Entertainment

Bring on the bling

By From page B1 | August 09, 2017

Showtime Awards creator LuAnn Holland Perez holds a beautifully crafted belt buckle — one of many that the Shingle Springs businesswoman ships out globally. Village Life photo by Shelly Thorene

Born and raised on a cattle ranch in central Kansas, LuAnn Holland Perez understands horses and how exciting it can be to receive an award that recognizes skill and hard work in the arena.

“I competed in horse shows and I remember what a big deal it was when I won my first buckle,” said Perez.

Showtime Awards, the business Perez started in 2008, aims to be a one-stop shop for awards by offering buckles, plaques, tack, spurs, bits, bridles, cheek pieces and ribbons, all primarily handmade, at a variety of prices and in customized, vintage or cutting edge styles. It’s Perez’ way of making sure that the awards match the champions who earn them.

Perez’s Shingle Springs workshop is a sparkling, shiny place: a pair of beautifully engraved silver and rose-gold spurs gleams on a table, ready to be shipped out; arrays of silver buckles glitter with sparkling stones as the shining silver catches every particle of light. Boxes of gold engraved plaques with leather surrounds await shipping and award ribbons, handmade by a former horse show judge scintillate with glittery bling edging.

“I love this business; it’s so fun. It’s the perfect job for me,” said Perez.

Right timing

Most people would have cringed at the thought of starting a business just as the economy plunged into darkness, but Perez said it was the right time for her.

“I started out just doing tack awards — spurs, bridles, bits and saddle pads,” said Perez.” There were plenty of trophy buckle companies, so I didn’t make buckles.”

But, as the economy forced more and more buckle companies out of business, Perez found a market for making buckles.

“People are crazy for buckles and now most of my sales are trophy buckles,” she said.

Sales are flourishing in Australia, Canada and Europe as well as the United States.

International sales

“Many of my sales are in Australia — they import quarter horses and love all cowboy things,” said Perez.

She’s even getting sales from unexpected places. English riding, traditionally understated, has not participated in the current Western riding big buckle bling, but recently Perez enticed the English riders into trying out her trophy buckles.

“I promised them the buckles wouldn’t be big and glittery,” she said. Small silver rectangles, beautifully engraved, are ready for the English riding horse shows.

Summer is the busiest time of year for Perez with all the county fairs and horse shows giving out awards. “December is busy too, because horse clubs give their year-end awards then.”

California here I come

After graduating from college in Kansas, Perez relocated to California with an eye to becoming a screenwriter. Screenwriting as done in Hollywood seemed to be too confining, so Perez became a Mad Woman with a job in advertising and marketing, working with big-time clients like Singapore Airlines.

”I got to travel a lot — it was wild and fun,” the entrepreneur said.

She met her now ex-husband who was managing a television station and after the birth of their son, the family moved to El Dorado County.

“After I saw my baby pick up a cigarette butt off the ground near our house, I knew I wanted to raise him in a safer place,” said Perez.

Move to El Dorado County

Perez and her husband purchased the McDonald’s franchise in Cameron Park and raised their son on acreage in Shingle Springs with horses and animals. Perez was overjoyed to be able to get back into horseback riding and her son, now 31, learned to raise lambs for 4-H.

“He sold them at the Junior Livestock Auction — it taught him so much,” said Perez, who has never regretted the move to Northern California.

After years of owning the franchise, Perez wanted to do something that was more fun. “But, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Her ex-husband suggested a business of her own. Perez said, “I didn’t want to be involved in making a product at first; I just wanted to manage a business.” After she became entranced with the beautiful bits, bridles and buckles she saw in Western riding, Perez worked with some buckle makers and decided to launch into her own trophy award business.

Perfect career

Showtime Awards combines Perez’s love of animals, her love of beautiful things and her marketing and advertising skills. But, she’s not just managing a business — Perez is involved with every aspect of it, from design to shipping.

“Being in advertising for so long, I worked with a lot of artists who taught me a lot,” said Perez. “Now, I do design on a graphics program and our silversmiths make the buckles by hand. We don’t use pre-fabricated buckles, so we can vary the style of each buckle radically, customizing it for the client.”

While the buckles are cut from a template, Perez’s three silversmiths do the engraving free-hand instead of stamping a design. Mother of pearl, lapis and turquoise stones are inset into the buckle and the finished product is beautifully packaged in a cobalt blue and gold box that doubles as a display stand.

“The box design was fun — one of my genius moments,” said Perez.

Bits, spurs, bridles and cheek pieces all follow a similar process and the results are spectacular. Not participation awards to be squirreled away in a box — these are beautiful pieces of art meant to be displayed proudly and prominently.

“Little kids always want the dinner-plate-sized buckles,” Perez laughed. “I see each piece we make as a little advertisement and a piece of art that makes a statement.”

Designer LuAnn Holland Perez, founder of Showtime Awards, holds an engraved silver and rose-gold cutter spur she designed.

Belt buckles created for the Santa Clara County Fair 2017 Champion Outstanding FFA Exhibitor sit in boxes at the Showtime Awards studio.

The exquisite buckles, plaques, tack, spurs, bits, bridles, cheek pieces and ribbons designed by LuAnn Holland Perez start with a design on paper.

Wendy Schultz

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