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Craftsmen

Casper – It all starts with some microscopic beads, heavy-duty thread, a loom and an idea. Several days later, it is a work of art. For Kailey Simms, it is relaxing to create unique beadwork gifts for clients, family and friends.

Like most young women, Simms’ interest in beadwork stemmed from a desire for a one-of-a-kind item that was too expensive for her to buy.

“It all started because I really wanted a beaded belt,” Simms says of her venture into beadwork three years ago.

“I loved how those belts look. I thought they were just gorgeous, but I didn’t want to spend $300 to $500 to get one,” she says.

Starting out

A trip to Hobby Lobby produced some beads and a loom, and she went home and taught herself the craft.

“I never took any formal training, it was just mostly a lot of trial and error. When I would get stuck, I would look things up on the internet and YouTube until I figured it out on my own,” she explained.

Simms started out big.

“My first project was that belt I wanted so much,” she says. “When I finished it, the beads were a little bit wobbly and it wasn’t perfect, but it saved me a lot of money, and I’m so proud of it.”

In the last three years, she has made phenomenal progress with her work. Now she makes bracelets, hatbands, headbands and belts for clients, family and friends. She can also make horse tack, like beaded bridles and headstalls.

Starting a business

To market her designs, Simms started a small company, Double Twisted K Beadwork, which can be found on Facebook.

“Most of my work comes from word-of-mouth or from my Facebook page. I don’t market it anyplace, but I am in the process of building a website,” she says.

Simms develops her intriguing designs from things she sees that inspire her.

“Some of my best ideas came from my geometry class,” she recalls. “I like how the shapes and patterns all work together.”

She also has a beading program on her computer to help finalize her designs, and determine which colors look best together.

Custom work

Most of the beadwork is custom, so Simms’ customers also give her some input into what they would like.

“Because it is expensive, customers usually want me to make something unique and something that is designed just for them,” she says. “As I make these items, I really enjoy seeing my clients’ personalities come out in the patterns.”

Although she hasn’t been commissioned for a really unique item, Simms has made some items with very unique patterns.

“I had a friend who requested a belt in eight different colors of beads,” she recalled. “I thought it looked a little wild, but it had an intricate design. It was actually pretty neat when I finished it.”

Beading projects

These belts can take anywhere from three days to a week to finish, depending on how complex the pattern is.

“Beadwork is very time consuming and tedious, and lots of people ask me how I can stand to do it, but I have found that I really enjoy it,” she comments.

Simms works with a local leather worker, Lee of 37 Custom Leather in Casper, who does the tooling and carving on the belts after she finishes the beadwork.

“The belts look really nice when he is done,” she says.

A look to the future

While she’s continually working on new projects, Simms is also finishing up an education degree through Western Governor’s University and substitute teaching full-time. Eventually, she hopes to become an elementary school teacher.

Because of her love for children, Simms readily contributes to children’s causes. Two of her more recent projects were belts for Fight Like a Kid, and the Make a Wish Foundation.

“Two amazing kids who are fighting cancer had a rodeo put on for them, and I was asked to make two very special belts for these children,” she says. “The best part is that I was able to do this at no cost. It is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and I was very honored to be asked to do it.”

Working together

Kailey Simms of Double Twisted K Beadwork recently wed Cody Simms, who is also a craftsman.

Cody enjoys welding and makes horseshoe tables in his spare time. These tables are a unique design that he would construct alongside his grandfather, Melvin Simms.

“His grandfather taught him to weld, and they would build these tables together. It is a project that is near and dear to his heart,” Kailey said.

Cody also makes different types of frames from barn wood. In their own home, he made a custom frame around their television. The frames can also be used for mirrors and pictures.

With the unique talents of this couple, they hope to one day open a small store in Casper, where they make their home.

“It is a dream of ours to open a store where we can sell the things we make,” Kailey says.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When Barb Freeman goes to a trade show, she arrives with a carload of horses – stuffed ones that is. Her trade show displays are filled with large and small horses with every type of outfit she can make. Some are designed for cowboys and cowgirls, while other horses sport fun, vibrant dresses. 

At Horses Galore and More, Freeman has a horse that will appeal to everyone.

Starting out

Freeman’s first horse doll took shape 25 years ago as her small daughters sat under her sewing table and played. Sewing has always appealed to Freeman, who started making items when she was just 12.

“I started out making gifts for my family,” she says. “Then, friends would ask me to make something for them. It blossomed from there.”

