Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Fara Shimbo Horses & Tack


This will be a short exploration of the fabulous skills of Fara Shimbo, model horse artist extraordinaire, active in the 1980s and 90s.  Although she was at home with sculpting, painting, remaking, prop-building and tackmaking, I only have 4 English saddles and 2 remakes of hers.  These horses were repainted, haired and the Clydesdale repositioned.  But I did find a pic, deep in my files, of Western tack by this lady.  Talk about talented.

Fa's business card proclaims her as a Certified Public Nuisance.  No title could be more appropriate.

Back in the late 80s this salmon-chestnut Clydesdale came to stay with me.  He doesn't have a registry card, nor any documentation.  But my memory strongly states he is by Shimbo.  The hair is mohair and the body painted in acrylics and pastels.  My husband seized upon this one and he now belongs to him.

The Clyde has horseshoes made of wire and solder, another Shimbo idea.  Having to be glued on, unfortunately they fell off, but they're still around.

Fa's main presence in my tack collection is English saddles.  I am exceptionally fortunate to have 4 of her amazing works.  Each one speaks of the ongoing improvement process, creating on the spot, expressing a spirit very familiar with real horse equipment yet experimenting with personal flair.  This is model tackmaking from the early years of the hobby, when everything had to be made from scratch.

The dark brown, Classic-scale race saddle on the right below dates from 1986.  It originally had a woven-thread girth which was so frail I replaced it later with an Emma Harrison girth.  The maize-colored felt blanket is a Fa original; it has a white-binding center stripe.  Fa made her own saddle trees from Friendly Plastic (heat-malleable plastic pellets) and other materials.  This is a delicate saddle overall and always needs cleaning (oh those brass pins!) but it shows that her sense of proportion was spot-on.

The purple saddle dates from 1998.  I purchased it through an email auction.  (If you want to know, the winning price was $45.)  It did not have a girth so I made one, matching as closely as I could the 'intent' and style of the maker.  I also added the breastcollar and martingale.  This has been a favorite piece for many years, inspiring my "matchy-matchy" collection, as seen below.  The Russians were not the first to try color on an English saddle!

Fa has a story, too, about this purple saddle.  She made it for herself and used its photo in her catalog.  According to her:  "Someone, I forget who fortunately, wanted to buy one of those saddles and sent in a check.  I was so busy at the time, I saw I wasn't going to get around to making another..., and send her that one.  A few days later I got two interesting things in the mail:  one was a letter from her saying that she was "extremely dissatisfied" that the saddle I sent looked nothing like the one in the photo; the other was a notice from my bank that her check had been written on an account that no longer existed!  I told her about the check and that I expected the saddle back.  She finally paid in cash and sent a letter yelling at me for expecting her to be a "professional accountant."
That incident, and subsequent cataracts, was why I stopped making tack."

She never made another like it.  I can only say I'm glad it appears to've been me who picked it up next.

Dang!  Rooting through the file box, I find I have at least 2 other saddles by Shimbo that didn't get photo'd... one of them a wreck, "no redeeming features" says the card...  ahem...

The white-stripe saddle on the right, below, is a prized possession.  c. 1989.  There's quite a story on its registration card. 

"According to Fa she sent me this saddle two different times, & each was lost in the mail.  I had moved to PA in 1987.  The third time, I was visiting CO and her and she brought out a bunch of saddles, told me to pick one.  I picked an experimental, & I thought beautiful piece -- nothing else like it.  She said it was her least favorite -- "That's how it goes!"   Chris Foote says she'd KILL for this saddle-- !!!!"

Over time I've fixed, cleaned, repaired and updated parts of all of these.  Sometimes notes are kept; other times, not.  On this saddle, for instance, the girth billets kept breaking, and I'd sew on new parts; and the stirrup straps were hot-oiled.

The saddle on the left I call the Pumpkin Saddle.  It was purchased sight-unseen through an email auction in October of 1998.  On this one I wound up doing a lot of work, securing loose piping, replacing the stirrup leathers, and making a new girth out of kangaroo leather my parents had brought from Australia.  This gave me the opportunity to make a girth that felt the way I thought they should when fastening:  having smooth-sliding buckles that were easy to work with, not fiddly sharp tongue buckles that gouged leather.  The essential proportions and colors of the piece remain Fa's.  

