Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A foal halter

This is a Warmblood Foal Show Halter,  based on a real halter seen on Coopermill Harness.  The piece is a trade for a Toby POA (proving that Sue can be bought, at least on a good day!).  It is neither Western nor braidwork, but I completely enjoyed it.  Thanks go to M. Lineman, owner.

The "chain" of the browband was created with hot-fix iron-on spots.  I used the smallest size and cut them into rough squares.  They taught me something I already knew:  the gun has to be HOT before fixing works properly.

This might be a good time to point out how I make the holes on such a small scale piece of tack (or any model tack!).  A great deal of trouble and expertise is spent on trying to make circular holes; see Jennifer Buxton's blog.  I hope I mention often enough how indebted I am to CAROL WILLIAMS who gave me the idea to use slits instead of holes.  Once I switched to slits, cutting them with a custom-built needle chisel, I had no problems.  Slits are far less stressful on the leather and much more in scale.  Moisten the lace, run a needle through to widen the hole and let it dry -- presto.

The buckles and rings are all made from goldplated wire.  The brow conchos were made from Dolls-house Christmas Tree brass ornaments.  I've had these hanging around forever -- Clare Bell Brass Works??!? -- ever since I was in my Draft Harness heydays in the 1980s.  The solid one was perfect for the job since the Rio Rondo harness brasses I usually use were too big.  Yes, even the Classic ones!

The noseband stitching is a test of an idea I've had for a long time.  It is painted, yes, but also sunk in.  Lines were cut on the leather, then paint applied and wiped off -- it stayed only deep in the cuts.  The natural grain and roughness of the leather, interrupting the smoothness of the lines, makes it appear there are 'stitches.'  This is a good example of model tack as the art of optical illusion.

My Peery saddle

[From the Sneak Peeks page, Dated November 6]  Every now and then I'm lucky enough to splurge.  I've been looking for a Brooke Peery western saddle for years.  Brooke is yet another example of a very talented tack artist who takes the field by storm for a few years and then quietly vanishes, leaving collectors to scramble.  She first appeared somewhere around 2005.  The date on this beauty is 2007.
The usual stretch for such an artist is three years.  Brooke may have lasted a little longer, but not much; by 2009 I couldn't find her.  Her website,, shows pictures of the 2006 NAN and mentions she has been making tack "for about 3 years now."  This would push the opening date back a couple years, to 2003, but bring the close forward as well -- there are no updates after 2006.  I think it's fair to state that the glory years were centered around 2005-2007.  Like I said, I got lucky.

I have Ashley G. to thank for the chance to acquire this lovely piece.  It appears to be freehand tooled.  The silver is thin aluminum sheet (not tape) hand cut and embossed.  The spots are all pin heads:  trust me, that's the hard way.  Yes, the fenders don't swing (more obvious in the above picture) but the overall detail is awesome.

The blanket is my own work (Blue Catalina) done from a pattern of Chris Armstrong's with different colors.  The bridle is my own Tissarn's Mech Hack, up because Jenn Buxton's Hack is based on it [at the time posted on braymere blog] and because the greens were a better match to the turquoise blanket than her dark red.  I would also like to crow about the blue sky.  This was the first blue sky I'd really seen since Sandy the Superstorm, i.e. in about a week!!
And of course the horse is Carol Williams' incomparable Matriarch, painted by Katie Richards and given me by that earthbound angel, Sue Peet.  I named her LaJewel, which is a real person's name which I saw in a magazine.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Micro order mecate in the pipeline

This is a sneak preview of K M's micro order mecate.  On this one I am trying to accomplish a true 6-part mecate, with 6 strands showing, and a 7th strand forming the core.  Previously this was not possible for me.  Up to this point I had used 6 strands for a mecate, the 6th forming a core and thus not seen;  each strand used 3 or 4 threads depending on color.  The checkered (fleck) strands used 4, since they had to be divisible by 2.  I felt that 7 times 3 threads would be too bulky for Trad scale.  Plus it was just dern hard to make these things -- another strand would make it just that much harder.  So I thought....

