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TCAA Mom’s Scholarship

The TCAA is pleased to announce the creation of a new MOM’S Scholarship in the amount of $1000.00 to be used to help defer expenses associated with the recipient’s tuition and travel when studying with a TCAA member. The MOM’s Scholarship is to be awarded to a woman seeking to improve her skills in one of the 4 TCAA Disciplines of Rawhide Braiding, Silver Smithing, Bit and Spur Making, and Saddle Making. The individual applying must have as a primary goal working full time in one of the 4 listed disciplines if not already so engaged. Prospective applicants may apply with a short bio and a minimum of 4 pictures of their BEST work. Each applicant must show a dedication to improving their skills in the chosen discipline and their goals must be aligned with those of the TCAA as evidenced in the TCAA Mission Statement.

TCAA Saddelmaker John Willemsma created the Mom’s scholarship to honor his mother Mrs. Tena Willemsma. A women who is and will be remembered for her ability to inspire others while living an exemplary life with strength and grace.

Tena Willemsma immigrated to the United States in 1956 from Holland. She raised 6 children and worked hard to receive her GED at age 52. Two years later she concluded her education and received her certification as an LPN. For the next 20 years Tena worked nights as a registered nurse, finally retiring at the age of 74.

Tena Willemsma a strong and determined woman demonstrated tenacity, strength of character, and unwavering dedication to her family and her work. John along with the TCAA continue to believe that these qualities are as essential today as they were 50 or 100 years ago. The TCAA is very grateful to the Willemsma’s for sharing the empowering story of their mother, while providing the resources to promote and encourage a craftswoman to develop and improve in her chosen trade.

Mom’s Scholarship applications will open
July 1st and close September 15th 2017

Send photos and bio to:
John Willemsma 
535 Airway Dr
Westcliffe, Colorado 81252
405 282-5336

Mom’s Scholarship Recipients

2016 – Rawhide Braider, Justine Nelson
2015 – Saddle Maker, Anna Severe

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Hermann Oak Tannery Tour

herman-oak-tour-01I was fortunate to be invited to join all the TCAA saddle makers & Don Reeves to tour the Hermann Oak Leather Tannery. On March 29/14 I flew from Calgary, Alberta to St Louis, MO.  Shep Hermann picked up Chuck Stormes, Perdro Perdini and myself and took us to our hotel in St. Louis, the historic Missouri Athletic Club.

March 30 was the first of our two day tour of Hermann Oak.  We were all picked up from the hotel by Hermann Oak staff and taken to the tannery. After introductions we sat down in the main office with Shep Hermann and some key Hermann Oak employee’s.  Over the next couple hours Shep explained the plans he had for us in regards to the tannery tour, the company history, and their business philosophy.

herman-oak-tour-02After our discussions in the office the group of saddle makers along with Shep and some of the department heads from Hermann Oak we started out tour of the tannery. The tour was in chronological order from when the cowhide arrives to the finished leather.  According to the staff this tour was by far the most in-depth Hermann Oak has ever done, they explained each and every process of tanning leather from the hides arriving salted, to the cleaning and un-hairing process,  then the hides are taken to the rocker room where they start the process of tanning the leather using some machinery and tanning vats that are over 130 years old, this process can take 2-6 weeks. Then the leather goes into large wood drums to put back into the leather fat liquors and oils. This process takes a couple days, the leather is then put thru a slicker machine and then taken upstairs to the drying room where it is hung and dried.

After we finished the tour of the tanning process we had a very detailed question and answer period with Shep Hermann, the department heads and the chemists going over all the different processes of tanning leather. These discussions were very informational for us saddle makers and for the Herman Oak staff. This concluded day 1 of our tannery tour.

The next morning we started with another quick question and answer period, we then went upstairs to complete the tour of the tannery.

herman-oak-tour-03We spent a large amount of time going the grading process, learning all the different defects in leather and what the effects of these are.  Along with the grading department heads we went over each and every defect, how the leather is selected and graded etc. Shep had all of us saddle makers to make a list of our top 5 most important leather defects. This discussion was again very educational for us makers and the Hermann Oak staff.

herman-oak-tour-04Next we met Earl and Ron whom are the two gentlemen who grade the leather.

We all had many questions for Earl & Ron in regards to how leather is graded, then the staff brought to us many different sides of leather so we could see the different defects and grades of leather, as a group we had very details discussions on each side of leather we looked at.

herman-oak-tour-05After our discussion on grading leather we finished the tour of the tannery, seeing all the other processes involved,  splitting the leathers, dying and hot stuffing with wax and much, much more.

herman-oak-tour-06We then spent another few hours in the office, with another very in-depth discussion with Shep Hermann & staff with any and all questions we had about the tanning process or leather in general.

