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The Most Basic Elements

ChuckStormes-2016-06I’ve often suggested to long-time, serious students of saddle making that a good mental exercise is to reduce a saddle to its most basic elements and either imagine or sketch what the result might look like.

The attached sketch is one that I made about twenty-five years ago as just such an exercise. The drawing and scribbled notes remained in an “idea file” until recently, when I decided to attempt to make this saddle as a 2016 TCA project.

The tree parts were milled, laminated and shaped from solid cherry. The fork and cantle are fastened to the bars with waterproof glue and wood screws- drilled, counterbored and plugged with cherry.

Although the saddle’s construction is quite simple, the fitting required some precision, including the “corona” which is pocketed in place on the front and rear bar tips.

The carving is a traditional California style mixed floral design which subtly grows a little larger, or bolder as it progresses downward from rigging to fender. The flowers used in the mixture were wild rose, California poppy, pansy, Mexican marigold, sego lily and water lily.

The rigging is Spanish -laced with rawhide, as is the rigging brace, under the fender.

The fenders are in one piece with  3 1/2” stirrup leathers, with lace adjustment just below the edge of the bar.

Scott Hardy’s hand-engraved sterling silver conches and inlaid 1 3/4” inlaid horn cap add a bright touch of class.

I hope this inspires others to create their own version of a minimalist, ultra-light saddle, and may they have as much fun with the design as I did.

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Why a miniature saddle?

CarySchwarz_2016_sunlight

Cary working on the all-leather ground seat.

Pictured (click to enlarge): 1) Scott Hardy silver and gold horn cap. 2) Detail of the bronc figure in the dish of the cantle after the cantle binding has been sewn. 3) Saddle ready to ship.

Mike’s question caught me a little flat-footed. I was in the middle of my main TCAA project for this year…a half scale foral carved Wade. Behind the question lurked a hint of another question: “Why wouldn’t you make something that would, you know, be practical?”

I fumbled through the answer to Mike’s question with the standard reasons that I hoped would make sense to him…”Years ago saddle companies would have sales reps on the road with “salesman samples” that were half scale representatives of what was available to order. This year’s TCAA saddle would be a nod toward the heyday of the great saddle shops like Hamley’s, Visalia, Porter, etc.” All of the answers I came up with sort of danced around the fact that no one is going to throw this saddle on a horse and use it. For many, this just doesn’t “make sense”, or perhaps even, “It just ain’t right.”

But we live in a world full of natural and man-made beauty that is all designed to be appreciated. Consider why anyone would put silver on a bit, or use colored rawhide strings for the interweaves on a set of reins, or flowers on a saddle, or a silver buckle on a belt? It is because we like things that are attractive and interesting.

For those of us who love the West, there have never been more opportunities to celebrate the culture we hold dear. I remember a conversation with Jim, a local rancher years ago who described how he would stop for lunch, tie off his horse, and admire the fine floral carving on his custom made saddle as he ate. Those flowers were carefully designed and crafted for this moment with Jim in mind. Their beauty gave him another reason to celebrate his lifestyle. But there are many who love the West who are not horseback. These folks can enjoy the beauty of our Western Way of Life by being surrounded by its trappings. They can feel the texture of the leather, smell its earthiness, admire its beauty, and take pleasure in its meaning.

The short answer to Mike’s question is that this half scale Wade creates an opportunity to celebrate the West and Western Craftsmanship in yet another way. When you consider the smorgasbord of cultural offerings in our fast-paced world, and you watch our struggle to remain relevant within this context, it seems only wise to commemorate our history, recognize the present, and continue to lay ground work for tomorrow.

And that makes a lot of sense to me.

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Pablo Lozano – The Art of Rawhide by Domingo Hernandez

The award winning professional rawhide braider Pablo Lozano was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lozano relates his success to the time spent during childhood in the family ranch in Tandil, and his inquisitive nature about Argentina’s cultural legacy.

Initially Lozano started creating small items such as bracelets and knife handles and selling them to friends. While he was building a reputation founded on solid work ethics, while perfecting techniques and constantly learning how to produce the highest quality rawhide gear. In 1985, Lozano began his career as a full-time rawhide braider.

The tradition of rawhide braiding has a long history in Argentina and continues to evolve uninterrupted through generations. Rawhide braiding can be traced to Spain’s first attempt to colonize South America when the Spanish settlers brought shiploads of livestock from Europe to the Pampas, a vast region with an abundance of pastures and an ideal climate for livestock production. With the proliferation of livestock emerged the need for the Gaucho, the horseman of the Pampas, a skillful individual in all rural activities.

Through the years the cattle ranches were built and proved to be productive establishments and as result the Gaucho handcrafted specialized gear to cope with the needs of the cattle industry by utilizing rawhide. This skills were safeguarded and hand down to future generations by word of mouth.

