By Sarina Cliff
People who take faith walks wear a variety of shoes. Some walk in sneakers, some combat boots, sandals or cleats; while some others walk in stilettos, steel toed shoes or cowboy boots. Recently I had an opportunity to interview a woman who walks her faith in cowboy boots. Who is that woman? Her name is Ms. Deana McGuffin of McGuffin Custom Boots located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here is Deana’s story.
SC: What led you to become a boot maker?
DM: A combination of things: I was 30 years old, on the brink of a divorce and didn’t like my job. I was encouraged by my former sister-in-law to learn the art of boot making from my father, who was an amazing craftsman. A man who was able to translate creativity into whatever he was doing. My father was hesitant to teach me because he didn’t think I was serious nor did he think I had the upper body strength to do it. It took a year for him to agree to teach me. It was also a way to get me to return home and to stop nagging him about it. He eventually took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know about boot making. I have been hooked ever since.
SC: What is the most unusual request you have had in creating a boot?
DM: My most unusual request came from a guy in Canada who was a magician. He had an interesting idea for boots, but some how we could never connect on the concept.The strangest boots I have ever made were for me. I have a pair of boots with inlaid skeletons on the front and back. The figures are representational of the skeleton art work celebrating Dios de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. Dios de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico on the 1st of November. It is a celebration of the lives of loved ones who have died. I've always loved the whimsy of the skeleton art. I thought it would be fun to make a pair of boots in that style.
SC: Have you received any other unusual requests?
DM: No, none at this time. It gets a little boring sometimes because most people just want a plain but well made pair of boots. It is refreshing to work on projects with people who have different tastes and want an active part in designing their boots.
SC: What do you like most about the boot making process?
DM: I enjoy doing fancy top work. I get bored with bottoms. I also enjoy teaching boot making. When I get burned out and bored, the excitement of my students reinvigorates me. They encourage my creativity. Another thing that excites me is making boots for my grandkids. I don’t make a lot of children’s boots because they cost as much as an adult’s pair and they grow out of them so quickly. I do really enjoy making boots for my grandkids.
SC: What has been your challenge?
DM: My main challenge has been the business end of owning a business. I am not good at marketing or managing my website. I am an artist and like many artists find the business stuff boring and hard to deal with. Artists often need help in this area. My other challenge has been being a woman in a male dominated industry. When I started making boots in the early 80s, there was one other woman making an entire boot. There have been many women top stitchers all through the years, but none that I know of that made the whole boot. There are still probably fewer than 15 women boot makers in the U.S.
SC: FaithWalk is dedicated to folks who take the road less travelled. What can you say to these people? Or what wisdom from your life can you offer to other travelers?
DM: There is this quote that I remember by Joseph Campbell that says, “Follow Your Bliss.” I think it is important for us not to give up on what we want to do in this life. Sometimes society has a tendency to influence us and to make us think that more money is what is important. Yes money helps. Still I am able to live a life style that is more conducive to me. I have not had to hold down lots of 8-5 jobs. I cannot say it has always been easy. Sometimes money needs come down to the wire. Still I have always had what I needed though it has not always been what I wanted. You've got to have faith – you've got to believe in the universe or whatever God you believe in and know you will be supported. All of us have people in our lives and families who have skills but have not put them to use because of fears. Living your bliss is not easy, but don’t let others tell you – you can’t make a living at what you enjoy. It all boils down to how badly you want to do what you enjoy. Each and every one of us has an artistic ability, a creative side - a gift. It is vital that we stay in touch with our gift. Look around you to see the many people who work a 9-5 to make a living but they hate what they do. I feel sad for those people who don’t love or even like what they do. It just drains the life out of them. I say - follow your bliss - what have you got to lose.
Deana McGuffin is living her bliss in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you would like to learn more about Deana or to have a custom pair of boots made, go to her website mcguffinboots