Here is another of her unusual English saddles.  I'm afraid I don't know the photographer -- this is from deep in my private files.  It shows her sense of exploration and fearlessness.  Why shouldn't there be carving and stamping on an English saddle!?  At the time I knew very little of English saddles, being of an exclusively Western bent. 

Hopefully these few examples will help identify Fara Shimbo's style as a tackmaker.  One particular part of her English saddles is an almost fail-safe clue:  the stirrups.  Fa made her own stirrups, she told me, out of a "low-melting-point metal sold to weight down model train cars, cast into a silicone mold and then polished."  "I melted it with a soldering iron.  Probably something called Bare Metal."   The stirrups appear dull silver in color, filed flat and blocky, not symmetrical or perfect.  Nearly all my saddles by her have these unique, handmade stirrups.

 Time to trot out my motto, pinned over the workbench:

                                                          OUR MOTTO

The Artisanry of Model Tack lies not only in the researching and duplicating, in miniature, of that which exists in the world ...  but in reaching out to explore and create new forms, new horizons, never seen before...  It is an Artistic Medium, just like paint or clay ...  ... At the same time, Model Tack must remain solidly connected to the form and function of a working toy, which is what I consider the model horse to be.

A piece by Fa could capture her spirit of sassy experimentation and still remain a realistic piece of tack.  Here is the one Western saddle by her I have a picture of.  Fa thinks she took it:

Fa was so into iridescence that she wrote books about it.  I know the term Crystallier because of her.

And finally, my other horse by her.  This beloved old Appaloosa Mare is my best example of what an artist can do with colored pencils.  She rattles, she's coarse and rough, --- and I love her to pieces.  Fa gave her to me for Christmas 1987.  Named Timmaine, she is wearing my Evelyn Munday Brindle-seat saddle (2012), hackamore by TSII.

Thank you, Fa, for sharing your wide-ranging model talents with the world.   I still remember the ferrets and the model dogs, and your horse, Chewie.  You helped inspire and steady my own model tack journey,... and do so even now.

Links That Changed Me


A more accurate title would be "Links to articles that have influenced me enough to change my behaviour."  But short snappy headlines are de rigueur in the early 21st C. 😀  Constantly compressing one's thoughts into their core meaning is hard.  Compression generates heat.  There you have it:  Sue's inadequate effort to explain global warming... : )

The order started out chronological, but strayed into 'what's most important to me at the time.'  Right now the most recent one is second from the bottom.

Saving Your Health, One Mask at a Time.  April 7, 2020.   Dr Tippett, MD, PhD, on defining a safe space and the math of multiplying risk factors to achieve, as near as possible, 100% safety.  This was written at the start of the pandemic.  It is the only article I'm remembering a year later as being of any real use.

 Slate article on Delta   July 21, 2021.  More than year later (and after a too-brief summer of freedom), this is the article that had us taking Delta seriously.  After reading this one we almost didn't go to CO; we did change our route to avoid MO, after cases spiked there.

 Atlantic article on Delta   August 12, 2021.  A brilliant discussion of endemicity [when the virus becomes endemic, or normally present] and immunological naivete.  Although long, this one nails it on what we can do to prevent the sickening waves of 'here we go again.'  "Vaccines remain the best way for individuals to protect themselves, but societies cannot treat vaccines as their only defense." -- author Ed Young.

Note that Atlantic magazine allows readers a certain amount of articles free, but after 2 per month you have to pay.

 The 60-year-old mystery:  Aerosols versus droplets  May 13, 2021.  This is the crown jewel of this post's collection.  Why was 6 feet chosen?  Under what conditions does it actually work?  A team of researchers dug into the past and unearthed surprising answers.  This became personal not just because I married a meteorologist  :^)  but because my own grandfather had suffered Tuberculosis as a medical student in the 1920s.

Apologies for not being able to find a simple plume dispersion video!  Really, I had no idea there were so many videos on the subject of airborne transmission...  I watched some pollution and smoke diffusion videos back in fall 2020 (think smokestack) and that did indeed change me.  Here's one of many:  Japanese article on droplets

Image source:  Google   origin. from courses.washington.edu

University of AL on vaccine side effects  July 6, 2021.  A friend claims that the side effects of the vaccine are unknown;  This one's for you.  Note that it comes from the Deep South (Alabama), as does the next link (Louisiana).