Don Luis Albero Flores by Daniel Sempe

Don Luis Albero Flores by Daniel Sempe

Lozano was always observant and eager to learn rawhide braiding from the hire hands in his family’s ranch. At the age of 15, he noticed that one of his schoolmates had started learning how to braid and the youngster informed Lozano he was receiving instruction from the late Don Luis Alberto Flores, who later became Lozano’s mentor. Moreover, Flores always encouraged Lozano to adhere to the tradition of excellence and to associate with likeminded people with high aspirations. Lozano regularly bounced ideas off and felt inspired by Flores, over time solidifying a lifelong relationship.

Lozano’s inquisitive nature and ranching background launched him into creating fine gear for discerning horsemen and their horses, to compete in national shows, where Lozano’s traditional rawhide braided gear gained popularity. Lozano enjoyed a gradual evolution into custom braid work orders consisting of one-of-a-kind headstalls, reins, bosals, hobbles, cinchas, and reatas to name a few items. Lozano’s traditional handmade masterpieces are recognized for its dependable use and unique beauty due to his command of numerous rawhide braiding techniques and creative talent, gained by a lifetime dedicated to his chosen profession.

Lozano believes that rawhide gear is made to be used and his philosophy is that preparation of the hides is critical to guarantee top quality goods. Also, highlights that is the hide that dictates its application and not the braider.

For Lozano it is a pre-requisite to start with quality hides for the best yield and cut no corners as the hides are being processed from their raw state to achieve the best possible rawhide. The goal is to handcraft the highest quality rawhide gear, because it’s an honor to continue the tradition by making the best goods. Traditions continue to evolve as one blends ancient techniques with creativity to handcraft one-of-a-kind pieces without compromising the function or durability, because as artist that will be one’s legacy.

Lozano has participated in trade shows and exhibits throughout Argentina and has received numerous awards for his traditional rawhide braiding since 1995, to include the best Braider of the Year 2007 in Argentina. Furthermore, Lozano has been recognized by the Academy of Western Artists (AWA) during their 20th Annual Will Rogers Awards, was selected Braider of the Year 2015.

Lozano’s skill, talent and knowledge has helped training and mentoring several aspiring braiders from his shop in Tandil. Also, has assisted braiders from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Uruguay and the United States during workshops. Braiders seek his advice and constructive criticism in Facebook, despite the idiomatic barriers. He starts his workshops by encouraging all participants to let him know what they would like to learn. And he encourages learning from someone who have already achieved success in the trade.

He believes in the concept of apprenticeships and has had several apprentices as a means to educate and identify those that possess the skill and dedication required to execute the precise braiding that becomes a work of art, in an effort to safeguard the cultural legacy for future generations.

Several of Lozano’s creations had been awarded “best of show” because his traditional rawhide showcases the skillful execution of numerous techniques, and excellence in craftsmanship.

In 2004, thanks to the support of friends and fellow braiders Leland Hensley, Nate Wald and Mike Beaver, and under the auspice of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA), was invited to participate in a braiding seminar at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (NC&WHM) in Oklahoma City, OK. During the visit Lozano had the privilege to meet members of the TCAA present during the exhibit. He was impressed by their work, the member’s creativity, optimism and passion for the Western heritage.

Lozano was also impressed by the partnerships forged between the TCAA and the NC&WHM, and their goal to preserve and promote the Western heritage with a focus in bit & spur making, saddle making, silversmithing and rawhide braiding. The alliance has generated interest in these trades and the TCAA.

Upon return to Argentina Lozano started learning about the practical applications of the rawhide gear utilized by the Vaqueros and their influence in the Western heritage. Lozano credits friends Leland Hensley and Nate Wald for their assistance which helped him gained an understanding of the applications of the gear utilized by horsemen in the United States. Subsequently, in 2008 Lozano applied and became a member of the TCAA, the organization that has been committed to the critical mission of safeguarding the Western Heritage and traditional trades through education. Lozano believes that “every artist is a craftsman, however not all craftsmen are artist, they are separated by their creativity”. He added that all members of the TCAA are artist that deserve credit not only for the one-of-a-kind artwork they create for the annual exhibit but for their contributions to the industry. Also, their role as educators in furtherance of their chosen trade is commendable, this will be the TCAA and its member’s legacy!

Since 2009, when Lozano’s rawhide braid work was first exhibited in the TCAA show he has made an effort to create pieces in collaboration with fellow TCAA members, because he is passionate about rawhide braiding and proud to be a member of the TCAA. Lozano would like his legacy to be the advancement of rawhide braiding for the enjoyment of future generations.

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Thought Process In Designing

When designing a custom piece I go through a certain thought process, whether it is a piece of gear or any other project. It is important for me to have a general idea of what I want my project to look like when it is finished, but I also have to maintain a certain amount of flexibility to change if things do not meet my criteria.

