by Savanna Simmons
Tia Rose Watson could be considered a jack of all trades and master of many. She specializes in making authentic, good-riding ranch horses, working as a brand inspector, and building award-winning, high-quality mohair cinches. The Shepherd, Montana, cowgirl competitively ranch rodeos, making appearances at National Women’s and Juniors Ranch Rodeo Association finals, even qualifying twice in one year.
At the 2018 NFR, Watson submitted two handmade cinches for the first time to Art of the Cowboy, which is “about contemporary makers dedicated to preserving the old west. We help makers advertise their handmade western wears to the public and keep the west alive by doing so,” the website states.
The contest is hosted annually, offering competitors the chance to earn recognition based on their quality of craftsmanship, judged by their peers, or as voted on by the public. Watson, of Cross N Custom Cinches, earned the former award.
Always needing to scratch her crafting itch, Watson got her start as a beader, under the guide of Sagebrush Sea Beaders, with her sister. While Watson’s husband was in taxidermy school in Pennsylvania a few years ago, she turned her focus to trying her hand at cinches.
“I started fiddling with it, and looking up how to do it,” Watson said. “There is so much, between color patterns and different patterns, you can put on a cinch. It gets really challenging, sometimes, what people ask for that I have to get innovative. I learn something new every time I do something out of the ordinary.”
As much as Watson embraces design and flashiness, good quality is the utmost of her concerns. She pays attention to tension and functionality, ensuring her cinches don’t leave sores and turning folks off of handmade cinches, whether her own or other makers’.
“If someone’s got a bad taste in their mouth for handmade cinches, it reflects bad on every maker, not just that maker,” Watson said. “I feel like there’s a community there; I don’t ever feel competitive in a bad way. There are a lot of girls out there starting to pick up on cinch-making.”