Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Marwari and the Pintaloosa

The photographer of so important a show as NAN is not supposed to have any favorites.  Yet out of thousands of horses, I fell madly in love with one foal.  Out of dozens of fantastic costumes, I found myself taking way too many pictures of just two (the other was the Horse with the Golden Saddle).  I promised a blog on them at the time, and the two paragons have stuck in my mind ever since.

The Marwari first.  He initially appears in a table shot, his owner close by.
 He's the entry on the corner.  This horse is a customized Carol Williams Valor, made into a Marwari, the breed with the curved eartips.  Colette is amazingly good about documentation.
When I saw what she was wearing I laughed out loud.
Of course this splendid work is by Cary Nelson, a paragon herself when it comes to costumes.  I could not believe this outfit when I first saw it,... and I still can't.
 The reins alone would take me weeks.
I believe those are metal bells on the top of the rump.
Cary's good at embroidery, but, yeesh---!!!!!
The more you look, the more there is to see.
 It must have taken her months.
There is nothing I'm aware of in the model tack world to equal this kind of dedication and skill.  The density of detail, the materials, the color choices and textures all scream "rabbity" at me (her email).  I've seen a number of Cary Nelson costumes and I own one myself, but this takes the cake.

The horse's name turns out to be Boom Shakalaka, and yes, he did win the class.  : )

The next day I was covering Foal classes.  This is the CM Stock Foal table.
 The photographer moves left, trying to capture everybody.
Three shots for one class is a bit unusual, but they've caught my eye.  They're so cute!
Glory morning. Everything else fell away and I came in close.  I had no idea what mold this was, what resin, whether it was a custom.  I only knew I was falling rapidly.
He had that rough, old-fashioned look, something I'd seen so often in the early years of the hobby.  It's a coarser texture of fur, but for a foal it's appropriate.
Hand painted.  Everything worked well together:  color, shading, conformation, pose.  That nose!  those cute little ears!  that stunning, yet realistic, color choice!
I'm including this shot, despite its obvious flaw, out of sheer equally-obvious love-madness.
A Pintaloosa, or possibly a strange varnish roan appy. 
I found out later he was quite old for a model, several decades.  That would make him a custom on the Stock Horse Foal... if so, a rather drastic custom.
I just loved this little baby!!  Given I'd spent 3 days photographing the best of the best, every possible breed, pose, color, type and material, it says something that I could still find it in me to get so soft.   "Out of all of them..."
I was told, by his owner, who did him, but alas I'm not remembering; this was a year ago.  It was a name I recognized, however.

Other news:  Be sure and check out our website! and Tack Sales Information page.  Most of our news fit to print is there.  I have dreams of making Mechanical Hackamore(s) and a Western Saddle alongside others.  Further out, I'm looking at Parade set restos. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everybody!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Silver Acorn Opus Saddle

My green blanket is done, and this is the saddle it was for.  The Silver Acorn Opus was created by Heather Moreton (form. Abounader) of Desert Night Creations.  It took her 4 years: 2012 to 2016.   This post will largely be about the adventures of this saddle, although right now I can't resist throwing in a bit about the horse!  She is a Moody Minuet, cast in 1994 by DaBar (200 head) and painted two years later by two famous artists: Elizabeth Bouras did the body and details, and Susan Bensema Young did the mane and tail.  And we know who the photographer is.  : )

Amazingly, all 4 artists are still practicing!  To be sure, some things have changed in that 23-year span.  Still on the subject of the horse, the material used for resincasts is now much lighter in weight, and casts more smoothly.  The camera used is a digital not film.  The software used to process these pictures makes it possible for me to instantly clean up her various bumps, scratches, nicks and scars.  I've never shown her much, but she seemed so perfect for this saddle.  This the fun part:  putting together the pieces, making the vision come real.
The Silver Acorn's story is one of the most complex of those in my saddle collection.  It is my intent to try and round up the various pieces of the tale and put them in one place.  Its four-year creation was one saga; displaying it at museums, another; purchasing it, yet another.  No doubt it will go on to further adventures after it leaves my hands, but let's begin at the beginning.

