Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cary Nelson's Charros

I was greatly privileged to photograph some outstanding tack during the Artisan's Gallery last BreyerFest (2013): two Charro sets by fabulous master tack artist Cary Nelson.  This post is also intended to push me a little further on my own Charro saddle quest.  Nothing like somebody else's tack to inspire you!  Haven't I said the best reference is another model tack piece?  It so happens (why do I have to be human!?) that I'm good and stuck on my Goehring Charro saddle...
I spent a lot of time drooling over these two fantastic pieces.
We should be familiar by now with Cary Nelson's calibre of work.  What I hadn't seen before was this particular subject.  Even after 33 years in the hobby, I very rarely see Mexican saddles.  These are about as far from those miserable rear-view-mirror hangers-on you can get.  :)

I spent a lot of time staring, close up.  At the time, I could figure out most everything,... eventually... but not the trees.  Cary wouldn't tell me.
 She created two Mexican style Charro saddles, apparently within the past year -- on top of all her other accomplishments!  See the end of this post for a glimpse of those.  The first saddle is this one decorated with what can only be the best model scale pitiado I have ever seen in my life.
OKay, so I've PhotoShopped some of these a little... I had a bit of camera shake, and used the Sharpen feature a couple of times.  Still you can see that this is no mere paint-on or even glue on.  These are real stitches, imitating the real cactus fibre used in pitiado work.  Think embroidery on leather. 

This first saddle includes a breastcollar, a bridle, a hackamore with leadrope and a fine lawn blanket.  The below pic shows the breastcollar and hackamore.  It's my worst in terms of shake; apologies.
 These two saddles are proudly owned by Colette Robertson, who I am sure literally pounced on them when they were first revealed.

The second saddle -- oh prepare yourself! -- could be described as pitiado in silver.
Museum quality anyone??!!  The black background helps.  But believe me, the quality in the handwork makes the whole thing kind of shimmer.  I know, who better, how much effort has gone into this...
And I also know that I do NOT know just how she did it!!  Some I can guess; the beadwork on the skirts (bastos), the silver on the horn and stirrups, and the cinches (notice there are two cinches for this saddle alone).  But some I cannot.  And that is how it should be.
Honestly, it looks like applique - cut out and fastened on -- but it could also be actually stitched in.
This shows the cinch with the tassels.  This is the only place, in my opinion, where the quality of the tack suffers just the teeniest bit.  The frizzies don't hang or lie very well.
The rest of everything is drop-down gorgeous outstanding. 
Once again the saddle was supplied with both a hackamore and a bridle.  The breastcollar in this case is formed from a pair of cinches.  You see this sometimes with Western saddles; I first saw it in a Denver Saddlery Catalog.  Those blue triangles are not painted, but actually stitched.
The knotwork on the hackamore alone must've taken weeks.  Cary told me "about a month for each set" but there is a lot of "about" here...
Probably from exhaustion, the rawhide bridle is somewhat plain.  But the bit is good and the reins certainly match the rest of the outfit.
Remember I said Cary Nelson had "other accomplishments" to show off?  Here they are:  a complete rack of Arabian Costumes!!  Other bloggers have documented them -- see Heather Abounader's Desert Night Creations -- so I'm contenting myself with just my one shot.  It gives an overall view of an entire man-year of work.  I'm some kind of awed:  I doubt very much I could match such an output.

Naturally, after all that, I had to try and shoot Cary herself.  Problem is, like most artists, she's camera-shy.  I couldn't get her to turn around in the time I had.
Cary's on the left, and Sandy Nyce on the right, facing.  Given that look in her eyes, something amazing must have been said.  Since this is Artisan's Gallery at BreyerFest, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out the subject...

So I've been stuck on my Charro for much too long.  But hope is at hand.  Last week I took delivery of a cast plastic RDLC Mexican Charro tree, courtesy Alison Beniush!!!  The world's Lesser Rio Rondo!!  Not so lesser... there is so much there, and I hadn't known about it!!!  My own hobby is bounding around my ears...  Hopefully this little piece will help me bust my logjam.
Meanwhile keep tacking.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lorrie's Mechanical Hackamore

 I give up.

Today we have a little lesson on the inadvisability of using an unpainted horse as a tack photography model.  Up til now I would've sworn the right thing to do is portray tack pieces against an unfinished horse.  Because, of course, that way there is no distraction!  Nothing else to look at!  The customer can use their own imaginations to fill in whatever color they want the horse...  You have only the tack to view, and it is front and center.
 An unpainted horse wearing tack is, at least for me, an unconscious gesture of frustration against the whole model hobby world which has chosen, oddly enough, to focus solely on the horse.  :)  Model tack, no matter how good it is, cannot compete with that supreme eye candy.  Model tack by itself is... boring, in so many people's eyes.
I have intentionally collected unpainted horses, and used them (so far) to good effect.  There's one in my last post.
(By the way, can anyone tell me WHY that post, the one on the TSII's NAN Auction pieces, is getting WAY more hits than any other post of mine??  What did I do...)

