Wednesday, August 28, 2013

TSII NAN Auction Pieces: 1995 to 2009

Photo by Karen Gerhardt

Like my webpage on the TSII bridle Cat Bar II, this will be an in-depth look at a narrow slice of TSII tack: just twelve pieces.  (The narrower the better; otherwise I don't finish!)  It's quite time-consuming to translate my massive scrapbooks to this blog post format... especially since I'm not using my scanner.  But I promised (in my NAN Cookies post), and, once started, got hooked.  Enjoy!

 The North American Nationals began in 1994.  The TSII's first donation piece was the very next year, 1995.  I started out small:  Two Western Show Halters of our fanciest make.  These were "filigree enamel inlay," my own phrase for cut-out silver tape laid upon prism tape (holographic tape) color for the plates.  One was black leather with blue; the other was dark brown with pearl.  The halters landed in the hands of Karen Gerhardt, and like the artist she was, she used some of her own donation horses to photograph them.  As is normal with early pieces, I am lucky to have even one photograph of it.  I believe it sold for $225.00, a pretty high price at the time.

Imagine my astonished delight when, yesterday, "pawing" through PawPrints Saddlery blog (I randomly do this to other model horse blogs), I stumbled upon what could be this very halter!!  See picture 39 of the 89 of her GLC No Frills Show Report, the Matriarch.
The twisted-hammered-wire buckle and keeper are giveaways.  Aye it's true!!  Seldom if ever do we connect again with a piece nearly twenty years old...

The second piece, in 1997, was a saddle.  The first donation had been such a success I became brave and bold.  This was TSII #398, Rose Silhouette, a cutting edge piece in terms of the tooling pattern, the bridle and many other aspects.  It was based upon a picture I'd seen in R. Beatty's great reference book, Saddles.  My bravery was justified when TSII #398 went to Donald Meiner for $660.00, one of the highest prices paid to date for a TSII piece.

For a long time, the third piece was overlooked and forgotten.  Just one photo exists.  I found it in my Grey Braid scrapbook. 
This is a shot of the actual page.  The label says "Halter made July 1998 and sent to the NAN auction in CA at 100% donation.  I believe it fetched 65.00."  The piece featured double silver ferrules and red/black/white braided buttons.  This was the start of "smalls alternating with larges," because a large piece took so much effort and time that I could not put one out every year.
Here's a closer view.  The background ripple effect is a light reflection off the scrapbook sheet.

The fourth NAN Auction donation piece was a real flagwaver.  We pulled out many stops!  It was the year 2000 -- what a great excuse for a lot of fuss!!  The resulting saddle, an extraordinary work of contemporary art, was TSII #415, the Millennium Set.  I took apart a watch (I think-- don't really remember) and used the circuit boards from it on the saddle, as well as tooling a computer and keyboard on the breastcollar.
Notice the serapes with their world maps; the offside featured the Western Hemisphere.  Note the drops on the breastcollar and hip:  made from resistors!   The tapadero on the near side is a goldfish; note the heads of the birds on the shoulders.  As for the creature on the chest of the breastcollar, well, I'm not sure what it is.  A superbunny?

Probably, with all its copper wiring and extensive silver tape, this set is rather corroded by now.  But it was a great deal of fun to design and build:  my personal contribution to the Millennium.
The fifth piece was donated in 2002.  I had been inspired by a trip to Nogales, south of the border from Tucson.  I had gotten inside a real Mexican tack shop, and seen amazing things.  For whatever reason, I wanted to do something 'barbaric, circus-y and flashy' yet still falling within the bounds of TSII calibre and quality model horse tack.  Again, for whatever reason, it didn't catch on, and no piece was made even remotely like it afterwards.
I called it the Mexican Horsehair Bridle, done in blue, black and white nylon sinew.  The bit was handmade sterling silver -- I was starting to come into my own --  with Rio Rondo conchos soldered on top.

In 2003, inevitable pressures caught up with me.  What artist does not bite off more than they can chew sometimes? Two Peruvian sets were started in February.  One of them, for a customer, was finished on May 6.  It was numbered 3 because I had started the other one fractionally earlier. The NAN-bound set, offficially #2, missed the Auction by not being done on time.  :(   This sixth donation was finished the 9th of July, 2003, and sold on eBay in August.  Colette  Robertson demonstrated her great support for the TSII by smashing all records previously paid; the winning bid was $1925.  As with most of our NAN Auction pieces, the contribution was fifty percent.
Thus I was a pioneer in the practice of auctioning off a piece separately from the formal Auction.

