Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fancy's Hackamore

The story of Fancy's Hackamore is the story of a lost piece of tack...,  and what might happen after.

Up until March of this year [2015] this beautiful hackamore was just another piece in my Braidwork collection, albeit an important milestone and a personal favorite.  It had been built ten years ago at a time when my skills were bounding upwards.  The piece was famous for its use of Hill Tribes Silver beads, for its color scheme, for its perfected 4-bight bosal, and for its mecate, one of those best-I-could-do-at-the-time marvels.  It had been built off of, surprise, the Peter Stone Co. ISH, Fancy, as seen here --  a rare case of me keeping the factory name.  I just loved her.  She had such big soulful eyes, and I seem to have a soft spot for leopard appaloosas.

This is a picture of my Braidwork Case (originally a spoon display case).  Fancy's Hack is circled in blue.  The case is arranged chronologically, so the earliest pieces are at the upper left.  The most recent piece is thus at the lowest left; this picture was taken in 2005.

This display case contains a condensed record of all my great braidwork pieces:  everything I've kept for my own collection since 1984, the date of the earliest piece.  It is a miniature museum in and of itself.  BreyerFest goers may recognize it.
Fancy's Hackamore was one of its jewels.  I frequently took Fancy's out and used it on trips and canoe rides.  Up to the creation of Rinker's Hackamore (2012), it was my best bosal hack.  The colors looked good on everyone, it was easy to fit and adjust, and I just plain loved it.

When Fancy's was discovered lost, I rounded up every picture I could find of it.  (I believe this is normal grief behaviour.)  Great thanks must go to Jennifer Buxton of Braymere's Blog, because she had shot the only good close-ups, during a visit.
So, how did it happen?
The evidence points to a two-stage accident.

The first part I can recall well enough.  We were canoeing down in Florida over Spring Break, March 2015.  It is my normal habit to take a horse, and some tack, on a day's run.  Aha! you say, Surely I knew better than that?!  But.  I've always taken horses on trips, even back to childhood.  Since the canoe joined our lives (2008) the only problem was how to find a reasonably protected way to carrry them along, and I found it in the pony pocket.  Of course they come with me.  Here's Rinker on the Sarum in North Carolina:
He had been recently completed -- so recently, you will recall, that he was very 'fresh' and received all my attention... to the detriment of any tack.  That day -- March 14 -- we were doing the New River in lower western Florida, near Appalachicola.  I can remember the launch.  How I scrambled, being slightly late, to ready a horse and stuff him in the boat, along with the zillion other steps of a launch.   How I dragged him out of his box, decided no tack should accompany him, stripped off the blanket (it was the green Weatherbeeta) and the hackamore he was wearing.  How I swiftly stuffed the blanket back into his box.  Later,... hunting, searching, ... I found that blanket right where I'd placed it.  The hackamore...
I can remember stripping it hastily off his head, standing by the open car door.  I can even remember thinking, I rarely put tack in that,... !  But what 'that' was, I cannot remember.  I do not recall where I stowed or stuffed or hastily threw that last precious handful, before we barreled down the bank and shoved off on our last, lovely, most thoroughly enjoyed canoe ride of the week.  It was a marvelous run, the end to a marvelous week, and all was well...
Until we arrived home, 3 days later.
Believe me, I have searched everywhere.

I may have simply dropped it in the car.  If so, the second stage of the accident was that it must have fallen out of the car.  Somewhere between Parker Place on the New and my driveway!!  It could have been anywhere... any gas station, any hotel parking lot...  from Florida to Pennsylvania.

If it fell from the car at the launch, I have an exact reading:
29 degrees 57.663
84 degrees 43.210
This is Parker Place landing, the one with the artesian well, on the west bank of the New River, northeast of Appalachicola, Florida.  In my dreams someone goes there and looks in the dust, paws through the grass, and examines crows' nests and raccoon burrows, or perhaps squirrels' holes.  In another dream, some kid recognizes what it is, picks it up and keeps it.  In real life, ...  what are the chances,... a piece of funny-looking jewelry, a gas station parking lot, a dusty country road? Across seven states?
The lesson, contrary to all sense, is that if Rinker had worn his tack, in all probability it wouldn't have been lost at all.

