Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring colors

It's amazing how I seem to have a backlog of blog subjects right before I go into a long period of no posts.  Forgive me.  I promised to post on this fantastic Gaming Saddle when I got it, and I've been enjoying it ever since it arrived.
This beauty is none other than the Aqua Gaming Set made by Shannon Granger of Riversong Saddlery!

When I saw it I just lusted after it.  I'd seen Shannon's work before, in the hands of other discriminating model tack collectors (y'know, if they collect model tack they must be discriminating!) and admired her sense of proportion.  Many model saddles look like lumps.  A few manage to look like miniatures.  Detail is king, and a good part of that detail, besides crisp edges, beautiful tooling and correct hardware, is proportion:  getting the sizes of the parts right, and their relation to one another.  Shannon's saddles really attain that much-desired description:  "it looks like a real saddle only smaller."  My own saddles have not always done this.

For one thing, at first I thought the horn was too small.  But then I realized real saddles have these little horns.  My own model saddles just have large horns, something probably from pride as much as skill.  (Makes you reflect upon the large-headed big-eyed baby phenomenon.)

I decided I had to have the Aqua Set, though with some trepidation.  Surely others would want this just as much as I.  The way color was intregrated into the set was something I can really appreciate, executed with dash and verve: not too much, not too little.  I was in a circumstance where I wasn't making much tack, so I chose to collect instead.  Difficult choice, but I've always wanted a Granger.  I could afford only one.  When the set was actually in my hands, I spotted a tiny error: the flower centers on the front corners shouldn't have been painted blue.  But then I started thinking about the Navajo injunction against perfection in handiwork.  They believed perfection was an affront to the spirits.  If Shannon had painted every center it would be too gaudy.  Imperfect?  Fine by me.

This third shot is a lesson in PhotoShop.  Even though I took out a great deal of blue in the first two pix, I didn't take enough. 
This angle shows how green everything really is:  the great Gallery Pear tree next to our house is blooming.  Oh it is grand to be outside shooting in the old place on the railings once again!  This tree has been the backdrop to most of my shots since we got the house in 1993.

Embarrassingly, the horse doesn't have a name.  I'm taking her (mine's a her) with me to Colorado and points west.  Maybe she'll find her destiny.  Certainly I'll work on getting a better blanket!  I tried this set on everybody, but a plain white pad and this horse worked the best by far.

More than half my tack collection is other people's tack.   What's really interesting is that this color combination on a Western saddle, natural undyed paired with a turquoise or aqua seat, is already represented in my collection.  It must be one of those things, like cranberries with white chocolate. Here is my Susan Taylor gaming saddle, one of two Taylors I own.

I commissioned it from her in 2002.  The bridle is from Donna Looman.  When I saw those little turquoise tube beads I leapt.  The blanket here is by me, specifically for this set.

Also I have made, myself, at least one saddle in this color combo, TSII #416, back in 2000.  It was built for Elizabeth Bouras.  Today it is in the hands of (I think) Colette Robertson.

This is, of course, a digital photo of a film photo.  That's my carpet behind the top corner.   Yes, I have a scanner, but it's been unused for many years; I'd have to seriously sit down with it and my computer guru.   I dragged this photo out of my scrapbooks.  I have scads of scrapbooks (yes, that is the correct term).  Only time will tell whether they'll ever get published.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goehring's Reins

At long last, the reins to the Clyde Goehring set are finished!!  The best words I've found for them are 'barbaric Mexican flamboyant style.'  A friend promptly said I could never make anything too barbaric or flamboyant.  Hah.  But since it's a portrait piece, I rest my case.

These beasties have been under construction for several weeks.  It's not their fault that my tackmaking this spring has been slowed down to nearly a full stop.  Only recently, and through a lot of hard work!! have I been able to make any progress at all.  Many parts of these reins had to be done three times over to get them right!  For instance, d'you remember the twist?
(No, that is not a dance question!)
This was what the rein bases looked like when I first tried to make them.  It took three tries to overcome the dreadful spin or turn.  I unbraided them and started over again, once... twice...  What finally worked was to pull much harder with my right hand, while pulling 'normally' with my left.  Under these conditions, the reins eventually came out very straight:  the romal part with no twist, and the hand part (called 'riendas') with a quarter twist in 13 inches, which I felt was acceptable.

