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 !
It’s a Beautiful Sunday afternoon in the heart of Alberta’s Cowboy Country, I’m in my shop working on my main 2018 TCAA project. If that sounds like a Complaint it’s Not!
As a Western Silversmith commissions are the backbone of my work. I look forward to the challenge each client brings to creating a piece that holds meaning and pleasure for them.
But I have to admit TCAA pieces hold a special and different meaning for me. These pieces represent the opportunity for unbridled creativity, finally allowing those thoughts and ideas out of my head and into precious metal.
This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association’s Annual Exhibition & Sale. The shows objective is simple yet complicated- Create Works that Push Technical, Design, Artistic and Creative Boundaries in the four Cowboy Art disciplines (Silversmithing, Bit and Spurmaking, Saddlemaking and Rawhide Braiding). I feel blessed that as a founding member I have participated in each of the shows. As a matter of record over the last 19 years between my own pieces and pieces I have collaborated on I have averaged 9 projects per year which translates to 171 projects to date.
These projects whether my own or a collaboration require long hours of Thought, Planning and Work. But truly for me they represent Knowledge, Experience and Growth as a Craftsman, Artist and Person.
Beginning my journey as a Western Silversmith 39 years ago my Number One Goal was to become the best I could be. Thank You to the TCAA, NC&WHM, Collectors, Clients and Family for this Opportunity making it possible for me to work towards that goal.
See You in the Fall.
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.
I’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- How will this feel or impact the horse?
- How will this feel to the rider?
- What does it look like?
In jewelry or other projects the questions are much the same.
- Will this function properly for the purpose it is being used?
- Does it feel good to wear or use?
- 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.
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!
To 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!
In 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.