Archive for February 2015 | Monthly archive page
This is a saddle I made not long ago for a fellow from Texas. This is the third saddle of mine he has owned (he bought one used, and the other two were custom made). Some years ago, I did the numbers and found that half my saddle orders were for repeat customers. Within the business world, this is a very high number, but within the craftsmanship/art world, this is probably not unusual. It is always a good day when I get a call from one of my folks and hear the words, “I’d like another!”
I was trolling through some photos recently and ran across this case that I made a couple years ago for a rancher. This design was worked out to serve the needs of an every-day cowboy and conscientious horseman. He needed something for calving that was secure, accessible on the nearside, and could be taken off easily at the end of the day since there may well be some kind of medicine in the bag that would be ruined if it were to freeze. The shaped/molded pocket on the face of the bag holds the sharp applicator for ear tags that many ranchers use. The bag needed to accommodate fifty or so ear tags, and other things that he might need for each calf like needles, syringes, vitamin dosage, marking crayon, etc. We are particularly happy with the way the bag attaches to the saddle. A simple ‘sleeve’ was added to the offside billet that had a dee fastened to it where the #200 snap would conveniently attach. The nearside billet then slides into a sewn-on keeper on the backside of the bag that holds the bag in place and keeps it from flopping around. These kinds of projects are very gratifying as they go to work immediately, making a cowboy’s life a bit easier.
Before the 1870s the colloquial phrase “on time” was non-existent. The industrial revolution which brought the railroad out west also brought us to the point of declaring a worker or train to be “on time”. Earlier, folks simply “passed time” in their various vocations. Then came the modern dictum that we “save”, “spend”, and “keep track of” time. It is hard to imagine our world without the pressure of being “on time”, for the money metaphor has survived intact and is one that most of us bathe in daily.
For a craftsman (and perhaps most folks) the clock can be a good servant, but a pretty poor master. Striving to work efficiently is a good thing in any endeavor, but approaching a task with the pressure of having to “get ‘er done” in a short amount of time…well, good luck with that! Some of us seem to have the attitude that, “We’re going to get this done fast, no matter how long it takes!” We are so destination oriented, that the temptation to hurry things along is great. This doesn’t work so well with artistry, craftsmanship, horsemanship, stockmanship or…you name it. Have you seen cattle brought to the corral in a stampede and the rest of the day comes unraveled? It often takes an extra day or more to sort out a wreck because of a lack of patience. When I lack patience with my horses, I’ll be using more time fixing problems that I’ve created. A buckaroo friend years ago said that if you are going to be in a hurry, hurry out of bed so that you can get an early start on the day. Leather, silver, wood, and rawhide are mediums that write the script on how to deal with them, and being in a hurry isn’t part of the story. A craftsman regards them with respect and on their terms. Though living and breathing, horses and cattle likewise don’t operate on a timeline…for the most part, they have nowhere to go and all day to get there. They know nothing of the pressures of a ticking clock.
My journey of craftsmanship has taught me patience with the process. A methodical, systematic approach almost always yields higher quality results in a timely fashion. In fact, I’ve read that the best practical theology is systematic theology. We could apply this to many things…”The best practical craftsmanship is systematic craftsmanship.”
And now, since I’ve spent too much time on the computer, I’ll have to excuse myself and get back to work so that I can get my projects finished on time.