Desiree Rodgers' Unique Craft Brings Dead Bones to Life
By Melissa Mendonca
Skulls, Bulls and RhinestonesNovember 2015
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos: Alexis Leclair
An unexpected joy of lingering at the slow brew coffee bar of Red Bluff ’s Enjoy the Store is watching and listening as customers first discover the mirrored elk skull with bedazzled horns hanging above the tables. With a neck adorned in sparkly beaded strands, the entire piece dazzles, catching light and delight. People ooh and ahh and stifle an impulse to run their fingers through the fringe.
“I always wanted a longhorn in my house but I didn’t want a plain one,” says Desiree Rodgers, 31, the artist and business woman behind WesTique Desi-gns, which features custom-decorated longhorn skulls. She set out in DIY mode to create her own home decoration, with no intention or idea that the project would bring income and travel.
“I made my first one and my best friend saw it and she wanted it and I had to make another one,” she says. “And then another one and another one.” Another friend suggested she take her designs to Las Vegas during Cowboy Christmas, held each December in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo. A curated and popular event, she says, “It’s hard to get in because no one leaves.” The key is to offer something no other vendor provides. In 2012, less than a year after making her first set of longhorns, Rodgers was invited. “I had a unique product
to bring in,” she explains.
Her husband, Nick, a contractor with a granite business, helped her create a stunning display booth that first year. “We kind of go overboard, but it seems to work,” she says. By the time the event was over that first year, all but three skulls were sold.
Those last three were quickly picked up for the Harris Ranch gift store and have since been sold. Even bigger, she was commissioned on the spot for an installation at the PBR Rock Bar and Grill on the Las Vegas strip. She finalized the contract on the last day of her first Cowboy Christmas, and within a few days, once her supplies were shipped, she was busy at work in the entryway of the PBR Rock.
The result is a showpiece full-sized, mirrored bucking bull sculpture that greets customers and serves as a backdrop to many photos taken by guests. “I pumped it out in five days,” she says. “My husband was walking around Vegas with our two kids because I was working night and day.” She now loves receiving photos from friends and family who seek out her piece when visiting Las Vegas.
“The skulls are real and the horns are real,” she says of her pieces, noting that she’s sourced suppliers from all over to keep up with demand. Her finished works, including Longhorn, Watusi, elk, deer, ram and bucking bull skulls, are now found at showrooms for Rock ‘N’ Roll Panhandle Slim in Denver and Dallas, Harris Ranch in Coalinga, and private cabins in Texas and North Dakota. Locally, they can be found at Enjoy the Store in Red Bluff and Redding and Diamond W Western Wear in Chico. Rodgers and her work have been featured in Cowgirl Magazine.
Her pieces are adorned with everything from rhinestones to lace to mirrors to peacock feathers – anything seems to go. Of the piece with peacock feathers, she says, “It got a lot of attention, but it just took the right person to buy it.” It lingered in her collection for awhile, but when its eventual owner came along, she was completely smitten.
“We’ve always been Western,” Rodgers says of her family. “I’ve always been in the field of something to do with cows.” She grew up on a dairy in Bayliss (Glenn County), and still lives in that rural community with her growing family, including three young children and a fourth on the way. “I’ve always loved being outside with animals. I’m not made for computers,” she laughs.
Evenings are often spent with her kids snuggled up to her while she customizes a skull. This month she’s stepping up her efforts to be prepared for Cowboy Christmas, December 3-12. “It’s fun,” she says. “I get addicted.”
It’s fun for those who come across her work, as well, whether in Las Vegas or right here in the North State.
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