When braiding gear my guidelines start with three simple questions.

  1. How will this feel or impact the horse?
  2. How will this feel to the rider?
  3. What does it look like?

In jewelry or other projects the questions are much the same.

  1. Will this function properly for the purpose it is being used?
  2. Does it feel good to wear or use?
  3. What does it look like?
 

I ask myself these questions throughout the making of each project in that specific order. I believe the order of these questions are very important.

A very simple example of this can be demonstrated in a recently made necklace. The pictures will show the beginning of the bolo style necklace with the bodies being braided. For this style of necklace I wanted two separate bodies but I wanted the part of the necklace that breaks over the neck to be a flatter braid instead of round. This allows the necklace to break over the shoulder and around the neck more naturally, causing the necklace to be more comfortable and lay better. The rounded ends will allow the main knot to slide better in order to adjust if needed.

I wanted this necklace to have the look of a set of braided reins so I added leather poppers to the ends of the bodies and started buildups for the small knots. Attention is paid to make sure that proportions are aesthetically pleasing and do not get so large that they throw the balance of the necklace off. Colors have been chosen prior to the start, but the actual patterns and amount will be determined by the size of the knot and what it will allow.

For the final knot, which will be the main focus of the necklace, I chose a shape that follows the same flow as the rest of the piece, but I also make sure that the shape allows it to have flat sides in order to fit closer to the person and lay flatter. This follows the same train of thought as the rest of the necklace. I do the same with the color pattern, I want to make sure that the shape and color pattern will make the eyes move in the way I want them to.

This is just a small example of the thought process that I go through while creating something that I want to be proud of. The time frame can vary for all these thoughts to come together, so rushing through the process usually ends in starting over. My hopes are that whoever ends up owning the piece will appreciate not only the piece itself, but the amount of thought that goes in to the making of it artistically and mechanically.

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35 Years A Silversmith

2016 marks my 35th year as a full time Western Silversmith. Over the next few months I will try and provide anyone interested a glimpse into not only my journey but also my passion and philosophies.

Some of the questions and statements I often hear are “How did you get started? You must come from a family of Artists! Was your Dad a silversmith? What school did you go to? And lastly “Where did you apprentice and who did you work for?” Lets start by getting some of the myths out of the way with a quick overview of my “Formal education” and “Influences”.

I come from a family of stockmen. These are people who work with their hands, not with paint brushes or gravers but rather fencing pliers, hammers or shovels. We had no Fine Art in our home or Great Handmade Gear, although both were always appreciated. It was my beautiful wife and life partner Leslie that encouraged me to become a Western Silversmith. It was my Great Grandfather Bert who stressed “The only time you should quite learning is when they are throwing dirt on you!” I also can still hear my Grandma Myrtle’s words ringing in my ears “Any job worth doing is worth doing to the best of your abilities!”

In the late 70’s I was welding, shoeing horses, and worked on the oil rigs, just doing what I could to survive. I came home one day and Leslie had a newspaper add about a continuing education course on beginning Silversmithing. The course was 3 hours a night, 2 nights a week for 10 weeks. Sign me up!

Hardy_Article_02To start with we worked on small jewellery items and I really enjoyed it! With Leslie’s encouragement I started buying tools and set up a little shop in our basement working nights and weekends. Soon I started attempting buckles and saddle silver. I quickly figured out the required materials were heavier, needed more heat along with different technics. Lastly I would have to learn how to engrave!!! Just to be clear this was well before the internet. I knew no one in the area that did this for a living, with the exception of a company that made it crystal clear they were not interested in helping me. My only influences came from magazines and books. There was even less information about engraving. I finally stumbled across a book by James B. Meck on the Art of Engraving. I found a man named Don Glaser who was making power assisted hand engraving machines called Graver-mister. I saved my money ordered one and I was officially Dangerous!

Hardy_Article_01In 1980 some clients introduced me to renowned saddle maker Chuck Stormes. He had some great Silversmiths as friends and started showing me some fantastic pieces along with critiquing my work when possible. I’m still not sure whether Chuck saw something in me or felt my shear desperation to learn but I will always be indebted to him.

I flipped things around in 1981 and started working on silver through the day and
doing my other jobs in the early mornings, nights and weekends. Chuck finally recommended that I go to Cliff Ketchum who occasionally helped beginner engravers. I contacted Cliff to set up a date. He charged $100.00 per day plus I had to buy him breakfast, lunch and dinner. In exchange I was able to stay in his little holiday trailer. We had enough money saved for me to go for five days. We only had one vehicle(doubted it would have made it there and back) so I took the Greyhound Express and arrived in Walla Walla, Washington two days later. It was a good five days and Cliff opened the door on some basics of engraving for me!

