In 1998, a group of the West’s leading cowboy artisans—saddlemakers, silversmiths, rawhide braiders, and bit and spur makers—recognized a threefold crisis: a shortage of newcomers entering their trades, an aging master class of artists, and fewer opportunities for apprentices to find willing, qualified mentors.
Disciplines that had been part of the cowboy culture for generations were in danger of dying off, of being replaced by mass production. And, the prospects for aspiring makers to earn their livings producing quality work seemed to be fading fast.
In response, these individuals joined together to form the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, a group dedicated to educating student craftsmen, demonstrating the levels of quality possible in their represented trades, and proving that makers producing fine work through traditional methods could be paid fairly for their efforts and rightfully be considered artists.
TCAA created an unprecedented lineup of education programs—scholarships and fellowships, workshops and mentoring opportunities—aimed at enabling younger makers to achieve success. The group’s annual exhibition of TCAA members’ work, though, would become its highest-profile educational effort, showcasing one-of-a-kind, handcrafted works exemplifying the finest work possible in these traditional cowboy arts.
Cowboy Renaissance tells this group’s story—its origins, its evolution, its impact on the contemporary West—and features hundreds of the works that have been included in TCAA’s annual show, an event that’s grown from an experiment fraught with risk, to one of the cowboy culture’s most anticipated, and most inspiring, offerings.
It’s time again for the 2020 TCAA’s Emerging Artist Competition!
Due date for entries: Sept. 15th, 2019
All applicants will be notified by Sept. 20th
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 26-27, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and Scott Hardy email@example.com (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.
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 – Saddle Maker Jodi Brown
2016 – Rawhide Braider, Justine Nelson
2015 – Saddle Maker, Anna Severe
If there’s a lot of give in your saddle that can indicate a broken saddletree or a separated cantle. Either way, it means a trip to your saddlemaker to get it fixed. Watch Traditonal Cowboy Arts Association saddlemaker Troy West share the basics of what to look for.
Learn more about saddletrees in “At the Root,” in the May 2019 issue of Western Horseman.
Troy West, along with Brian Peterson of Martin Saddlery and saddlemaker Cary Schwarz of Salmon, Idaho, line out five saddletree principles every savvy consumer should know.
by Nick Pernokas, Senior Feature Writer, Shop Talk!
For the past 18 years, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City has teamed up with the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association to produce the definitive exhibition and sale of the cowboy arts. These items include spectacular saddles, braiding, silver work, bit, and spurs. The sale brings some of the highest prices for new work in the world. In previous years, there have been different programs, like workshops, to give a chance for the TCAA members to share some of their knowledge.
This year the focus shifted with the inaugural Western Craftsmanship Symposium. Instead of sharing knowledge about leather work, the elephant in the room was addressed. That elephant can best be explained by a joke that was repeated several times over the two days. “How can you tell if a saddle maker is successful?” Answer: “His wife has a good job.”
In other words, the question that faces many of us was discussed: How do you prosper in the cowboy arts? The program was a give and take between a panel of artists and business experts and the sixty craftsmen in attendance. Most were seasoned craftsmen who already know how to produce a high-quality product and have discovered that that is not enough.
The program was opened by TCAA president Nate Wald and Museum CEO Steven Karr.
“The West is deeply ingrained in this institution,” said Steven. “Running a museum is not an art, it’s a craft. Making the beautiful things to put in the museum is an art.”
Chuck Stormes and Cary Schwarz were next and discussed the history of the western trades. Chuck reflected on the changes during his lifetime which include the loss of the large high quality shops and the emergence of the small, one-man, shops. This has made it more difficult for craftsmen to learn a trade through apprenticing since repetition and volume lead to developing the skills necessary for more difficult projects, and this just isn’t available any more.
The other change which has occurred is the switch to one man doing all the work. At one time, the saddle maker just built the saddle, the stitching man sewed it, the cutter cut out the parts, and the stamper tooled it. Most trades were like this. When Chuck was starting out, he bought out an old saddle maker’s tools. There was no draw gauge included in the set, and Chuck asked him where it was. The old man told him that he’d never had to strip out a strap.
Today’s craftsman has to do everything related to the product, including pricing, advertising, setting hours, and bookkeeping, which can create a conflict between being a craftsperson, focused on the trade, and being a businessperson, focused on making money.
“We find ourselves in full retreat,” commented Cary.
Cary attributed this to the agrarian background of many western craftspeople who tend to be an introverted group of people, preferring to be alone in their shop and working. This can result in self sabotage by way of too much modesty and lack of self-promotion.
