Webb’s work in leather garners top state honors

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By Alex Wimsatt

 BELMONT - In all the years the local farmer, taxidermist and craftsman Joshua Webb had never entered anything in the Kentucky State Fair.

That is until this year. 

Having never entered anything in the fair before, Webb was shocked when the leather saddle he spent months on took home not only first place, but best in show in the leather craft division. 

What’s more, Webb, 31, had made less than a dozen small leather pieces before he began the daunting task of crafting a saddle last year. 

It was only a couple years ago that Webb became interested in leather working. 

“I don’t know what it is,” Webb said of his passion for leather working. “It’s interesting. There’s really no limit to what you can do with leather. The only limit is your imagination.”

Webb, who is a professional taxidermist, said he has always had an eye for detail and while that quality leant to his fascination with leather working, he said his first interest in leather working was out of necessity. 

“Before I go out and buy something I’m gonna try to make it myself first,” Webb said. 

Necessity also provided the inspiration for Webb’s award winning saddle. 

As an avid rider, Webb treasured the saddle passed down to him by his great-grandfather, but when it was trampled by a horse last year he needed a new one. 

Webb had considered making his own saddle since he first took up leather working, so when his old saddle was destroyed he decided to go for it. 

He wasn’t sure what he was in for, after all before the saddle the only leather items Webb crafted were chaps, gun holsters, scabbards and cell phone cases. 

Webb worked on the 30-pound saddle in his dining room from the fall of 2011 until the spring of 2012. 

It took six months to build the saddle from its base frame, or tree.

As Webb explained, building a saddle is a lengthy process that starts with cutting hide to cover the tree. The hide must be cut precisely with strategically placed patterns. The leather is then treated until it becomes pliable. The leather is shaped around the tree and when it dries it hardens in the shape of the base. 

Then comes the tedious task of stitching, tacking, stamping, tooling and staining, which Webb said is the most time consuming. 

Webb said overall he was pleased with the saddle, but as someone who pays attention to the smallest details he couldn’t help but notice small imperfections. 

“A lot of people said it was the prettiest saddle they’d ever seen,” Webb said, adding that dealers have told him the saddle was worth at least $3,000 and many quoted much more. 

Webb has received several offers on the saddle, but he said he couldn’t part with it.

He hadn’t even considered entering it in the fair. As a matter of fact he was riding the saddle before he decided to enter it in the fair after his sister posted a photo of it on Facebook. 

 “Everyone told me I should enter it,” he said. “I thought I’ll put it in there and see what happens.”

Webb said when he entered the saddle he figured it would be hard to beat, but he had no idea it would win best in show. 

“You never know how those things are gonna go,” he said. “I figured it’d get a ribbon, but I didn’t know it would be the best.”

Webb said the funniest thing about his win was the fact that he had dreamed about it a couple days before he found out about it. 

In his dream he didn’t notice the bridle he entered, but he saw a blue ribbon on the leather chest strap he entered and a best in show ribbon on his saddle.  

Turned out the bridle didn’t place, the chest strap won a blue ribbon and the saddle won best in show. 

In addition to ribbons and cash prizes for his win, Webb received a gold, silver and copper plated swivel knife for leather working. 

He plans to enter next year and he encouraged others to enter as well. 

To find out more about Webb’s handiwork for purchase visit belmontfarmky.weebly.com.