The first mention of any part of this set occurs on Heather's blog of September 9, 2012: Drivel when she calls it 'a project bridle for me.'  Another picture of the cheekstraps occurs in a post on Oct 17.  It isn't until December 15th, 2012, that the saddle really starts: New Stuff.  A post on Dec 23rd,  Holidays  is also long and heartfelt.

The year 2013 started off very well for the saddle, -- but then bogged down in March.  A New Year's Day, 2013, post looks forward;  New & Improved (Jan 20) has a great deal of background, talking about saddle reference books.  January would see two more posts about it, on the 23rd and on the 26th: More in Progress is the first to show the green and black spots set along the border of a fender.  In March Heather's tackmaking interest went into some halters.  A brief look, Workbench (March 18) shows the saddle's current state (fenders and base plate done and bridle's headstall), but other interests would take over for the next 7 months.  Some of them would later turn into a career in photography! and  others, such as shooting pool, would grow to be major activities.  Much was going on:  a job change in July was only one major life evolution for her.  (If only I had known:  2013 was a terrible year for me.)  The next mention of the Silver Acorn is in October with Slow Progress.  For the rest of the year, only a Dec 15 post mentions Facebook pictures of work on the shoulders of a pleasure saddle.  My post is not going to reference many FB posts -- I'm still learning how to find them, let alone link to them!
Not until 2014 would a January 11 post mention "puzzling out the shoulders on the western saddle."   So far she was merely calling it "the western saddle."  A mid-March post complains forgetting everything, but confirms that this is the saddle.  A new studio was finished in April.  On April 28 Heather finished Anna Tackett's bridle, the first piece of tack to be completed after her surgery in January.  Things were looking up!  However, it is not until June 15 that a post mentions the saddle:  "I WANT to be ready by NAN but I have no clue if I will be."  July 23 mentions working on the plates for the saddle, but no pictures.
That BreyerFest, 2014, was one of the two I've had to miss.  Heather went but I did not.  In hindsight it was the right move for me.  How precious our time, our lives, our friends become...

On July 26 Heather did something new and artistic, uploading videos on YouTube of two of her saddles, the making of the California Mother Hubbard and current progress on the Silver Acorn. A link to the Acorn's is here.  I would later see this video and be completely convinced I was not worthy to own such an artistic piece!, so professionally presented. There's even appropriate music!!  Honestly this was the first time I'd seen such a thing...

In August of 2014, possibly inspired by BreyerFest, there was a huge blurt of progress.  August had by far the highest number of  posts (7) of any month of the year, and all but one are on the saddle.  A good glimpse is In Progress (August 10th); an excellent close up is Saddle Silver (August 31st).  All that was missing was the stirrups and some silver; it really seemed that finishing the Silver Acorn was within reach.  Yet in September the siren song of photography surfaced.  Through the rest of that year, it becomes clearer than ever that hers is a photographer's soul.  More and more the posts are of lots of horse pictures.  The saddle is mentioned briefly, but no pictures are shown.
No more work was done on it for the rest of 2014.

In 2015, in an April 8 post, the saddle receives a name: "Opus Saddle."  No pictures are put up, but there is mention of more silver put on.  On April 20 we get an Almost Done post.  There's a very good shot; it looks finished but for the stirrups.  Unfortunately the rest of 2015 was consumed in divorce.  I watched anxiously from afar and wondered if I should speak to both participants, but in the end I could only contact Heather and profess my support. The summer of 2015 was also the summer of the Triple Crown and American Pharoah.  From this time Heather's photographer career would flourish.