Cary also mentioned that artists at one time trained their whole lives in one medium to get good at it. Today the trend in many artists is to be a creative entrepreneur who does many things. The public has picked up on this, and what they consider “art” may not have the depth it once had. This creates a situation where mass produced, “almost as good,” products can be accepted by the public as high quality. The custom maker may be tempted to price down to compete with this, but he should be aware that he does not operate in a vacuum. By setting his prices lower, he affects what other craftsmen can charge.
A professional needs to be professional. He needs to know why he does what he does, he needs professional photos on his website, business cards, a logo, and a letterhead. His pricing should reflect a realistic level for making a living. He should display an attitude of abundance or, in other words, “dress for success”. He should always try to be improving his skills as well as improving his communication with customers.
According to Cary, profitability lets you work on your quality rather than watching the clock so you can pay bills. More artistry lets you create a more unique product that can’t be replicated in a factory, whereas strictly utilitarian products can be. The comments from the floor were just as good. One observation was made that craftsmen are selling a piece with some emotional attachment for the buyer as well as the seller. “People are attracted to a piece of your art because of its beauty, but they purchase it because of your story,” commented one attendee.
J. Kent McCorkle is in the investment business. He quickly cut to the chase. “Relationship management success is a measure as decided by others,” said Kent. “Satisfaction is a measure decided by you.” Seventy percent of a customer’s buying experience is based on how he feels he’s being treated. This requires authentic personal interactions with the customer both before and after the transaction. People engage in repeat business with someone they like. Decide what is special about your product and cultivate your customers for it accordingly. “Say what you will do, do what you say,” said Kent. “Under promise and over deliver. Be authentic.” Being authentic means that you need to show some of your real self to your customer.
Shep Hermann spoke brilliantly on the question of ethics in the business world. He challenged the audience to come up with their own answers. Shep believes that ethics are a function or reflection of a person’s priorities. For example, if a person puts his own personal happiness first, then he will not achieve other possible goals—he limits himself by his decision. If it is money, then a person may be able to address his business issues accordingly. If family is at the top of the list, they will resolve family problems first. People always make their choices according to their personal priorities, and these are their ethics. Shep listed some priorities that he felt contributed to good ethics, and they were, in order: family, career, job, and community. Ideally, two people with the same ethics can work well together.
“Ethics allows you to make decisions contrary to short-term interests, in order to accomplish long-term goals,” said Shep. When dealing with customers, Shep summed it up with the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. “The customer is not always right, but he is always the customer.” Don Bellamy, financial advisor for the TCAA, spoke next. “The TCAA is not here to tell people how to price but to be a resource,” said Don. Most businesses, like large auto companies, have price increases every year. They also add features every year. The craftsman needs to do the same but, as he increases the price, he cannot outpace the quality. It must be improving to justify the price. Bit and spur maker Wilson Capron also spoke on this subject and asked the crowd if they ever noticed all of a sudden that they weren’t making enough to pay the bills. A lot of heads nodded. The difficult question about pricing came up and Wilson said one rule of thumb is to charge three times what you pay your employee. A common formula for pricing that is used by several large companies in the U.S. is:
Labor + Materials = Cost
Cost x 2 = Wholesale Cost
Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price
Or: Materials +Labor +Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail
Even if this formula is not realistic for your market, you should work towards this.
With a small profit margin, you can’t cover yourself if something goes wrong.
You have to pay yourself, and you can’t survive if you’re competing with Wal-Mart. Your prices must also be consistent wherever you sell your products. They have to be the same at trade shows, auctions, or in your store. Inconsistency in price creates distrust in your customer.
One of the things to avoid is having a red light sale. Once you do this, you’ll always have to manipulate your customer. This goes back to not competing with Wal-Mart.
Noted leather worker and painter Jim Jackson along with sculptor Paul Moore and Nate Wald emphasized the need to constantly be improving your work. Your pricing should also increase along with your quality. Jim Jackson said, “Art is subjective, but when you create a special piece, it should cost more.”
Wilson Capron noted that a customer is paying for both his skills and the experience that he brings to a piece when he builds it.
Silversmith Scott Hardy spoke on the importance of setting goals. He broke them down into Personal, Professional, and Financial goals. This helps you to know where you’re going and what your plan is to get there. These can be broken down into long-term, short-term, and daily goals. They should be obtainable and measurable. It’s important to write them down. The difference between a dream and a goal is the act of writing it down and making it concrete.
Dr. Morgan McArthur, a fantastic motivational speaker, talked of the importance of becoming honest with your goals. He stressed not being afraid to change them. Dr. McArthur also said that every decision that you make either takes you closer or further away from your goals.
Paul Moore, Jim Jackson, and Nate Wald emphasized that a craftsman needs to constantly educate himself and that he should be familiar with his trade around the world, not just in his backyard. A craftsman must look at other work to gain inspiration, not to copy it. He can’t get in a rut. The maker must constantly upgrade his tools as he can. He should always be open to new ideas from unusual sources.