Something Cary Schwarz said after the tour which I had to agree with 100% “this was a life changing event, I’ll never look at Hermann Oak leather in the same way after visiting their tannery.”

I was simply amazed at the amount of knowledge that I gained about leather and the tanning process. This was yet another awesome experience, many thanks to the TCAA and the fellowship program.

Steve Mason

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An Invitation To Visit Hermann Oak Leather

Throughout 2013, the TCAA had ongoing talks with Mr. Shep Hermann of Hermann Oak Leather regarding maintenance of saddles and leather products. As a result of these exchanges, Mr. Hermann became interested in the TCAA and its goals. While attending Cowboy Crossings last October at the National Cowboy Museum, he invited the TCAA saddle makers to St.Louis for a tour and talks with key tannery workers.

Those invited included Rick Bean, Pedro Pedrini, Cary Schwarz, Chuck Stormes, John Willemsma, Steve Mason (Tcaa Fellowship 2014) and Don Reeves, National Cowboy Museum Curator.

On March 31st and April 1st, 2014 we met at the Hermann Oak Tannery for a complete tour, including a series of lively, informative discussions centered on the details of tanning and using traditional vegetable tanned leathers.

 I believe leather to be the first chemically-produced product in the history of mankind, because it can be produced by accident and is one of the most useful articles throughout history. – Shep Hermann

This may well represent the first time discussions at that level have taken place between experienced saddle makers and a leading tanner of saddle skirting.

The TCAA extends its sincere thanks to Shep Hermann and the entire staff of Hermann Oak Leather for organizing this historic meeting.

Please enjoy the accompanying video which provides a window into the operation of one of America’s most celebrated tanneries.

For further information please visit their website

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Details of Saddle Making with John Willemsma

JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-07Thirteen years ago I had the great opportunity to attend a Traditional Cowboy Arts Asociation workshop at the NATIONAL COWBOY MUSEUM in Oklahoma City .. Fast forward to this past February and to the “Details of Saddle making ” workshop that I had the honor present as a member of The TCAA.

Eleven students from California to Wisconsin spent four days observing how to work on areas that give many saddlemakers issues , such as the proper way to cover a metal horn, fitting a swell cover on a saddle requiring a seam or welt and a Wade (slick fork),the proper steps to achieve a nice cantle shape (fitting your cantle back and cantle filler) and according to all in attendance.

Making clean cuts and fitting the “seat ears” at the base of the cantle binding for both a Cheyenne roll and a straight Bead style cantle.In the four day class two different styles of saddles were worked on .. A Wade and a Will James .. Giving everyone a wide range of ideas to improve upon their work.

The focus on the TRADITIONAL COWBOY ARTS ASSOC. fall workshop will be ..Saddle tree fit with TCAA member Chuck Stormes. Many thanks to all who attended and worked so hard to make the February work shop a success .

– John Willemsma TCAA

JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-01 JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-02 JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-03 JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-04 JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-05 JW-2014-SaddleWorkshop-06Those attending the workshop

Cindy Abrams…Midway, TX
Craig Brown ..Stillwell, OK
Jim Kiss Modesto, CA
Jan Mark, Elbert, CO
Mike Monroe, Fletcher, OK
Ed Rodgers, Arena, WI
Jock Pollard, Cement, OK
Ken Raye, Zachary ,LA
Evan Rolland, Coalgate, OK
Jamie Sayre, Ventura, CA
T.A. Williams, Benton, KS

Report: TCAA Exhibit Tour

national-cowboyBeing a member of the TCAA and being part of a great show this year at The National Cowboy Museum is such an honor. This December I had the privilege of spending two Sunday afternoons at the museum and talking with visitors as they viewed the TCAA show. It’s always amazing to me to see the change in people’s perspective of how they look at each piece of work, after understanding the amount of time involved in building a piece for the TCAA Show. I spoke with several visitors who had some basic knowledge of horses and the West, who were fascinated by the pieces. The process of how one does silver high relief engraving on steel was especially fascinating. After explaining the basics of removing the background to enhance the scroll work, each would go around the room again and re-examine each piece with new found interest. This was true of every medium in the show. Visitors were amazed at how the process evolves from the initial thought, to the layout of a design, and then to the finished product. They all came away with a new appreciation for who we are as both artist and craftsman. The visitors varied from a local woman who had been to Morocco and Spain and could see the influence of their cultures in the designs and workmanship, to a couple from China with a fascination for cowboys and the West, marveling at the artistry as they stopped to look at each piece in the show. It was an honor to be in the gallery among the great works of each member of the TCAA, and to bring a new appreciation of our goals as an organization to those that came to the exhibition.