Written by Doreen Shumpert
Gary and Cynthia Wiggins (Wiggins Bits and Spurs) transplanted one year ago from the hustle and bustle of Castle Rock, Colo. to the quieter side of life in Brewster, Kansas. The backdrop of their “30-cow outfit” of commercial crossbred cattle and four horses provides perfect inspiration for Wiggins’ custom silver creations. Out of the office, the pair enjoys ranch work and attending ranch ropings when they can.
Wiggins began working with silver as a child after “learning by osmosis” from his father, a talented silversmith. Only in the last 10 years has engraving become his primary passion. He admires the work of artisans like Ernie Marsh, Mark Dahl and Ron Smith to name a select few.
During his career, he has produced bits, spurs, conchos, saddle silver, gear buckles, belt buckles, and even a few sterling silver wedding rings with engraving and a western flair. Overall, Wiggins takes pride in knowing that working cowboys put his creations to actual use and come back for more.
“I like to call what I do as making cowboy gear,” Wiggins said. “I like working for cowboys when I know that my stuff will dang sure be used. I do some collector pieces, like custom spurs that will sit on a mantle somewhere and that’s okay,” he continued. “But it really fulfills my heart’s desire when I see some cowboy using my stuff.”
And some such cowboys could be considered famous. But, in true cowboy style, Wiggins shies from mentioning names, as he wants his work to speak for itself—and there’s been no shortage of that. These days, he sees a fine line between “when to advertise and when to hide.” He’s so busy via word-of-mouth referrals. In fact, he doesn’t pre-make many products at all and doesn’t need to; he’s got his hands full trying to keep up with customers. Six or seven years ago, he used to take the show on the road, but currently only displays his silver at the Leathercrafter’s Show each May in Sheridan, Wyo., and at the Ranch Rodeo World Finals each November in Amarillo, Texas.
Any true craftsman is continually learning, and prior to making bits, Wiggins didn’t consider himself much of a horseman, but that’s changed.
“Since I started making more bits and learning how they work, we’ve become interested in being a student of the horse and improving our horsemanship,” he said, adding that he “covets the knowledge” of such hands as Buck Brannaman and Martin Black to name a couple.
Wiggins is a man that counts his blessings. He says doing what he loves for a paycheck is chief among them.
“Most of all I just want to portray my thankfulness for the opportunity to make a living at this, and it’s not because I’m such a great guy,” he laughed, sharing the credit as usual. “We’ve had a lot of support from the cowboys and people in this industry and have made great friends along the way.”
This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.32