Monday, February 17, 2014

CG: Almost There

 Progress has moved so far forward on this saddle!  I'm struggling to keep up the blog.  When last seen, there were only two sets of strings, no front girth apparatus and no blanket!  The blanket, you can see, has been happily solved -- by another artist, outside the hobby!  But I want to start in chronological order here... and that means going back to those main cinch rings.
 We returned to State College on the 30th of January.  Shortly afterwards, I made these two rings.  They are sterling silver on the front, with cast whitebrass rings in the back -- engraved ones, almost surely purchased from TWMHC.  I'd had them kicking around for some time, and now, because I wanted the bar at the bottom to have some sort of decoration on it (not be plain), I decided to use them.   They had the further desirability of being cast -- of not having a seam -- so they could withstand pull and stress.  I wouldn't have to solder them shut.
Despite Luis' extraordinary collection of pictures, there are some things you just don't see.  One of them is the back of the Mexican Charro-style girth rings.  God only knows what they look like in real life.  The best I could find was a sidewise view.  But function can dictate appearance (and usually does).  They had to be open enough to allow passage of the suspending straps, the ones that wrap around the tree shoulders.  And they had to come together again at the bottom, because there the rings only support the cinch strap: the latigo strap, just like American Western saddles.
Making the suspending straps, which I called the main girth straps (above), was relatively easy.  The hard part was the lining, and even then it was merely getting things small enough.  Patience was required, but the design work was behind us -- the conchos taught us the material, and the skill called up the X-Acto knife.
This is a blast from the past.  I'm using heat from the red lamp to "hot-oil" the cinch latigo straps, a procedure covered in my Guide [Guide to Making Model Horse Tack].  That yellow stuff is a can of Super 7 leather dressing.   It smells like honey.
Don't go talking about the undesirability and shortage of incandescent light bulbs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point, something extraordinary happened.
A saddle blanket dropped out of the sky.  Literally.
Manna from heaven.

I have a friend, Lizzie, who has taken up knitting as a hobby.  She had made me a pot-holder earlier.  She loved horses and knew about my little tack shop, but was not a collector.  I had told her the dimensions of a Western saddle blanket, but I certainly was not expecting anything!!!  I learned that her job required frequent flying, so to amuse herself while in the air, she knitted me this fabulous, incredibly soft, beautiful little gem.  This photo shows the true colors.  The red, green and yellow cover the spectrum and will go with any color horse.
I was amazed, astonished, delighted.  After a quick referral to another model tackmaker who knew more about old-style California saddle blankets than myself (thank you Heather!), I decided my Muse knew what it was doing when it fell madly in love with this blanket coupled with this saddle.
Oh the relief.

And now for the cinch.  Light at the end of the tunnel....
A lot of pictures were taken during cinch making.  Perhaps there is a dedicated blog post here, but for now I'll just include a few.
Thank you Carol Williams.  The idea for the "rack" comes from her.  ("It's a Cinch!")  The skill of tackmaking keeps evolving, so I confess my cinches are now a bit beyond what I've shown in my Guide.  I use this rack instead of hanging them off the anvil.  And in this case, there wasn't any interweaving -- just the color stays.
Even this picture is out of date.  While it shows the central stay and its rings, it doesn't show that I had to replace one of the rings with a much larger one.
But it does show feeding the end of the floss in under the stay wraps.  No knots!!
Making the leather covers for the cinch, clearly shown on my reference.  A little bit of personal, sidewise story:  the lower right covers are made of scrap leather once used on my family car's canoe racks, as padding.  Leather!! one of the world's most recyclable materials...

Voila!  In this picture the concho strings are much too long.   In fact the whole saddle's strings are too long.  Chop chop clip clip point point.  A whole lot of little adjustments happen when you finally put the thing together and fit it on a horse.  Far better to find out if it's going to behave NOW, whilst on the tackbench and in my own hands, than have the customer find out!!   It's not just a pretty-looking miniature, it's a working model, so everything has to actually fit...
The martingale was too long, for instance; and the cinch center ring too small.  Strings too long.
Et al.

And then I realized I hadn't signed it.
The last saddle I signed was the Golden Sunburst back in September of 2011.  Mein Gott, three years...  I can hardly believe it...  And before that, the last saddle I'd signed was in 2009!!  oh my again...  2010 and 2013 really did tear me up...

This photo shows how I carved my initials on the bare tree, something I've never done before.  It also shows circled the year, 2014, cut into the front part of the second skirt extension.

This is the off side.  It shows the saddle number, 451, on the tree.  (The four-hundred-and-fifty-first Western saddle I've made since 1979.)   The circled area also has a 451 carved into it -- extremely hard to see.
This tiny space, under the fender on the base plate, is the traditional place where I sign my saddles.  Alas and alack, there was barely any room on the Goehring; and what marks I did manage to make don't read very well.  I did sign the near side with SBY, but it didn't behave at all.  Hence cutting the tree.  Also, the underside is inked with initials and date.  Drafter's ink, guys, in case you're worrying (rightfully) about pen ink.

So, why am I saying "Almost There?"  Isn't it done?  After a year and a month, isn't it done yet??
Introducing the fancy latigo keeper.
Remember the original reference picture?
For some inscrutable reason, there's always one part of a model saddle that fights to the end -- that I sure wish I could put off.  The blanket and this keeper are it for this one.   I'm actually afraid of that keeper, partly because I didn't know what it was for the longest time (I still don't understand exactly how the back of it goes!) and partly because its size means it's gonna be the hardest part to make.  Such is fate.  I can guess how it folds and tucks -- thanks again to Luis and his Flickr pictures -- so I've just got to buckle down. 
A week in Tucson will be a breathing space.  After a year and a month, another week is no big deal.  But I'd sure love to finish this out.   It has definitely reached the stage of being called "you stupid saddle" and with me, that's a sure sign of an approaching end... !
Look what's next!
The blue headstall...
I can hardly wait.
Thank you, Sue, for your patience.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Granger and Teller: Rawhide Bridle approaches

 Today's post -- actually a peek at my tack collection -- concerns just two model bridle makers and one style of headstall.  It also answers the burning question Why You Should Never Freeze Your Glue!!  Oh, the adventures of a wandering tackmaker...

