Left to Right- Ernie Marsh (TCAA Judge), Wilson Capron (TCAA Judge), 1st place winner of TCAA Emerging Artist Competition Mathew Turner (Borger, TX), 2nd place and Peoples Choice winner Curtis Hill (Wichita Falls, TX), and 3rd place David Hurshberger (Nappance, IN.)
Day 5- My Goal this week was to give Tanner and Jodi Knowledge, Experience and Process that would start to form a Base allowing them to take their Ideas and Creativity from their Heads to their Hands.
Through the week they each Built a Buckle(shape, size, edge of their own choosing) that put them through the Paces of Designing Complicated Fabrication Techniques:
-These steps were Designed to Understand that if you Learnt your Basics, Respect the Trade and Materials, Dedicate Yourself to Learning that overtime You can Accomplish what you Desire.
This was a Long 5 Days filled with Discussions, Theory, Challenges and Revelations(AWE-HAW Moments). Sounds Hard Perhaps but because of their Dedication it was also Fun!
Thank You to the TCAA Providing These Opportunities, Thank You to the Sponsors for Making it Possible and Thank You to Jodi and Tanner for having the Courage and Desire to want to Continue True Cowboy Craftsmanship.
Along with Extensive Discussion about Pricing, Career Motives and Moving from Craft to Art with Dedication to a Chosen Discipline.
Day 3- We Journeyed to Chuck Storme’s Shop where Tanner and Jodi were inspired by Chuck over 50 years of Dedication to Craftsmanship, his Shop Organization and Purpose Plus Silver pieces he had On Hand from John Ennis and The Murry Brothers.
We returned to my Shop and they Proceeded on Their Projects all the Time Discussing the Purpose and Life Of a Craftsperson and Craftsmanship.
As They Said At The End Of The Day – “Life Changing”
The 2020 TCAA’s Emerging Artist Competition!
Again, we are exited it will be held at Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction, Mesa Convention Center, 263 N Center Street, Mesa Arizona on January 24-26, 2020.
We believe by focusing on one discipline per year we can give participates more exposure to collectors, the public and other Western Crafts people creating more opportunity and growth in the industry.
January 2020 – Bit & Spur Makers
First Place – $5,000 value, cash and prizes
($2500 check. $2500 value for travel and hotel package to the 21st Annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition & Sale held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
The first place winner will be enjoy the weekend festivities and be introduced on-stage during the opening night banquet.
Second Place – $1,000 check
Third Place – $500 check
Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction People’s Choice Award $500 voted on by the public will be awarded by Brian and Melissa Lebel
The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association is excited to offer this competition to the Cowboy trades!
TCAA Emerging Artists Competition Schedule
Here are Details for the Application and Rules:
- There is no official application form, simply email a complete bio with personal photo along with as many photos of your recent work as possible to both Wilson Capron email@example.com and Scott Hardy firstname.lastname@example.org (Make sure photos are of appropriate size so they are easy to see and under 1MB)
- If you have applied before you can apply again.
- The top 10 entries in each category will be accepted.
- All work/designs must be original — made only by the contestant.
If you are accepted:
- You are allowed one (1) piece.
- You must personally deliver your work and be responsible for it during the event.
- The piece has to be at the TCAA booth by 10:00 am on the date stated above.
- This is a competition Not a Sales Event, we will not sell your work. We will NOT post prices but if there is interest in a piece, that is between the interested party and Craftsperson and should be done away from the display.
- The winners (one in each discipline) will be announced at the beginning of Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction.
- If you are selected as the winner, you will receive a check along with travel and hotel expenses to the annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in October. There you will be introduced on stage during the banquet.
Things to Remember:
- Although this is a competition the TCAA is trying to build community between Craftspeople, we believe the Emerging Artist weekend is a great opportunity for everyone to exchange ideas and form friendships both furthering their disciplines.
- TCAA members and Judges in attendance are all there on a volunteer basis to try to further Western Craftsmanship and camaraderie in the disciplines.
- Everyone in attendance is expected to be polite and professional – those who are not will be asked to leave.
- If you would like a critique of your work from the Judges that will be available but if you don’t ask it won’t be given.
Please come and enjoy!
