Interview by Kyle Bunting
Walking into one of our stores is an invitation to put up your boots and stay awhile. Along with friendly faces and the smell of leather, you’re likely to be greeted by one heck of a mural. Skillfully crafted by Kyle Bunting, colorful double-dyed hide wall murals elevate and transform our spaces — welcoming you into living rooms where we’re proud to host. As we celebrate another successful collaboration with the opening of our NorthPark Center location, we checked in to chat. Get to know more about the man and creative process behind the art that has us in awe.
Can you tell us about this mural and what inspired you?
Working with Tecovas is absolutely incredible. They’re the perfect collaborators. They give us a little bit of liberty to do our thing and connect us with amazing artists that we’ve never met before. Some of our best work in the stores has been a result of collaborating between their creative department, artists and our own team. That’s how the project came together on South Congress, and same at NorthPark. The NorthPark mural is very special. It’s inspired by the work of artist Jared Dunten and references one of his longhorn paintings that will be displayed at the store.
Can you share with our audience what the process of creating a hide wall looks like?
We get asked all the time how we do what we do. It’s actually an interesting process. Behind the scenes, for us it really all starts with color and design. There’s a very complex process of deciding which colors fit in the right schemes and the right projects, making sure those leathers are dyed to the appropriate hue and making sure they are of the highest quality so they’re right for our product.
But then all the magic happens at our studio with our design and engineering team. We create everything we make digitally; we convert that into a series of electronic dyes and then crazy cutting machines at our studio in Austin cut every piece. Each one is inspected and then hand assembled into the murals you see in Tecovas stores across the country.
What inspires you as an artist, especially in the Western space?
I get asked a lot what inspires me. The truth is it’s collaboration. We’re very good at what we do, but the work we do wouldn’t be what it is without partners who bring us great new ideas. That’s true with Tecovas and all the other people we’ve worked with.
Our Atlas collection is a great example. It’s the product of a collaboration between photographer Douglas Friedman and our studio. Atlas is a reflection of the vast, soulful terrain that surrounds Friedman’s ranch in Marfa, Texas. The collection was a unique opportunity to mix Friedman’s eclectic aesthetic with the raw qualities of the untamed West through our hide material.
What does it mean to you to live/work in the spirit of “Don’t Go Gently?”
Life’s precious. It’s a beautiful experience. It’s amazing around every corner. To me that’s what “Don’t Go Gently” is all about. Never give up, find that passion — and when you do, lock-in and make it yours.
What would you say to someone who’s feeling the urge, but maybe nervous about chasing down their passions?
You should take the chance on yourself. The idea for my company came from my father, Jim, who created cowhide art, like county maps of Texas, starting in my childhood. He would bring me along to sell his hide creations at places like the rodeo in Fort Worth. In the 1990s I was living in San Francisco and all of sudden it occurred to me that my dad’s innovations with hide could be applied to rugs. When the idea popped up, I immediately asked him to train me in his craft. He agreed and I was on the next flight out to learn from him.
At the end of my hide education, my dad gave me all his tools under this condition: “You put your heart and soul and everything you have into this. Try your hardest and if it fails, that’s fine because I know you will have given it everything you had. If it works, you will succeed and you can make it a living. You can provide for a family and have a craft of your own to feel really good about.” What I’d say to someone with the same urge is, what are you waiting for?
We think cowboy boots are pretty magical. How do you feel when you pull on your favorite pair?
As a kid who grew up in Texas, I’m kind of nuts about cowboy boots. Still to this day, thanks to my friends at Tecovas, I’m probably in them 6 out of the 7 days of the week. I’m that guy in New York City running up and down the streets in a pair of Shane’s telling everyone I see how magical the experience is.
There’s something about wearing boots. I think there’s a confidence, there’s a comfort as they get worn in, and as I looked at my last pair before I retired them recently I asked myself — how many thousands of miles and how many places did I have on these boots? Other shoes aren’t like that. There’s not a pair of loafers or sneakers I’d ever look at the same. Boots are the only thing that get you there, because they go everywhere.
To see more from Kyle Bunting and the artists and inspiration behind our hide walls, visit:
Kyle Bunting — Hide Wall Artist
Jared Dunten — Painter and inspiration behind NorthPark’s mural
Landry McMeans - Collaborative artist on the SoCo hide wall
GVR Longhorns — Source for the Longhorn cattle photography that sparked our imagination
more from our stories
How Our Friends Are Spending the Holidays
What’s Cooking This Holiday Season?
15 Perfect Gifts for Cowboys & Western Lovers
Elevate Your Style: A Guide to Styling Men's Cowboy Boots
How to Rock Western Chic: A Guide to Styling Women's Cowboy Boots
Everything You Need to Nail the Farmcore Aesthetic
Stay And Finish: The Women of Alderspring Ranch
A Convo with Designer Kristopher Brock
Our Story: Western Goods for New Frontiers
The Journey of painting the West Texas sky
Our Friends and Heroes, The Austin Gamblers