It seems safe to say that Zane Murphy, 26, has no intention of letting life pass him by. A Top Hand Ropes sponsored PRCA header, he also owns and operates Arrow M Leather Work with his partner and fiancée Jordan Crouch while splitting their time between winters in Tolar, Texas; summers in Cheyenne, Wyoming; and wherever the rodeo road takes them in between.
“We do a lot of watch bands and phone cases, mainly because we’re always on the go,” Murphy said. “It’s hard to work on rope cans and things like that, but our watch bands are pretty unique because we keep them really close to the same dimensions, in the same shape that Apple sends you. Nobody else really does it that way.”
Murphy explains that other leather makers will usually offer straight bands or bands with buckles, whereas Arrow M bands are fastened with button studs. The benefit of which, he says, is how easy it is to determine the measurements needed for an exact fit.
“They’re a little bit wider, too, so we can get more room on the watch bands for tooling and things like that. But I think what separates us is the colors that we use. A lot of people just strictly stick to dye work. Here, I do all the drawing and tooling and Jordan does all the dyeing and painting and selling. She does a really good job of getting everything with a lot of color on it. I would say that’s the biggest difference. We have a lot of colorful things.”
A visit to arrowmleatherworks.com and the accompanying social media sites will affirm this truth. Skilled tooling is applied to each piece, but styles range from traditional florals and basketweaves to cactus-y desert landscapes and leopard print, and the color options span the same spectrum, from rich caramel and chocolate browns to vibrant, neon-like pink, turquoise and chartreuse hues.
For as artfully as the couple manages to offer a full range of styles and products (though they focus on smaller projects like phone grips and cases and watch bands while they’re on the road, rope cans and belts are not excluded from their offerings), one would think it’s a talent that came naturally.
“My mom, actually, had me checked by the school counselor to see us if something’s wrong with me when I was in kindergarten, because I couldn’t draw to save my life,” Murphy revealed. “I have worked so hard at drawing. I picked it up because I thought it was cool. And then I realized how hard it was, but spend a lot of time drawing. Lots and lots of time. I’m not artistic, whatsoever. I have to work at it pretty hard and there’s a lot of rough drafts that get thrown in the trashcan. And I’m not gonna lie: Jordan wasn’t much better than I was. She’s had to work at it pretty hard, too.”
Though young, the couple has a good decade of work experience under their belts and their shared goal of being their own bosses and determining their own schedules inspires them to keep putting pencil to paper.
“She had her first job when she was 14 or 15,” Murphy said of Crouch. “She used to help run Lonestar Arena. That’s actually where we met—Stephenville. So, she’s always had two or three jobs and I was working for Classic and she would come in and help me—I rolled ropes for them—and then we would both go work ropings and then we’d come home about midnight and start on leather work for about three or four hours and then we’d get up about 8 and start all over again.”
Murphy’s grandfather gifted him a set of leather working tools for his high school graduation, but it took a few years for the craftsman bug to set in. Ultimately, an NFR policy change catapulted the hobby into a full-fledged business opportunity.
“What actually got us going was clear bags for the NFR. The first year, I think we made close to 60 clear purses.”
Takeaway: If opportunity knocks on the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Murphy’s door, they’ll answer.