Two other copies of this hackamore were made in 2005, according to my records.  Sometimes we do make 2 or 3 of an intended sales piece.  Those two were sold to J. Wagner and D. Curtis.
I took several pictures of Fancy's Hackamore in 2012, when I got my Munday saddle.  These really are the only close-ups I ever took in those 10 years.
There are two extenuating circumstances in the case of Fancy's Hackamore:  two facts that are different from most other cases of lost tack.  The first is that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not stolen.  I have nobody to blame but myself.  Call it old age, slippery memory, distraction on a grand scale; at least it wasn't theft, and it wasn't trashed (at least not directly).
The second circumstance, of course, is that the artist is still alive.  In theory at least, the piece can be replaced.  We have all the ingredients.
When I finally faced, on March 17, that I had lost my own favorite hackamore through carelessness, an idea was born.  I would replace it,... but I would share every step.  Each part of the new hackamore would be blogged about, in as much detail as I could manage.  Call it a punishment, if you will: the price to pay for my idiocy.  Other factors operating during canoe trips have thrown my carelessness into strong focus.  A penance with my heart in it would be just the right ticket.
I don't know when I'll manage all of it, but hackamore lessons are in the offing!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Two Shoulders & A Saddle Pad

This post is about creating the shoulders (pommel) of TSII #454.  This post also features my new CKTT (Cristina Brown) English saddle pad!  What do they have in common?  Both of these subjects are something I promised I would post on, but in the case of the saddle blanket, the promise was quite some time ago.  My apologies.  It seems the one factor model tack always has is that it takes forever.

I discovered Cristina Brown several years ago, but it wasn't until November of 2013 that I was lucky enough to snatch one of her saddles.  I saw on her blog that she had some upcoming sales, and before they could even be announced, I made an offer.  I didn't care what color it was, I just wanted one.  Indeed I was lucky.  I snagged a very nice multi-purpose black English saddle by this most detailed and talented of British tackmakers.  It even has tufting!!  However, it didn't have a girth... or a blanket (pad).

Cristina's blog showed something fascinating: miniature logos on pads.  I complimented her -- I'd never seen this on pads (and rarely elsewhere).  I also asked about a blanket for mine; and to my joy she suggested she put my logo on one.  To this day I'm not quite sure how it was done.
This lovely little quilted pad arrived in February (2015).  All I can say is thanks.
 I love model English saddles!

