Meet Merilee Raynor: a Cal Poly student following her passion for leather design work

Updated: Feb 24

Contributed by Caleigh Martella | Sophomore | Agricultural Communication

Growing up in California’s Metropolitan Bay Area, one might not see many representations of western ranching culture. But for Merilee Raynor, a senior Agricultural Communication major at Cal Poly, who grew up in a fourth-generation ranching family and learned to rodeo at a young age, the western way of life is a big part of her culture. Raynor said that she always knew she wanted to attend Cal Poly because of her dad’s influence as an alumnus, and also for its reputation in the agriculture industry.

When asked what her favorite class has been, she said that she really enjoyed her senior project class where she teamed up with the Cal Poly rodeo team and organized a western rodeo fashion showcase. “I loved the project and had so much fun developing it. It was more of a passion than a class to me.”

With her creative abilities, Raynor started working on her own leather designs such as saddles, jewelry, jackets, and even her own graduation cap.

All photos shot by Cal Poly Agricultural Communication alumna, Justice Osiecki.

When asked about the inspiration behind her work Raynor said, “I love all things leather but, it’s expensive! It made more sense financially to start making my own designs so I decided to do it.”

It was a rough start, but, with practice, watching lots of YouTube and talking with other designers she is slowly improving and finding her style. The actual construction of the product on average takes about 3-6 hours depending on the design’s size, with the preparation and idea process taking up most of her time.

Raynor’s plans after graduation are to move to Scottsdale, Arizona and find an entry-level job to figure out exactly what she wants to pursue. Her long-term goal is to, “open my company or boutique focused around western culture. It might be an online shop, magazine or boutique, or retail space, but I know I want to feature my leatherwork.”

The Brock Center is excited to see what Raynor creates next and wishes her well as she moves on to the next chapter of her life. Good luck Merilee! We are proud to call you a Cal Poly Agricultural Communication alumna.