Kelly Wahlen will present a demonstration and discussion about rawhide braiding for the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s “Tools of The Cowboy Trade” series at February’s First Friday Art Stroll on February 5th. This event will take place at the museum in the Union Station, 2501 Wall Avenue, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Kelly began his interest in horses and rodeo at an early age as his father raised and raced horses. He became the bull riding champion at the National High School Rodeo and the Wilderness Rodeo Circuit. Besides his years as a professional bull rider he spent over 20 years at Wyoming Downs as a professional jockey.
His years as a rodeo competitor and jockey brought him many interests in the western lifestyle including horsehair hitching and rawhide braiding. Kelly has previously demonstrated his horse hair hitching for the museum but this time is specializing in rawhide braiding. His true passion came about eight years ago when he began rawhide braiding and attended a seminar in Elko, Nevada, taught by Doug Groves. Doug has remained a good friend and mentor to this day. There is a large community of rawhide braiders throughout the country that communicate and gather at various events.
One of the most interesting facts about Kelly’s rawhide braiding is that he begins by skinning, preparing the hide (inside and removing the hair from the outside), stretching and then cutting very thin strips before he begins to braid. He creates quirts, bosals, bridles and riatas. Much of his work is currently in use. Kelly says he would rather see his products in use rather than hanging on the wall.