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

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

2013 TCAA Fellowship recipient Steve Mason (High River, Alberta) spent four days with Cary Schwarz recently.

Here are Steve’s thoughts after the time at Cary’s shop in Idaho:

Time for another update on my TCAA Fellowship experience.

I have just returned home from 4 days spent with Cary Schwarz, 2 days of private instruction working on specific details and problem areas of saddle construction, and 2 days taking a floral design & carving course with 3 other students.

Cary’s is a first class teacher & human being. The hospitality he showed us was amazing, and with every question I asked, Cary gave a thoughtful and very informative answer.

One of the most inspiring things from the weekend was Cary’s true passion to improve his own craft. To see a craftsman of Cary’s caliber still working as hard as he can to make every saddle better than the last, was very inspirational and will help me to continue my never ending quest to improve my craft. And this should benefit the industry of makers as a whole to never stop trying to improve their work.

I would like the thank the TCAA for the amazing journey I am on with the fellowship.
And I would highly recommend any gearmaker out there to get your application in to the TCAA for next years fellowship, the applications need to get to Scott Hardy before the deadline of April 1. Whether you are a silversmith, bit & spur maker, braider or saddle maker, this is an opportunity of a lifetime to improve your craft.

Steve Mason
2014 TCAA Fellowship recipient.

313 (2)The 2nd Annual TCAA Emerging Artist Competition was held on January 25th and 26th at High Noon Western Americana Auction and Show in Mesa, AZ.

All the entrants came with their best pieces which made for tuff work for the judges.
We the TCAA would like to Thank all the entrants for their efforts and participation.

Also a big Congratulations to the winners:

Bit and Spurmaking- Brian Hochstrat
Rawhide Braider- Bret Haskett

A special thank you to Joseph and Linda Sherwood, along with the High Noon staff for their support and hard work. Also to our judges for going above and beyond.

Bit and Spur Judges- Wilson Capron, Russell Yates and Bill Heisman.
Rawhide Braiding Judges- Leland Hensley, Nate Wald, and Mehl Lawson.

The TCAA would also like to thank everyone who came by the TCAA booth. It was great to see you all, please come see us in October in Oklahoma City!

We invite everyone to join us at High Noon Western Americana Antique Show and Auction at Mesa Convention Center, Mesa AZ. on Jan.25th and 26th, 2014. Please drop in and see the pieces and visit with the artists.

Wilson-009leland-2

Good Luck to all the participants of the 2nd Annual TCAA Emerging Artist Competition –

Braiders:

Jim Zollinger
Scott Gore
Graeme Quisenberry
Alan Bell
Whit Olson
Jack Armstrong

Bret Haskett
Donnie Chulufas

Bit and Spur Makers:

Doug Cook
Michael Titor
Brian Hochstrat
Shawn Bradstreet
Richard Brooks
Joshua Ownbey
Mathew Turner
Tommy Mock
Kim Parkey
Dominic Valine
Cory Trammel

KEY-MAGLook for us in OKC! Featured this month in KEY Magazine (placed in 6000 hotel rooms) the art of the CAA and TCAA during the month of November, the same month OKC hosts the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show and the National Reining Horse Association Futurity.

Head over to the Cowboy museum and see the exhibit!

Sideshot of THE SADDLEP8080171

The saddle is a old california style loop seat .The silver is repoussed,chased ,engraved and filigreed to match Pedros carving. Dave has over 500 hrs in the silver and Pedro worked on the saddle for over 300 hrs.

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2 amazing pieces from two of the TCAA’s founding members. Hopefully you can make it down for the show to see theses works of art live and up-close! Perhaps take them home? We’ll see you there!

By Ernie Marsh for the 2013 Cowboy Crossings Show
bit 278 tca 13-b

This piece is adapted from the old snake pattern of the late 1800’s, a loose jawed Barqueno mouthpiece makes it a very versatile piece for almost any broke parade or movie horse  with 18 kt gold inlays, fine silver inlays and large sterling conchos w/ 14 kt accents. I  enjoy working with some of these old classic patterns with a focus on function and with the artistic freedom to express my own style techniques.

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By Scott Hardy for the 2013 Cowboy Crossings Show

scotts-baby-rattle

Fully filigreed, Sterling Silver baby rattle with overlaid TCA logo and hand sculpted figure. Lariat rapped around hand piece.

Hermann-Oak-LogoThe TCAA is proud to welcome Hermann Oak Leather as a sponsor and supporter of its ongoing programs. Hermann Oak Leather has been tanning quality leathers in St. Louis, Missouri for the world’s leading saddlemakers since 1881 and continues to produce the leather that makes the TCAA level of craftsmanship possible. Read more

clinic 2013

Cary Schwarz conducted a clinic at his shop near Salmon, Idaho June 10-14. Three attendees watched and listened as Cary built most of a halfbreed saddle. The important principles of saddlemaking were discussed at length: trees, riggings, ground seats, fork cover, seat, skirts, cantle binding, as well as business issues and practice.