Over the years, sewing was a good fit for the military wife, whose husband was gone for periods of time.

“I work full-time now, so making the horses is good therapy for me. My husband has passed away, so it gives me something to look forward to in the evenings,” she says.

Personalizing the pattern

Freeman uses a McCall’s pattern she purchased 28 years ago to make the horse dolls.

“I have tweaked the pattern and changed it to create different sizes,” she explains. “I have also changed the hair on the horses and the dress styles. I recycle old blue jeans to make the boys’ outfits and use several different types of fabrics for the girls’. There are no two alike.”

One horse takes her about four hours to make from start to finish.

Freeman is also licensed to use the Wyoming bucking horse logo on the outfits of her horses, and she has found those to be her best sellers.

“I can hardly keep those in stock,” she says.

It is also her favorite doll to make.

Although it’s more difficult to sew, Freeman uses leather-type and vinyl-feel fabrics for some of the clothing for the horses.

“I like using different fabrics because it differentiates them from each other,” she says. “I like to come up with new ideas and different yarns for the mane and tail to make them look different.”

Although many of the horses have a western theme, some are made from fun, little-girl type fabrics for children and adults who aren’t into the western way of life.

Wyoming ag business

Horses are big business in Wyoming, and Freeman feels her horses are an ideal item for her to make and sell. She sells the horse dolls through word-of-mouth, rodeos, horse events and trade shows.

She also attends a few craft fairs in Douglas and Casper. Depending upon which craft shows she plans to attend, Freeman makes other animal dolls to sell, like moose and lambs.

The crafter also donates horses to each trade show she attends and to several charities and youth groups. Amongst those are the College National Rodeo Finals, the Intercollegiate National Rodeo Fund for injured rodeo athletes, Toys for Tots and Make-A-Wish.

Global reach

Because of the military, Freeman says she has horses all over the world.

“We lived in Germany for awhile,” she explains. “We also lived in Kansas and Texas. Because we moved around a lot, I have horses everywhere.”

She also sold several horses and lambs during the Sheep Dog Trials in Kaycee.

“The judges were from New Zealand, and their wives were buying them to send back home,” she says.

The small business has been a great supplement to her income, in addition to being something she enjoys.