Chuck introduced me to Mark Drain’s work, which I thought was fantastic! I knew I wasn’t at a level that Mark would be interested in teaching me yet. In1985 Mark agreed to let me spend three days with him. The cost was $150 per day plus a plane ticket. We borrowed the money from Leslie’s Grandmother. Today I still feel it was some of the best money I ever spent, Mark lifted the veil for me! I loved Mark’s engraving, he pushed everything by hand (no power assist). He had no problem with power assist but felt they were slower and said everyone should learn by hand first then make the decision if they wanted to use power assist. We spent three glorious days hand engraving. I came home and for the next 30 years never used a power assist again. I went to Marks again in 1986 for 3 days. I can never thank Mark and Kathy enough for their kindness and they remain today our very good friends.

I was introduce to Alvin(Al) Pecetti in 1987. I believe Al was North Americas most influential Silversmith at the time. He invited me to spend a week with him, so of course I jumped at the chance. It turned out to be a life changing trip for me. Besides the shop and design knowledge Al shared with me, he gave me advice that I have followed and have believed in from that day on. At that point in my career in addition to silver work I also built bits and spurs thinking they were the same trade. One afternoon Al took me over to the great Bit and Spur maker Al Tietjen’s shop. We toured the shop then went into the house to visit over a glass of Crown Royal whiskey. During the visit the “Als” offered me some advice, In their view these were two separate trades each deserved the respect and dedication to be concentrated on fully. “Pick one, learn everything you can about it and honor it by taking it as far as you possibly can”! I picked Silversmithing and have heeded their advice ever since. I have not regretted it for one minute.
I was privileged to visit Al twice more over the next few years(5 days each time) and we grew to become good friends.

A few years ago I took a 4 day repousse class from Valentin Yotkov and recently took a 5 day course from ornamental Engraver Sam Alfona. We worked on design and techniques under a microscope, what a blast! During all this time I have and continue to read constantly about different Technics, Art, Design, Architecture, and Composition. I am interested in anything I feel will enhance my knowledge and help me become a better Silversmith and Engraver.

So folks that outlines my “formal” education. I have never apprenticed under anyone, I have no degrees and have never done piece work for anyone. I have only worked for two entities, my family and my clients.

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NCWHM Video: Scott Hardy

Welcome to Alberta, Canada! Listen in as Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA) founding member Scott Hardy tells us about the embodiment of the west that can be found in the art of saddle making, bit and spur making, silversmith and raw hide braiding.

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Capron Spur Making Workshop

2015-03-04 11.46.16Wilson Capron hosted a March 3-6. The class was attended by six students coming from California, New Mexico and Texas. Each student was able to complete a pair of spurs while learning metal finish and the steps taken to make a pair of spurs. Students were taught to use equipment like belt sanders, buffers, a band saw and files that are very important to the process. Five of the six students stayed at Wilson’s shop bunk house where his wife Katy served three meals a day. This was a great class where friendships were made that will make everyone a better craftsman.

2015-03-04 10.53.21

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The TCAA Fellowship In Action

 

Beau Compton just finished 7 days of intensive – very intensive – training in my shop as part of his TCAA Fellowship. In that time we concentrated on design, die work, forming, fabrication, engraving and filigree along with this we had long discussions on pricing, business practices and continuing education. It was a very productive time.

At one point Beau commented to me that 5 years ago he didn’t know if he would ever get to meet Mark Drain or myself and now thanks to the TCAA Fellowship he has spent time in both our shops.

I personally want to thank Beau for being a focused student and for his dedication to Western Silversmithing.

I want to remind anyone interested in applying for the TCAA Fellowship Scholarship program please remember entries close April 1st and if you have applied before don’t hesitate to apply again. You are allowed and encouraged to apply multiple times.
For more information go to TCAA website or contact a TCAA member.

Scott Hardy

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Western Leather Academy

3_students_spring_2014Pedro Pedrini saddle shop is also home of the Western Leather Academy, a saddle making and leather workmanship school . Here is the spring 2014 tuition with Gene Kirkendall from Lakeport, California, James Brachet from France, and Rocky Armitage from Jamestown California

Gene Kirkendall

Gene Kirkendall

James Brachet

James Brachet

Rocky Armitage

Rocky Armitage

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Floral Carving Class at Christoval, Texas

Capron classCary Schwarz taught a design and floral carving class at Christoval, Texas June 17,18. Ten students spent one day working on paper learning principles of design, and a systematic way of laying visual information down. The second day featured instruction on swivel knife work, stamping tool selection and use. This session was held at Wilson and Katy Capron’s home and shop where the students enjoyed world class hospitality and Katy’s fabulous meals.

 
Students attending:
Morgan Seaman
Ross Bullinger
Clint Haverty
Russ Harris
Ely Ganzer
Dylan Randall
Taylor Meeske
Wayne Decker
Jeff Greer

Cody Briggs

 
It was a good time had by all!
 
– Cary Schwarz