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Local saddle maker, Hank Moss, learned from one of the world's best saddle makers, Pedro Pedrini, than reopened his former business, Square Dot Saddlery out of a new venue

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Hank Moss works on some tooling for one of his saddles, demonstrating the intricate tools and skills that are needed to create the designs.

Local Saddle maker, Hank Moss, was working intently on a saddle Tuesday morning in his new location at 2521 Lon Smith Road.

Moss, the owner of Square Dot Saddlery, has been in business in Prineville for a total of approximately 14 years. He was previously located on South Main Street in the building that is now home to the Cute Cactus. He has been in his current location, which is on his own property, for almost one year and recently renovated a trailer on wheels for his new venue.

When walking through the new shop, it is apparent that Moss has made use of every inch of his space, which is extremely clean and organized. He has completely renovated the space, with custom windows and two exits. The walls are finished with natural siding, and he has ample space for his benches (he shares a bench with his son, Wyatt) and leather work, complete with all the needed tools. The impressive space boasts of beautiful leather saddles, chaps, and projects that are in process, in a rustic and pleasant environment.

All the large equipment is bolted to the floor to enable transport as needed. Moss wanted to make sure that he could move his shop at any time, without the need to move equipment.

While working on tooling for a saddle, he explained that he provides leather goods for sale, with an emphasis on saddles, chaps, and bridles. He does some custom leather but emphasized that it is too easy to get bogged down in custom leather consignments.

"By the time you get done making a new design—and that is not just the tooling design, that is the product itself--sometimes you can get so many hours into it, that you try to charge them what it is worth and they kind of get sticker shock," Moss explained of his reason for being a little lean on the custom leather projects.

He creates all hand-made designs from leather, and the idea for his current shop is to ensure that he will not have to move equipment again. He can pull up with a truck and move the shop as needed. He has been in his new location for approximately one year, and up and operating for three months.

Moss began his journey in the custom leather business in January 2001, when his family moved to Madras, Oregon.

"We had come off of a few ranch jobs, and the latest one was in Wisconsin, and we had come back to our beloved west," explained Moss. "I was looking in the paper one day, and I saw the Madras shoe repair for sale in a little tiny ad. I don't even know why I read it."

He added that he had repaired his own shoes in the past but had limited experience in this area.

"I looked at it, and talked to my wife and we called, and we went over and talked to the lady," he added.

Moss indicated that it was a small shop that had been in a family for a long time. They made the decision to buy it but chose to operate the business as a boot repair, saddle, and leather shop. They had the store, which he called The Cobbler Shop, for approximately one year until the building they were leasing sold.

"The rent quadrupled. I was living here (Prineville) and driving back and forth because I could afford to. I couldn't do that anymore after the rent went up," Moss elaborated.

He moved his shop to Prineville in a building by the Les Schwab Field on North Main Street. At that time, he named his business Square Dot Saddlery. He rented this space for one year until a shop space opened on South Main. The building was previously operated by a saddle maker.

"He had been there for about one year, and he was moving. I thought, "oh, you would be foolish not to capitalize on that location," so I did. I was there for about 13 years," Moss went on to say of his Prineville business.

In 2017, Moss learned that the famous saddle maker, Pedro Pedrini, had moved to Pendleton, Oregon to begin the Hamley Saddle Academy.

"I had read about this fellow, and I knew who he was--he is one of the greatest saddle makers in the world. He is a member of the TCAA (Traditional Cowboy Artists Association), and he is just a phenomenal saddle maker. He is from France and is French Italian," he recollected with excitement.

Pedrini was the shop foreman at Hamley's saddle company in Pendleton, as well as the academy instructor.

"After reading that article, I thought, "Oh man, I have got to go to that school, and I have got to do this because it's nearby." The reason that I was so interested in it was because the year before, I had entered a contest in Pendleton at the Pendleton leather show—Rough Out Saddle Contest."'

While there, Moss went to Hamley's saddle shop. The owners showed him around and approached him about the need for a saddle maker. Over ethe next year, he corresponded with them, and they continued to try to recruit him to come to work there. When he found out that Pedrini was moving to Pendleton to begin the academy, he decided to at least take his class.

"I worked out a deal with the owner that I would go up there and he would buy the material for a saddle, and I would make it. He would get the saddle and I would get the schooling," said Moss.

As he began the saddle for his part of the deal, he changed his mind and decided to stay and learn from Pedrini. Hamley's still needed a saddle maker.

"I changed my deal to, "How about if my saddle becomes my job interview/resume, and if you want a saddle maker I will stay," and they said OK. I finished my saddle, and Pedro looked at it and the owner looked at it, and they said, "OK, you stay,"' elaborated Moss of his role as saddle maker for Hamley's.

His family was living in Prineville, so he was tasked with the need to find a place to live in Pendleton during the week, while he came home on weekends. The owner of Hamley's owned the old Oak Hotel in town, which was in the process of being renovated. Moss lived in the upstairs during his schooling and time as a saddle maker for Hamley's. Moss spent three years making saddles and learning from Pedrini.

Hank's son, Wyatt also chose to learn more about the art of strap goods, which involves everything to ride a horse, except the saddle. Wyatt spent two years with Pedrini under his tutelage while Hank was doing saddles in the academy.

"The tools are a little different, and the techniques are a little bit different. It's nice to have one guy doing all strap goods and one guy making the saddles," indicated Hank of his son's addition to the new shop .

Wyatt also shares a bench in Hank's shop and works part-time on his leather business.

When asked about his initial training in making saddles, Moss pointed out that he was self-taught. Without money to attend school, he accessed books, saddle shops, and bought videos taught by Jerimiah Watt--a famous saddle maker and teacher. Watt learned and did his apprenticeship from Chuck Stormes of Canada—who is also a good friend of Pedrini.

"That is what I wanted--was to learn, and so after teaching myself what I could, and the three years at Hamley's—that was pretty fantastic," he said of his leather and saddle training.


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