Custom Boot Maker Motivates CV Tech Graphic Design Students
Lisa Sorrell is a maker of custom cowboy boots. She owns a small business in Guthrie that has resulted in a good living and an occasional brush with celebrities.
September 29, 2017
EL RENO – “I’ll be back.”
Those iconic words uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character during the Terminator trilogy apparently also apply to the Austrian-born actor’s preference for Oklahoma-made cowboy boots.
Schwarzenegger’s first pair of custom boots prominently featured an eagle from the U.S. seal, said boot maker Lisa Sorrell. The second pair features the Austrian coat of arms.
To date, the ex-California governor is Sorrell’s most famous repeat customer.
“Many celebrities call and tell me they will make me famous and help generate a lot of business if I will give them a pair of boots,” Sorrell said.
Her answer is always the same.
“I have a 12-month-long waiting list,” she said.
She also has a mortgage and costs associated with running a small business in Guthrie’s Historic District. Schwarzenegger gladly paid – twice.
The baseline cost for Sorrell Custom Boots is $5,000. Most of her boots consist of kangaroo, alligator or ostrich, often with intricate sewing and details. All have a calfskin lining.
“I don’t try to save money on the lining,” Sorrell said. “That’s the only part of the boot that touches your foot.”
Sorrell shared the origin and highlights of her 26-year career as a custom boot maker on Thursday with students in Mark Pennington’s Graphic Design classroom at Canadian Valley Technology Center.
She told students graphic design is not unlike what she does with boot leather.
“You have to be a sculptor when you’re a cowboy boot maker,” she said. “And it takes time. A month of my literal blood, sweat and tears go into every boot.”
Sorrell, 48, runs a one-woman shop and completes between 12 and 15 pairs of custom boots each year.
She manufactures boots through time-honored and traditional means with handmade tools and a vintage 1940s Singer sewing machine. There is no computer-controlled equipment in her shop. That’s important, she said.
“A real cowboy named Jay Griffith trained me, and I make boots so pretty you don’t want to wear them in the field,” she said.
Sorrell estimates she has made more than 1,000 pairs of boots.
“The best part of making boots is the next pair, because I love making boots,” she said.
On the Side
Meanwhile, Sorrell runs a side business selling boot and shoe making supplies to mostly hobbyists.
She also routinely teaches boot making classes and manages an impressive collection of instructional videos on her YouTube channel entitled, “It’s a Boot Life.”
These, she said, are examples of being faithful in passing along traits of an industry that has been very good to her.
“Nobody was talking about boot making or shoe making or offering tips,” she said. “So I started making videos to help people.”
That’s exactly what she was doing in a classroom late in the week in El Reno – helping students understand that if they follow their career passions, they can also realize their dreams.
Sorrell’s passion landed her at the feet of Arnold Schwarzenegger.