, and his art teacher said when you're bored conceive of and execute an art project in an hour. So I conceived of a leather cowboy boot Christmas tree ornament. And I thought it looked really cool.

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Oil Rig Boots, by Mickey Mussett
And that ornament turned into boots?

Eventually. But I actually remember telling God that I only wanted to make cowboy boot Christmas ornaments. But you know what they say -- when you tell God your plans, he laughs at them. I came upon this moment where I hand-dyed everything. But I could only get a red that looked like old dry blood. I wondered how they got those brilliant red and greens. So I called a boot maker and he told me how they were dyed, and in the course of it, I went to and study with him for six months. Ever since, I've been making boots six days a week for nine years. It's been a strange. Beyond strange, really.

Since then I have slept on ranch floors visiting boot makers and I've mentored by the best boot makers in the world. In fact, one of my mentors is the best boot maker in the world. I had it in my heart that I wanted community and the community of boot makers has really rolled out to help me. I have never been without a boot order in nine years. My wife, we've been married 47 years, and she's been a seamstress since she was young, she can't sew what I can sew in boots -- there was a custom boot maker lurking in my soul. I love it and it turns out I'm good at it.

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