When I was about 14, my grandfather made me a leather belt for my birthday. That was my first introduction to hand carved leather. Later that same year we had an introductory class in leather carving in junior high school. After the class, I continued my learning through some classes at a Tandy Leather store in Oklahoma City. Carving leather has been a hobby (obsession at times) ever since.

After graduating from high school in Salt Lake City in 1979, I moved North Dakota onto my grandparent's ranch in the badlands. I helped them with the ranch for a few years, eventually taking it over when I married my wife Stacy, and my grandparents retired. I spent the next 20 years of my life living my childhood dream of being a cowboy along with raising a family. Over the years, the dream lost some of it's appeal and I ended up selling off the cows and leasing out the ranch. These days I do construction work to pay the bills, and carve leather whenever I can.

A lot of people who have websites on the internet say they are self taught. I am not. I take every opportunity I can to learn from those who have more skill than I do. When we first got on the internet, I joined an online leather guild. The first thing I learned was that I had a lot to learn! For the last several years I have been attending the big leather trade show in Sheridan, WY. I have been able to take classes from some of the real masters of the craft, Bob Beard, Pete Gorrell, Al Gould, Jan Schoonover, Tony Laier, Paul Burnett, Kathy Flanagan, Jim Linnell and Cheryl Smeja. A few years ago, I met Rex Cook, a local saddle maker from Dickinson, ND and with his instruction (and a couple grants from the ND Council for the Arts) I have learned to build saddles. I have also had the privledge of being one of the founding members of Leatherworker.net, the worlds largest online community of leatherworkers, dedicated to education, entertainment and fellowship. Through that group, I have met and shared leatherwork experiences with other leatherworkers from around the world. I continue to learn, and have tried to start teaching some of what I have learned to others.

Clay Banyai

My Family

My oldest son Dusty, now living in Salt Lake City, Utah

Jake, the cowboy in the family

My daughter Jessi

Leather has always held a facination for me, even when it was still on the cow (or bull, as the case may be) Back in high school, I decided to try my hand at riding bulls, just to see if I could. This picture is from the Shawn Davis Rodeo School where I spent 3 days learning to ride from professional bull rider, John Davis.

Rodeo School '78

While I was ranching, we started using Chiangus bulls to add some pounds onto our calves. One unexpected benifit to using these bulls was people became interested in purchasing some of our calves to enter into the show ring. Norm was a Chiangus cross steer that ended up doing very well in the Ohio State fair, one of the toughest competitions in the nation.

Norm at the Ohio State Fair



About Me

Sculptured Leather Art Series by Jan Schoonover

Free Tutorials by Clay



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Dedicated to education, entertainment and fellowship!


2007 Badlands Leather Art, Clay Banyai, ND, USA

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