Archive for January 2014 | Monthly archive page
Call me crazy, but I think it is important (and interesting) to know whose shoulders I’m standing on here. Several years ago I bought a book that was written in the mid-ninteenth century by a Brit named Owen Jones. Jones was an academic, an architect, and art critic who studied the decoration found in architecture throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. This book has a ton of ideas for floral design. One of the things I found in this book were some designs discovered in the ancient city of Pompeii. Remember your high school history? Pompeii was buried by an eruption of MountVesuvius in AD 79. Pompeii remained covered in ash and frozen in time until the 1800’s when excavation of the city began. Uncovered were frescos, pilasters, and friezes with artwork mostly intact. There is a plate in the book that shows a nice depiction of vines encircling a flower… a design from over 2000 years ago. When you look at much of what we’re doing in leather these days, you realize that good design ideas never go out of style!
Thanks to my mentor Chuck Stormes for recommending this book to me.
I’ve used Warren Wright’s trees since 1992. I happened to be in the right place at the right time when Dale and Karron Harwood were looking for saddlemakers they knew who would do justice to Warren’s trees. Harwoods made an arrangement with Warren to import his trees from New Zealand for distribution to hand-picked saddlers in North America. Much of what Warren knows as a treemaker was learned in the northwestern US… his patterns show a heavy influence from Hamley’s (Pendleton, OR). Even though Warren has built over 5000 saddle trees since he began building in 1969, he continues to refine his craft. I’ve seen rawhide on lots of saddle trees in my thirty-plus years in the custom saddle business and can honestly say that his rawhide work is incredible. Nails are used in the areas where ‘bridging’ can occur and often times I see an over abundance of nails. Warren is very spare with his nails, using only what is necessary to hold the rawhide in place as it cures. The fork wood is laminated for added strength, a feature that Ray Holes (Grangeville, Idaho) made popular. What a pleasure to work on trees of such high caliber!
Here is an article I wrote for the current issue of the Leather Crafters and Saddlers Journal:
On October 12, 2013, soft-spoken Robert Raber made his way methodically through the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association gallery at the National Cowboy Museum. The Cowboy Crossings sale and exhibition in Oklahoma City has become a must see event for Raber, a saddlemaker from an Amish community in Coalgate, Oklahoma. The annual show presents Raber and his fellow craftsmen with a unique opportunity to see work at a high level of creativity and craftsmanship. Every year, craftsmen of all abilities come to see ornate and often complex bits, spurs, saddles, rawhide braidwork, and silverwork… and participate in the numerous lectures and workshops offered by the TCAA. In the fifteen year history of the Association, the craftsmen/artists who have taken advantage of these opportunities number in the hundreds. The TCAA is a non-profit organization with a heavy emphasis on education and their annual exhibit is the leading edge of this effort. The yearly gathering has become a reunion of sorts for the members, their collectors, and perhaps most importantly their fellow craftsmen making their way through life earning a living with their hands and their hearts.
This fall marked the second year that the TCAA Fellowship was awarded. Steve Mason, a veteran saddler from High River, Alberta was selected to receive the $12,000 fellowship that he can use to travel to visit several of the TCAA saddlemakers in order to advance his skills.
This year’s show was a success by nearly every measure. As of this writing, approximately eighty percent of the pieces have sold for a value of $407,249. A portion of these proceeds go to the National Cowboy Museum as well as the TCAA, which have strikingly similar mission statements. For Robert Raber though, the only numbers that are important to him are the dates of next year’s show and another opportunity to reconnect with the TCAA family, gather information and inspiration to help him become a better saddlemaker.
I love to do finish work on a saddle. This is a large wooden horn on a swell fork tree…something you would expect on a Wade rather than a 13″ front. I used some polished American six cord linen thread and sewed it at eight stitches to the inch. The edge is finished with glycerin bar saddle soap to smooth it up and then a hot beeswax treatment. The softened wax is caked onto the edge and a heated edge iron is passed along the edge to melt the wax. The wax renders into the edges to seal them off from moisture, dirt, salts and whatever elements this horn will see in its lifetime of use on the ranch.