Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Toots Geyer Saddle

I was thrilled to recently add a Toots Geyer saddle to my collection.  Thanks Diane!   There aren't that many pieces out there by this artist, yet she has definitely achieved her own style.  This saddle is dated 2004.  (Thank heavens it's actually dated and signed!!)  As it happens, the few pictures I have of pieces by Toots Geyer are dated 2005 and 2007.  So I'm guessing this is another talented tackmaker who was active for a handful of years about a decade ago.  If I'm wrong, let me know and I'll update this!

This is the "before" picture:  Before I added the missing tug straps, polished the silver and did some cosmetic disguise work on the seat.
Notice there is no blanket.  I had fun hunting through my collection trying to find a suitable blanket.  This saddle is HUGE.  Nothing I had that was cross-stitch or sewn was going to fit!  I had to fall back on my gotten-in-the-70s pile of Mexican recuerdos (souvenir) serapes.  I could barely find a horse with a long enough back.  Matriarch is immensely long, yet this saddle looks no more than normal on her.  It might even be a scoosh too big!!

My Matriarch was finished by Katie Richards.  (Thanks, Sue Peet, again!)  The orange serape tied everything together;  it brought out the gold tones in the horse and the saddle.  Other blankets, such as pink, white or red, did not look quite as well as that orange.  Although it's not my final choice, the serape did well enough for pictures.
The lacing has not tarnished.  I'm not sure why.  If it's sterling it should have tarnished a little.  If it's aluminum, I did not know aluminum lacing was available.  Go figure.

One feature of this saddle I found interesting was the corner carved leaves.  They were tooled separately, cut out and glued on.  I had never seen this before in model tack.  There's no reason this couldn't happen in full scale and it probably has. 
Another interesting feature was the breastcollar.  The three-part design meant that it fit the horse perfectly, without any choking pressure on the throat.
The seller had clearly stated the tug straps were missing.  I dug up some Rio Rondo buckles to match what was already there, and cut and dyed some kangaroo lace to match colors as closely as I could.  No leather keepers were found on any part of this set; only the martingale had one ring.  If the original tug straps had only rings for keepers, that would lend weight to explaining how they might have been lost.  There was nothing permanently fastening the straps on.  Let the rings slip or drop, and there go your tug straps...
Forensic tackmaking!!
Of course the hard part was polishing the silver.
Breastcollar rings, beads and crimps of the bridle and reins, and bits all needed it.  Even the curb strap was tarnished.  I was tickled to discover the bits were stamped .925, the universal indication of sterling silver.  And yet their 'tarnish' was of a golden-y color, not at all the expected black.  Eventually I decided I was seeing the remains of some kind of coating, probably nail polish.  I had to scrape it off the long beads of the bridle.
Below:  polished on right, unpolished left.
All hail the power of the microbrush!!  Ask your dentist for a few...

I mentioned cosmetic disguise work on the seat.  Even good artists make mistakes, and using a pink or red or purple ink pen to trace out the seat pattern was definitely a mistake.  I hate pens -- the petroleum-base ink always stains and smears!  This saddle had neon-pink stains on the edges of the seat.  The picture does not do them justice.
First I tried to scrape and cut off the worst-offending fibres.  Fortunately I had just sharpened my knife.   This helped but didn't really solve it and did start to endanger things.  Then I brought out my dark brown Edge Cote and gently painted all around the seat edge with a small pointed brush, blending in and touching up without heavy contrast.  That helped immensely.  It covered the pink and gave the saddle a subtle professionalism it hadn't had before.
Toots used sinew in various places to tie parts together.  The cinch, latigo and bridle all feature sinew ties, and these harmonize with the back skirt hatching/lacing.  I loved the Western flavor this gave.
Here are a few other examples of Toots Geyer saddles.  I collected these pictures in 2005 and 2007.
taken from the Web.  photographer unknown
taken from the Web,  photographer unknown

taken from MH$P.  photographer unknown
probably taken from MH$P.  photographer unknown
taken from MH$P.  photographer unknown
All these saddles give a clear sense of Toots' style.  She liked large tooled and colored leaves, particularly oak leaves and acorns, and she used cut-outs to great effect.  She liked large fringe on the blanket.  She liked rawhide-type braiding on the cantle and gullet, sometimes on the horn.  She liked using sinew (rawhide) ties.  Clearly she liked silver lacing and sometimes buckstitching.  Warm earth tones, basketweave stamping and irregularly shaped or angled edges round out some common aspects of this artist's work.
Speaking entirely personally, I find the flavor of Toots' tack to be quite similar to the flavor of Fara Shimbo's.  It may not be supremely detailed or refined, but its scale is part of the appeal, large-hearted and charming.  The effect is of a friendly, comfortable yet hard-working piece of tack.  I am well pleased to have found this example.

