Forrie Smith fell off a horse in front of his mom and step dad when he was 6 and proclaimed that he was going to […]
Art of Rodeo: Circle M Custom Hides
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
What started out as a way to support their horse addiction has turned into a full-time business for an Arizona family. Melanie Edwards of Buckeye, Arizona, and her daughter, Doskie Edwards of Casa Grande, Arizona, are the mastermind artisans behind the sassy signature styles of Circle M Custom Hides. This mother-daughter-duo spends many hours creating custom leather creations, whether it be luscious purses that would make a statement on any western runway, or into a bridle/ breast collar set that has their horses looking like the best dressed equine in the alley. It all began 12 years ago, when Melanie was competing along with her three daughters, Megan, Courtney, and Doskie, in 4D barrel race jackpots. “It was a lot of money just for all the entry fees, then of course the girls would want new tack for their horses, and I just flat couldn’t afford to spend money on tack that wasn’t even made of good leather; and the quality stuff I really liked was way overpriced. I had dabbled in leatherwork before, so I started embellishing what we already had. Imagine my surprise when people started buying my used pieces, literally off my horses’ back.” And, so the seed was planted. “We wanted to offer tack that was made well in addition to being rustic and unique,” explained Melanie.
By making cowhide rugs and fulfilling their own desires for quality original tack that would hold up to competition and use, a business was born that not only supported the passion the Edwards’ had for their horses, but also fed their creative fires as they developed new skills to continue producing items that stood out. “The city of Phoenix offered a jewelry making class, and Doskie and I took the class so we could learn more about soldering and jewelry making. We learned skills that helped us create our own buckles and conchos that are used in our completely handcrafted products.” With every detail of each item they make customized to their own liking, the Edwards really prefer to consider their equine creations “horse jewelry” rather than tack. And each piece with its truly one-of-a-kind embellishment is perfect for special occasions and events. Besides their horse products, they are also well-known for their one-of-a-kind purses, belts, and dog collars.
One of the dog collars you’ll find on their website, www.circlemleather.com is called the “Charlie collar,” which Melanie created 10 years ago as a gift for Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. “I loved reading her blogs every morning with my coffee and just decided to make a collar for her Basset Hound, Charlie. I sent it to her with a letter, not really expecting to hear anything back. Little did I know, Ree had posted it online, and our computer went crazy! The next morning my email was flooded with inquiries about the collar, and we are still making the Charlie collar after all these years!” Many creations made are never advertised before being sold, and although they try their best to update their website and Facebook page, Circle M Custom Hides, it is impossible to show all that they do. Besides their leather work, they also carry a full line of Dutton bits and spurs, which they embellish to make special awards or gifts. They are also a dealer for Iconoclast boots. “It is hard to keep up with making sure the website is completely updated with all we are doing, because I work in manufacturing, purchasing, bookkeeping, as well as being a wife, mother, and horse rider!”
Melanie was your typical horse crazy girl, toting Breyer horses to school and starting with an ornery Shetland pony named Candy and she’s ridden her entire life. As she grew up, she competed in gymkhanas, but most of her horseback miles were racked up on desert trails. Married in 1988, Melanie and her husband, Paul Edwards, enjoyed their horses together. Melanie rode horses till just before the birth of each of their children. Besides the three daughters, they have a son, Craig, who lives just a mile down the road from them with his wife Nikki and daughter, Mary. “When each of the kids were little, they would ride in a backpack with me; as they got bigger, I could pony them along on a lead line, until they were finally old enough to ride alone.” Paul recently retired from his family trucking business, Edwards Brothers Trucking, and while he enjoys trail riding and has been supportive of all the horse activities the family was involved in, his passion has always been in the horsepower of old vehicles and tractors. “My husband always joked that I better not break our family with my horse obsession, but the leather hobby turned into a business, so it was perfect.” Melanie began competing alongside her daughters while they were attending the barrel racing jackpots, and currently still rides at least three times a week, and enters Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association rodeos when she can. “We’re not any top-notch rodeo people, but we love the people and rodeo and being a part of this life.”
Doskie remembers staying up late one night when she was about 16 years old and helping her mom work on adding crystals to some tack sets she was working on. “I remember her taking the tack in to the local feed store in Casa Grande, Arizona and when she came back, she handed me some money for helping her finish the orders. I thought that was a pretty cool way to make some money and have been working on orders ever since!” Doing double duty in her own shop as well as her mother’s, Doskie says she likes looking at vintage tack and even clothing for inspiration when coming up with new designs. “I’m not afraid to try creating something different, and I make things I think are cool, and hopefully someone else thinks it is cool too. I really look forward to setting up our booth in Vegas each year and seeing all the other vendors again; we are like a bunch of rodeo carnies, traveling the roads with our goods.” Doskie is as enthralled with her horses as her mom and is extremely proud of the babies she raises. Her main three horses she rides and has consistently running in the 1D, are Peanut, Bailey, and FX. “Peanut is a 12-year-old sorrel gelding with a flaxen mane and tail, and he’s huge, not much of a peanut at all. He is my everything horse; the first one I raised from birth and trained myself, and I just love him.” Doskie has had two major horse accidents where she had to be medi-flighted by helicopter to the hospital but has not let that deter her from riding. She is hopeful that next year will be a great year of competition in the GCPRA and WPRA with her beloved horses.
For the past 9 Decembers, Circle M Custom Hides has made the trek to Las Vegas, Nevada to display and sell their wares at the Southpoint Hotel and Casino during the WNFR’s Cowboy Christmas. “We love going to the NFR and showing all that we’ve been up to. People are always so surprised because there is not two of anything in our booth, we don’t make the same thing over and over, unless someone places a custom order for multiple items, such as awards, otherwise you won’t see a repeat. So, people always enjoy coming into our booth each year and seeing new things and knowing that they are one-of-a-kind creations. Doskie is so artistically talented and comes up with so many ideas of her own. Our tastes really complement each other, and we love sharing the quality items we produce. We guarantee everything we sell, and we are picky about what we do and how we do it. That’s part of the reason we have stayed smaller because we want control over every piece we produce.” Brent Giblin of BG Custom Silver works with Circle M, “Brent creates stunning jewelry, and he does a lot of cutting and piercing of metals used for our products. He is so good at what he does, it’s truly an art.”
Each year begins with a plan of making a certain amount of inventory each month, so that by December they will be able to fill their 10 X 30 booth in Las Vegas. The few months prior to the NFR is like crunch-time for Doskie and Melanie. Doskie explained, “We really have to hustle to crack things out before we get to Vegas, and I’m always creating things thinking of what would be good to have there at the NFR. Truth is we don’t get a lot of guys that rope coming to buy our tack, but we do get a lot of chick ropers and barrel racers that want to make as much of a statement with their looks as we do.”
Circle M Custom Hides started out as a means to an end for the Edwards family, but has turned in to a source of expression and creativity they didn’t initially expect. They are proud to use Herman Oak Harness leather from the United States of America for the base of all of their tack. They invite you to check them out and give them a chance to set you apart with one of their custom creations. If you’re in Vegas this December, stop by and tell them hello!