wilson-1I had a workshop April 23-26, 2013 that covered the fundamentals for fabricating a pair of spurs.  The five participants each were able to complete a pair of spurs.  Introductions were made for the use and care of files, the use of a belt sander and different methods to using it, operation of a tig welder, and a buffing machine. A little machine work was also covered with a band saw and a milling machine.  Steel fabrication was focused on so each participant could gain the skills to creating a quality spur.

Chip_01Bit and spur maker Chip Merchant from Beaver Creek OR. spent a week with me learning the art of bit making and put together a very nice peice. I think he’s looking foreward to a very successful career.

leland-1This is one of my braiding classes that was from March 4 – 9th. We started with the basics and discussed the importance of quality rawhide and cutting quality strings. Things we went over were, choosing the right weight string for the right project, moisture content and hide preparation. The students cut strings, helped with some hide preparation, braided cores, twisted cores, braided bodies and we did a little knot work to end the class. Special attention was paid to the selection of the proper weight of string for their bodies and  to the way they pulled and tightened while they braided bodies and cores.

McKateeMcKatee_2Mckatee Mason of Weiser Idaho working in Ernie Marsh’s shop learning the process of bit making. In the second shot Mckatee is sawing out a set of cheek pieces for the bit using the bandsaw, the other shows her hand filing the beveled edges of the cheek piece. As Ernie jokingly says.. it’s a challenge to make that sound very exciting.. But we think it’s awesome!

Emerging Artists CompetitionEmerging Artist Competition.

Saddlemakers and silversmiths gathered in Mesa, Arizona to participate in the first annual Emerging Artist Competition. Work was evaluated for aesthetic value as well as function, with the results of the competition as follows: Matt Litz (Texas) winning the silversmith award, and Conley Walker (Idaho), taking home the saddlemaking prize.

The winners in each category were given $1000 cash, hotel accommodations and complimentary tickets to the weekend events at the Cowboy Crossings exhibit opening in Oklahoma City in October. The judges noted a high level of quality in the work, and critiques were well received by all the participants.

One of the participants was Douglas Krause of Red Bluff, California who remarked that the judges “…along with the other TCAA members in attendance-all carried themselves with amazing stature and proper wit. For myself, I never viewed this as a competition, but rather an excellent learning experience. It was all that and more. The conversations were thoughtful, educational, open and honest. My work received fair critique and the knowledge to continue on a path of positive progression.” Virtually all of the feedback from the other participants echoed these words.

Special thanks to Wilson Capron, Cary Schwarz, Rick Bean, Dave Alderson, Scott Hardy and Don Bellamy for helping make the first TCAA Emerging Artist Competition a success. Also, a big Western “Thank You” goes out to Joseph and Linda Sherwood and their staff f at the High Noon Show for supporting this effort and making it a reality. The members of the TCAA reserve a special thanks and congratulations to all the competitors who came with great work and great attitudes. The passion and thirst for knowledge these people displayed shows that there is a bright future for Western Craftsmanship!

With the resounding success of this weekend in Mesa, the TCAA looks forward to next year when the categories will be rawhide braiding, and bits and spurs.

Read more about the Emerging Artist Competition

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

Video: Silversmith Scott Hardy and painter Tim Cox (former Presidents of their respective organizations) discuss the first Cowboy Crossings event held in 2011 coinciding with the return of the Cowboy Artists to the OKC museum.


Wilson Capron

Wilson’s love for the western way of life began as a young boy working along side his father and cowboy artist, Mike Capron, on ranches in west Texas. He loves to rope and in college Wilson took a job with Greg Darnall cutting out parts for bits and spurs to pay entry fees in ropings. At this point he did not have any desire to make bits and spurs until Greg asked if he’d like to try his hand at engraving. Wilson found that it was a whole lot of fun and began learning the trade.

He returned to west Texas in 1999 with 2 months worth of orders under his belt and from that point on he never caught up. In the beginning, bits and spurs were a way for Wilson to use his engraving. Today, his passion is not singled out to one area, all aspects from the design to the metal work are truly a joy to him.
In the beginning of Wilson’s career, people would call him an “artist”and he responded, “no thats my dad.” Now he welcomes that and considers his work and the work of his peers to be 3 dimensional art. WIlson looks forward to the day that gear maker’s will be known as working artists!
Wilson is passionate about the TCAA and continuing to educate the public on the art of bit and spur making. He is constantly making efforts to expand this knowledge by traveling to various shows and connect with the public through his website and Facebook.

Article by Katy Capron

Mike Beaver

Mike Beaver

The journey began for Mike Beaver in Buffalo Center, Iowa, where his parents farmed. Cattle was a big part of his life. More importantly were the team of draft horses he owned and so began his love for horses.

Mike joined the Army in the 60’s serving a tour in Korea and Viet Nam. After the Army in the 70’s he made it out West, a long time dream. While visiting the Extension Office, in Coeurd’ Alene, Idaho, Mike noticed a piece of braid work done by Claude “Red” Hutchings. It took six long months of trying to persuade him to help Mike out. Working with Red, Mike learned the basics of making rawhide and knots. Mike then met Horace Henderson. Horace’s work was a little finer than Red’s. Mike spent time the next year learning what he could from Horace. It was Horace who showed him a copy of a Persimmon Hill magazine that had a article and photos of Luis Ortega’s work. After seeing Ortega’s work on display at the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Mike started corresponding with him. The only thing he ever would tell Mike was “practice, practice, practice.”

After six years of learning to make rawhide, cutting string and making knots it was time to give the rawhide world a go. After doing shows from Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming and Oklahoma City, Mike was humbled by receiving Braider of the Year in 1997.

Along with his wife Cindy, they have been very generous in passing knowledge on to others, for many years they have offered seminars that have given many braiders an educated start and continuing advise.

Mike quotes” The highlight of the pass 30 years with rawhide has been the people and doing something that one enjoys as well as preserving his part our Western Heritage. What a privilege it has been.”

Article by Teresa Marsh

rcbean_03Our Featured Artist for this month is is Idaho saddle maker Rick Bean. A TCAA member since 2004, Rick has taken the art of Saddle making to new levels of artistic quality. His passion and devotion to his chosen trade are quite evident in his finished work and conversation. As we write these short comments we try to give a more well rounded view of our members, but as we have never heard Rick talk about anything but saddles, we asked Ricks wife Kristie for some input.

This is what she came up with. Back in 1976 when just a budding teenager, Rick Bean chose his own road. He was going to be a saddle maker, and he has never deviated from that path. His favorite topic of discussion is saddles. He draws them, dreams of them and occasionally builds one. The swivel knife is his favorite tool and he has mastered it well. His next best tool is a 00 Pony shovel- not to downplay the swivel knife- but some guys can dig better than others. Everybody has their vices however, and Rick likes tools, trees and rocks. His 15 acre property is crammed with trees, shrubs, plants and lots of cool rocks, none of which are native.

rcbean_02Conveniently located in the middle of his house is his trick saddle shop, filled with cool sewing machines and tools. A silver shop, wood shop, machine shop, art studio and wife are all close by. Occasionally, life interrupts and he leaves his paradise to visit his parents. Other than food and the company of his lovely wife, Rick has a one-track mind: SADDLES!

Article by Teresa Marsh