Eclipse from space: Dupage satellite loop

Based on Dupage Nexlab GOES 16
Always marry a meteorologist.
In our house, a great deal of time and attention goes to watching weather loops of one sort or another.   They impact our life, dictating everything from the timing of dinner to the course of a vacation.  They are IMPORTANT, and also beautiful.
Recently a fantastic improvement in the quality of these loops was shown to me, as more modern technology, data processing and satellites come online.  Although I'd watched weather service satellite loops for years, I never dreamed of some of the views I've been seeing recently.  When I first saw them I was like a little kid.  "Look, this is what God sees!"  Any one of them I could watch for hours, taking in all the details.  Words fail me:  the tops of clouds in motion are sublime.

And then came the Eclipse.

It was interesting enough to view the darkening of Oregon and Washington -- how the ink-stain spread out swiftly, killing the clouds.  (It took them a while to grow back.)  The black shadow-band swept across, and such a view was surely enough for a lifetime.  But then my husband told me about a ghost.  "Have you seen the white patch?  In the middle of the black!!  You gotta see this!"

After it was all over (I spent my Eclipse on the back deck, holding a pinhole card, and in my neighbor's front drive, borrowing dark glasses and chatting), we went back to the Internet and dug up the relevant frames, aware that within 24 hours the lovely product would be unavailable.  The warnings were all over:  This product is experimental, it is undergoing testing.  Well it wasn't the only thing undergoing testing.  I really struggled to save it, and had to call in the resident meteorologist, Dr Young from Penn State.  Who just happens to be my husband.

This track was seen on the College of Dupage's experimental NEXLAB GOES 16 satellite page, the day of the eclipse.  Dupage Nexlab  We fiddled and downloaded, cropped and saved, and in the end had an animated gif of nearly 35MB.  As of now I can't get it smaller (or slower).  Across the country, from one end to the other, tracing that fabled path, ran a white circular ghost the size of South Carolina.  In the middle of the darkest hour, a white artifact bloomed forth, for all the world a moon shadow in photographic negative.  ("Shadow of the Moon,"  I started singing, from Blackmore's Night album.)  It gave me the eeriest feeling.  A white raggedy ball was wheeling along in the blackest center of the eclipse, a bouncing alien bunny of a cottontail, both terrifying and freeing.

Naturally I asked, "What's causing this?!"  And he explained it was what the sensors had been programmed to do when they detected less than nothing:  no light at all, "below black" on the scale of responses.  You can see it as the edge of night if you follow the daylight on the original loop -- or any day's loop for that matter.   That white patch was, indeed, human-caused...  after a fashion.
Okay, that explains it.  But it doesn't explain the amazing thrill I get when I watch it.  Nothing less than divine artisanry made this.

Eclipse from space: Dupage satellite loop 
(give it time to load)

When you marry a meteorologist you get a front-row seat on some of the most beautiful, amazing, incredible sights you never dreamed existed.  You have to be ready at any moment to drop everything and look up, to pass into a trance of awareness of wonder, to be amazed and thrilled and awed, only deeper, at these gifts we have been given.   I have seen the green flash, fire rainbows, heliocentric rainbows, ice pillars, ice volcanoes, auroras and iridescent clouds...  without ever taking a class in meteorology.  All I had to do was look up, be ready to look.
               "And every common bush's afire with God,
                 but only he who sees takes off his shoes."
                                          Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

I am so very grateful. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Peacock Bosal Hackamore: finished

When I photographed the finished Peacock Hackamore, it looked so fantastic on this horse that I couldn't resist showing off here.   I think it is his blue eye and the faint golden tones of his coat that go so well with the blue-and-green and the accenting braided-rawhide golden notes.  Plus his pink works very well with the natural leather.  Yes, this is the reward:  Finding which horse it goes best with, even if it's not the one you made the piece on!
 Not that that horse is a bad one.  Not a bit!!   This Hackamore has a color that goes best with cold-colored horses:  whites, grays, blacks. 
Hah!  It goes just fine with red chestnuts and bays too (even if my camera gets washed out a little):
 I  hadn't realized blue and green were so versatile... but should have guessed, with turquoise being so classic a color.  I've never made a Hackamore in this color combo of white, green, blue and rawhide before.  It has promise!
The tack-wearing debut of my Kaalee, known as Jezail here in the herd:
The bosal had to be pushed just the littlest bit to get over her nostrils.  She is a big horse!!  And the length of her!!  I may have to establish a new sidewise policy on part of the shelves...

