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7 Creative Experiences in Sheridan County, the Cultural Capital of Wyoming

From a fifth-generation distillery to master leather makers, these craftspeople are at the heart of Sheridan’s heritage—and they’re sure to inspire you.

Leather crafter James F Jackson.

Leather crafter James F Jackson.

Craft culture isn’t just alive and well in Wyoming, it’s as core to the state’s western identity as ranching, rodeos, and the stunning natural landscape—and there’s perhaps no better place to experience this vibrant creative spirit than in Sheridan. Here, you can learn how to make spurs from a cowboy, witness leather crafting at the height of skill, and buy a handmade prairie dress that would make any frontierswoman envious. Sheridan serves as a home to more unexpected creative talents, too. Despite its small town status, this Western gem boasts one of the country’s most sought-after tattoo artists, award-winning breweries, and multiple prominent artist residencies.

Together, Sheridan’s many types of craftspeople, from its world-renowned metalsmiths to its designers and distillers, have one thing in common—celebrating the value of enduring, quality designs. Here are the best ways to learn about Sheridan’s craft traditions and support its local makers.

Discover the history of leather crafting

A storied part of Wyoming heritage, leather stamping, tooling, and carving first flourished in Sheridan after the city became the headquarters for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. As life often imitates art, local cowboys and craftsmen began to copy the ornate saddles they admired during performances—and a new tradition was born.

Today you can visit King’s Saddlery, where founder Don King originated the popular floral “Sheridan Style” of carving, a detailed art that helped establish King’s Saddlery as one of the best in its field back in 1946. Much more than a Western tack store, this family-owned business—now run by King’s grandsons Barry and Ryan King—houses the Don King Museum, a remarkable collection of cowboy memorabilia including hundreds of saddles. Recently the family has also expanded into handcrafted stainless-steel stamps and tools for leather.

At the nearby Brinton Museum you can learn more about this distinctly Western craft with expert James F Jackson, named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2019, who often holds discussions about designing leatherwork, carving processes, and regional history at the institution’s leather shop.

Carved leather at King’s Saddlery

Carved leather at King’s Saddlery

Sharpen up

Whether used for work or show, a high-quality knife is a thing of beauty. Forged in-shop by a husband and wife blade smithing team, J. Rateliff’s heirloom knives are made from high-carbon-steel blades and natural handles like antler, bone, exotic woods, buffalo horn, and turquoise.

Still hunting for a treasure to bring home? In addition to high-end collectors knives, Kevin Willey of KAW Rawhide and Steel uses his 20-plus years of experience to design elegant rawhide braiding and sheaths.

Explore the art scene

In recent years Sheridan County has grown a thriving arts community, due in part to its three artist retreats, Tongue River Artists Residency, Jentel Foundation, and Ucross Foundation, which has hosted numerous Pulitzer award-winners. Art lovers can swing by the latest show at their galleries or stop at David McDougall’s Painted Skull Studio to admire his dynamic fly-fishing scenes and riverscapes inspired by his work as a guide around the Bighorn Mountains.

Other local artists to know include Sonja Caywood, who paints bold expressionist paintings of Wyoming’s wildlife and landscapes, Joel Ostlind, known for his copperplate prints of Western life, and Carrie Ballantyne, who has come to represent the modern Western artist with her sketches and paintings of ranching culture. To see their latest work, head to the Brinton Museum or WYO Theater.

If you prefer to get hands-on, sign up for a pottery class at Red Bison Studio, which boasts one of the largest stone furnaces in America. Pick up their stunning handmade ceramics on the way out and if you still have more shopping to do, make your way over to Arin Waddell where the classically trained artist offers her work as well as pillows, scarves, and more home decor decorated with her charming original prints.

The Ucross Foundation and Gallery

The Ucross Foundation and Gallery

Shine on

Metalsmithing involves shaping just about anything—including tools, tableware, and jewelry—out of various metals. In Sheridan, you’ll find a bevy of talented smiths, including Tom Balding of Bits & Spurs, who’s best known for creating intricate cowboy gear from scratch. Metalsmithing isn’t all about tack though. At Archetype Collective, self-taught metalsmith and jeweler Stefanie Wilkerson turns out one-of-a-kind nature-inspired cuffs, necklaces, rings, and earrings featuring stones like turquoise and agate.

Channel frontier chic

Inspired by vintage, tailored garments and old western movies, Jesse Smith earned a name handcrafting elegant yet contemporary clothing for Nashville’s country music stars. Now you can snag her timeless designs, such as gingham shirts, lace crop tops, flowing skirts, herringbone vests, and chiffon dresses at Western Grace, her stylish boutique in downtown Sheridan.

Jesse Smith at Western Grace

Jesse Smith at Western Grace

Sip a local libation

Over the past couple decades, Sheridan has been undergoing a craft beer and liquor Renaissance with delicious results. Stop by Koltiska Distillery for an unmistakable taste of Sheridan’s heritage: a chilled shot of the brand’s Original Liqueur. A fifth-generation family recipe, this earthy, herbal spirit can also be enjoyed in cocktails.

Meanwhile, craft beer fans shouldn’t miss Black Tooth Brewing Co., which has become the largest and most highly awarded brewery in Wyoming since opening in 2010. Devoted to well-brewed classics, flagship favorites include Wagon Box American Wheat and Bomber Mountain Amber Ale. If you prefer your beer to go, Luminous Brewhouse offers an extensive selection of beers including Java Moon Coffee Ale (brewed with a Sunny Moon Blend from Java Moon, a local coffee shop) that can be loaded into a growler to enjoy outdoors.

Get a permanent souvenir

Some artists work on canvas and others on skin. Matthew Campbell of Black Moon Arts tattoo parlor falls into the latter category. A specialist in black-and-white photorealism, clients travel from all over the country to experience his detail-oriented style of tattooing that takes photos—from sloths and wolves to Robert Duvall—and copies them onto the skin as accurately as possible.

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