Video: A few short takes that sort of put you at a rawhide braiding workshop with Pablo Lazano, Leland Hensley, and Nate Wald.

The following are written reports from some participants in the old Scholarship Program:

Shawn Bradstreet

I wanted to take a minute to write you regarding the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association workshop i attended in February. i also want to provide a heartfelt “Thank You!” for approving me for the $500 scholarship. This will allow me to attend the TCAA Winter workshop in February 2011 at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

During the season the instructors showed me and the other learners’s hands on styles of engraving. I learned some new cutting techniques and also finishing methods. I also able to see different styles of equipment used in engraving as well. I have already put some of the things I learned at the workshop to work in my own art and business.

I look forward to attending future workshops in the future. I really appreciate your support and approval to assist with my expenses so that I was able to attend the workshop. It mean a lot to me and my family.

I know that it is great to be working in the traditional art of engraving. i also appreciate getting to know people in our line of work and hopefully be a part of organizations like the TCAA in the future.

Thanks again.


Shawn Bradstreet

Ray Laviolette

I would like to thank the TCAA for having awarded me a scholarship to study with the masters.

It was a pleasure and honor to be able to attend the TCAA February workshop with Chuck Stormes and Rick Bean in OKC.

The homework was very simp, or so I thought: Draw pattern and tool it.

I can tell you Chuck and Rick were very patient and useful.

I was the oldest of the 12 or so attendees and I learned that there are a lot of talent out there. While I consider myself a good saddlemaker, having built close to 900 saddles since 1976, I am in no way an artist.

The instructors and the other saddlemakers present were an inspiration.

I am presently working on a full saddle pattern that I intendd to tool on a saddle to be built for the Wichita Falls boot and saddlemake’s show for next year.

Once again, thank you for the honor.

Ray Laviolette

Troy West

Dear Don and TCAA Members,

Please forgive my procrastination in taking so long to write this and let it not in any way diminish my gratitude to the TCAA for this scholarship as I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this seminar.

Let me say, first of all, that I have always enjoyed conversations with you, Don, and really feel like you are a great asset to this organization. That being said, it is required of me to provide a written summary of my experience discussing benefits of the program, what I learned and suggestions for improving the program.


Obviously, it is beneficial for a lesser-experienced craftsman to learn from a more experienced craftsman. The student learns correct methods from the voice of experience without years of trial and error. This is extremely beneficial. I know of no other organization of this nature, whose goal is to promote traditional Cowboy Arts, who is providing seminars to teach them and providing scholarships to enable students to attend. That is truly putting your money where your mouth is. It really is impressive.

I can say that for me, receiving the scholarship was a deciding factor. As you know, craftsmen are not salaried employees. When we don’t work, we don’t make money, so leaving work for a week means we don’t make money that week in addition to what we spend while we are away. It is costly. The scholarship was a tremendous help in allowing me to attend. Thank you again.

What I Learned

I learned most of you guys look better in pictures than real life. Just kidding. I really did learn a number of tooling ideas, new ways of shading and undercutting and a number of new leaf ideas. I also really benefited from Don King showing us some of his thoughts and methods of tool making, using files and checkering files and hack saws. I came home and immediately modified every undercutter I have and have been pleased with the results. Dale and Don both have good personalities that can convey thoughts and ideas well. They enjoy what they do and have an enthusiasm for it. I also appreciate Dale’s thoughts on not just working hard, but working smart. Make the most of your time.

Suggestions for Improving the Program

I thought the facilities were excellent, the room was plenty big enough, lighting was good and even the sky lights were beneficial for leather carving. The only thing I could think of for improvement would be for the tooling instructors to take a housing or fender, determine a flower and lay out a pattern on it just as they would in their shop. They could then talk the students through their mental process of laying it all out, allowing them to ask questions and observe the instructor’s techniques of using a swivel knife, bevelors, bar grounders, etc. I told Dale that would answer a myriad of questions as well as open doors for other questions.

Overall, the seminar and sale were excellent, educational and just a lot of fun for a guy like me. I really, really appreciate the scholarship. Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to attend these events.

Sincerely, Troy West

2nd Scholarship Report from Troy West

Dear Don and TCAA Members,

I was recently blessed with a second scholarship provided by the TCAA to spend shop time with Cary Schwarz in Salmon, Idaho. I was able to spend several hours at Dale Harwood’s shop first, enjoying a great meal with the Harwood’s as well as discussing saddles, riggings and trees. Then, it was on to Salmon to Cary’s home and shop.

