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My Name Is Claire. I Am A Map Maker.

"As she led me through the rough terrain of our backyard, the late Idaho summer sun beginning to fall deeper into the canyon, I was reminded once again that I was exactly where I needed to be—"

Riding horse back through the high desert just east of town where the warm weather sits low along the river and the sage brush grows saddle high, I talked with a new friend about sincerity. I told her, to me, sincerity meant doing your best work where you are today with no excuses or apologies. It requires a vulnerability only those focused on the long haul can understand as well as an intimate knowing of reciprocity- give and take, learn and share. I told her the way things are playing out these days, it seems we aren’t shy on excuses on a whole but the way I see it you don’t need excuses when you are doing your best with the cards you’ve been dealt on the path you’re on today. If you're sincere in your work and know the reason and season, quality will always shine through. I told her that’s who I look up to and appreciate in this world—people working to craft the best quality life they can with sincerity their most honest tool, leaving all the bells and whistles to the people just trying to make noise.

I began to think about the last 10 years I’ve spent cross crossing this country for work and pleasure — spending time with people I’ve naturally been drawn to and listening to how they piece together their life’s work. They don’t always look or sound like me but I keep finding myself in workshops and tucked away homesteads in unassuming corners of the landscape with new friends that believe like me one way or another—always learning how they navigate a life of craft in a world of proselytized consumption. I now have over a decade under my belt of intimate understanding and firsthand knowledge of what it takes to make it as a craftsman in a world that seems fixated on fast and fruitless trends. Through my own sweat and determination I have come to understand the struggles, the compromises, the long haul vision and dedication it takes. I am no stranger to the loneliness it often invokes or the strength of the community that springs forth from it. If I’ve learned anything however, its that the game of crafting quality work and a quality life is not for the faint of heart.

You have to put in the work to understand the landscape of your life.

Hawk and myself with Jillian, on the high plateau above the Snake River in my home state of Idaho. Photo by Amanda Leigh Smith. Instagram - @thenoisyplume and @a_leighsmith


I haven’t forged a life from a single workshop but instead have worked throughout diverse terrain—higher education, studying the methods of barbaric economic systems and good intentioned utopian massacres. I’ve toiled in friend’s workshops making then selling, marketing and story telling. I’ve worked the land for survival and waited tables sat with everyone from the “poor” and authentic to the “rich” and empty.

Most people I share the road with are called makers.

They’re craftsman, creatives, photographers, artists, homesteaders, farmers of sorts, builders, blue collared adventurers, story tellers or a combo of ‘em all.

To be forthright, I’d often wonder what my craft was. As much as I loved the idea of making something of quality to take to market and share with my community, I couldn’t seem to pick just one thing. Or two, even.

And working for someone else always seemed to pull on the hem of my heart like an ill-fitting blouse.

I was regularly drawn to the people, discovering how we all navigate in a terrain that is often confusing and unrelenting in it’s demands of us. But I wasn’t the rancher, the chef, the woodworker, the metalsmith, the face in front of the lens, the activist, the artist or even the computer wiz. I seemed to be just exploring and collecting. When I looked back to see what I had accomplished after all these years I saw only an old chest of gathered, experiences. Honest and of the highest quality I could imagine. Needless to say it took me a bit to know where I fit in with all these folks. I often felt like an unassuming character in someone else’s story, eager to listen, always watching and often teaming with ideas rarely shared.

No matter what though, during intimate moments across old wood tables or as I walked with people through unfamiliar horizons, I found myself always zooming out— seeing so clearly the landscape of their big picture and connecting it with ease to the all the other people I’d met and the grand story of the human experience.

Only with time and after years of exploring did I finally realize where I fit in.

I’m a map maker.

Late summer in the Trinity Alps during my visit w/ my best friend, Lala, owner of Cobra Cult. We worked long days in her hot mountain studio on a bag collaboration and slipped away to shoot some photos and take in the view. Photo by @cobracult


You see I’ve worn many hats over the years but as the wind rushed at us from the West kicking up dust and carrying with it smells reminiscent of my last three decades, the high crowned-whisky colored hat I wore that day sat firm on my head with each gust. I was reminded that when you find a hat that fits no matter the the season or which way the wind blows, it must be yours to wear.

