Handheld devices - please view horizontally - our belts and buckles look best that way.
Neil R. Hunt and Tori Heide started NR Hunt Studio in the late 1980s. Neil's background as an artist and craftsman in varied disciplines and Tori's background in retail management made us a great team from the start. In the beginning we sold wholesale to high-end shops and galleries throughout the South-Western US, in places like Jerome, Sedona, Telluride, Vail, Aspen, Santa Fe, and Taos. We have worked with some wonderful people over the years, but wholesaling is not without its frustrations. In 1997 we took a bold step. As soon as we had our first computer hooked up, we had our website up and running, too. This has allowed us to reach an audience far beyond what we could have imagined. The internet changed everything.
Our Slideshow Art of the Buckle - see link under "About US" at the top of this page - (a montage of some of
Neil's work, mostly belt buckles, some pendants/pins and earrings) is also on YouTube. It's a slightly different version,
because we wanted the slideshow on our website to link to more information about each individual piece,
which we haven't been able to do on YouTube.
(This link will open in a new window or tab outside NR Hunt Studio's website.) YouTube Slideshow ~ Art of the Buckle
NR Hunt Studio is, appropriately enough, a "bootstrap" business. The whole thing started in Sedona, Arizona, where Neil had a shop approximately 8ft x 8ft attached to our house, supplying custom belt straps to local shops that sold South-West Indian belt buckles. His first work-bench was the top of the chest-freezer!
As he became busier, he needed more space and we insulated the shed. Neil broadened his skills to include silver-smithing and thereby buckle-making, expanding the product-line and requiring more work-stations and still more space. For time off, we took trips around the South West, connecting with people in shops and galleries for wholesale accounts.
Meanwhile, Tori was learning all the other aspects of a start-up business, including how to improvise a photography light-box and who had a high-quality camera we could borrow, as well as teaching herself how to build and manage a website.
During most of these years, while we moved a few times, Neil's shop was at our home. Although, when we lived in Clarkdale, Arizona, we had a storefront where we also sold paintings and sculptures by local artists - see photos. It was literally a "brick-and-mortar" store... It was a fun experience.
Neil's current shop, open to customers by appointment, is still a mixture of old and new. He does his pencil drawings at his dad's old drafting table - made out of black walnut, which is set up next to his computer desk where he does his modern day design magic on the Mac.
There is also the leather bench, engraving bench, and fabrication station (silver shaping and soldering bench, filing station, polishing wheel). Then there's the butcher block with various mallets, hammers, and punches for shaping belt tips, and the bead-blasting box.
It doesn't look much different than an engraving and leather shop from several hundred years ago, except for the computer. It has an ambiance of an old-world working shop.
The large butcher block table in the middle of the shop is something Neil has wanted for a long time, but hasn't had room for. He was in someone's leather shop many years ago where there was a similar table and he has wanted one ever since. He uses it when choosing leather, cutting straps, spreading out papers when he's designing, laying out stained straps for choosing colors, and more.
The tool with four "arms" inside the closet is the printing press. Neil hand-pulls his hand engraved intaglio prints on this press. It looks much the same as a press from the early days of printing.
Tori's office is one level up from the shop, as we theorized it would be wise to separate our domains in order to not jeopardize our marriage. The office is also the quieter space most of the time.
Other than the casting, we still do everything in-house, including our website, photography, print-ads, and brochures. We work out of our home-studio in Sedona, Arizona.
Neil & Tori
Tori, Espen, Neil, and Lisa On a Snowy Winter Day in Minnesota, 2009
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On the web since 1997