The first thing we talked abut was edges. Make’em round. Then we spent a tremendous amount of time discussing saddle design, length of skirts, placing riggings, conchos and shapes of skirts. Many saddlemakers build saddles and occasionally build one they really like. The next one they may not like as well. If you can determine what it is that made that saddle attractive, you can then replicate it or use those attractive design features again and again. There are artistic design features such as visual weight that can be incorporated into the saddle design as well as the tooling, i.e. a larger flower would be placed in the lower end of space, smaller flowers toward the top, just like nature. Trees are wider at the bottom etc.

Design elements were discussed such as a 7 to 5 ratio is an optimum ratio, like the letter “S”. The top compared to the bottom is approximately 5 to 7 ratio, this is very appealing in circles around flowers or in shapes of scrollwork.

Cary also showed me how he lays out his tooling patterns. Very interesting. He literally draws his flowers on the leather, no tamp off patterns or tracing paper. Cary is an excellent teacher and communicator. I enjoyed these conversations immensely. We share many similar interests. This trip, for me, was informative, motivational and inspirational.

I so much appreciate the TCAA providing me this scholarship as well as the members, Dale and Cary for spending so much of their valuable time to educate and promote Traditional Cowboy Arts. I said this before, but an organization providing scholarships to help cover expenses is truly impressive. My hats off to the TCAA.

Thanks again, Troy West

Ron E. Rose


The benefits I received from attending the tooling class with Cary are numerous. From the basic drawing of shapes, variation in both size and shape to the actual laying out of a pattern, I picked up tips throughout the class.

The layout of a pattern on leather was the most important thing I learned at the tooling class. I was basically laying out my patterns the same way as Cary, but I worried too much about the small details (stems, etc.) before the main part of the pattern. I have always had problems with the flow of my patterns before the class. I learned that you draw out the direction or flow that you want then place your large items (flowers) in your pattern before going into the small details.

Cary went through drawing basic shapes – circles, squares, triangles, etc. before going in to detail of the exact shape. For example, some flowers are made up of a circle with five triangles within the circle. From that circle and five triangles, you can carve a flower. Cary talked about using as little negative space (back grounding) in a pattern as possible. I had always tried to keep backgrounding to a minimum, this just reinforced my thinking. I learned that I can use various sizes and shapes of flowers and leaves and still have a well-balanced pattern – actually a unique art form.

In conclusion, the benefits of attending the tooling class resulted in my having a lot more confidence in my tooling patterns. My tooling patterns are more artistic than they were before the class. I’ve found that I’m taking more risks in my tooling. I’m happier with the looks of my finished work, not to mention the time it has saved me in my pattern layout.

I really appreciate the opportunity to attend this class and for the scholarship money given to me towards these ends.

Sincerely, Ron E. Rose

Michelle Liggett

Dear Don and Members of the TCAA,

Recently, I spent the last week of May with Leland Hensley. Because of the generosity of the TCAA mentor scholarship program, I was able to benefit from Leland’s experience and expertise, and I feel his mentoring will be extremely beneficial to my future work.

We discussed selection, preparation, and care of rawhide at great length. We also worked on a project, a quirt, which I finished at home. I was very pleased with the final result of the quirt. Although it was a working type piece, the elements of craftsmanship were pointed out by Leland throughout the process.

I found Leland informative, easy to talk to, gracious, and patient. I would like to thank him here as well for allowing me to get to know him and his family, and hopefully, this will continue to be a long friendship.

I would also like to thank the members of the TCAA for providing these scholarships. They give us an opportunity to learn from the experience of artists who have achieved a level of craftsmanship above and beyond the average – truly exceptional. I hope, with the knowledge I gained from Leland, I will continue to improve and strive for excellence in my work.

I would like to thank DJ for her gracious hospitality, and the 50 cent tour of Alpine, (as opposed to the 25 cent tour!)

I also enjoyed viewing some of the work of the artists in Argentina, as well as listening to Leland describe his experiences when he visits there. I would love to be able to visit myself someday, but will have to live and experience it through Leland’s stories in the meantime!

Your scholarship program is a great venue and I am proud to be a fortunate recipient, thank you, for allowing me this opportunity!

Sincerely yours, Michelle Liggett

Nancy M. Hoggan

An Open Letter to the TCAA:

This letter is written to express my deep and sincere gratitude to the Association, and specifically to Dale Harwood, for the opportunity to spend a week in Dale’s shop.

Our assignment was simply …watch Dale build a saddle; and ask questions along the way. I had personally prepared for the class for several months by writing down problems that I was having in my own shop. By close observation, and asking many questions, I resolved several advanced problems.

I also learned a few small, but significant, “tricks” that have made a real impact on my work.