One logical beginning to the development of the shoulders of TSII #454 is, in hindsight, the Clyde Goehring saddle (TSII #451).  That one taught me so much about using a resincast tree.  Previously (since 2008) I had filled pommels with Fimo, guided by a tip from another tackmaker.  The Goehring's pommel had no leather on it at all, just silver, and I suppose that must have been working on my subconscious, because when the Gold-Tipped rolled around, I was hit by a brainwave.  Why not entirely sculpt the pommel, and do away with shaping it from leather?  "No one's gonna see any leather!"  Other engineering problems presented themselves, but they were all of the sort I thought I could conquer.
And so, with familiarity brought on by previous adventures, I pulled out the Fimo and sculpted away.  The shape is difficult to depict with a photograph.
All along I've had great difficulties with this part of the Western saddle.  It is, in some ways, the heart and soul of that unique shape.  Over a span of 30+ years, I had perfected my ways of making this shape, but as with all handcraft skills, somehow my art was still moving and changing.  I wanted to be able to capture the gullet and rim in ways I hadn't before, ways that would allow custom braiding and have a hollow space beneath, yet still be strong and 'playworthy.'  In addition I wanted to keep certain techniques I'd developed over those 30 years and had proven, time and again, that they belonged on a TSII saddle.  One of these was the wire-cored horn.
The horn of a TSII Silver Parade Set, when first born,  looks like this:
 I knew it would be too long for what I had in mind, so I chopped it, wiring the base shut:
Next was the most daring step of all.  I can hear friends bemoaning that I didn't make a mold of what I had so carefully sculpted.... My only excuse, flimsy but true, is that for now it is easier to sculpt another.  I took a deep breath and wielded the knife:  I sliced my handbuilt pommel in two. 
The idea was to embed the horn wires in the shoulders.
 I also wanted to have more than two points of connection with the base plate (bottom skirt), so I included more wires:
More sculpting followed.  For a tackmaker who's pretty much never sculpted in those 30+ years, recently I sure have dabbled in the stuff!
 Again, the shape is hard to show in photos.
 This three-dimensionality is what makes capturing a Western saddle in miniature so appealing, and so challenging!  The only way to achieve symmetry was by hand.  And model tack, especially a saddle tree, absolutely has to be symmetrical!
Or at least very close...
This was what I'd wanted.  This was what I'd in mind.  The thrill of the chase was upon me.  After baking, the next step was the gullet braiding.  True to form, The Gold-Tipped fought me here, and the gullet braiding had to be done twice.
Thin leather and Galaxy lace, properly prepared, present no mysteries to me.  Nonetheless, handmade stuff has its quirks, and no two pieces are exactly alike.  The first time through the gullet braiding wrinkled and resisted.  Truly, I am on the edge of what I can do, even here.
How the mighty are fallen! -- err, using the anvil to hold the braiding in place while the glue dries.
This next view is taken through the magnifying glass.  It is looking up at the bottom of the gullet, underneath the shoulders.  I don't know if this area has a name, but 'throat' would be appropriate.
I'm using pins to help hold down the leather.  This is the only leather that will show on the shoulders of the saddle.
Silver taping is next.  As the Goehring explained ( Silver progress on the Goehring), there is at least one great place, still, for silver tape in my model tack. 
It's very hard to dictate this step exactly, as each piece is individually cut out and fitted.  It really is by hand and eye.  I peel off the paper in bits.
Darting takes place as the individual wrinkles dictate.  The goal is to cover the shoulders completely with silver and smoothe it down, leaving as few lines as possible.  Such lines will be covered up (hidden) later, during the embossing and engraving stage.
And now things are going fast and furious -- the end is in sight.  Engraving, as explained with the Goehring, is done with a dull awl.  The next step in the shoulders of #454 is insertion:  wiring.  It's yet another of those hard-to-explain steps.  The wires are pressed through the base plate and wrapped around leather and themselves to secure the shoulders to the saddle.  No glue!!  It's a trick to get the wires to not have bumps or lumps -- no soring of the back, please.  To cover the underside of the saddle, a lining is used, either fleece or chamois.  I usually use Elmer's for this lining step, in case it has to be removed later.
Pommel caps were used on this saddle.  That's a subject for another post altogether!
And the silver taping is done.
I've never made a Parade pommel like this before.  It's only taken 37 years!  My first parade set was made in 1978.  I'll have to post on that... the scrapbooks of the TSII... one of these days...

Thanks go to Kerie Okie for the original pommel idea, to Sandra Garner for her patience, to Melody Snow who first showed me ikandis; and to Cristina Brown for the terrific pad!  And to other tackmakers and friends, who know who they are, for long discussions...  much appreciated.  : )

Next up:  Fancy's Hackamore. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Finished: TSII #454, The Gold-Tipped

 The Gold-Tipped!!  It isn't every day I have a shooting session with a saddle that's taken 5 months to complete!  For the occasion I pulled out a lot of different horses, and was amazed at the quality (dare I say) of what I've collected over the years.  This one's my favorite: Indian Silver, by Deb McDermott.  (Thank you Danielle for your patience; yours is coming!)
Most people don't think of the Arabian as a parade animal, yet I assure you he certainly can be.  See the bottom of this post for a clipping that proves it!
Most people think of the Saddlebred as the proper breed for a set such as this.
Granted, we have a lot more molds that are appropriate for Parade class these days!  Here's one from not-so-long-ago for the TSII (remember #450?!):
Rialto!!  commonly known as Independence, by the uber-talented Sarah Rose.
He is an iconic horse for a silver saddle maker.  He's on my business card and address labels, and I'm hoping he can be on more than that.

