A slowdown in production due to the recession has given many artists time to think about creative ways to make money. Waiting out a turnaround for business, Bob Wiederrick, owner of Wiederrick's Custom Metalworks in Hailey, found himself rediscovering his college days of jewelry design and decided to create custom-made belt buckles.
"I always enjoyed fishing," Wiederrick said. "I know lots of guys who like to fish and thought why not see if there's any interest in a belt buckle."
Wiederrick is a long-time Wood River Valley resident and master metalsmith who has been creating custom metalwork for over 20 years, especially custom fireplace screens. His trout design belt buckle is a natural blending of his love for fishing and metalwork. He uses a variety of hand and power tools to form steel into art, and each belt buckle is individually handcrafted and unique.
Wiederrick said his website, custom-firescreens.com, brought a great deal of traffic and orders before the recession. However, he said, his usual winter work slowdown, which usually doesn't happen until February, hit this year right after Christmas.
"It's difficult to be a self-employed unemployed person," he said. "I have no benefits."
Wiederrick decided to build a few sample belt buckles out of the scrap material he had lying around and showed them to Terry Ring at Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum.
"Terry had a lot of interest in the initial prototypes and was excited about the fish theme," Wiederrick said. "He helped with technical aspects of the buckle, to adjust them so they would accommodate a higher-end belt, which is thicker than the one I had."
Wiederrick sold 11 belt buckles to Silver Creek Outfitters. He also contacted Orvis to see if there was any interest. After three weeks of no response, Orvis contacted Wiederrick to feature the belt buckles in their made-in-the-USA mini catalogue for the fall, "US Patent."
"I received a purchase order," Wiederrick said. "I am hopeful this initial order will lead to future orders.
"Things are picking up. I cannot just sit around and do nothing—I have to build stuff."
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