Another part I had to do three times over was the central button in the groups, a Pineapple with a single Interweave.  Sounds simple, but it wasn't.  I was so out of practice I forgot my own recipes and procedures, and it took 3 tries to 'rediscover' normal.  The first try the core was too big; the second, I used the wrong thread...  Cores to these are merely three half hitches of a smaller gauge thread, something I'd forgotten.

The large zigzag buttons used on these reins are called 'crazy' buttons.  Technically
the formulas used are classed as Gaucho Fan buttons, and Tom Hall names it a 10P 8B Checkered Headhunter's. 
I'm gonna continue to call them crazy buttons... 
I rarely use them, despite their being fun and interesting.  The last time I did was on a pair of reins for K. Smith, in 2007.  Before that, I have only used them on my own Malaguena's FiB RiB [fully braided rawhide bridle], and that because it was a mere doubling; I didn't know how to do interweaves then.

On one of these turnback buttons, the long ones next to the bit, I had to rebraid the dark brown after the white was finished.  This was the first time I'd tried such a trick: pulling out the dark brown without disturbing the existing white button.  Amazingly, it worked.

 I am so pleased to have made progress, any progress at all, that I'm not thinking about what comes next.  But it'll probably be the breastcollar.  I have a bare 2 weeks before I skip town.  It's possible I could get further on this piece.  What I should do is design kits for myself, for my remaining Nine Orders, kits I could start on while I was traveling.  See our Tack Orders page on my website for more information.

Let's take a look at the full scale version of what these reins are a portrait of:
The reins are hard to see, for there is much here to look at.  One saving grace for this model tackmaker is the ability to narrowly focus down on just one feature.  I've done the bit and I've done the reins.  I'm partway through the breastcollar.  The bridle should naturally follow.  I have ideas now on how to do the checkers along the skirts; and engraving is a skill I humbly possess.  But as to the rest of it, well, only time will tell.  I'm gonna have to uncork some serious design and engineering mojo to get through it all.
More pictures are on my website.

This layout shows the side of the bit shanks. 

This is the first bridle I've made where the reins have wear leathers on the turnback loops.  I confess the picture color didn't come out quite right, and the wear leathers are not really so bright orange.  They're actually much more subdued and natural-colored, like the reins themselves.  I used very thin skiver and hand-sewed them in place.

A reminder:  I will be visiting family and friends in Kansas and Colorado from May 2 to June 17.  If there aren't any blog posts for May and June that's why.  If I could make tons of tack on trips I would, but my history is against me.  I find it difficult to sell copies of the Guide when I'm on the road, so your patience is appreciated.  I look forward to returning with plenty of travel tales!  (sorry, no canoe this time!)
And I'm looking forward to NAN, and beyond it, BreyerFest!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rinker on the Scuppernong

You may have heard that I take model horses on canoe trips.  Sit back and take a trip down the Chowan and Scuppernong rivers with me -- I promise you won't get seasick.  :)

Over the first weekend in April my husband and I went on a 4-day much-needed "getaway" vacation, having lost our normal spring break to circumstances beyond our control.  We decided to go canoeing in North Carolina.
New River satellite boat launch on the Chowan
This shot is actually of our second day's end, but it is a typical example of the location of our adventures:  a dirt road and parking lot with maybe one other boater, a plain asphalt/dirt boat ramp, and a small dock with no railing.  Somewhat less typical is the fact that the water is up over the road and very nearly over the dock end.  There had been lots of rain and a strong wind.  Not a problem.  We just went around to the right and up the ditch, which was flooded.  In the center of the picture you can see me (red jacket) bending over to the ditch, and that's our car just behind the white signs.

Chowan River
The weather was spectacular for the sport: not too hot, not too windy.  There are no insects while you're on the water, something most folks forget.  The Chowan is located in northeast North Carolina, on the Albemarle Sound, which eventually reaches the Chesapeake Bay.
Bald cypress
We see some incredible sights while 'slack-water paddling.'  Want to guess how old this cypress tree is?  At least a hundred years and quite likely a lot older.  This was one of the biggest we saw, but there were many others.  At this time of year they are just getting ready to bloom and leaf out.