Hotel accommodations – there are many in the area, here is the Host Hotel for the show (ask for Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction Rate)
Phoenix Marriott Mesa
200N Centennial Way, Mesa, AZ
Phone 1-800-835-9873 or 480-898-8300
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
October 10th and close December 1st 2019
Send photos and bio to:
535 Airway Dr
Westcliffe, Colorado 81252
Mom’s Scholarship Recipients
2018 – Silversmith, Jodi Brown
2016 – Rawhide Braider, Justine Nelson
2015 – Saddle Maker, Anna Severe
During workshops I spend a lot of time with students talking about rawhide, not the finished product but the material itself in the raw. The learning curve for rawhide never seems to straighten out, no pun intended ! That is the exciting thing about working with it. The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a piece and it agrees with what it was made into is what drives me to go on. We have all had pieces that were done mechanically right but just did not turn out right. It seems as though just about the time you think you have it all figured out, something changes. For no reason at all a certain breed of cow may produce a different color of hide. For no reason at all hair may come off more easily or harder than past hides, and I could go on and on. The point being no matter how consistent you are in preparing the hide there is always the chance it will not do what your expecting. Don’t get me wrong, being consistent is important in everything having to do with braiding including hide preparation, but there in lies the love/hate thing.
While cutting strings and braiding, the curve does not get any easier. Some hides just cut better than others, why ? I don’t know ! The animal was the same, the hide was prepped the same, it just cuts different. Some hides take a day to temper before they cut nice, some hides take three days, Why ? I don’t know ! Some hides except dye better than others, Why ? I don’t know ! Sure there are some reasons that can be explained that may be obvious after 37 years of braiding the stuff, but just as many times there is no logical explanation.
This all can be very discouraging to someone trying to learn to braid or to someone who has braided awhile and just doesn’t seem to be making the progress they had hoped. My answer to this is to embrace the uniqueness of the material and use that as inspiration, knowing that not everyone has the patience to continue on with this undoubtably strong but fickle material.
In the end, all I can say is let the hide tell you what it should be, don’t try to make it into something it is not meant to be. It will only disappoint when finished. This is easier said than done but nothing replaces time and a whole lot of mistakes. When it’s all said and done there is nothing like the feel of a finished piece where everything worked out right. Then you can start loving it again !
As I write this looking back on 2017, it was a year filled with a lot of excitement and new obstacles to navigate. This was my first full year as the newest member of the TCAA. While exciting, this was a goal I had worked diligently towards for several years, this ushered in not only new opportunities, but new responsibilities and demands to work into my schedule. I certainly didn’t want to drop the ball right out of the chute, so to speak.
For many years, I have run my business by going to a few, select shows each year for which I prepare inventory to sell and take custom orders. Over the years, this list of shows has changed and been refined as I have found what works, and my customer base has changed and expanded. This year, the task of creating 4 pieces of my best work for the Cowboy Crossings show was added to my list. My years of preparing for shows and the TCAA’s application process itself was a bit of preparation. For two years, I had already created 3 pieces of work, once when I got in, and once when I didn’t—so to some level, I already had experience balancing these “big” projects with income-producing activities and still prioritizing family time on the home front. Without the requirements and constraints of the application process the previous 2 years, I think this would have been overwhelming. Although stressful at times, it was exciting, rewarding, and well worth the effort.
For five years, my family and I had made the investment and effort to attend Cowboy Crossings at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. It was always inspiring and breathtaking to walk into that show the first night and see all the pieces displayed. Magnify that about a thousand times, when you walk in and see your own pieces behind the glass. Stuff gets real!! I tried not to act giddy like a tourist at Disneyland and reminded myself to “act like you’ve been there before, Compton” and to take it all in and enjoy it. One of the most rewarding parts, was taking my children to the family preview night so they could see a goal accomplished, as we had all worked as a family and sacrificed at times. Sale night was full of different emotions and one I won’t soon forget!
As my responsibilities increase, I am continually trying to improve my work and my product. Looking forward, I realize that you must always reevaluate the costs and benefits of where you spend your time and effort. There’s only so much time in a day, and you can’t do everything.
The TCAA’s mission is to preserve and promote the skills of craftsman within our disciplines. I got my first chance to participate in an educational venture at the Emerging Artist Competition at the High Noon Show in Mesa, AZ. Twice before, I had been a contestant. This year, it was quite an honor, yet humbling, to spend time with a great group of silversmiths judging and critiquing their work to help them reach their goals. I look forward to more of these opportunities.
Overall, my “Rookie” year in the TCAA was extremely rewarding. It was well worth the effort to set a goal and spend years toward it. I am excited about the projects I am working on this year, and to see what’s in store as the chapters unfold.
The last several years I have had the opportunity to continue my education, or portions of it, by studying under some great craftsmen/artists. I want to take the opportunity to explain the importance of this. Not only the aspect of improving my skill set, but how it affects the day to day approach of working in the shop.
One of the hardest things we face as self-employed, creative types is the difficulty of being able to be productive and creative from one day to the next. How do we keep from becoming burned out? The answer is easy, you had better love it! But even love takes cultivation; it either grows or it dies. This is only my viewpoint and I don’t expect it to work for everyone, but maybe it will work for some.