“A pyramid with a wider foundation will go higher,” said Paul. The second day was as informative as the first. Cary Schwarz began with a talk on time management. He delved into the problem many of us have which is too much sensory input from our digital society. This can produce a “divided mind and divided time”.
“Decide what is important and what is merely interesting,” said Cary.
Cary allocates three hours in the morning to deep focused work where he won’t answer the phone or get involved in disruptions. He does the same in the afternoon. He returns calls and e-mails after 4:00. It’s not how many hours that a craftsman puts in but how many productive hours. He assigns a manila folder to each job and customer. Cary keeps track of his time on it and puts the drawings and patterns for that job in it.
The conversation then moved into marketing with Steve Bell, the owner of Eclectic Horseman Magazine, and Brian Lebel of Brian Lebel’s Old West Show and Auction as well as the High Noon Show and Auction. Steve went into great detail on the various ways the craftsman can advertise digitally, especially through social media. The web is community driven and has allowed people from around the globe to create content. With the average person spending 50 minutes a day on the web, it is a relatively inexpensive way to go. If you spend some money on the Internet, you can target specific customers. There are over two hundred social media platforms but Facebook is number one. Traditional niche magazines are still an excellent way to target a specific audience though.
Brian said that honesty is an important factor in marketing. You shouldn’t sell something to someone that isn’t right for what they want to do with it. Reputation matters and people need to get to know you. Many people who deal in the cowboy arts do business the old way. They respond to print ads and handshakes.
Dr. McArthur closed out the symposium with another rousing and funny motivational speech. He spoke on the importance of persistence, and that there is no value in “easy”. “If you’re as good as you were a year ago, then you are worse,” said Dr. McArthur.
For the TCAA this does not seem to be a problem. They continue to come up with new ideas both in their work and their programs. The buzz was extremely positive in the hallways of the museum during the breaks.
“Words can’t describe it,” said Shep Hermann of Hermann Oak Leather.
“We’ve succeeded in the objective that we set out, which was feedback, creating a community, and a forum of discussion,” said Cary Schwarz. It looked like most of the folks in attendance found out that they were not alone in facing the elephant and left with some good ideas for feeding it.
The 5th annual TCAA Emerging Artist Competition was held at Brian Lebel’s High Noon Auction and Sale. This year saw the eleven Saddlemakers competing from all over North America with one from France. Saturday evening the winners were announced in front of over 500 people just before the Famed auction began.
First place – Mike Eslick, Oklahoma- winnings $2500.00 plus an expense paid trip to TCAA 19th annual Exhibition and Sale, Cowboy Crossings at the NC&WHM in Oklahoma City. Making the value of Mikes winnings $4000.00.
Second place – Jean-Luc Parisot, France- winnings $1000.00. Third place- Terry Henson, Texas- winnings $500.00.
Peoples Choice Award – for the first time in the competitions history it was split between the 1st and 2nd place winners! Mike Eslick and Jean-Luc Parisot.
Splitting the $500 each received $250.
Thank you to the Judges –
TCAA founding member Chuck Stormes and TCAA member Troy West. Also to all that participated, what a talented bunch of guys!
Special Thanks to our sponsors-
Brian and Melissa Lebel
Alan and Nadine Levin
Along with the efforts of Scott Hardy and Wilson Capron
Each year, United States Artists (USA) awards $50,000 fellowships to the country’s most accomplished and innovative artists working in the fields of Architecture & Design, Crafts, Dance, Literature, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts and Visual Arts.
Fellows are selected through a rigorous, highly competitive process involving hundreds of experts, scholars, administrators and artists. USA Fellows spotlight the importance of originality across every creative discipline, celebrating the broad diversity of American artistic practices from coast to coast, cultivating a creative ecology that is diverse in age, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. United States Artists believes in risk-taking as central to promoting the power of art in American life and creatively impacting the world. The support that USA Fellows receive each year clears the way for unburdened artistic innovation and unleashes creative expression.
Created in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations with $22 million in seed funding, United States Artists was founded to address the lack of unrestricted funding available to artists. Katharine DeShaw, USA’s first Executive Director, developed the organization’s name, established its first program and staff, and, with the founding donors, recruited the original Board of directors. DeShaw worked with Director of Programs, Amada Cruz to develop the USA Fellows Program. USA is currently funded by a broad range of philanthropic foundations and individuals committed to cultivating the vibrant character of contemporary culture in America. Through its signature USA Fellows program, United States Artists has distributed over $21 million in support of almost 450 artists.