“It gives me something to do in the evenings,” she says. “It is also fun because I never know how they are going to look when they are done.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sundance —A young Sundance couple has created a successful business in the last two years allowing them to live where they want while helping on the family ranch.            Redwater Welding is located east of Sundance and is owned and operated by Colter and Sarah Ellsbury.
Both in their early 20s, Colter and Sarah each received an associates degree at Sheridan College. Now married for a year and a half, they’re expecting a baby boy in March.
“Originally when I got out of college I was working and helping Dad ranch when I could. I decided to start this business because I got sick of dirt work and construction and that end of it. I was going to work for Dad and do the welding part-time, but it got to the point where the welding just took off,” explains Colter.
In the beginning Colter expected the business to be more repair oriented and the number of manufacturing jobs came as a surprise. He still does repair work and has the capabilities to do portable jobs, but concentrates on manufacturing where he can be in the shop completing projects.
“I build a lot of cattle guards, aluminum fuel transfer tanks and a lot of miscellaneous stuff,” says Colter, adding that last summer he also built several trash dumpsters.
“I have a very large customer base. If I wasn’t aware of all the different potential customers I wouldn’t have nearly the amount of work I do,” he says, adding that repeat customers are a large percentage of his business today. If a customer is happy they spread the word, leading to another call. Colter and Sarah say satisfying customers is a very rewarding aspect of owning the business.
Redwater Welding’s customer base includes federal, state, county and local clients. Taking the time to attend monthly Contractors Association meetings, bid lettings and putting in bids for big state jobs are things the Ellsburys feel have added to their success.
“I travel somewhere every month. The best way to get work is to get out there and meet people and tell them what you do. Something always comes from that,” says Colter.
Redwater Welding has to bid almost every potential job Colter finds. If his bid is chosen he is responsible for building everything to a specific code. He explains that a lot of time is spent reading and following up on numbers to ensure everything is done to an exact standard.
“I have speck books and detailed drawings I have to go by. Everything has to be exact and I have to fill out a lot of paperwork. I’ve been pretty stressed at times over some state deals. It gets down to the exact paint and it has to be certified. If it doesn’t work out I am liable, and I in turn get a letter from my paint supplier saying the paint is to speck, so I can call him if there are any problems.”
Colter and Sarah both say the most difficult part of starting your own business is the financial commitment.
“The hardest part is the upfront cost of everything and being willing to take that risk. I’m in a business where 80 percent of my costs are materials, so I have a lot of up front costs for each job I bid,” explains Colter.
The couple credits a good banker and lots of family support to their successful start. Colter rents a shop from his brother and his dad helps when things get really busy. In turn he and Sarah are able to help with ranch work and also sell Loomix with Colter’s dad.
One future goal Colter and Sarah have for Redwater Welding is to be able to purchase materials and fabricate during the slower winter months.
“My plan is to have everything built in the winter and sit on it so it’s readily available in the spring and summer. A big selling point on a lot of stuff is to have it built and ready to go the next day,” says Colter.
Both Colter and Sarah have been surprised at the success of Redwater Welding and admit that 2009 exceeded their expectations. They are hoping for another successful year in 2010 and are working hard to make sure it happens.
“Being your own boss and having flexibility is the best part. Being able to help your family is very rewarding too,” says Colter.
“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I know that’s been very rewarding and it’s brought in more business and helped us meet a lot of people,” adds Sarah.
“I don’t like sticking my neck out, but I’ve had to do it a lot and it’s paid off,” states Colter. He says that owning the business hasn’t been what he thought it would be, but that he really enjoys it and is looking forward to watching it grow and improve over the years to come.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Casper – Don Pavack needed a good knife when he was working for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department in California, so he asked a friend to make him one, and he came back with a piece of steel.
    “My friend said, ‘If you don’t like it, make your own,’” says Pavack.
    Pavack has achieved that goal, and has been building custom knives for a variety of uses ever since.
    Pavack crafts his knives from scratch, starting with a template based on the type of knife he plans to make.
    “I decide what I’m going to make, get a piece of steel and put the profile on it,” he says. “I lay out the dimensions, cut it out with a band saw and figure out the handle holes.”
    He then hollow grinds the blade and works it as far as he can on machines, using 220- and 600-grain sandpaper before bringing it into his workshop indoors.
    “Then, I use sandpaper and take all the scratches out,” explains Pavack. “I start at 320-grit, go to 400-grit, and I stop at about 600-grit before I put some engraving on them.”
    Pavack notes that engraving a knife depends on the type, as well as its purpose. For wedding gifts, he frequently gives carving knives and inserts both the name and date on the blade engraving; he also does a variety of floral patterns.
    “After I engrave, the next step is getting it heat treated,” says Pavack. “I used to do it all here, but now they cryogenically quench the knives.”
    In the heat-treating process, Pavack explains that the steel is heated to 1,900 degrees and immediately dipped in liquid nitrogen at 375 degrees below zero.
    “It’s better than the way I did it,” adds Pavack, mentioning that he wants to ensure his product is high quality.
    Pavack finishes the engraving and sands the blade further.
    “I’ll work the whole thing down to 1,500-grit after I get the engraving done,” comments Pavack. “It gives me a polished surface.”
    Pavack also crafts the handles by hand, utilizing a variety of different materials ranging from sheep horn to camel bone, a variety of woods and ivories.
    “I use different woods, dyed camel bone, mother of pearl, gold lip mother of pearl, ivory, turquoise, amber, deer horn, oosik and other things,” says Pavack, noting that some materials are much easier to work with than others.
    He is also able to insert various gold pieces into the handles, resulting in ornate knives.
    Building knives is a time-intensive process, requiring between 60 and 120 hours or more per knife.
    “A straight-bladed hunting or carving knife takes a long time to sand and it takes longer to lay the pattern out for the engraving because there is more blade,” explains Pavack. “In regard to the folding knives, there are more pieces and parts. There are no store-bought parts except for the screws.”
    With very detailed engraving, he notes that an individual knife can take much longer to finish.
    “Everything starts as a flat bar of steel or a piece of wood,” says Pavack.
    Aside from building just knives, Pavack has created horse bits, horseshoe art, coat racks and hat racks.
    Bits are built on demand because the market isn’t as high. Occasionally he receives a request to duplicate a bit, and Pavack is able to meet those requests. Bits are sent to a bluer in Glenrock to have them treated, similar to a gun barrel, before inlaying them with silver.
    Beyond building a custom knife, Pavack looks for ways to improve the uses of his knives to help the ranchers around him.
    “At branding time, ranchers have a castration knife that they stop and sharpen all the time,” explains Pavack. “When I first moved here, I had a guy ask me to make him a good castration knife, and he was very happy. The steel I use is designed to better hold an edge.”
    He also developed a magnetic bracelet and knife without a handle for ranchers to use, saying that it’s much easier than throwing the knife into a bucket of disinfectant or sticking it in your mouth.
    A good knife can save time in the long run and makes things easier, according to Pavack.
    He adds, “Hunters put $1,000 to $1,500 into a rifle, $600 into a scope, some money in a sling and lots of money into ammo and reloading, and the rifle get used for maybe 10 seconds. Then they use their knife for hours, but they won’t spend any money one. It doesn’t make sense.”
    Pavack continues, “I’ve hunted all my life and I needed a good knife that would survive through two or three deer and a couple of elk without having to stop and sharpen it.”
    The knives he builds are able to hold an edge and stay sharp longer.
    Since he moved to Wyoming in 1992, Pavack has primarily built and engraved knives in the winter, working in his hay fields and helping neighbors during the summer. He also sells alfalfa and grass hay, as well as certified hay.
    “The thing about a custom knife is that everyone knows what knife is good for them for hunting or good for ranching,” explains Pavack. “Everyone knows what works for them and what they want, and with a custom knife, they get it.”
    Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pine Bluffs – For cousins and co-owners of Wyoming Malting Company Chad Brown and Gene Purdy, the idea for the company’s creation began approximately five years ago.

