Reporting Sara Pelissero
When national touring artists stop at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, they leave with a little reminder of our Minnesota Nice. This series examines the locally made treasures given to these celebrity visitors.
If there’s one thing that every country star needs, it’s a good guitar strap. And if there’s one thing that Kimberlie Gilbertson knows, it’s how to make a solid, sturdy guitar strap that not only fulfills its intended purpose, but is specially designed for the musician lucky enough to wear it.
So when it came to making a strap for country superstar Blake Shelton, who will perform at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday, Gilbertson said she spent hours researching everything from the color of Shelton’s guitars to his stage presence, in order to choose a strap that would fit his style and personality.
Or in this case, two straps.
“It’s pretty thrilling,” she said. “I’m a fan of Blake Shelton.”
From the request of Xcel, Gilbertson, who’s been making hand-made guitar straps through her company Rulien’s Lost Muse, designed one strap based on his current tour — Ten Times Crazier. The strap was made with black buffalo, hand-dyed with a distress finished cowhide inlay and yellow tiger eye stones. Each stone is drilled and then hand-stitched into place.
“Really when you research what he uses for guitars and his stage presence, you realize you really need to go with a tobacco brown and the black colors,” she said.
From the planning and the sketching to the finished product, Gilbertson said it probably took her about 20 hours to complete the tour logo strap.
Not wanting to only give him a memento of his 2013 tour, Gilbertson then began work on a second, basic strap that Shelton could use at any time. That strap took about 15 hours to complete.
The companion strap is classic black buffalo with a small teardrop on the front, again hand-beaded with yellow tiger eye stones. As a special bonus, inside the straps is a small etching, which says, “Minnesota Nice.”
“Minnesota Nice just seemed to hit the nail on the head,” she said. “It’s put in a front location on the strap so that each time he puts the strap over his shoulder, he, as the artist, will see that it says ‘Minnesota Nice,’ and he won’t forget us.”
Gilbertson said it’s beyond thrilling to have her work noticed not only by the Xcel Energy Center but by big country stars.
“It’s a little shocking to find myself in the situation of making straps for somebody that famous,” she said. “I’ve worked with famous people before but Blake Shelton, that’s hitting the big time for me.”
In the past, Gilbertson has made straps for artists in Nashville, Texas and even the Zac Brown Band.
Gilbertson works out of her home in Houlton, Wis., where she started her own business in the wake of tragedy.
“I lost my brother. He was killed a little over 10 years ago. He was a guitar player and it changed my perspective on life,” she said. “It really shook me up. I ended up quitting a job that I had for 26 years and said, ‘Life’s too short.’”
She had a passion for art and decided it was time to do something she loved. With plenty of guitar players in the family, she already had several requests to make straps.
“So I thought, why not give it a shot,” she said. “I love my job. I’ve been doing it for about six years now. It’s a thrill every day and I love waking up and going to work.”
Now that she’s completed the straps for Shelton, she said she’s even more excited with her next order — a strap for Shelton’s beautiful wife, Miranda Lambert, who comes to town in October.
No matter who the client is, Gilbertson said she puts her heart into every one she makes.
“When I hand over my guitar straps, it’s like letting go of a child,” she said, with a laugh. “I love every one of them so it’s a lot of fun.”
For more information about Blake Shelton’s show, check out the Xcel Energy Center’s website. For information about Rulien’s Lost Muse guitar straps, click here, or contact Kim at Kim@buffalostraps.com