Past recipients of USA Fellowships include visual artists Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Theaster Gates and Catherine Opie; cartoonist Chris Ware; designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy (of Rodarte); performing artist Meredith Monk; jazz composer Jason Moran; ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied; choreographer Bill T. Jones; and writers Annie Proulx and Sapphire.
Dear Applicants to the Emerging Artist Competition,
Thank you for applying and showing interest in our program. Below you will find the 11 saddle makers chosen for our contest. If your name isn’t listed we appreciate your participation and look forward to hearing from you again. We are here to help.
For those participating in the contest we will need a bio and a personal photo for promotional purposes. If you already sent a photo and bio that you are satisfied with great. Just respond back letting me know to use what you sent. For those wanting to update things a little better I will need those soon. I will be sending that to the folks of the High Noon Show the first week of November. Please review the rules and expectations below. If you have any questions please let us know. We look forward to visiting with everyone in Mesa, AZ.
Jean Luc Parisot
• You must attend to be in the competition.
• You are responsible for your own piece, if you want insurance you must supply it. The
Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, its members, or Brian Lebel’s High Noon Auction & Show are not responsible for you or your work.
• Each participant is allowed one(1) item;
• Your piece has to be at the TCAA Emerging Artist booth – High Noon Action & Show, Mesa Convention Center, Mesa, AZ by 10:00am Friday January 20, 2017.
• Dismissal 3pm Sunday.
You are welcome to sell your work at the show but please just step out of the booth to do so. The public will be viewing your work all day Saturday and Sunday so take the opportunity to make new connections. It’s up to you to engage with them.
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 High Noon Rate)
Phoenix Marriott Mesa
200N Centennial Way, Mesa, AZ
Phone 1-800-835-9873 or 480-898-8300
Below you will find an itinerary for what we have planned in Mesa. We have tried to improve your experience in Mesa by giving you a schedule of events to refer back to.
• You and your work need to be at the TCAA booth area by 10am
• Booth set up will happen the majority of the day
• Meet and Greet late afternoon / early evening hours. A definite time has yet to be set because of scheduling with the Convention Center. We will keep you informed, but make plans to attend
• 9am – 12pm TCAA judging
• 1pm – 4pm will be an open forum. The disciplines will separate into individual rooms to talk shop. You will have the judges at center stage to ask anything you want. This is your opportunity to get your questions answered. We will cover everything from the nuts and bolts of how we create to the business side of making a living doing what we love. It will be up to you to bring the questions. The more interaction we have, the better this time will be.
• 5pm Winners announced. Everyone will be asked to attend the opening of the High Noon Auction where we are given time to announce the winners. The two winners will be called to the front for a quick photo.
• 9am – 12pm Optional Critiques. If you are interested in getting a critique of your work it is up to you ask. We will be glad to explain what we find in your piece, but we don’t want to force our opinions on anyone. The disciplines will gather in a room to discuss the work with an open mind of simply improving what we do. There is something for us all to learn from each other’s work.
• Dismissal is 3pm. You can not leave until 3pm Sunday to ensure a quality show is present for the public to view. Please make plans accordingly. If you have problems then let us know please.
Wilson W. Capron
6238 Green Oaks Dr.
Christoval, TX 76935
To further heighten participation and interest in the Emerging Artist Competition the TCAA’s proud to announce effective immediately significant changes to the competition:
TCAA will move from hosting 2 disciplines per year to spotlighting on 1.
January 2017 – Saddlemaking
PRICE MONEY AND VALUE
The TCAA Emerging Artists’ Competition will now pay 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place!
First Place – $5000.00 value, cash and prizes ($2500 check, $2500 value for travel and hotel, Museum package to the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Annual Exhibition & Sale at Cowboy Crossings held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Oklahoma City, Oklahoma).
The winner will not only enjoy the weekend festivities but also be introduced on stage during the opening night banquet.
Second Place- $1000.00 check.
Third Place- $500.00 check
Also Brian and Melissa Lebel award $500.00 for the Brian Lebel’s High Noon Peoples Choice
Award voted by the Public.
Saddlemakers that have already applied for the 2017 January competition your applications have been forwarded and you need not apply again. New applications are being accepted as of today, please follow application process on the TCAA Website.
As before the Top 10 applicants will be excepted, Applications close October 15, 2016 and all will be notified October 20, 2016
Contact Wilson Capron- firstname.lastname@example.org OR Scott Hardy- email@example.com
The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association is excited to offer this revamped competition to the Cowboy trades! We believe by focusing on 1 discipline per year we can give participates more exposure to collectors, public and other Western Crafts people creating opportunity and growth in the industry.
TCAA Emerging Artists’ Competition Schedule
January 2017- Saddle Makers
January 2018- Western Silversmiths
January 2019- Rawhide Braiders
January 2020- Bit & Spur Makers