Award winner has no desire to retire.
Pete Beck has been named ETN/SMS Bench Saddler of the Month.
The award, presented in conjunction with the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS), recognises those who uphold the highest standard of leathercraft skills.
Pete was nominated by SMS Qualified Saddle Fitter Poppy Webber, who says:
“Pete deserves Bench Saddler of the Month...maybe even the decade! He has so many fabulous qualities that make him deserving of this accolade.
“Pete’s love for the job is obvious which, combined with his unrivalled knowledge of saddles, makes him an incredibly special man.
“He has such a kind and compassionate nature, and he takes me under his wing whenever I visit the Ideal Saddles factory [where he works]. He patiently explains everything to me, several times - always demonstrating everything in his gracious, calm manner.
“Pete has taught me so much, from secret ways to knot thread to the correct use of power tools. The saddlery world is so much better for having had him in it for almost 60 years.”
About Pete Beck
Pete started as an apprentice bench saddler at Walsall Riding when he left school at the age of 15.
“I don’t really have an interest in horses; it was my mum that wanted me out earning and Walsall Riding was just up the road from where we lived,” explains Pete.
Following his five-year apprenticeship, Pete continued to work for Walsall Riding until it was taken over by Ideal Saddles in 2006 and moved to the current location in Walsall in 2015.
No desire to retire
Pete has been making saddles for 57 years, and has no desire to retire just yet.
“I’m an active person and I can’t see myself retiring anytime soon. I don’t think I could sit down for long enough,” he says.
During his day-to-day job, Pete is found at his bench putting saddles together. He also undertakes most of the rectifications and repairs.
“Occasionally Rob [Lugsdin, Master Saddler and director at Ideal & WRS] lets me loose and I get to create a saddle from second grade leather,” says Pete. “It’s a chance to be a little bit creative, using different coloured stitching and other finishes.”
Changes in the industry
In the nearly six decades of Pete’s time in the industry, much has changed in the saddlery world.
When Pete began his career, every part of the saddle was made and put together by one person, making it a bespoke, handmade product. This also meant that each saddle was slightly different.
Now, a great deal of the preparation is already done in advance; for example, the leather is cut by a team of people and the saddle’s tree is made by another team. All these parts are then assembled, and the saddle is made by the bench saddler.
“The way saddles are made has changed, they were also more basic when I first started,” says Pete.
“It’s more complicated now, with all the different options available to people. Various types of leather, different coloured stitching, sparkly panels, the list goes on.”
Riding bikes and walking dogs
When not at the bench making saddles, Pete enjoys spending time with his family. He also used to love riding sport bikes.
“I spent quite a bit of time going on rides out on the bike,” says Pete. “I enjoyed zooming around the roads in Wales. I was eventually persuaded to give the bike up as I won’t bounce as well if I come off.”
Pete and his wife now have a caravan in Wales and love taking a break and spending time there.
He is also a dog lover. Pete’s beloved slate grey bearded collie called Summer Sky follows him everywhere – quite literally, she is his shadow. And wife has three Bichon Frisé dogs, so a lot of his free time is spent walking the dogs.
How to nominate a bench saddler
Everyone is invited to nominate bench saddlers they feel deserve to be named ETN/SMS Bench Saddler of the Month. Candidates for the award must be a member of the SMS and can be based in the UK or overseas.
To nominate a bench saddler (or more than one), email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why this person deserves to be put in the spotlight. Please include the bench saddler’s name and business name too.