Master Craftsman

By Mark Bedor

Published in Cowboys & Indians, Septemer 2006

cowboys-indians-september2006For 30 years he flew the nations most sophisticated warplanes, landing F-18 fighter jets on the pitching decks of air­craft carriers as a pilot for the U.S. Navy. But James “Travis” Luz never forgot the American West he fell in love with as a young boy growing up on his grandfather’s cattle ranch in Southern California.

Luz spent the last 10 years of his naval career pursuing his passion for the West by spending his spare time learning the traditional cowboy art of crafting leather from one of its most famous practi­tioners, John Bianchi. Bianchi, who practices his trade near Palm Springs, is famous for having made holsters and other gear for such Hollywood legends as John Wayne, Roy Rogers, George Montgomery, and Ronald Reagan. When Luz found himself fortunately stationed in San Diego, he persuaded Bianchi to teach him the art of crafting leather and commuted to the masters studio near Palm Springs for instruction.

With the blessing of his mentor, the now-retired Luz creates custom-made spur straps, dress belts, knife sheaths, holsters, gun belts, and other leather accessories at his own shop in Colorado. Bianchi calls his former student “one of the finest leather craftsmen in the business today.”.