Curtis Gibbs started carving leather as a young boy when his grandmother gave him a kit.
Last November, one of his dogs chewed up a collar, so he carved another one and showed it to his wife, Jill Gibbs, who bakes and sells Jillcookies dog treats.
“She didn’t say stop. She took a picture of it and put it on Facebook,” he said. “And pretty soon all her friends wanted something.”
He sold his first collar to a dog lover in Sweden.
The Gibbs both work full-time at the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department. And both spend much of their free time making dog products at their home businesses.
“I sequester myself in a little room, get an audio book or some music going, and I can just lose myself in the leatherwork,” he said.
The simplest carved dog collar costs $35. Curtis charges $50 for his fanciest with carved, stamped and dyed leather.
Finding a rhythm working with such an unforgiving medium is hard, he said.
“If you screw it up, it’s screwed up. Maybe I’m a little too critical of my work,” he said.
Jill sold some of her first dog cookies to a New Hampshire dog breeder, Stephanie Green.
Green also was one of Curtis’ first customers, asking him to make a collar with her kennel name engraved in Elvish.
After spending four hours manually translating “Milbrose Retrievers” into the Middle Earth language used in "The Lord of the Rings" novels, Curtis discovered an iPhone app that translates into Elvish.
Facebook is the only marketing the Gibbses use, augmented by word-of-mouth and selling to friends at dog shows. Neither has thought very seriously of scaling up production, but that could come, Curtis said.
“Depending on what we can do at craft shows and things people order off of her Facebook page, I could maybe see it going somewhere someday,” he said.