9/18/2015 Fall 2015 About the Author Claire Hanan’s writing has appeared in AAA Living Magazine, FutureClaw Magazine, and Milwaukee Magazine, where she works as culture editor and writes about everything from politics to dog parks. Before becoming an editor, she worked in book publishing in New York. Brit owns a 2014 Subaru Outback. Saddle Upcycling Designer Brit West Takes Reclaimed Coboy Leather to a New Level By Clair Hanan 9/18/2015 Fall 2015 Being thrown from a horse can change your life, and no one knows that better than Subaru owner Brit West. The Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based jewelry designer was thrown from a horse while working on a ranch a dozen years ago, and was forced to take a job that would allow her to recuperate. That job was at a Western hat-making company in Durango, Colorado, and it was there that she began making hatbands bejeweled with turquoise stones and selling them for a little extra money. Reinvention by Design She launched britwest.net in 2001, but kept a string of part-time jobs to put food on the table. Not one to let an injury confine her to a desk, those jobs included mushing dogs and working in hunting camps. In 2007, West was able to devote all of her time to her business, which had expanded to include belts, leather cuffs, elaborate belt buckles, full collections of jewelry, purses, and other leather accessories. Sold online and at Western trade shows, the pieces are styled in what she calls “old time,” which relies heavily on expert silversmithing and Navajo-esque turquoise patterns. Pieces of History But there’s more to her pieces than animal hide and stones: West’s leather is all reclaimed from discarded reins and saddles that she sources from farms, antique shops, and ranches. Today’s leather, she says, isn’t tanned like it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and she calls it “an amazing canvas” for her artful jewelry. She will occasionally find pieces with imprinting that she thinks reveals “the pride someone took in their gear.” All of the leather, she says, “may have a story which you may or may not be able to unlock.” Plus, she likes being able to give her customers “a piece of Western history.” Much like the leather reins and saddles that serve as the backbone for her art, West hopes her pieces will be passed down to future generations. See more of Brit West’s artistic creations.