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.


  1. Wow!!! They are fantastic!
    I have made two charro sets, I was pretty pleased with my pitiado but it probably looks very clumsy and out of scale compared to these. I used the RDLC trees for mine after clumsily trying to sculpt one. Would love to have a go at another but no time on the horizon as yet.

  2. Hi Lauren, I'm amazed you would try pitiado at all -- I never have. Yes, I'm glad to've found the tree. I've made trees out of Fimo and Friendly Plastic and it does take forever! Hope you have some tack time soon.

  3. Those charro sets are incredible. I'm really drawn to the scallop edges of the breastcollar and the embroidery of the first one.