Dr Catherine O'Neal on Vimeo  August 3, 2021.  This is the one George shows his students.  Darkest days:  She warns that even though hers is a big hospital with many beds, she cannot guarantee there will be a bed if you have an accident.  Compassionate, logical, yet clearly desperate, I found myself trusting her.  He and I are pretty much placing our lives in the hands of his students.

Katelyn Jetelina on Israel  What's going on with Israel?   At Sept 1, 2021, this one is so new that it hasn't yet actually impacted our behaviour.  At least it's trying to get a handle on new information about booster shots.

 How to talk the shots   April 8, 2021.  Here's a good finisher:  Washington Post on how to talk about controversial things.  I read this and thought, We've been practicing these all along.  Any marriage that lasts will recognize these precepts as only logical.  To wit:  Anger doesn't help;   see things from the other's point of view; and above all, Share Everything, and be prepared to look like an idiot --  because the other side is an idiot too.

Truth will out.  I've learned that over 60 years, ... and this:

Your fears are always worse than the reality.



Sunday, September 5, 2021

A Visit with Fara Shimbo


On August 8, while I was in Boulder, CO, I was able to visit with Fara Shimbo, and (as she had promised) to pet her horses --- Akhal Tekes both.  Fa and I go way back, to the early 1980s (probably to the late 70s).  This post will cover that visit; a later post will be about the model horses and tack by her that I possess.  I apologize for the weird bluegreen cast to these photos; it was another smoky-hazy day on the Front Range, my camera was set funny and I don't quite have the PhotoShopping skill to remove it.

I had not seen Fa for at least 24 years, since about 1998.  She had turned up on FaceBook approximately a year or so ago.  In that long interim I had known only that she did crystallography, raised roses and was involved with Akhal Tekes, owning them and drawing stationery for their club.  The above photo was the first of the visit, after a slow navigation to Hygiene, about 35 minutes for 11 miles.  (Alone for the first time since leaving PA, I only got lost a little.)

Fa's expression and smiling eyes have not changed, even through a Mets mask.  Of course the first place we went was the horse corral.  "Twink," also known as Twink the Fink, is the buckskin.  This lady was definitely boss. 
It is actually rare that I meet real horses.  I have model horse friends like Fa, and BreyerFest, to thank for the times I do.  I can't really remember the last time I was in a real corral,... certainly not a Front Range one.  The other horse is a bay mare named Katrina.  Fa has owned her since she was a baby.  She is now around 18.  [Bad camera angle.]

Twink was aggressive about getting petted.  She would present her back end and expect to be rump-scratched.  Twink had the most interesting and attractive patterning on her rear dorsal stripe.  I took lots of shots trying to capture this, sometimes standing on my tiptoes and holding the camera over my head.
In the end I think I was successful.

It was sheer heaven to be outside with horses, with a friend, at home, with nobody else around.  Neither horse was broken to ride so there was no question about riding, which actually was a great relief and made the occasion even more laid back.

I had chosen visiting Fa as a substitute for another model horse party when fears of Delta threatened to overwhelm me and my family.  Despite assurances of vaccination (I've been vaccinated since February), too many unknowns -- number of visitors, their possible exposures, location, whether inside or out -- caused me to make yet another difficult heartbreaker of a choice.  (I've had too many of those.)  In the event, this time the choice was right. 
Fa wouldn't let me in her house.  "Too many cats," she said, adding that the mess inside would certainly not stand visitors.  Since I was happy outside this was not a problem.  We sat on the front step and I got to show off everything I'd brought.  And she got to show off too.

Fa was that rarest of possessions in the 80s for me, a model horse friend within easy driving distance.  (Only about 4 miles then.)  Our visits then shimmered with inspiration, creativity and all kinds of animals -- she had ferrets amoung other things, and had written a book about them!  Our visits slowed down after college and all but ended when I moved to PA in 1987.   On this day, we didn't have quite enough time to cover all the 24 years, but we did catch up nicely on the stuff that's important.  