The seventh piece, contrary to my big-and-small pattern, was a fantastic saddle.  Even now this beauty amazes me.  It was a companion to, part of the series if you like, to my famous Elk Saddle.  In 2004  TSII #437, the Bongo, was a fifty percent donation.

Grey Scrapbook page

The paper label says:

"TSII #437
"the Bongo"
begun 0406.18
Finish 0407.21
featured in
the North
Model Horse
auction held
in KY 0407.29
Tammy Davison
won with a
high bid of
bargain- !!!"

Note the white braided edges, and the extensive braided buttons on the bridle and breastcollar.  The piece was a tour-de-force.  Even the dee rings are covered in braidwork.  The color was achieved by hand-dyeing natural leather.  I remember the coating process, with Super Shene, being fraught with danger and difficulty, because the dye ran.

During my research for this saddle, I learned that old Bongos develop dark coloring.  I have always loved these members of the deer and antelope family.  Someday I must make more deer-themed sets...

In 2005 I set out to repeat the triumph of the Peruvian set, and started with a jaquima, since it was small and could be finished easily.  This was our eighth donation.  The 4th TSII Peruvian, P4, was auctioned as just the jaquima.  Margaret Olson won it, $300.  A month later the bridle was built.  Not until the end of January 2006 was the rest of the set finished.  It was sold to Margaret -- we have a price, $695 -- and ten percent of this donated to NAMHSA.
Thus there is precedent for a rather slow and complicated path to being born.  But a Peruvian set takes so much out of the artist, and has so many parts and pieces, that this was necessary.

Amazingly in 2006 there was a donation, nominally a "small" since it was a bridle.  What a bridle!  As mentioned, I wrote up an entire page of my website about it.
 It seems to've been the ad for the auction.  Our ninth donation sold for $325.00.  It was begun 0604.09 and finished 0605.03, and celebrated the making of the first Cat Bar's braided rawhide bridle in 1986.

In 2007, not to be left out but unable to contribute a 'large,' I chose again a braided bridle, our tenth donation.  This was the Cleghorn, named after the man for whom it was intended as a gift.  It was based on a real braided bridle, seen in a High Noon catalog, which was made by prisoners in the 19th century.  Begun 0704.19, it was finished 0705.04.  Robin Lee had the high bid, $260.00, at fifty percent donation.
I recall the Cleghorn as being a difficult piece, both to decipher (engineer) and to get excited about.  The reference picture was hiding some crucial details.  I have not done any more mud-colored braided bridles.

The TSII's eleventh donation was in 2008.  As told in my other post, it was not really our tenth piece -- I had miscounted over the years, missing the second and not being sure about some of the Peruvians.  Nor was it really ten years; since 1995, the true count was 14 years.  TSII #448, officially the ten year anniversary set, sold for an even $2000 to Colette Robertson.  It was based on a saddle seen in one of the High Noon catalogs.
Dig that blanket!
This was one of my earliest coronas, made with Melody Snow's book's help.
horse by Carol Howard

In January of 2009, a braided bridle, our twelfth donation, was originally made with the intent of testing Auction Barn as a venue.  Astonishingly, it was created in just 5 days, 0901.15-20.  Auctioned in early March, it failed to meet its reserve.  On June 27 of 2009, having created a brand new bit for it (my first ever engraving), I re-auctioned it, this time as a NAN donation.  It sold to Susan Peet for $250.00.  It was understood that she had the option of ordering a matching Breastcollar and Romal reins for the bridle, to be made and sold at the same donation percentage.  Somewhat naturally she availed herself of the opportunity!  These pieces were made July 21-August 7, and they fetched $175 total.

There should have been a NAN donation piece in 2010, but that's the year everything fell apart for me.  I could go to neither NAN nor BreyerFest.  I was recovering from surgery, a hysterectomy.  No pieces have been donated between then and now.

For the future, I certainly want to start up this charming habit again.  We shall just have to wait and see.  Right now I'm working on my remaining 9 Lottery winners.  The Goehring breastcollar is done, the bit and reins are done; the noseband and browband of the bridle is done!  Thank you for your patience, and Stayed Tuned!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rikki Tavi's Prizes

This post is a reprint of one done last fall on my shipchandler site.  Two posts on that site feature horses instead of people, and thus should be over here.

This is the story of two happenings: how I did outstandingly well at Didi [Hornberger]'s Oct 14 [2012] show, and how I dragged the winning horse up to State Gamelands 100 a week later and photographed him.  The photos are almost eerie in their juxtaposition of model persnicketyness and natural beauty.  It wasn't until I'd seen them on screen that I realized:  Here was a perfect portrait of myself.  Mightily focussed on a fine model horse -- able to live by, through and for him -- I yet found myself gradually becoming subsumed by the surrounding landscape, to the point where the last photos don't have Rikki at all.