We all teeter between knowing we chose our path and wondering if our path chose us. And many of us enjoy discovering the unknown that lay around the next bend either way. However, we all need maps sometimes. We need people with vision and an acute understanding of what to keep and what set free in order to get over our next mountain and live a life of quality, authentic to us. We all need people at times to help us see and understand the landscape before us and if nothing less, shine a light on the path at our feet and provide some clarity.

When I was young my momma always told me I had expensive taste. I saw it as an eye for quality. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I began to understand what it means to not only recognize quality but attract these type of people and craft a life of quality for myself.

I don’t believe we are the makers of things.

I believe we grow out of that which we decide to put our hands to making.

Weathered hands are shaped by the hardness they toil upon day after day just as the relationships we have are grown from either a lifetime of nurturing or a habit of neglectful shortcuts. I’ve learned to make something of quality is to grow you, yourself into a person of long-lasting durability that can weather any storm and keep yourself warm when biting winds pay a visit. I believe one grows into a person who can to be trusted to hold together and when it's needed most. It's through a dedication to quality that we get better with time and show character in the stress marks and wear lines.

​This is as true for people it is the things we buy and how we spend the time we’re given.

And as a map maker, the kind of woman who’s vision is matched only by her desire to be of use I’ve learned I’m not fit for everyone. Never have been. I’ve often been too big, too loud, too tuned in to what’s being left unsaid and far too heavy with the weight of my silent insights to be ignored.

I'm only for those interested in a lifetime and timeline rooted in the sincere exploration of quality. Using the hands of sincerity and reciprocity as their tools I am fed by their growth as people and look to serve with the tools brought forth from my own trunk of honest experience.

@a_leighsmith captured me at the White Sands National Monument, NM for a early morning shoot for White's Boots. We were traveling cross country with Cate Havstad in her 30ft Airstream workshop for The Hatter and The Hound Tour we produced together.


We’ve gotten quite used to maps telling us where to go these days, providing real-time updates of the traffic and congestion we will soon idle in. Those serve their purpose. But what most people are forgetting is the power in seeing what all the peaks and valleys, desserts and coastlines look like through the seasons all the while remembering we have options in which paths we choose. We often struggle to find time to look up from our bench long enough to understand where we are in the big picture let alone draw the big picture.

As the horse called Hawk took a deep breath beneath me and pulled at his reins I was reminded to ease up in guiding him through the winding path marked by the twisted roots of yellow rabbitbrush and the dried stems of Western Yarrow. I sat deeper in the saddle, relaxed up on the leather straps laced through my pointer finger and thumb and looked across the landscape we were navigating together. My friend asked if I wanted to stick to the road or head through the brush a while to the edge where the land met the deep canyon carved out by centuries of rushing water finding its way to the sea and where we would find a view of my home unmatched by any from a paved road. We veered right and she spoke to me about feeling stuck and unsure of how all the pieces of her life and craft were fitting together.

A smile rolled across my face.

As she led me through the rough terrain of our backyard and the late Idaho summer sun began to fall deeper into the canyon I was reminded once again that I was exactly where I needed to be—collecting more experience to help clarify the big picture and paint better maps for myself and others. This adventure brought forth another story to be added to my trunk and perhaps another personal landscape is to be mapped out when the time called for it. But in the moment I felt grateful for a crown that sat snug in the wind, the trust of another letting me take the reigns and the company of a new friend that seemed to fit like a pair handmade riding boots, sure to get better with time always up for a path less traveled.

I always love how my booty feels in a great saddle.

Thank you, so much for stopping by and reading some of my story.

Now, I would love to hear what you think.

What do you think having someone around to help you with the big picture brings to your life?
Have you ever felt like you weren't sure where you fit in?

I'd love to hear form you and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!

Love your face,


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