This is just one example of Fa's artistry:  a model horse she'd sculpted, cast and painted herself.  In case you don't recognize it, it's a portrait of Katrina the bay.

It's what I call a solidcast.  Techonology in casting model horses has come a long way since the old days.

Fa made the base as well and covered it with (I believe) coffee grounds.  The mane and tail are 'string.'  The golden coat has a strong metallic sheen.

Fa had been what I call a "Michaelangelo," a model horse artist capable of just about everything.  In addition to her sculpting, casting and tackmaking through the years, she had dabbled in 3D printing.  She casually explained that the front legs of the little red horse were missing "because a cat chewed them off."

I could only admire the correctness of the little red horse's conformation and general proportions.  Fa had known more about 3D printing, earlier, than I did at the present time (even with Maggie's presentation during BreyerFest under my belt!).

These two pieces were so like Fa:  moments of artisanry from a lifetime of enjoying all aspects of models.  In return I tried to bring her up to speed with my current model life and with Breyer's, showing off Fireheart, Icabad and Kaalee.  She liked Kaalee right away.  Of course TSII tack was present.  Fa went in the house and came back out with an astonishing gift for me:  TSII #207!!!!!!!

But more on this later.

Sunday, August 29, 2021



Now that Wycked Wynd is here, I set out to do my third and last BreyerFest Loot shot.  But like all good photography sessions, it got carried away.  It went from two stallions to five horses to a color comparison between Perlinos to comparing my last three resincasts!  You get the idea...

...So let's start with those two stallions I was talking about back in July.  On FaceBook I said I'd blown nearly all my funds on two stallions right before BreyerFest.  One arrived quite quickly and the other has taken his time but has been quite worth the wait.  (Indeed he is shaming my own mail-order fulfillment habits.)  Ladeeez-ann-Gennlmen, May I Present! 

Fireheart and Wycked Wynd.  

They could not be more different, except maybe in the hair department.  Fireheart in particular reminds me of the time I was judging a Mustang class at NAN.  I came to the conclusion that with this breed, hair-dos mattered more than anything else.  That class should have been named Hair-Do Class.

While Fireheart is the much larger horse, his ribcage is surprisingly narrow.  Wycked Wynd has got himself in proportion, but will need prepwork before painting.   Fortunately I have many fine jewelry files that will come in most handy for the job.

I do not regret spending what I did.  Fireheart has been named and has already had the most memorable and astonishing adventure a member of my herd could have.  He's traveled 2 x 1600 miles in the heart of a pandemic and lived to tell the tale.  Wycked is in the process of being named and I am very pleased with his quality and beauty.  Like his sculptress, I'm very much wanting to see him tacked up.

I acquired more horses than last year's haul.  You must excuse the parade set -- I'm unwilling to take it off Seurat/Sorpresa right now.  Note the color difference between Seurat and Fireheart.

Danash joins several others in my stack of boxed horses.  This category is not new, merely expanded.  I have to spread out my acquisitions for an entire year,... or longer, if the mood takes me.  Also, the shelves are full and there is barely enough room for the unboxed.  It takes me a long time to fully develop and enjoy a horse.  The boxed ones are sort of... quarantining.  It's an additional step to make sure I really want them.

Some I really wanted from the beginning!  Like Uffington... I don't know what I'd do if a "Gothington" (as Yashka aptly named the SilverBlack Holographic version) had landed with me.  Thank all saints I got my original desire.  Now I have two Breyer OF Perlinos and it is very interesting to compare them.

They both have blue eyes.

Uffington is more of a yellow-gold, while Shazada [I don't have a factory name, so I'm using my own for this individual, a Persian word meaning Prince] has a pearly-pink-peach tone.  [Editor's Note:  the factory name is Quelle Surprise.]
Uffington is lighter.  His mane and tail are almost white.  Shazada has more gold in his mane and tail.

 Photographing and moving light-colored and white stallions around, I looked up at my shelf of unfinisheds, fitting in Wycked Wynd.  While I knew that my last resincast was also an arabian stallion, Denderah, I hadn't realized until this moment that the resin before him was also an arabian stallion!

Orion, by Margarita Malova!!