To go back to the beginning, I had done leatherwork for fifteen years before I built my first saddle. I received two saddle trees (a 15″ Lewis Roper and a 12″ Homestead) from Dale’s son, Todd, as a Christmas gift from my husband. Dale was gracious enough to walk me through my first saddle, even though I had no previous saddle making experience.

Over the course of a couple months, I would go to Dale’s, and he would instruct me on building this saddle. I would work and take notes, then go home and do as much work as I could on my own. When Dale had time, I would go back for more help. In reality, the only thing I could do on my own was the carving and stamping! But Dale was patient and sure didn’t let me mess up! A year passed before I got the courage to start the 12″ Homestead for my kids. I managed to build most of it myself, with a few panicked phone calls to Dale. (I only live 40 miles from Dale – much to my advantage.) Soon friend ordered a saddle, and my career was started. Over the past fifteen years, Dale has given me a lot of help, and a lot of advice. I have long had a strong desire to improve my work and craftsmanship. Being able to observe Dale’s work on a regular basis has been my best education. Having the opportunity to attend Dale and Don King’s leather carving TCAA workshop in 2002 at Oklahoma City has also had a very strong, positive affect on my work. Receiving a scholarship to further my study was a true help. I was at a point where a few problems were keeping my work from progressing, and the schooling was just what I needed. Being able to see Dale do the construction, rather than just have him try to verbally explain a procedure, was the most help.

Since I was familiar with most of Dale’s techniques, it was gratifying to see that I was still doing most things like he had initially showed me. As mentioned, I also learned some new tricks.

The situation of having two other classmates worked out fine. I had met both of them at the class in Oklahoma City, so we were all comfortable. Hopefully, one person’s question would answer a question from the others.

Dale’s wife Karron, very graciously fed us a delicious meal at noon each day. Where I lived close, I was able to drive back and forth each day.

Sorry about rambling on and on, but I wanted to impress on you that this scholarship, and the opportunity to attend the class in Oklahoma, have had a huge impact on my saddle making career.

This is something that I am very determined to improve my skills, and the TCAA has given me two enormous opportunities to accomplish that goal.

All my sincere thanks, Nancy M. Hoggan

Matt Thompson

Dear Don:

Recently I was able to complete the mentor scholarship awarded to me by the TCAA. I spent four days, January 14-18 with Dale Harwood in his shop. While I was there, Dale took the time to let me watch him complete a rough-out saddle. Dale walked me through every step and very thoroughly showed me how and why he does things. I learned a great deal in four days. Dale is a very good teacher, very clear and concise and he took the time to make sure I understood.

Mentor scholarship is a good way to describe your program. Dale has been a mentor of mine for many years and his saddles in my opinion are at the pinnacle of the business. The four days I spent in his shop have already improved the quality of my work. Dale is very good at inspiring people to do their best work. I can see Dale’s influence in the work of many of today’s best saddlemakers. Someday I hope to be one of them.

I am basically self-taught so it was a great education for me to see if what I had been doing was the best way or not. Most of the time it wasn’t, so I feel like I learned an awful lot. I had a great time and got a great education. I would like to thank the TCAA for this opportunity. I would also like to thank Dale and Karron Harwood for their hospitality. Karron fed me very well.


Matt Thompson

Mario Hanel

To whom it may concern:

I was asked to write a summary of the experience that I had concerning the scholarship that I received from the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA). The scholarship was awarded to me so I could spend time with Mr. Cary Schwarz, as I have done from the dates November 26-30th, 2001. At which time another fellow saddlemaker and I witnessed Mr. Schwarz build a “roughout” saddle, I use the word witness loosely because we did much more than watch or observe. We also conversed with Mr. Schwarz which I might add that he is not only an excellent communicator but also a great listener.

The specific things that we talked about included trees and tree manufacturers, fitting trees to horses, saddle tree construction, leather, what types of leather should be used for certain parts of a saddle and where certain parts of the saddle should be cut out of a hide. We talked about ground seats and the many ins and outs of fitting the customer to a ground seat, how all the parts of a saddle should be installed from the seat to the stirrup treads, the finishing touches or small details that should be taken, from edges to fit. We also had a conversation about the design not only of the saddle itself but also the decoration that would go on a saddle, floral carving in particular.

We not only visited about the technical end of saddle making but we also talked about the business end of saddle making such as pricing, people relations, working hours and the relationships between business and family.

In conclusion I would like to say that the experience that I had with Mr. Schwarz could be described in many words; informative, inspiring, humbling, motivational and worth while being just a few.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all of the TCAA members for promoting the trades and allowing these scholarships to happen. I think they are and will be a great benefit to up and coming craftsmen who are truly dedicated to the art of braiding, bit and spur making, saddle making, and silversmithing.

