It’s simply trite to refer to Shea Fisher as "just an artist."
The 29-year-old Australian and her husband Tyson Durfey, winner of the World Championship in tie-down roping at the National Final Rodeo last year, are a dynamic duo of sorts. Living just north of Weatherford, the couple designs a line of western-styled belt buckles that would rival any in the business. That in itself is interesting, but like a diamond, that’s only one facet that makes up the artistry that is Shea Fisher.
In the beginning
“My dad, Eddie Fisher, was a bull riding and bareback riding champion and my mother Joanne was a barrel riding champion, so I grew up in rodeo my whole life,” Shea said.
In 1998, she and her family moved to America where her father competed on the Professional Bull Riders circuit. After a few years, the family moved back to Australia where Shea pursued her passion - music.
“So I entered some talent competitions, sang the national anthem at rodeos...then at 15 knocked on the tour bus door of a guy,” she said.
That guy was Steve Forde, the Brad Paisley of Australia, she said.
“I asked if I could sing for him,” Shea said. “He agreed and later invited me on his Australian tour; we actually co-wrote my first album.”
At the age of 16, Shea signed a record deal with ABC Music. She released her debut album, titled “Everyday Girl” the same year.
“My first album had two No. 1 songs so I started my own Australian tour,” she said.
Then Shea came to the United States for a second time where she worked on another album. Upon its release in Australia, a recording company in Nashville got wind of the Aussie talent. The company wanted to sign Shea to a contract and in short order she and her band were in the States.
Meanwhile, her second album had another couple of No. 1 hits in Australia and by all appearances she seemed to be on her way to musical stardom. But appearances can fool you sometimes.
“We did an American tour and were getting ready to release a our first single when the recording company ran into some financial trouble,” Shea said. “We had to shut down.”
The Cowboy and those fabulous buckles
If anything, Shea is resilient and adaptable.
During her hiatus from music, she was modeling for a clothing company in Houston.
“The Houston Rodeo was in town at the time and that’s where I met Tyson,” she said. “We dated for a few years and got married in 2013.”
But before she ever met Tyson, she had a separate business that helped her stay afloat financially and that was the design and manufacturing of custom made western belt buckles.
“My parents started a company 16 years ago when they retired from the rodeo circuit,” Shea said. “It was a rodeo equipment company that included a line of belt buckles.”
In fact when Shea moved to Nashville, that was a way she supplemented her income.
“I knew I wouldn’t automatically have a steady income so my dad said if I wanted to market custom buckles I could and use his factory in Australia to make them,” she said. “The only thing I had to do was design them myself.”
So she did.
“I hand design everything,” Shea said. “Afterward, my team will design it on the computer for me. the customer approves it, then we make it. All of our products come with a lifetime guarantee.”
Shea said customers can pick from a variety of designs, even combine a few. They can even pick out the color stones.
“We can make a buckle from $150 to $20,000 if the customer wants,” she said. “We try and cater to everyone.”
Shea would tell you when she and Tyson were married, interest in the custom buckles grew with Tyson’s connection in the rodeo industry. Today, the couple designs and sells 4,500 to 5,000 buckles annually.
But it doesn’t stop there. Shea has even branched out with a jewelry line.
“Even I was getting tired of spending so much on jewelry,” Shea said.
She created a line of jewelry that is made in the same factory where the buckles are made.
Customers have a choice of picking sterling silver, German silver, even gold, with a variety of finishes from antique to high gloss.
And if that wasn’t enough, the duo has also created a line of custom baby boots.
Tyson said it worked out great because their daughter, Praise, was born just months earlier.
“A lot of our designs come from certain inspirations we have,” Tyson said. “You don’t necessarily have to be into rodeo. You could be someone that likes Native American art or just turquoise.”
It’s been a journey, Tyson said. Something they could work on other than just rodeoing.
“This is just one side of our business,” Tyson said. “The whole rodeo side is another thing with different endorsement deals and with different companies.”
He said he competes in about 100 rodeos a year, some of them lasting up to three days.
"This is a good team effort,” Tyson said. “I believe if you take care of you customer and really do all you can for them, you have repeat customers, happy customers.”
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274
Where to find them:
For buckles: @sheamichellebuckles.com
For jewelry: @designsbyshea.com
For baby boot @sheababy.com
For music: www.sheafisher.com