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Wis. Woman Makes Name For Herself With Guitar Straps

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Wisconsin woman is making a name for herself in the music industry with her one-of-a-kind guitar straps.

Singer Zac Brown sported Kim Gilbertson’s artwork at the Country Music Awards this year. Members of Lynyrd Skynyrd are fans too.

“This probably still has dust on it from Georgia, don’t want to wash it off,” said strap maker Kim Gilbertson.

She picked up a dusty banjo case sitting in her basement office. It’s a token of appreciation from some of her biggest fans in music.

“A gift from my friends in the Zac Brown Band,” Kim reads, “Your straps are amazing, Zac Brown.”

Each member of the band autographed it after wearing her hand-beaded buffalo guitar straps on the Country Music Awards in April.

“I want to get up and dance around the house every time I see it.  It never gets old,” Gilbertson said.

Her husband helped her start her business three years ago. Kim got her business jump started after getting on a cruise ship with 17 rock bands including the legendary rockers from Lynyrd Skynyrd.

buffalo straps 2 Wis. Woman Makes Name For Herself With Guitar Straps

(credit: CBS)

“The strap I did for Lynyrd Skynyrd is called Freedom Bird,” Gilbertson said.

Kim custom made straps for each of the guitarists in the band, and they were a hit.

Her guitar straps are hand-dyed and custom designed with beautiful colorful stones like amber, turquoise and sodalite and exotic leathers including buffalo, snake skin, ostrich and even stingray.

Each one takes hours and hours to make. After seeing Kim’s work, I was shocked to hear she doesn’t play guitar.

“Sombody has to make guitar straps. If I played guitar, I wouldn’t have time to make guitar straps,” Gilbertson said.

She made her first one at 17 for her now husband.

“I was given signals all through my life that this is what I should be doing,” Gilbertson said.

But she didn’t take those signals seriously until a few years ago, after her life took a dramatic turn.

Her 29-year-old brother Kent was murdered in his home by a friend’s ex-boyfriend.

“My mom called me, I fell to my knees,” she said. “It’s just horrifying.”

Kim was heartbroken. She travelled to Mexico and spent time with artists who designed jewelry and crafts.

After spending months soul searching, Kim came back to Minnesota and decided to do something she loved and something that inspired her.

“It changes your whole outlook on your life to do something you love instead of something that gets you by,” she said.

The idea to custom make and design buffalo straps started partly because of the musicians in her life. Her husband plays guitar and so did her brother Kent.

Kent was a bass guitarist in a band and his photo hangs above her work table in her studio.

“I’m pretty sure he would have loved this,” she said.

Kim named her business Ruliens Lost Muse after him. Rulien was his middle name and he is her inspiration.

“I’ll do this until I die or until I’m very old anyway,” Gilbertson said.

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