Silly rabbit!!  Of course a Silver Parade saddle is for Palominos. 
I'm pleased at how many different molds this set fitted.  So far, the noseband has not needed readjusting, or even the breastcollar.
Although I did have to fiddle with the bridle for this one, a Chris [Cook][Nandell] Flint Friesian.  Even here, the face ornaments weren't criminally short!
Another breed few think of as a parade horse, and yet I assure you...

The owner requested this saddle, the 101st silver Parade saddle the TSII has ever made, for Zippo Pine Bar.  As it happens, I'm currently in love with chestnut leopard Appaloosas, so my Rikki Tavi was a happy coincidence.

Finally we get to see the face ornaments, amoung the last features of the saddle to be figured out, and amoung the hardest to build!!  Every saddle has its hard places, and this was one of them.

"New and improved" is not something to be ashamed of in model tack.  This is not a business where the product never changes.  The best tack pieces have elements of pioneering exploration in them.  The tackmaker remembers them because they were successful experiments.  The unsuccessful experiments are lessons learned (sometimes costly lessons) and put to use later.

The Gold-Tipped was begun October 17, 2014, and finished 5 months later, on March 31st.

It is the best Silver Parade set I have built so far.
 Previous blog entries on The Gold-Tipped include Beginning the Gold-TippedThree Strands At OnceTSII #454's Breastcollar, and TSII #454: Base Assembly.
I want to apologize for not always using a hyphen with "Gold-Tipped."  I have a personal vendetta with hyphens in my own name, so please forgive my mixed feelings on the subject. 
The Hip Drops were among the last parts to be made.  I'd originally thought I'd make the spine bar completely gold.  But that was too much.  "Light touches" were what was called for.  I inserted a gold disc on the horn, used one tiny gold square on top of the cantle, and having figured out what pattern the hip drops asked for, rolled on.
These are exceptionally large, long hip drops.  You have seen that on most of the horses above, they do not fit -- not even on Independence.  Better to leave them off than squish and warp them and hope the judge doesn't see how awful that is --!   In a perfect world, I'd've supplied two sets of hip drops, but frankly I'm pooped. A break is needed.

As the previous posts tell, this set is not a portrait of any real saddle.  Its design is based on and inspired by the real thing; but this particular pattern is wholly mine own.  I was given time enough to work out the kinks, a fabulous gift.  Every part was brooded over, pored over, struggled with until it was perfected.  The blanket is by Melody Snow/Unicorn Woman, and the bit is a Kirsch, engraved and customized.
The pommel (shoulders), one of the most pioneering parts of the whole set, will still have its own post, I swear!

And now:  the promised Arabian Parade clipping.
Candy Maynard gave me this magazine clipping
 This glorious picture, which I have seen (and own) on a Ravensburger puzzle, has been in my parade reference scrapbook for lo these 22 years.  Now that I've digitized it, I see the side words almost certainly say "Masterpieces of Equestrian Photography."  But I have no idea who the photographer is nor which magazine it was published in.  If you know, let me know and I'll credit them!

Strangely,  silver saddle sets on Leopard Appaloosas are rare.  Here's another clipping I've had for 25 years, featuring about the only leopard-app in Parade I've ever seen.
"Photo courtesy Tournament of Roses"
This clipping was published in Horseman's World magazine in 1988.  Lisa Frankland, the customer for whom I did the parade set (1990, TSII #288), gave me the clipping.

Also, since I absolutely can't help myself given our past adventures, what else!  but Rinker!
I also intend to post about Fancy's Hackamore -- long tale that will be!
And on that note,
Happy Collecting!