What possessed me!!  I am not an Arabian person, by any stretch -- never have been.  Yet here was the evidence, very solid.  Was it the emphasis on Akhal Tekes, with their own connection to Arabs?  Or was it simply the sheer beauty of these animals?  Was it my admiration for these artists?  Not telling you, not shown, is my Indian Silver by McDermott, yet another unfinished Arabian stallion... (oh and mini Khemo... umm...)

I love their tails.

Unlike last year, I have no idea which resin I will tackle for NMPM.  But I have learned to trust my Muse.  I will enjoy each and every one of these marvelous creations, and treasure the relationships my hobby has brought me.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Bowsaw at Goodwin, plus birds


During our stay in Boulder, CO, we visited a place just one mile from my parent's house, yet I had previously been there only once as a teenager (that I can remember).  Back then it was called Goodwin Memorial.  Today it is known as Legion Park.

I had this horse named before I got him.  I wanted a strong, simple word full of unthinking power, but it wasn't until I was trimming our blue spruce, 'with only a bowsaw and a rusty pair of hedge shears,' that I realized this was the right name.  The blanket is by Nichelle Jones (thanks Nichelle!).

(Don't fret: not all these pix have Fireheart in them.)  The top of Goodwin hill, just north of Arapaho Ave, east of town, normally has a beautiful view west to the mountains and east to the plains.  But this day we were seeing a spectacle so rare that there was a continuous stream of photographers driving up, shooting and leaving. 

All four days of our drive out to CO and at least half of our 12 days in Boulder were smothered in smoke and haze.  Instead of the glorious views of the Rockies, or even of Nebraska, we were entombed inside a bluesilver mist.  You could be 15 miles from the Front Range and not even see it.  In all my life, I have never witnessed anything quite like this.  (And I have childhood memories of Denver's Brown Cloud.)  It was equal parts amazing and depressing.

Goodwin was built in the CCC era.  I recall it as a great spot for submarine races  :)  and to take your date to when you learned to drive.  Fortunately there were few cars while I shot Bowsaw.  The general spectacle was too much competition for a mere model horse.

Here is the view straight west, across Boulder to the Rockies.  Normally you can see Sugarloaf, Indian Peaks, the High Divide with Mt Audubon and Longs Peak to the north.  But this time, it's Valmont Public Service, long ago coal-burning but these days definitely not.

Swing slightly to the right, north, and here are the reservoirs.  Yes the air really was so bad you could not see the horizon.  This was August 7th, Saturday, later found to be the worst day of all that week, and the only time I actually smelled smoke.

Here is the entrance road, looking south.  The only way to get to this park is by turning right while coming in west on Arapaho Avenue.  No left turns on Arapaho there!

It's a simple gravel parking lot with stones around it, but I had forgotten how long the entrance road was.  In this picture, Arapaho Ave is just beyond those trees.

In this picture, still looking south, you can see a 'barn' on the horizon, just left of 2 pine trees.  That 'barn' is actually a house at the bottom of my parents' neighborhood.
Here we're looking west by south-west.

Stepping right and looking west again.  The lakes were originally there for cooling purposes for the power plant.  Nowadays they're refuges for birds and no one can go there.  Valmont Reservoirs.  There's 2 lakes obvious on the map of southern Boulder, Valmont and Baseline.  I grew up within a stone's throw of Baseline, named after the fortieth parallel.

In this picture, the white car is ours.  We're looking north.
A few more shots of Bowsaw:

I can't explain why I'm so taken with a bridle-unfriendly horse.  I'll come up with something...

He wanted to get going.

 I promised there would be birds.  See those tiny dots on the lake?

Canadas.  Not the first time I've used the zoom feature of my camera to identify birds.
And here's something I originally thought was a,... pelican?... a Loch Ness monster??  Nope, only a cormorant on a rock....

 The day was so weird and the atmosphere so strange that people were moved to do silly things,

instead of acting like upstanding, normal citizens.  This is the north end of the park.
Yours truly.  If I stood up, my hat disappeared into the white sky.
We were standing around at the north end, knowing we should leave and not breathe such bad air any more than we had to, yet treasuring the eerie peace and aloneness and uniqueness of it all, when I spotted this magpie on the entrance wall.
What a lovely zoom feature.  Thank you Fuji!
You will be glad to know that in the latter half of our visit, the sky turned blue again and we could see the mountains as they had always been.