If you watched the Wrangler NFR 2014 and 2017 team roping, then you remember seeing the last name of Richards. That Richards would be Tom Richards and the belt he was likely to be sporting was built by his now wife of two years, RaShel.
RaShel Richards, 30, who is an active team roper herself, never worked on leather before her husband and ProRodeo contestant Tom picked up some leatherwork tools from their friend, Denton Payne, who owns Denton Payne Custom Leather.
“Tom got some tools from Denton and figured some of the basics out and was making us bracelets and things like that,” said RaShel, who lives in Humboldt, Arizona, with Tom and 18-month-old baby girl, Jayd. “He was going to leave for the summer to go rodeo and I was like, ‘Can you just leave your tools with me and I’ll figure it out?’”
She did just that. Before Tom left for the summer run, he taught RaShel what he knew about tooling and RaShel took off with the basics, studied videos on YouTube and began building cuffs and bracelets for family and friends.
“I knew what I wanted my stuff to look like, so I kept moving around with stuff like that,” RaShel said. “I just YouTubed everything. I haven’t really gone to anyone else. I did use somebody pretty regularly. I liked his style on YouTube, which is John Gonzales. He is a saddle maker. I don’t even know who he is, but I just like his stuff. I just got better and kept going.”
While RaShel—whose work now includes belts, wallets, chinks and more—was working to improve her leatherwork, she was still working at the pawn shop owned by her parents, Gilbert and Michelle Garside.
“My mom let me pound on leather while I worked,” RaShel said.
The bulk of RaShel’s leather orders are custom belts, which she enjoys making the most because she feels they have the most meaning to her clients.
“A lot of people want their initials, which has a lot of meaning. Brands mean a lot to people and getting to put their awesome buckles, or their grandpas’ buckles on them—they just have a lot more meaning. It’s just really fun to capture young kids at that time what they want and put it on something that they’ll probably have forever.”
RaShel keeps her hands full with her daughter and roping while continuing to build custom pieces for customers as a hobby instead of a business.
“Most of the people know me or see it on Facebook and Instagram, or people that wear them,” she said. “The Western industry is so close that people just find out and like your style and call you.”