“I was brewing beer in Las Vegas, Nev., and Gene came out to visit me,” says Brown. “He asked me if I would work on the farm with him and figure out a value-added product for the farm.”

The company officially completed construction and hosted an open house of their facility on March 17.

“Construction started Sept. 1. They said it would take six months, and it took six months and two weeks,” Brown continues. “The construction process itself was just amazing.”

Malting

Brown explains that the facility for Wyoming Malting Company is 22,500 square feet.

“It has approximately 17,500 square feet of manufacturing or warehouse space and a couple thousand feet of grain cleaning space. Then it’s got about 2,000 square feet of retail and office space,” he says.

Now that the facility has been built, the company is working to install malting equipment.

“We’re installing duct work and the malting drums themselves. We’re waiting on the computer controls to run everything,” comments Brown. “That should be here next week, and it’ll take a couple weeks for installation.”

Brown continues, “If all goes well, we could have a batch of malt in about a month.”

Realistically, Wyoming Malting Company is expecting to officially open at the beginning of May.

Distillery

In addition to the malting side of the company, Brown explains that Wyoming Malting Company is also working on a small distillery.

“The other part of the business is we’re going to have a small on-site distillery, as well. That is a few months out from being in operation, though,” he says, noting that the malting side of the business is the first priority.

According to Brown, the distillery is another opportunity to add value to locally grown crops.

“That goes back to the value-added idea, as well, because this area can not only grow barley, but we also raise  wheat, corn and millet,” continues Brown. “All of those raw cereal grains can be used to make spirits, such as vodka, whiskey and gin.”

Community

“The two main things we can bring to the town are jobs on the actual malting facility  side and through farming,” explains Brown.

As part of their business plan, Wyoming Malting Company plans to add jobs in their local community of Pine Bluffs within the facility.

Their company also plans to start contracting with other local farmers to grow barley.

“With current commodity prices, any opportunity for a farmer to grow something else that is worth more than wheat and corn is selling for is a good thing,” says Brown.

After the company first opens in May, he notes that the number of employees will only be around three, but that the number is expected to dramatically increase as the company grows.

“When we open in May, it’s going to be pretty small, probably about three people,” he comments. “Once we figure out our production and learn more about it, we hope to be up to about five to seven people.”

Brown continues, “Then, in our goal in five years is to have 15 people on site.”

Looking ahead

Keeping an eye toward future growth has been an important priority for Wyoming Malting Company as they’ve built their facility.

“The facility was built with growth in mind, so we have three malting drums now, which will produce about nine tons of malt a week,” explains Brown. “We can add six more malting drums without any more construction to the building.”

He explains that the company’s goal is to triple in size within five to 10  years, which will increase the number of jobs they have available to community members.

“That would add more operations-type jobs. It would require more farmers to grow for us. The building really is built for growth, which we’re excited about,” says Brown.

Similarly, the distilling side of the company is built, so we will be able to expand.

“That side of the business can triple,  as well, without adding more building,” Brown concludes.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..