“I got Louisiana tied up over here. It’s mine,” JB “Barry” Guillory quipped about being a lone Louisiana bit and spur maker. “I think there’s one other guy who might make spurs.”
The son of a butcher, Guillory grew up horseback, but without horsemanship or an obvious path to becoming a maker. In his 20s, however, he came across both via an introduction to cutting.
“There was a trainer by the name of Bob Bouget down on my end and he taught me a lot about horses,” Guillory said of the man he credits with his beginnings. “I bought my first cutting horse with Bob and he knew I had a passion for spurs. Finally, he was in the finals at the Futurity—I think he came out in 13th that year—and he needed spurs for his herd helpers, and those were the first four pairs of spurs I sold.”
Bouget’s constant encouragement and help building a client base ultimately led to Guillory selling his horse and committing himself entirely to his craft.
“Now, I live through the guys I build for,” Guillory said of how he justifies his complete departure from living life horseback.
For World Champion Header Colby Lovell, the statement rings true.
“The bridle I just got from him has my grandfather’s brand on it. He built me a buckle two or three years ago, after my grandfather passed away, and it has my grandfather’s brand on it,” Lovell explained. “So when he sent me that bit, he wrote me a little letter, talking about how close he was with his grandpa and what it means.”
That personal connection with his clients is an aspect that drives Guillory in his pursuit to make the best cowboy gear he can. He’s had opportunities to mass-produce his product but, so far, he has no interest in it.
“I can’t connect to it like that,” Guillory said. “So we talk about things, and we share some stories and then it moves on from there.”
Good stories are what inspired Guillory to start building for the working ranch and cowboy crowd, which, in the last few years, has caught the attention of ropers. He has a robust, varied, and often elite client list, but he remains deeply rooted in tradition, with a sincere appreciation for cowboy cred.
“About 20 years ago, a friend said to me, ‘I’m going to take you to meet John Israel.’ I went to his shop in Hominy, Oklahoma (here in Louisiana, there wasn’t nobody to go see), and he opened his door to me. John’s in his 80s now, and he’s in the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum. It was nothing of a shop, but he’s a legend. He was one of those guys that they’d say would show up at a cutting with a horse loaded in the back of his truck, and end up winning the whole deal. He’s my hero.”
Guillory points out that, side-by-side, his works and Israel’s won’t reveal much comparison—Guillory sank his teeth into the works of iconic maker Adolph Bayers for product inspiration—but he aspires to his hero’s ability to live a life that speaks for itself, especially when it comes to his work.
According to Lovell, it’s a goal already attained.
“His work means so much to him that the craftsmanship that goes into it, really, it’s an art,” said Lovell, who now owns multiple pieces from the maker. “I have one or two people that I really trust to make spurs and bridles and, when you get something like that, you cherish it. You pack it around. You want people to see it.
“You don’t hook a Toyota up to a living quarters trailer,” Lovell continued, using the metaphor to help explain the worth of Guillory’s work. “The time that he takes to put the craftsmanship into his bridle, the way it forms the horse’s mouth and the weight and the balance in it, and the way it leads up the reins into your hand. The horse knows where you are the whole time you’re riding and, you know, it’s hard to find that in a bit nowadays. His work is above and beyond.”
Metaphors aside, Guillory’s bits start at $1,250 and come with a wait, but in addition to premium customer care and hand-forged functionality, they also feature intricate, eye-catching silverwork.
“Everything has to flow,” the maker posited. “This might sound crazy, but it’s like bodybuilding in a way: Everything has to flow and to move right. It has to be easy on the eyes, and that transforms your silverwork. When you’re building something, you’ve got to be thinking about your silverwork also.”
A significant part of Guillory’s operation and the reason he can afford to commit such care to his clients and product is the support he gets from his partner of seven years, Kathleen “Cee C.” Elliot.
“She really deserves a lot of credit for supporting me,” Guillory affirmed. “From billing to cooking meals and running the house, she’s a big part of what I’m able to do.”
When Guillory’s clients receive their product—be it an intricately designed correction bit, a signature solid bit made to last generations, or a set of his traditionalist one-piece spurs—they can also count on that product to be a part of a story, a heritage.
“My spurs,” Guillory said, as an example, “I used to build them out of track pins from dozers but, now, they’re very hard to get, so I started using some old plow bolts. And now, you know what, they’re going to be passed onto another generation. And, it’s not about recycling. It’s about carrying on a tradition.
“That’s what life is about,” Guillory added. “I think life’s about the stories because, when we get old, we’re gonna tell our grandkids our stories, or our friends. I think lots about stories.”
To build your own custom story, check out JB Guillory on Facebook or at @spursandbits on Instagram.