The following year, 2016, it's April 10th before the saddle is mentioned.  I am certain that FaceBook rose into prominence (my own saga there would start the year before, in April 2015), and that had an impact on blogging.  Heather went to BreyerFest in July and was tremendously inspired, as were we all; that was the year we were both photographers at NAN!  In a fit of generosity I tried to have my photographer's stipend assigned to her, but this did not work out.  I also did not realize she had entered horses and was showing as well as shooting...!
In a marvelous visit on July 18, I got to see her new house and studio.  Thirty-two of her photos were posted to her FaceBook and she treated me to lunch.  : )  In those 32 the Silver Acorn Opus is clearly depicted, and so was the rawhide braided bridle I wound up selling to Heather.  You can't keep good braiding tackmakers apart.  Heather Visit

On August 28, 2016, Heather posted the finale, Only Took Four Years.   It had indeed been almost exactly 4 years!  Like most big tack projects, that length of time included periods of intense progress and long periods of waiting and idleness.  It was rightly a masterful Opus.  For an artist whose output was limited (her website shows just 15 Western saddles between 2002 and 2013), it was an immense amount of work.

The next chapter in the life of this saddle was the Juried Exhibit at the Morlan Gallery, at Transylvania University in Lexington.  The Exhibit started October 28 and ran til December 2, 2016, and was named Enough to Swear By.  It featured exquisite miniatures from artists around the world.  Talk about exposure!  I had never dreamed some of those things existed, and though I could not attend in person I enjoyed web-browsing the various artists' sites.  You gotta hand it to the Internet: it makes such things possible!
Heather showed her Hummingbird Silver Parade saddle, her Opus and a braided bridle she'd made for Anna Tackett.  She said the two saddles were for sale.  When I heard the price asked for the Opus (it broke four figures) my hopes took a nosedive.  I had made up my mind to make an offer, but as so often happens, what was immensely expensive for me (more than I'd paid for any other saddle) was considerably lower than her price.  Nonetheless I made the offer.

There would be very few more blog posts from Heather up to the present.
That fall (2016) I hung on to the promise that if the saddle did not sell, I would have a chance at it.  Unfortunately Heather was hard to contact, and I didn't find out the answer to my question until many months later.  My finances felt strained with other model pieces I wanted, the NAN stipend landed in my mailbox, and I had just found the YouTube video.  What with one thing and another, I was the closest I'd ever been to long term annoyed with someone who was normally a dear friend.

There was an exchange of calls in February 2017, and we must have worked our way back into contact and understanding, because my questions were answered and I had a path forward by then.  I was greatly looking forward to BreyerFest this year.  As readers of this blog will know, Heather was kind enough to let me purchase the Silver Acorn at last, in July.  Here's my BreyerFest Loot picture:
And a close up  of the Moreton saddle:
This photo shows that there was no saddle blanket.  It also shows there were no breastcollar dees.  This wasn't even the first time I'd spent a great deal of money to get a saddle that had no blanket (Corbett wins that one).  I guess the hobby is becoming more specialized.

Towards the end of my snowshoes-making, on October 4th,  I started a green cross-stitch saddle blanket just for the Silver Acorn.  I used Chris Armstrong's "Pinky Lee" pattern (which really IS pink) but cast in several shades of green.  I tried to match and/or enhance the greens of Opus.  Some of them were surprisingly dark; my choices were perhaps excessively bright, in compensation. 
Like most of my personally-made saddle blankets, it is not cross-stitch per se, but needlepoint, as each 'cross' is actually two straight stitches side by side.  In this case the stitches slanted, alternating each row, in a herringbone pattern.  I find lined blankets much too thick and for some unfathomable reason I detest withers-notches.... probably because I think the blanket ought to be realistic enough to rise off the withers under the gullet, just like the real ones.
My next task on the Silver Acorn was to attach breastcollar dees.  First I had to decide what to use for them... and fortunately the saddle itself told me, with its use of engraved photo-etch Rio Rondo buckles on martingale, curb and stirrups.  Then I had to attach them with minimal damage.  There was only one place for the operation.  For reasons of pride I wanted something of the construction to show, but it had to be minimal and tasteful.
I peeled off part of the lining, made slits in the only space available, and strung the uncut buckles on black lace.  It was a relief when it worked, and, best of all, with the breastcollar actually on, nothing of these "dees" even showed.
The happy task of finding the right horse to "photo-op" this splendid example of the miniature saddler's art landed on Minyalucca the Minuet, wife of Xanadu the Bouras Arabian.
I am sure there is much more to the story of this fabulous saddle!!
Thank you, Heather.  I will try to take care of it.