Tamra Griffey isn’t a roper herself, but she makes rope cans that will stop a roper in her fast-time tracks.
“I love rope cans simply because they’re just a giant piece of canvas that you can just go wild with. And because of the thickness of the leather that you put on a rope can—it makes for a nice deep design.”
Griffey is the owner-operator-artist behind her company, ArteVae Designs.
“Arte is Latin for artist and then my mom’s middle name was Vae and my daughter’s middle name is Vae,” Griffey said of her brand’s naming origins. “My mom was an artist and she passed away when I was 18, from a brain tumor. And my daughter is very artistic, too. She can make some amazing leather items, but she has a full-time job but just can’t find time for it.”
Griffey, too, once had a full-time job, but as her passion for leatherwork grew, so too did the challenge of trying to make time for all of it.
“My mom was a leather tooler and [when] she passed away … I inherited the tools and I piddled with things. So, I’ve probably been tooling 30 years. I had a full-time job and it started getting to the point where I was taking orders and working all night on leather orders in the evening and it was like, one’s going to have to give.”
At her husband Jeff’s suggestion, Griffey left her conventional job and began building her career in her shop, adding metalsmithing to her skillset.
“I went to metalsmith class—it’s probably been about seven or eight years ago—just because you want to add high-quality metal to your leather. You’ve spent so many hours on a leather project and then you don't want to put a cheap concho on it or something. But I’ve never incorporated that together very much, so that was my goal … to add the silver to the leather.
“It hasn’t gone that direction so far,” Griffey continued, “[but] I just like creating. Designing is fun. It’s a challenge every day. It’s probably like an addiction, I would say. You get a high from creating a new piece.”
In addition to the rope cans that breakaway ropers are ordering from ArteVae, Griffey has also found her leather and metalwork in high demand within the Western wedding industry. After joining other vendors for a $10,000 Western wedding giveaway that was won by none other than the Cowboy Channel’s Western Sports Reporter Amy Wilson and her horse trainer fiancé, Cole Cameron, Griffey’s wedding work will now be featured in Western Wedding Magazine.
“Right now, I probably have 40 orders of weddings and they range from in the next few weeks into next December. So, I try to schedule my calendar for that.”
Outside the shop, Griffey and her family are competitive in pattern horse racing championships, but, thanks to Covid-19, Jeff and her daughter have turned their eyes toward team roping.
Rope can by ArteVae featuring painted cacti and sunflowers.
Rope can by ArteVae in the tooling process.
Completed rope can by ArteVae featuring a wily calf.
“All of our shows were canceled and we had to come up with something else with the horses so, picked up team roping and they’re obsessed with it now.”
The transition works well for Griffey, who grew up barrel racing and hauling around with one of the NFR’s favorite sexagenarians, June Holeman.
“Rodeo people are finding me. I’ve done a lot of NFR back numbers for contestants and horses and I love those people finding me and being in the rodeo part.”