Most of all though, I would like to thank Mr. Schwarz for welcoming me not only into his shop but also into his home allowing me to get to know his family. I would also like to say that Mr. Schwarz is more than worthy of being called “mentor” not only as a saddlemaker but as a person and a family man, if we all were so lucky to be so successful at both we should consider ourselves fortunate and rich people.

I would like to thank Mr. Don Bellamy also for all of the foot work he has done to allow this to happen, through my observations he is truly an essential asset to the organization.

Sincerely and God Bless, Mario Hanel

Amanda Fraker

Dear TCAA members:

I would like to thank you for accepting my application for your scholarship. I used the money to purchase an engravers block for myself. I’ve been using it quite a lot, and am completely grateful to have it. Ernie has been teaching me many techniques of engraving as well as building bits, spurs, and conchos. I’ve been working on my engraving by building copper bracelets.

I will be attending my first show on my own over the 7th-9th of September 2001, in Kaycee, Wyoming. I was invited by the Powder River Western Art Show to exhibit a few of my things there, as well as holding my own booth at the Fairgrounds during the Deke Latham memorial PRCA Rodeo. I am hoping for a good show. Thanks again for your generosity.

Sincerely, Amanda Fraker

John L. Blair

Dear Don,

First of all, I want to thank the TCAA for the funds to be able to go on such an exceptional trip to Canada to spend time with Mr. Chuck Stormes.

Second, I wish to thank Chuck and Heather Stormes for letting me interrupt their lives and take the time to share moments from the past that have brought them joy. Along this journey there were not only specific techniques of saddle making, but of lessons from the past that will echo in my mind for years to come.

Two specific items that I wanted to improve on were cantle bindings and ground seats. I did come away with learning two different ways to approach cantle bindings, which I had never seen or been taught. Even though those were minor lessons, they would make a large difference in how the binding itself looks. And, of course, there is always preparation, just make sure you are prepared in your mind and in your work. The thought process is very important and just watching Mr. Storms that process is always going on. His thought process is evident from the moment he begins a piece and can be seen as a process in continual revision as the piece progresses.

Ground seats were another item of interest to be studied. I was able to watch Mr. Stormes walk through his personal way of laying the seat in with just the use of paper patterns and with detailed information from start to finish in which he showed me his style of seat and his philosophy of how that seat should fit and why is should fit. The reason why he has chosen the all leather ground seat and the choice of leather and why each piece is specifically chosen for its purpose, along with the placement of the rider in that seat.

Carving was also a subject on which we had gone over. Mr. Stormes gave an opinion on his evaluation of my carving and gave suggestions on areas to improve and what to work on to get that improvement.

Finally and just as important as the craft itself, were the lessons from the past. These were the experiences that took place in the old shops of Calgary that Mr. Stormes had worked in. They are of our links to the past; those being of John Foss and Jon Loomer and those lessons need to be passed on to future generations. Knowing that as in today’s world as then there was always more than one way to accomplish a certain task, no one certain way being right or wrong, just as long as it was functional and well crafted. That their struggles to achieve high standards in craftsmanship are still with us today, being such as passed on to Mr. Stormes.

Therefore, I want to thank you again for this opportunity and I look forward to being able to use this experience to one day be the one that can pass on my experiences and expertise.

Sincerely, John L. Blair

Alan Bell

Dear Members of the TCAA,

I recently completed my Rawhide Braiding class with Nate Wald in Lodge Grass Mt. (finally!)

I would like to thank the members for allowing me the opportunity to participate in your scholarship program. I had a great time and really learned a lot. Nate and his wife T.J. opened their home to me and made me feel more than a welcome guest, I felt like a friend. Not only is Nate a master braider but he is a top hand and I enjoyed the leisure time spent riding and roping. Why, I even got to ride along with the “Wald Bunch” as Nate’s brother, Matt and his son, along with Nate’s parents, Ron and Donna, and Nate’s son, Jackson, allowed me to ride along with them on one of their early morning rounds.

I worked on a 3/8 in. bosal with Nate and we talked of different things Nate does to make other rawhide gear so I could try his style later. Nate is a true craftsman and his attention to detail is extraordinary. I took a lot of notes and made a reference sheet for myself. Nate also gave me a list of folks to contact as sort of a network of gear workers and horsemen.

The members of the TCAA have shown that they are truly dedicated to their respective crafts by encouraging future gear makers to achieve higher standards and carry on the traditions. I would highly recommend this experience to any fledgling gear makers out there. I would like to be considered for a saddle making scholarship.

Sincerely, Alan Bell