My Perlino's story is told in my BreyerFest Goodies.
 He did indeed enter my life with a bang.  I'd always wanted one but never figured I could afford one.  When I saw this unique finish, as glossy a matte as I'd ever seen, I decided to plump.  I named him Shahzada, a name from M. M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions, which means Prince.
This is undoubtedly the first tack he's worn in his life.  Hackamores are for breaking in young horses, so they say...
The Peacock Hackamore is planned to be offered on Auction Barn as soon as I can write it up.

And what happens after this??
Can you believe:  Snowshoes --?!
Stay tuned!

Peacock Mecate II

When we left off, the popper had just been tooled, and it was time to start the final twisting of the Peacock Hackamore's mecate.  One of my challenges had been to connect the blue strand with the green.  I achieved this with the help of that great tackmaker's friend, Elmer's.
Here you can see that the headstall ornamentation has been completed on the cheekstraps.  This shot gives some idea of the incredible lengths of thread involved.
The next step is to hang everything off the popper and start spinning.  But now there was a snag.  The button I tried to put on the popper didn't look right.  I hadn't allowed for its bulk, neither width nor depth, nor for the button's anchoring (not sliding).  This button had to be beautiful as well as strong and tight, as I would be pulling on it all during final twisting.  What to do?
The answer was to cut a notch.  This tiny cut made room where there wasn't any.  It had to be done with a sharp X-Acto, one edge at a time, by eye.  In hindsight I should've put in a core wrapping, to help shaping, but the notch worked out anyway.
I painted the bare leather with Edge Cote.  Then I tried 3 different times to get this crucial button right.  Sometimes it takes that many tries.  In the end it was a Spanish Ring Knot of 2 Passes that worked.
Now we can begin!
Starting the final twist on this mecate was as hard as anything I've done on this Hackamore.  I struggled and struggled.  I knew one white strand had to disappear:  it was the core.  But how to start to wrap the other strands!?  At last I went back to earlier notes.  I put a weight clip (a clothespin works nicely) on the white core strand, so I could tell which one it was, and spun the 2 whites for about 3 inches.  This three-inch length is just right for these mecates:  I make them 3 inches at a time.  Then I added in just the green.
This picture (above) shows the 3 steps.  At the bottom, my green and white, as tight as I could make them.  Next, I put in the blue, in between the two whites.  Lastly, I took the two checkered strands and twisted them together by themselves for about 3 inches... and then combined them onto the green-and-blue.  The combining opened them up, in a larger version of the twist that made them in the first place, and they turned out to cover one of the whites.  It was this white that became the core... it disappeared.

A whole lot of pulling takes place during these steps.  In particular the white core will get pulled, and inevitably it gets longer.  In hindsight (again) I should've allowed for this lengthening, and hung it a little shorter to start with.
Below, you can see the checkered strands held to the side (the clips), the completed white/green/white, and the blue in mid-spin.
It took me four days to finish this phase.  Every inch is tweaked and adjusted by hand during spinning.

I ran out of one of the checkered strands first, so that determined how long it was!  The last part of any mecate is the tassel knot. Here I've started the core of the tassel knot:  a 4-part Undercrown, with the white core strand as a center.
Then a 4-part Overcrown and Wall, giving the appearance of a 3-strand braid along the edge, miraculously.
I didn't take pictures of every step.  I didn't shoot the insertion of the tassel hair.  It was 8 strands of unwaxed dental floss, as are all the white tassels here at the TSII.  : )  Nor do I show the careful clipping of the strands below the end knot, once so hard-won and now so much dross.  Nor have I shown the covering knot to the tassel end knot, an exotic button I got out of Tom Hall's books.

