JOHN DAY - Leather doesn't make itself into beautiful handmade bags, purses and saddles. Just ask Clair Mullin. If they did, she wouldn't have much of a job.
Mullin, who owns Clair's Saddle Shop, is the artist of the month at FirstBank, and makes handmade, made-to-order leather apparel and saddles, as well as mirrors and day planners. She also makes chinks, a type of chaps.
Mullin's shop is just east of John Day on the way to Prairie City.
Mullin, a 2002 graduate of Grant Union High School, attended a two-year saddle making school in Spokane, Wash. She was a member of the last class to graduate from the school before it closed.
After attending saddle-making school, she apprenticed with Randy Severe in Pendleton for a little while. He and Tom Berry, a local saddlemaker here in Grant County, were very helpful at the beginning of her career.
Mullin travels around the state doing shows and selling saddles and other items she makes. On many of her trips, she receives custom orders for items.
While she was at the Fourth of July rodeo in St. Paul, she received several fun custom orders. One order was for custom-made Juniper furniture with tooled leather applique. For this order, she will work with Chuck Holliday, a custom furniture maker from Prineville.
Saddle-making is no easy task.
"It's not easy," she said. "If it was easy, everybody would do it."
Mullin is happy with her career choice.
"It's rewarding to put that much work into something and have a finished product at the end," Mullin said.
The simplest saddle, with little or no tooling of the leather, takes about two weeks to make. As the tooling becomes more detailed, the process becomes longer.
Mullin also does watercolor paintings, and sells them.
Her work is on display at First Bank on Main Street. Everything there is for sale.
To contact Mullin, call 620-1634.