Mouth of the Sarem off the Chowan
Here we are leaving the more open parts of the Chowan and making off into one of the side creeks, the Sarem.  Truth is, these pictures were taken by my husband, GSY.  I fixed the lower shots' signatures but not these.
Typical bank of the Sarem
When I'm canoeing, time stands still.  I pass into a trance, a dream.  Nothing happens except the banks flow by, and I rest between every stroke of the paddle.  Canoeing is for people who like to watch movies in slow motion.  It's also a supreme test of companionship.  It may take years to learn this apparently simple skill, but you can take it as deep as you want.

This shot shows a normal stretch of the side creek bank.  We might see Nutria or squirrels, and we do see many kinds of birds:  Yellow rumped Warblers, Chickadees, Titmice, Kinglets, Downy Woodpeckers, Osprey, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks.

On the third day, we choose to paddle the Scuppernong River, starting one mile below Columbia Visitor Center (the Red Wolf Visitor Center) and then turning up one of its sidecreeks, named First Creek.  We got deeper and deeper into the forest, and the stream got smaller and smaller.  One never knows what will stop you:  a fallen log, a beaver dam, a bush growing in the stream.  Yesterday it was a beaver dam.  Today, after 5 hours (we measure canoeing by hours, not miles), it was a fallen log, and what a huge one: it spanned from bank to bank.  There was no possibility of going further.  Almost without thinking, I pulled out my horse, who had been traveling all this time in his Pony Pocket tucked in the bow (thank you Lori!!!!), stripped off his blanket and put him on the log.  He can swim, he's waterproof.

Then, something incredible started happening.  My husband, who virtually never photographed a model horse in his life, began snapping away.
I did not have time to fret that Rinker was unfinished.  His 'wild' side, the more chestnut side, proved easier to shoot, being darker.
We gently moved away to get a better shot.  The log is very stable and wide, he's not wobbling at all, and there's no wind.
Yes, I have let them swim, occasionally, at the side of the canoe.  Usually without tack, of course.  This particular bridle is the one I just bought from Danielle Hart.  In the event, it escaped any damage.
We got further and further out, trying for better and better shots, and...

Suddenly... we saw something we never would have seen otherwise!
Rinker's reflection!

Oh, gotta get this, gotta get this one...

Pretty good for a guy who never shot a horse before!

The story ends with this more prosaic shot, showing what the typical daytime canoe trip view is (at least for the stern paddler).  We went back and picked up the horse, and made our way home.  I guess it proves I'd rather play with Rinker, even when he's not finished.  He does not need to be perfect, only to be there.

 I still haven't ever seen a horse like him.

And we arrived home rested, refreshed and ready once more to take on the world.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blanket Kit

This is my Blanket Kit.  It's about the size of a sandwich.  In fact this is a sandwich box.  The brand name of the box is Lock-N-Lock, and our grocery store carried them (in many sizes) for about a year starting in 2010.  Then, they went quietly out of stock.
Now you see that pretty little black-and-white pattern medallion is something that's already on the blanket blank.  I gotta confess:  I pinched it from my Mom-in-law.  I wanted some Aida cloth and this was all she had in the right count.  I felt the medallion was too pretty to wreck -- it's Hardanger embroidery -- so I'm planning to incorporate it into the saddle blanket pattern, somehow.  Yeah, it won't show under a saddle, but at least it'll be there!!

The paper pattern (with the paper clip) is, of course, from Chris Anderson's excellent book/CD of saddle blanket patterns.
What a great place for my old pliers, who managed to get themselves retired from active tack work by cracking at the base of one of the jaws.  Metal fatigue.  But oh, they've been through so much with me.  Other tackmakers may sympathize...  I need pliers to pull the needle through sometimes, such as at the ending of a length of floss.  They're strong enough for that.  And hey-presto, they fit in the box.

And isn't that the cutest little pincushion--!!??  It's supposed to be a tomato.  It's filled with fine sand.  Got it from my own mom.

The neat thing about a blanket kit like this is I can carry it anywhere.  It rides in the bottom of the backpack, and believe me, it's travelled.  This box has been to Europe, to Florida, to Colorado, to Arizona.  I sat in Philadelphia Airport working on the Mint O'odham blanket with this thing.  What it's taught me is the value of an isolated, portable piece of tack:  one that is socially acceptable... oh those loaded words!

I've made a lot of blankets over the years this way. 

You may notice some small progress being made on the Clyde Goehring breastcollar.  Here is a better Sneak Peek:
Yes, that's actually leather.  Although the packing tape reflects light pretty badly, you can still see that half the silver pieces now have their loops soldered on.  Slowly we forge ahead.