Passion for leather at 87

JON KELLY holds some of his leather work recently. Enlargephoto

Shannon Livick/Star

JON KELLY holds some of his leather work recently.

After nearly six decades of working with leather, Jon Kelly, 87, knows a thing or two about the craft.

“There is just something about working with leather,” Kelly said.

Kelly started working with leather in 1955 in Illinois.

“I started making my own stuff when I got a horse because it was too expensive to buy my own stuff,” he said.

Today, after owning and operating leather shops in Illinois, Cortez and now near his home near Dolores, Kelly is a bit of a leather expert.

And at 87, he still tests it out on his horse.

“I rode yesterday,” he said with a grin. “The weather has been perfect for it.”

Kelly said he loves to ride and currently has a 16-year-old quarter horse that he just adores.

“You can get real attached to a horse,” he said. “They can live so much longer than dogs.”

Kelly said he taught himself everything he knows and learned a lot from a few masters along the way.

His biggest sellers at the craft shows are belts. Good quality belts are hard to come by these days, he said.

“All these cheaper belts. They have a thin layer of leather on the top and on the bottom, there is nothing better than cardboard,” he said.

And look over there, he pointed to someone wearing his belt.

“That belt will last forever,” he smiled.

Kelly said there is an art to leather making, but he enjoys the fact that his art is practical and can be used every day.

In addition, Kelly makes panniers and pack saddles from his home-based shop named Hitchin Post Saddlery.

For more information, contact Kelly at Hitchin Post Saddlery at 799-4475.