The story starts with a fairly normal acquisition... Did I say normal?  Is anything in this hobby normal?  The roots go back to Titania, she who is Lady Phase in chestnut appaloosa, my decision to sell her at BreyerFest [2012], and the fact no one bought her.  I changed my mind about selling her after seeing all the chestnut leopard appaloosa Amber foals at this year's [2012] BFest Open Show.  Amber was a mold I didn't have yet.  I'm sorry I didn't appreciate the real Lil Ricky Rocker at BFest when I had the chance; in fact, I didn't even see him.  I was busy lusting after another horse entirely: Mudflap.
Taken at NAN 2012 by y'r faithful photog'r
I first saw Mudflap, a 2009 Lone Star Event Special Run (of 80 head!) in the fall of 2011, at Didi Hornberger's great double show, Intermediaire and INTERSPORT! Live.  So I knew he was out there.  For some reason, this knowledge blended with all those foals, and with Titania; and with something else.  For a couple of years my soul's color had been charcoal.  (As in black with white mane and tail.)  Now that my treatments were in the past, it was time to find another color... a warmer one... a livelier one.  What was trickle became a flood during NAN 2012 and BFest where I tried valiantly to find a Mudflap for sale.  And then, that very month, Breyer released Lil Ricky Rocker.  What a discovery:  I've always loved chestnut leopard appaloosas!

The local dealer I bought my foals from did not carry Ricky Rocker, so I turned to my next closest dealer, Bonnie Valentine of Horses By Mail.  Much to my delighted surprise, she gave me an excellent deal.  What I did not know until afterward was she must have picked out an exceptional model for me.  A friend at the show said, "All the ones we got in our shop had such bad overspray!"  Having seen only mine, I thought they were all stunning.
 On the subject of Mudflap, I tried very hard to buy one on MH$P in August [2012].  When I failed -- when the price range went way over my head -- I indulged in a fit of boycotting.  I'd etch my own from a Smart Chic Olena, whose body could be had for as little as $25.  Meanwhile I had a problem: Titania could not marry Rikki;  she was for Mudflap (named Rinker, after a kind of boat). (Remind me to post on how the TSII got its name.)  The problem was solved when I remembered my Rugged Painted Lark had morphed to a mare, Prairi.  My friend Gretch pointed out the obvious, that the second foal from the appy foals pair was perfect for the family.

Intermediaire  2011
Intermediaire was held October 14, 2012, in the Farm Show Complex at Harrisburg. This picture is from last year (2011).  I'd had so much fun at MAR in April of 2012 that I thought I'd try my hand at showing some more, and rounded up a string of 16 head.   In the event, I didn't prepare or try very hard for most of them.  After 33 years in this hobby, my competitiveness has worn pretty smooth!; plus, I was judging a division, which would take about as much psychic effort as I could spare.  I entered Rikki in 3 classes, 2 of which were my only Performance classes.   But those two were my great strengths, and it showed.

The sleigh dates back to the mid-1990s.  It started life as a Dick Eighmey green bobsleigh.  I rebuilt it so its own mother would barely recognize it, a project taking several years.  The harness is even older, originally built in 1990; however, it still has not been completely converted to gold-filled wire hardware!  The white fleece and fake trees are all additives found over the years.

It was a great stroke of luck to have Marcella Peyre-Ferry and her husband Tim, real horse drivers, on hand.  I could ask Tim if there was any trouble with my putting the bells around the shafts like this.  Normally they'd go around the belly but my bellstring wasn't long enough!  He said they were fine and would not bind the traces.  I didn't tell anyone I was covering up a broken shaft bar brace with them.

The ermine cloak is something I made from 3 ermines (winter weasel skins) I'd gotten from a special sale at Tandy's in the mid 1980s.  In earlier sleigh entries, I'd pin it in place, but this time I just draped it around Mr Steve, my driver doll.  Steve originated with Lenore & Kim Jacobs, but I've tinkered a whole lot with his hatband, driving lap rope, and whip.  We're talking decades here; he was born in the mid-1990's.

Rikki took first of 5 entries in harness class.
Right about here is where I realized the landscape was taking over the photo shoot.  This was a week after the show.  My husband and I 'collect' strip mines to go birding and hiking on, and though I often take a horse along, rarely are they photo'd.  This is State Game Lands #100 off German Settlement Road, in northwest Centre County.  And that's George coming up along the horizon, peacefully giving me time to shoot whilst hiking.  We lucked out on the weather.  If you wait for PA to have blue sky you'll wait forever.

The second performance class was Costume/Parade.

