The allure of leather

Cortez native returns and starts successful online business

Denise Langely works on a purse at her shop where she does leatherwork, silver smithing and ceramic tiles. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Denise Langely works on a purse at her shop where she does leatherwork, silver smithing and ceramic tiles.

Denice Langley loves her life. Horses, dogs, a successful business and living in Cortez.

Langley, 51, was born and raised in Cortez and graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 1978.

Like many, adventures away from home taught her that Cortez was where she wanted to call home.

After her graduation, Langley did what many often do; she explored opportunities and different parts of the world.

“I love Cortez,” Langley said. “I think that it is the coolest place to be.”

“There aren’t many other places where you have this nearness to both the desert climate and the mountains,” Langley added.

Horses were always at the center of her travels. But her love of horses started very young. At 9, she got her first horse. At 12, she was competing in rodeo as a barrel racer and other events. At 13, she was showing horses.

“My mom said I would bounce on a springy horse (toy) until the springs wore out several times,” she said with a chuckle.

By the time, she graduated, the world beckoned and she was off to find greener pastures.

She showed horses and worked with horse trainers along the way.

She went to New Mexico, then to Oklahoma where she managed jewelry stores. Then back to New Mexico where she worked on a 50,000-acre ranch.

This is where her new love would turn into her new livelihood.

Through her cutting horse competitions, on her quarter horse named Especially Jolina, Langley wanted her chaps to look better — more stylish. So she started teaching herself leather work.

“I wanted nicer chaps, so just bought all the stuff and taught myself,” she said.

Looking outside her shop, just off Highway 491 a little outside of Cortez, Langley can see Especially Jolina relaxing nearby. Her three dogs — Cessna, a whippet, Tinkie, an Italian greyhound and Mindy a Cocker Spaniel, hang with her while she’s at work.

“I love my life,” she said enthusiastically.

It was about a dozen years ago was when she started making nicer chaps for herself. People took notice.

“People started asking me if they could order them for themselves,” she said.

She took another five years working on her new venture. Then it was time to come home to Cortez.

“When I reached a point where I could take my living where I wanted to go, Cortez was my first choice to come to,” Langley said.

When she returned to live in Cortez, Langley said everything felt right.

Langley’s leather work has been featured in a number of magazines including Cowboys and Indians, Cowgirl Style, and Colorado Homes.

Through her custom creations, she makes a wide range of clothing, purses, chaps, boots and basically anything requested.

She enhances her leather work with fine silver and jewelry. She also creates custom-made ceramic tiles.

Langley admits that being a horse person, the lure of leather was always there. Chaps, saddles and boots, reins; there’s lots of leather in the horse world.

Langley said she doesn’t have a retail outlet but customers can visit her at her shop if they like. Her business operates through her website www.denicelangley.com.

Her business allows her to enjoy a pleasant lifestyle.

“Between orders, I can take a break and ride my horses because they are just right outside the door,” Langley said. “I’m my own boss, my dogs hang out in the workshop with me and at any time I can take a break, step outside and enjoy the beauty here.”

And it’s a bonus that she’s back in Cortez.

“I love the laid back, small-town feel and attitude that Cortez has,” Langley said.

“This place offers a more relaxed way of life; when I came back my quality of life increased,” she said.

Langley is philosophical when it comes to leather creations.

“Creativity wasn’t a product of ego but rather a function of the soul,” Langley said. “That pretty much says it all for me; some people have to be making something — I’m one of those people.”

“My goal is to bridge the gap between designer and western,” Langley said.

Langley hopes that her designs will bring “a slightly less expected approach to leather and silver work that hopefully doesn’t scream western but subtly hints at it.”

“I came back when my career could sustain my living,” Langley said. “Cortez is where I want to be.”

Denise Langely says she is the only one in the world making ceramic tiles using the same designs as she does with her leather work. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Denise Langely says she is the only one in the world making ceramic tiles using the same designs as she does with her leather work.

Denise Langely works on a piece of jewelry at her shop, in the same barn as her horses. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Denise Langely works on a piece of jewelry at her shop, in the same barn as her horses.