Joseph Stanek


Joseph grew up in the Bitterroot Valley forty miles south of Missoula, Montana on a small family ranch, working with horses and cows. In his father’s library, he would spend time reading leather repair and rawhide making books. “I liked looking at the pictures, figuring out how thing worked, and got put together.” At eight years old he joined 4-H and took an interest in leather crafting, where he received instruction from a neighbor named Martha of Martha’s leather and crafted items for himself and family. Wanting good cowboy gear as he grew up, but knowing it was expensive, he decided to learn one of the crafts associated with cowboy gear, make extra, and thought he could trade for other items he didn’t have. A friend suggested that he pickup rawhide because there were a lot of good leather crafters, saddle makers, and bit and spur makers in the valley, but rawhide braiders were needed. The part of the journey began about five years ago with the desire to make good products. Self-taught the learning curve was steep and a lot of trial and error. Making his own rawhide he ruined a few projects and remade them until he was satisfied. By attending workshops and rawhide gathering rubbing shoulders with other rawhide braiders.  Joe is always learning and developing his own style. His hands-on working with hides has helped him develop the multi-coloring he attains in his craft. No dyeing is needed. To him braiding is math without numbers. You must figure out the pattern and rhythm of it. Time is at a premium with working construction full time and a husband and father of three children. Always looking for ways to improve, he strives to lean more towards artistic rather than production. And of course function is important too, if a product can’t do what it is designed to do, what good is it.  He loves the camaraderie between braiders and the challenge of doing things in a new way. Working with his hands in rawhiding, helps keeps him connected to the art of braiding and the tools needed for the cowboy lifestyle. “I enjoy being close enough to my family, that whenever they need help with the ranch, I can be there for them. Or just saddling a horse to help friends work cows.   It’s something most folks don’t even get a chance to experience. If they could, they would just fall head over heels for it. I feel very fortunate just to be able to touch it.”