Real horsehair mecate, "Wendy's" from Hagel's Mecate Gallery
This is a picture of the mecate the customer sent me, to craft a miniature portrait of.  Isn't it pretty?!  It seemed such a shame to eliminate even one color from the 6.  If I had to I was planning to dump one of the browns...  Then, during the forming of the strands, I was hit by an idea.  Instead of 3 Topstitching [currently sold as Heavy] weight threads, try using 2 Topst. + 2 HQ [Hand Quilting, the smallest guage I currently use].  Spin the 2 as normal, then, one by one, add in the HQs.  Since they are fed through the popper (quirt) and folded over in the middle, there are two anyway.  To my amazement, it worked.  Since 1 Topst. = 3 HQs, this was a savings of 1 HQ.  It might not seem like a lot, but multiplied over the 6 or 7 strands, it added up.

 This is what a TSII mecate looks like under construction.  The horse is Kilbourn's Maxixe, because he was my closest resin in size to the requested one.  The anchor is tied to the board in back, so I can't pull it off the bench.  There is a lot of pulling... The clips hold the various strands and keep them from unraveling.  Spinning progresses a few inches at a time.

It's very difficult to maintain a constant tension on the spin.  I find I can make only 2 inches or so at a time.  For this particular mecate, the black and check strands are fitted last and separately.  This leaves brown + brown as a pair and white + white as a pair.  (It could just as easily have been brown + white and brown + white.)  Each pair is spun a few inches as tightly as possible (but they always work loose; this turns out to be needed).  While they're tight, they are spun together into a 4 around the core.  The core was the real brainwave of this mecate and the secret to a 7-strand.  It is a single, not a double (doubled-over) strand, and was hung from the popper by itselfThe trick to mecates is to start at the popper, since in real life this end is doubled over on itself too.  This makes tying the tassel button core, at the other end, possible; you have ends to work with.

Etching my own

Taken on the back deck November 23, 2012.
This will be the story of how I overcame Mudflap envy.  I have just one piece of advice:  Cut your own!!
His name is Rinker, after a type of pleasure boat.

Breyer's Mudflap photographed at NAN 2012 by SBY
In July of this year I came down with a bad case of Mudflap envy.  I knew the model existed because I'd seen it at Didi Hornberger's show the fall before.  Mudflap is one of the 2009 Lone Star Experience releases, a run of 88 head.  As you may know, my favorite model horse color has shifted from charcoal to leopard appaloosa, and here was one of the most beautiful examples Breyer had ever put out, on a mold I only had one other of.  I tried very hard to buy a Mudflap in September.  When the price walked up over $550, I invoked a rarely-used concept, boycott of desire.  At the same time I was inspired by the work of Lindy Pinkham (and others) who etched their own appaloosas.

I had previously etched 4 horses: a Lonesome Glory, a Classic New QH Mare, a Stone Pony, and a Roxy.  (Deep in the past was a bay pinto Standing Stock Foal.)  Once the idea seized hold, I purchased a Smart Chic Olena for a nominal price.  "He was already scratched."  Next, I printed out 4 pictures of Mudflap, all I could find on the Web.  As of this writing I don't have pictures of his off side.  However, I do have a friend nearby who owns this model, and has promised picture-taking privileges.  Thanks Margaret!  This left only the time-management problem.
Taken December 7 2012 by SBY
Of course, this is the hardest part.  Invoking another rarely-used concept from my past, I decided I would work on him only on Thursdays.  So far, it's worked.  During vacation, this will change, I think -- although then he'll have to compete with tack projects.  

I am not aiming for etched perfection, the likes of Billie Campbell or Liz Shaw.  I'm not even aiming for realism.  And, strange to say, I'm not aiming for Mudflap, not anymore.  All  Mudflap's spots are there, but others appeared.  It's too fun to let him dictate himself where the spots will be.  I can always remove some; I can't put them back.  After the first rough X-Acto passes, I use rubbing alcohol to smoothe and clean up the white parts.  This weak acid works wonders, being so much more gentle than acetone.  It's about as weak as vinegar, which will also do the same job.