Traditional Cowboy Arts: Beau Compton
TCAA Artist and team roper Beau Compton looks forward in his silver shop and the roping arena.

In 2017, Beau Compton was welcomed into the folds of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, an organization which serves to preserve traditional cowboy craftsmanship of the North American West, such as saddlemaking, bit and spur making, silversmithing and rawhide braiding. And when the 15 (or so) chosen cowboy craftsmen present their works at the famed Cowboy Crossings exhibition each October at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, it’s essentially the NFR of cowboy artistry.

Compton takes the work seriously.

“I spend six months out of my year creating for the TCAA,” he explained.

Courtesy of Beau Compton and Western Heritage Museum/Traditional Cowboy Arts Association

That’s six months of work in addition to the custom work Compton provides for his clients at Beau Compton Silver, where he produces one-of-a-kind pieces like belt buckles and wedding rings.

“For the TCAA,” Compton allowed, “every year we have to produce three of the best pieces we possibly can. I love that, because I get to create what I want. It’s totally up to me, whatever I can imagine. But as far as more normal days, I enjoy building buckles. That’s probably my favorite thing to make day in and day out.”

Compton, who grew up ranching and rodeoing in Colorado as the son of the PRCA’s Kenny and Sherry Compton, headed to college in Arizona, where a mentor introduced him to silversmithing.

“I really like the engraving side of the silver in that it’s easy to create with,” said Compton, speaking of his preference for silver over bit and spur making. “I wasn’t a big fan of all the black steel. So that’s kind of the reason I chose to pursue silver.”

Compton’s penchant for the engraving may speak to his upbringing. In addition to being raised in rodeo, he also credits his family for his artistic roots.

“Growing up I always drew,” he said. “Both of my parents were pretty good artists and my grandfather also. They all sketched and painted and stuff, so I did come from artists. I was always drawing something, even as a kid, so it was an easy transition for me as far as the design.”

By design, Compton is referring to the creation of the idea, well before silver comes into the picture.

“You put everything down on paper first.” he said. “All your ideas. All your sketches. If you can’t do it on paper, there’s no way you’re going to create it in silver.

“So, I will spend hours designing. Some of my big projects for the TCAA, I’ll spend two weeks just sketching different things, looking at it, and redoing it, so there’s a lot of time spent just looking over different ideas and sketches on paper before I ever dive into it a project. That’s kind of the starting point—trying to refine my design.”

It’s a time-intensive endeavor, for sure—one that relegates Compton to his shop six, even seven, days a week. The build time on a standard custom buckle, for instance, averages three or four days, but given the demand for Compton’s pieces, customers should anticipate a three- or fourth-month wait. Still, his devotion to his craft has steep competition from another priority: his family.

“I don’t want to take time away from them,” Compton asserted. “I spend as much time as I possibly can right now. I definitely make time to spend with them.”

Much of that time comes to fruition in the roping pen, where Compton prepares with his kids—Zane, 13, and Macy, 9—for junior rodeo events, while also bringing along a young horse his wife Marlo’s father, Fred Davis, had raised and gave to Compton a few years ago.

Courtesy of Beau Compton and Western Heritage Museum/Traditional Cowboy Arts Association

“He’s finally getting pretty darn good,” Compton said of his up-and-coming head horse. “I’m excited. Maybe I’ll start going a little more now.”

In addition to training a green horse, however, Compton’s roping aspirations remain focused on enjoying his family and giving his kids the opportunity to succeed in the arena.

“My goals are just to have fun with my kids. To rope good enough at the junior rodeos is kind of my goal right now,” he added, laughing.

Compton’s focus on the next generation may be what makes him such a great fit for the TCAA, which also keeps a missioned eye on the next generations.

“A big part of the TCAA is education and passing it on to the future generations,” Compton said. “It’s all about telling the story of the West from past to future. That’s my focus right now being a member of the TCAA: Educating and training people and working on getting better every year. My goal [in silver] is to do the best work that I can do and challenging myself not to get [complacent] in furthering Western silversmithing.” 

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