The two artists are Margaret Teller, regretfully gone from us now (I should say, making tack in another dimension), and Shannon Granger, delightfully alive and well but probably not taking orders!  Shannon comes first, because today I put together the piece you see above.  I had picked up the reins at BreyerFest 2012.
So much happens inside the ballrooms at the (then) Holiday Inn North!!  now, the Clarion Inn!!  I can remember NAN being held there..  ahem... In that space (just right of the door), during the Artisan's Gallery of 2012,  on July 19th, I had the great pleasure of meeting Shannon Granger, publisher/editor of Model Horse Performance Magazine.  We had corresponded a lot, but I'd never seen her.  A Scandinavian, was my first thought... followed by, How sweet, how nice, how disciplined!  She had brought a selection of peices for sale.  One of my collecting goals is a piece from every noteworthy tackmaker I like, not a small ambition when you've been in the game as long as I have (thirty-six years this June).  But really I just wanted those reins.  They were only $50... believe it or not, all I could afford.
To her credit, she tried very hard to get me to trade, but I was learning 'cash is cheaper than my time' and in the end she let me talk her into the sale.

Sometime later in 2012 (my only clue is an email of mine dated Sept 18 that mentions it), Shannon posted a small contest on her blog.  Whoever made the most comments before her counter reached thirty thousand (I think) would get a small piece of tack.  Well, I had recently gotten bold about leaving comments -- in hindsight, a step towards my own blog.  What a chance.  I must have left lots of comments because I won the contest.  I knew right away what I wanted.
It took a lot of talking.  I had a bit and reins.  All I wanted was a matching headstall.  Shannon was a tackmaker I respected, and to have her exploring my favorite form, the braided rawhide headstall, was a pushover for me.  But as you can see, it also took some patience.  Perhaps this is a good thing.

In the meanwhile, I was able to purchase a complete saddle from her in March of 2013, the Aqua Gaming set.
Photo by Shannon Granger
I was so impressed I did a blog post on it.  Spring Colors
The above 2014 picture shows a tiedown for this very set.  I'd had no idea it even existed until I opened the package two days ago.  Some artists can hold ideas in their heads for a long time.   This should NOT surprise me -- !!!  I am still deeply touched.

So the headstall arrived and I put it together with its reins, made two years before.   The bit is from a friend, similar to those marketed by Marsha Ensor and probably a copy of those marketed by Robin Clark many long years ago.
Shannon kindly listened to me wanting certain decorative elements: the buttons on the tied brow.  She hadn't done such a thing before.  The design of this headstall is the classic Old West sliding doubled loop.  I'm still not sure it has a name... I learned about it in Tom Hall's Western Tack Tips books, and had seen it earlier in museums and books.  These two tackmakers, Shannon and Margaret, are using candlewicking to execute it in miniature scale.  The great part about this design is that it can be completely adjusted without any buckles or hardware.

As soon as this bridle was completed, I turned to my collection and pulled out Margaret Teller's piece, ordered at BreyerFest of 2002, down paymented then, balance paid in September, and arrived on Halloween.
Same material, the offwhite candlewicking.  Same design, a Western headstall that adjusts with no buckles.  Same scale.  And, same price -- fifty dollars -- how about that.
It even used embroidery floss as adjunct materials, in this case the mecate (leadrope).  But here the similarity ends.  Margaret made her buttons with wrappings of matching-color thread, and drew on the interweaves with a colored pen.  Her design is simplified.
Yet when I first saw these pieces, my reaction was the same:  I had to have them.  Does anyone really understand this passion?  Or the pleasure in seeing different approaches to the same thing, the variations on a theme that is the heart of all collections?  I have loved and enjoyed and yes played with Margaret's bridle and hackamore (I was lucky enough to get two pieces that year from her) ever since, which is to say, for the past 12 years.  They've stood the test of time.  Will Shannon's piece do the same?

There are other tackmakers who have used this material to do miniature rawhide braidwork.  It is a splendid sub-collection within the model braidwork canon.  Two names that come to mind are Kathy Wiggins and Linda Spiesschaert.  I have photographs (remember those things!) which I should digitize some day...

MEANWHILE, didn't somebody mention FROZEN GLUE?????

Y'all know I spent two months in New York, and just came back home to central Pennsylvania (Jan. 30).  My family is efficient and we were packed up a day in advance.  I knew cold would not hurt the horses and so they and the tackshop all went out into the truck the evening before.  We had to leave the next morning bright and early.  The cold snap was back in action, but I honestly did not think anything in the tack shop could be hurt.
Was I ever wrong.
What good is it to be dinky and careful about saving glue?!?  In my defense, the bottle does not say "Do Not Freeze," and I had no idea white glue would react this way... this had never happened to me before...  but oh, my, how suddenly solid it all got... 
the consistency of cheese spread.

I dug it out -- talk about recycling, in this case the bottle itself -- refilled the glue with a larger bottle I happened to have (you can see it above right) and rolled on.  Lesson:  use easily-obtained materials if you possible can.

Here is a link detailing a bit about my husband's job while we were up there.
OWLeS: Ontario Winter Lake-effect Storms, by Channel 9 Syracuse
He is in the airplane.