My attention went to the popper end.  I needed another knot to tighten up the rope and disguise some ends.  While full-scale mecates don't have buttons here, I frequently need them for construction purposes!  At least it will match.
What a relief to unwind everything and see it all laid out!  The ultimate test of a spun thread rope is whether it will stay twisted by itself when the tension goes off.
And this one did.
The tassel end knot was another button that took more than one try.  It didn't come out perfect.  Here is the other side:
Unable to resist, I opened the Guide to page 114 and tied on this mecate to the waiting headstall and bosal. 
There you have it.  Only the throatlatch to go.

Whole Lotta Spinnin' Goin' On: Peacock Mecate I

When I started this mecate I had no idea it would take as long as it did!  I was trying to build a nice Bosal Hackamore to start off the next phase of my career.  This Peacock Hackamore, as mentioned on my FB, was inspired by Maine's lakes and forests and then dovetailed into BreyerFest's India theme.  Hackamores are truly one of my favorite pieces to make; it should have been easy.  But the mecate took twice as many hours as my last one!  Yeeks!  This post will cover the first half of the making of the mecate. There will be a 2nd post on the last half, then a 3rd covering the finished piece.

It's been 4 years since I made a mecate like this.  2015 saw the replication of Fancy's lost Hackamore, but that one copied 10-years-old techniques.  My last spun mecate was made in 2013 (Moisan's).
The green color is another reason this one was slow.  I didn't have a nice emerald green thread of the gauge I normally use for these mecates.  (Heck, no green of any shade!)  With what can only be perfectionism, I chose to make every inch of green thread handspun from Gutermann's very small gauge.  As it happened the ratio of Gutermann's to what I was after was 9 to 1.  Sound familiar...?

I have posted other blogs on making mecates:  micro order mecate,   Fancy's Part I  and  Part II.  But this time there was no braided-thread strand and no braided ring.  Instead of 3 parts, this mecate uses 6.  As the title explains, most of the time was sunk into spinning!!  If you don't like spinning thread, this probably isn't the tack project for you...
Where to begin?
With a written battle plan.
I have discovered that drawing the strands in long U-shapes helps me immensely in design and construction.  The finished strands are folded over the popper (quirt) and then spun together, with the ends making the tassel knot core.  This approach saves one the trouble of fastening the popper (quirt) to the finished rope -- and the mecate looks so much more realistic.  In general tackmakers seem to be a very graphically-oriented species.  I need to see my mecate designs, especially if I'm doing a color-change one. 
I started with the longest-thread strands, the 'fleck' or checkered ones:  80 inches of tiny hand-quilting brown and white.  As it happened 80 inches was too long; it should have been 75 or so.
The tamales (end bundles) are bound together with bread twists.  Plastic ones that come with electronics make the best twists.
This really is the slowest part.  Since the ply of the threads is to the right, the spin is to the left.
I began using a magnifier lamp my mother-in-law gave me.  Keep those hands clean!
This somewhat out-of-focus shot shows the whole setup.  I have to constantly keep the two colors from tangling.  It is mind-numbing work, but peaceful.  I always listen to music when I make tack.  I'm a ragtimer as well as a public-radio supporter.  I suppose I could go on and on about which music is in what tack, but...
The first couple wraps around the braiding anchor base are shown.  The braiding hook holds the finished thread against my pulling.
Accumulating this much can take days.
This is what the end of the first step looks like.  (Chiromancers, have at me.) 
Next, the thread is doubled over and spun again, making the tiny 'checkered strand.'
There is something magic about this step.  I can't explain it.  I only know that if I hold and spin the white dashes in a pattern that looks like a slanty T at the point of intersection, the two strands come together in a satisfying twist.  The twist must be neither too tight (short dashes, kinking) nor too loose (long dashes).  Of course there are problems, and this mecate in particular gave me all kinds of trouble!  Instead of brown-white-brown-white I'd get brown-brown-white-white.  This happened so often I gave up and accepted a percentage of it.  (It can be seen in the finished mecate close-ups.)  But still this process fascinates me.

Spinning the checkered strand took so long that I stopped in the middle and did other colors and other parts, like the popper.  Seen below, the blue is done, the green nearly so and the white not at all.  The tiny blue clip is holding my place in the checkered strand.
Slogging on:  more green.  Three times three equals nine.  Plus you have to allow for shrinkage.
 Getting there.
Here's the popper.  I made a new pattern for it, based on three previous patterns.
The next installation will cover the final spinning, when the entire mecate comes together.