I am one that likes to create something new and challenging from one project to the next. The mass production world that I was involved in during my apprentice years was not the answer for me. We built the same old thing day in and day out. No thank you! That was not for me! As I established my own business I needed, or wanted, to have some fun. I wanted to create things I wasn’t even sure how or even if I could. Today, I am a custom piece artist who brings the customer into the design process from the beginning and helps them tell their story through my work. I want my customers to have ownership in the piece before I ever get started. The piece needs to be theirs. Is this challenging? I would argue that it doesn’t get any harder. Getting the story from some of you is not an easy task and then to be able to create it is a whole other level of difficulty. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Now, how do I stay interested doing work that is someone else’s idea? Well, I still get to command the pencil and swing the hammer. I get to put my mark on it so it must have my story involved in it as well. That is where the continuing education comes in. I am always wanting to try something new and get my customers’ story told in a way that is totally different. In order for my skills to stay fresh, I have to expose myself to other forms and mediums of metal craft. I have to educate myself from other professionals’ experiences. The TCAA has a requirement for me do something different and improved each and every year. This just so happens to fit my personality perfectly.
A couple years ago, Scott Hardy and myself spent a week with master engraver Sam Alfano in Covington, LA. I should have done it 10 years ago! I was exposed to a whole new level of art that has sparked a fire in me that is really hard to control. As I learn new skills and work to master them, maintaining a marketable product, or one that fits within the defined budget of my customer, is a whole other problem! That is a topic for another day. But the exciting part is, Sam introduced me to skills I didn’t know were possible. That in turn has taken me to other avenues of education.
Last January, GRS in Emporia, KS held a class called the Grand Master’s Program. They accepted 12 people from around the world to come study under a Grand Master that would otherwise be difficult to gain the opportunity to study under. Alain Lovenberg, a Belgium engraver, taught the class. Sam was the first to introduce me to the work of Alain and I have to say he quickly became one of my favorite people to gain inspiration from. GRS sent out an advertisement promoting the class in late 2016. Entries needed to be turned in by March 2017 when they would then be reviewed for acceptance. Applicants would be informed of who was accepted in April. Of course, a nominal fee was required upon your entry (that I didn’t feel I like I had). Then with your acceptance, the other half of the total tuition was required. I felt that if I was accepted I would figure that part out! There was only one small minor detail that was a real inconvenience for me. That was the date for the class. No, I didn’t have anything scheduled, but it just so happened to fall the second week of August. That is one week after the deadline for the TCAA show. No problem, right? Get your work in on time and you’re good. That in itself is always scary, but also one must remember TCAA members build their work for the show without any compensation until and if your works sell in October. The short of it is, I would be flat out broke after spending 4-6 months building for Cowboy Crossings. I thought long and hard about it. I weighed the options carefully and determined that it was going to be much cheaper to go to Emporia, a 9-hour drive, than it would be to go to Belgium. As far as the time, when is a good time? The money? I never have any!! The opportunity to study under one of today’s greats is irreplaceable! I could not pass this up.
I tell you all this to share that I too have the same doubts and fears that everyone else has. I was scared I wouldn’t get in. Didn’t know whether I could pay for it. How would my family do with me leaving for two weeks? The class wasn’t cheap, but leaving for two weeks was definitely going to be expensive. I would be all by myself!! No one to sit by me and be my buddy! The end of the story is I made it. I got accepted. I got everything paid for. My family survived and the bills were paid. The inspiration and the knowledge I gained was priceless. The new friends I made are characters I can add to my story that make it all that much more valuable. If I had listened to logic and gave into my fears, I wouldn’t be the craftsman I am today. I wouldn’t have the burning desire to get to the shop to see if I can accomplish what I believe I now can do. All this is what keeps me going.
The other thing this class did was introduce the outside world to people like me who wear a cowboy hat. Yes, I was the only one wearing a hat in Kansas and was one of the few who didn’t have a tattoo. They got used to me in time. *Giggle*. The world doesn’t know what the West has to offer. I was able to add something to their continuing education program that maybe they weren’t expecting. No, I probably didn’t show a new level of engraving or skill that they didn’t already know. But maybe I offered an insight to the Western world that created some interest as to what we offer. Our western story has a very important role in the history of North America. I hope more people will recognize our value and abilities as craftsmen.
In closing, it is okay to be scared. We all have fears and the challenge of facing them is huge. I write this to encourage you to accept your fears and to face them. I am not trying to make everyone a custom bit and spur maker. We all have a place in this world, whether you are in mass production that focuses on function or the custom maker who tends to focus on the artistic side of the story. We are all in this together and to stay focused and inspired is challenging. Continuing my education is a way I do it. There are many different aspects to bit and spur making so something is always around the corner to try next. You just gotta try it.