Beau Compton says he was a “grumpy guy” when he first moved from his native Colorado to his wife’s home state of Arizona in 2006. He was working a job he hated and trying to fit in silversmithing on the side while raising a young family. Luckily his wife was on board with making a drastic change. “I can’t stress enough what a blessing she’s been through this journey, supporting me quitting a really good job to choose the unknown of a self-employed silversmith,” he says. “She’s always had my back!”
Since taking the leap of faith, Compton has seen his business grow steadily every year.
Life’s pretty sweet outside of Tombstone, where Beau, his wife, and two children have a home, a shop, and a roping pen on his in-laws’ ranch. “My wife’s parents, Fred and Peggy Davis, run the Davis Cattle Company,” Compton says. “It’s a full-time cow-calf operation. We’re at 4,500 feet. It’s more high desert, and we grow pretty good grass. It’s a good year-round climate, and we don’t get too hot here — maybe two weeks of the year the temperature gets over 100.”
The son of PRCA’s Kenny and Sherry Compton, Beau grew up ranching and rodeoing, and he’s raising his son and daughter — the sixth generation on the Davis ranch — the same way, putting in plenty of time with them in the roping pen.
And he’s putting in lots of hours silversmithing. His shop — which is big enough to seat five or six when he’s teaching classes — has a wonderful view: “We’re surrounded by mountain ranges,” he says. “There’s a big mountain right outside my window called Hay Mountain. I look at that every day.”
Compton spends about five or six months of the year preparing for the annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Exhibition & Sale in October. He’s been a member of the elite organization since 2017. “I really love the work I build for the TCAA, especially buckles,” he says. “I get to come up with my own ideas and take them as far as I can.” One of the pieces he’s working on for this year’s show is a 12-inch table cross in silver and gold that took 30 to 40 hours just for the design on paper; he’ll also be submitting a buckle set, a jewelry set, and a bit and bridle set that’s a collaboration with three other makers.
As much as Compton loves giving full rein to his imagination on the things he builds for the show, the coolest thing about the TCAA, he says, is the educational aspect: “I love teaching and helping others learn. The main goal of the TCAA is education and passing along these traditional cowboy arts skills — silversmithing, saddlemaking, bit and spur making, and rawhide braiding — to the next generation. I really enjoy helping other makers get better.”
The 2020 TCAA Exhibition & Sale takes place October 2 – 3 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City; this year’s event will be in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary Western Heritage Awards. To see this year’s pieces, go to tcaa.nationalcowboymuseum.org. For opening-weekend reservations and more information, visit nationalcowboymuseum.org/tcaa; to find out about proxy bidding, contact Trent Riley at email@example.com.
Photography: Images courtesy the artist
From our August/September 2020 issue.