Apropos of Lorrie's Hackamore, this post is also about me giving up attempts to keep the TSII website and this blog separate.  Yes, right now there is a big exposition on this particular Hackamore up on my site, Timaru Star II.
 And these are some of the pictures.   My website has construction details and history of the piece.
When I went to photograph the Hackamore with its new roping reins, I started with the Ruffian.
Something wasn't quite right.  I was not falling-down-drunk delighted with the shoot.  Dare I say it...?  Boring....  Naturally, if the customer asks for a particular mold, the tackmaker is duty-bound to use it... but tack is, (or should be) adjustable... and what better way...
Who could bring this piece to life?
His name is Corsair.  I have plans for him.  This horse actually appeared to me in a dream.  He was featured on the cover of my next book.  I have always liked buckskins and duns.  In fact this particular release is unusual in that he has no white stockings and no white face.  In Breyer's world of white stockings, this was a huge relief.
Corsair is also my first horse to be on a stand, if you don't count Huckleberry Bey.  :)  For a person who so strongly focussed on "playability," this was a major advance for me, a concession on par with the Royal Family marrying a commoner.

Technically speaking, at this moment this hackamore has not been claimed.  It is one of the Nine (see my Tack Orders page for the significance of this).  If she doesn't want it or can't get it, and if 2 others of the Nine don't want it et al, it will go up for auction.

Thanks for reading, Enjoy!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Goehring Bridle & Breastcollar Done

Doesn't he look grand!!  It's only been... let's see...  nine months!!!  I started this project on January 21, working on the bit.  In condensed hours the bridle and breastcollar haven't been so unusual compared to other pieces of TSII tack (hours of actual construction); it was finding those hours at all that was the really hard part. 

I should start this post with a picture of the finished breastcollar.  Friends at BreyerFest will remember it in its almost-done stage, as will readers of this blog.  :)
It stayed at an almost-done stage for way too long if you ask me.  What would you.  We were involved in choosing an Assisted Living house for my mother-in-law and moving her 3 miles, ourselves living full one thousand miles away.  Now that is done, and dare I say it, well done.  Back to tack.
The buckles seen here, neck and martingale, were both handmade from sterling silver.  Tongues are stainless steel wire, hammered and filed.  Since I had such good reference for the buckles of this saddle set, and since I'd already gone to the trouble of creating "from scratch" every concho and plate, it was rather an easy decision to go all the way.

The breastcollar is lined on the back with superfine black lining leather.  (Thanks again to Michelle M. for this.)  It was at this stage I found out how cool it looked on Two Step, the dun Marsh Tacky from this year's BreyerFest. 
It was quite tempting to use him for the bridle, but alas, even though he and Alborozo look alike, they are not the same size.  I had to go with Albo.  This is the second time I've used Alborozo for a rather major tack order... and I don't own one!!  This particular Albo is a lend from a neighbor, Helen B.  Thanks Helen!
One of the neat ideas to come out of the Goehring bridle was how to do the pins on the backs of the 'starplates.' (I call them that because they have star shapes on their ends.)  You should know by now I detest glue and want some physical way to attach silver to leather.  The plates were too small for the loops I'd used on the other conchos. Pins were the only way.  But soldering individual pins on these tiny pieces of silver would be more trouble than it was worth.. dang near impossible with the tools I had.
As the writing says, 'Driving to the box [horse business mail box downtown], the answer occurred:  Solder on a handle & cut it afterwards.'  The drawings show how.  My tack notebooks are chock full of such scribbles.
You can just see the pins sticking out of the larger of the starplate pairs at upper right.  These sixteen pieces of silver took, as in the breastcollar, so much more effort and time than I'd ever imagined.  But whereas the breastcollar was begun in January and finished in August, the bridle (sans bit and reins) was started and completed entirely within the month of August.  Oh how I loved the month of August.  I didn't want it to end.
The bit was completed January 29, and the reins done in April.  We're up over 80 hours here, spread out over 8 months... and I haven't even started the saddle yet!!
But I'm not worried.
It's been too long since I've shot a horse on the railing next to the Callery Pear.
This shot is kind of dramatic.  You'd think that big concho wouldn't fit under his forelock.  It barely manages.
This bridle also has black leather lining.  All its buckles are handmade sterling silver ones, in the style of the ones on the breastcollar.  You can't see them well, but the poll buckle and the throatlatch buckle were custom built, "scratch-built" for this bridle.
In other news, a mechanical hackamore has been finished and I'm waiting to hear back from the owner.  My family will be staying in another house, a vacation rental, for 2 months this winter, and I hope to get some more tack made during that time!  (Knock on wood...)   Ideas for future posts include one on Cary Nelson's two Charro saddles, which I photographed whilst at BreyerFest this year: Artisan's Gallery.  I am interested in them as fellow examples of model Mexican style parade sets, such as is Goehring's.
Stay tuned, and Thanks for reading!