There's probably not much question that the silver Parade Saddle maker's own saddle is going to be hard to beat.  (Rainbow Brilliance, TSII #400, built in 2000.)  What made more of a story was the judge's telling me that the other silver saddle entry was badly adjusted --- corroborating what I'd seen myself.  It had a rider on a fine Stone Bogucki Saddlebred in glorious palomino; but the bridle didn't fit at all.  There were other costume entries as well.

These ribbon roses and streamers date back to
1984.  The ones on the bridle have galv.-steel wire hoops that can be stuck into a browband.  The tail roses are conveniently hiding the fact that the crupper wasn't long enough!  The blanket, a Melody Snow/Unicorn Woman, didn't orignally come with the saddle,... (moment of confession.  I don't normally use stock inventory for showing, but this blanket had been hanging around for years.)  And the bridle and hip drops aren't from TSII #400 at all!!  Yes, Rikki's dainty little head was much too small for the big Rainbow bridle, which had originally been made for Breyer's Hanoverian.  It couldn't be adjusted smaller.  Thank heavens I had other old TSII silver saddles in my collection... like, really older....  This one happens to be TSII #12, built in 1980 and bought back from Liz Bouras after refurbishing with silver tape (it was originally painted-silver).   What luck it had hip drops.   No. 400 didn't have hip drops; but Rikki, with that super long hip and croup that all Zippos have (almost too long, what a habit, d'ye hear me Sommer?!) desperately needed hip drops if he was going to compete in silver Parade.

Notice that some silver triangles have fallen off the fender, from sheer age.  Yet he took first, out of 6.  This triumph led to the Other Performance Championship ribbon.  I was duly impressed; I hadn't won such a nice ribbon since last year at Intermediaire; and before that, since NAN 2008 --  a single Top Ten rosette, given me by a very kind-hearted good friend, who had used a TSII saddle to win it.
I had a lot of fun at Intermediaire; Rikki was only part of it.  I was showing my other horses and trying to show my moose.  As happened last year [2011] the judge didn't like my moose.  :(

I recall I won a fistful of ribbons with my 16 head.  All but Rikki's were turned back in at the end of the show.  My Del Fuego took a second place out of 21 in Paso Fino; my woodgrain 5-Gaiter took 4th of 5 in woodgrains.  My Kandinsky did not place -- but a Kandinsky won the class!  My two appaloosa Stone Weanlings took 5th and nothing out of 15.  My Precious Stone ISH took nothing out of 12 -- but one just like her won!  My Decorator Fighter took 2nd in Decorator class; the mare that beat him, a Red Roan Running Mare (yeeps, I don't consider Red Roans to be Decorators!) went on to win Champ of that division.  My Akhal Teke took 5th of 6; and Rikki managed to get 2nd out of 30 in his O.F. Breyer Stock breeds class.  I tried a halter on him at the last minute but it did not fit, so left off.
Somewhere along in there, as the three Performance Divisions of Intermediaire were finished (Other, Western and English), and the 10 Halter Divisions were winding up, Rikki was 'called back.'   In hindsight he was lucky to have finished his Halter class (sixth of the ten divisions) because it gave me the chance to plop down a red alongside his 2 blues and his Other Champ.  Then ensued what can only have been a battle royal.  I asked a couple of judges about it later; one of them told me "It came down to writing names on pieces of paper, I can tell you that!"  He was up against some fine remakes and Performance winners.  Yet the gods smiled on me.  For the first time in a decade, one of my horses was declared Grand Champion.

Oh, the prizes!  An engraved pewter cup.  A fifty-dollar gift certificate (this is the FIRST time a horse of mine has ever won money!!)  And the rosette!!  I measured it later:  24-inch streamers.  No other ribbon I've ever won, not in 33 years, measures as long.  The longest previous was an 18.  So you see, taking him up to the Gamelands for a shoot a week later was justified.
I hope you've noticed that my initials signing the photos have gotten fainter and fainter.  As the horse is getting smaller and smaller, heading out onto the trail, my sense of the fantastic is rising, and the camera is capturing it.  How outre, how incongruous, to go on a trail ride in such rococo finery.  If this is a trail ride a plain working saddle would've been better.  Nonetheless it's just possible the someone would be been using Rainbow Brilliance to take Rikki Tavi across the fields.  But only just.  As I rise -- as reality comes in -- he reverts, everything reverts, and the clean smell of the prairie and rain washed gravel takes over.  This is the land of birds, voles, hawks, deer.  This is a pasture on the verge of winter.  This is a day hovering on turning cold.

It is also a landscape in the heart of fall color.

I don't know what that thing in the grass is.  Probably just a weed or bush.
By now my initials have faded to almost not being there.  The wind hisses in the ears.