Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Opening Hillingar

I unboxed my Hillingar today.
In the battle between "I daren't show the world how lucky I am all over again," and "I'd love to share and show off this beastie," the sharing seems to be winning.
I'd wanted him since first I saw him, back in 2015.  It seemed a dream.  When my name was drawn I could hardly believe it.  "So this is what winning the Lottery feels like."  I'd set aside the funds for at least 2 years - more than necessary it turned out.  When the box arrived I was amazed at the size of it.  Toucano (Straight Bet) is here to provide scale, as well as participate in genuine adventure.  He is one of my newest horses but is here to provide a steadying influence.
Trust Sarah to use a packing material I've never met.  It appears to be cut-up chunks of foam.
This is what the paperwork looks like.  Sarah explains her VARA rights.  As if I'd have the courage to paint him.  Even carrying him makes me hold my breath.
First glimpse.  Honestly, up to this point I had had a very fuzzy idea of how big he was.
There appears to be a large stiff piece of cardboard fastened to his side.  How interesting.  Picking it up I realize she's using it as a brace and protector.
He sticks out in all directions.  This view of the back of the cardboard shows his tail!
This is one clever design.  I had wondered.  Would the horn be separate?  Nope.
That's the tail.
Toucano/Straight Bet helps show the size.  Hillingar is a bit larger than I expected.  He's so full of intensity he seems to vibrate.
What an amazing creature.  The word that comes to me is fey.  Mind you, I just got through reading Karen Moning's FaeFever series... !!
I am so astonished.  What I'm amazed at is not his sculpture,... her gifts are obvious... but that Sarah had the gumption to somehow find a way to cast, pack and ship this dream.   How many dreams are intense enough to last for 3+ years after completion?
I am absolutely not ready yet to paint him, consider selling, or even name him. 
Thank you, Sarah.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mecate Confessions

Though this photo doesn't show it, this mecate is at the end of its rope (o bad pun).  There is little more to do than tie the tassel knot and button on it.  It may not seem like much for 2 weeks' work, but it's been a hard row to hoe in several ways.
To begin with, I confess I had to re-learn how to make my own mecates.  I spent the first of the 2 weeks spinning up its three strands the wrong way!!  I use two ways to spin, or twist, thread together:  in combination or in opposition.  The difference depends on whether I want to combine smaller threads or set them in contrast.  Somehow, despite my own notes and pages of drawings, I settled on combination.  (stick out tongue and make a face)  I'm not sure why.  The last hackamore I did used combinations, but that was a year ago!  So after I'd done all three strands -- many hours -- I slowly decided I'd done them wrong.  The little nagging voice finally got to me...  I'd perfected the combinations, but...
Can you see how the checkered strand (the black & white) is irregular?
Combining the one-colored strands worked (!), but doing the black & white check (or fleck) that way was a sign I was on the wrong trail.
It should have looked much sharper and crisper.  It should have looked like this (below).  I eventually made the difficult decision to undo the entire strand and re-use the threads.  (Remarkably, the material stood up to this extreme treatment.)  Here is the proper check strand with its earlier buddies.  Can you see how the slant of the check strand is in the opposite direction from the brown's and the white's slant?
It's a cardinal rule:  Mecate parts must lie in the same direction.

After I fixed the checkered strand, I also un-spun and re-spun the brown and the white.  And that took more days.  It's a good thing these discoveries and decisions come in waves.  I'd never stand the shock of being proven so wrong all at once.  The customer is patient, for which I am so very grateful.

And that's the next confession.  This mecate is not for the Roby Canyon Hackamore at all.   While at NAN I let an old performance shower talk me into a short order.  The current state of affairs at the TSII is designed to let the artist choose what they want to do...  I needed the personal impetus of a direct order...  I was going to be making mecates anyway, for the Roby...  and, oh yeah, I happened to need the cash.
The deeper reason seems to be that when I'm stuck on a piece (I was stuck on the Roby, over whether to make a larger bosal), I go for something else I think I can finish fast.  Except this time the something else got stuck too.

I can think of two connected silver linings to all this cloud of trouble.  The first is that this mecate refreshes me for the Roby's.  Yet another time through my recipe gives me yet another chance to perfect and standardize them.  Since I learned how to spin thread (over Christmas 2000, thank you Judith again) and used it for mecates, this will be my 23rd mecate.  At least with saddles and braided bridles, 24 seems to be my magic number.  Twenty-four iterations before every last possible bug and kink is out...
The second silver lining is further refinement to my notes and drawings.  Below is a sneak peak of something destined for my next book, a rough draft of a plate for mecates.

Here's a closer look at the current mecate under construction. 
 I had forgotten, also, how very hard these mecates were to make, once the strands were done and I was on to the second wave of spinning.  A half-inch at a time is reasonable.

Earlier posts on mecates include December 8, 2012 , Three Mecate Artists, and Fancy's Hackamore 2 mecate (2 parts, of which this link is the first).

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Starting the Roby Canyon Hackamore

It is difficult to create in miniature something you have neither photo nor drawing for.  I am proceeding from the memory of a single encounter with a young Appaloosa mare and her rider, and their hackamore (which I fell in love with on the spot).  The encounter happened late on a June day in the Black Hills of South Dakota; it was on the road through Roby Canyon, which is in the western edge of the Hills.  Although the meeting was short, I felt it was important, and almost immediately afterwards I wrote down some details on the back of the bird list (the usual place for such things).  This lean paragraph is my best evidence for what I'm now trying to build.

"Bosal 1/2", Natural w/ dk brn nose, banded heel.  Slit-braid hangar [sic], no deco.  Fiador light-colored w/ dark fleck, tied w/ wooden beads!!  Mecate black, white & gray.  Matching hobbles w/ 2 braided connector hangars [sic], w/ banded buttons!"

[Having an ex-pilot in the family, I do tend to spell "hanger" the airplane way.  :)   It's hard enough to learn that the equine term for the headstall for a bosal is not headstall but hanger.  : (  The same ex-pilot is also a military buff, leaving me trying to remember that a sword's supporting belt and strap is also called a hanger.]

The bosal was obviously the place to start.  And here is where fate stepped in, in the shape of Ichabad Crane!!!  Alas, alack, for 20+ years my measurements and formulas have been for a true 1:9 model horse, and my bosal recipe is perfected for:  the Stone ISH.  When I started the bosal for the Roby Canyon Hackamore I was more concerned with the fact I was going to be putting interweaves in the nosebutton when my memory clearly told me there were none (this is the TSII!!  showing off fancy braidwork matters), than worried about whether to allow for the turns of the mecate AND the fiador.  Of course it would fit.
I got the sidebuttons properly located relative to the eyes.
 The pin shank in the middle is holding space for the future heel knot concho's pin.
My adventures falling in love with Ichabad/True North, named Dry The Sea (chronicled in the previous post) were beside the point.  It was only natural to set him on the tack bench, right?  Natural to somehow switch my attention from an unchosen Trad to this intoxicating bay, so popular, so long desired.  I'd shaped the bosal to him, hadn't I?
Natural to make the fiador for him, with more attention and size than I'd ever made a fiador before.  It was braided from 6 threads instead of spun from the normal 4.
Below is the fiador tied in a traditional hackamore knot.
 This picture (below) shows the mass of thread the wooden bead had to encompass (the 4 strands below the jaw, right near the tip of the out-of-focus strap).  It also shows one of the files I used to make the bead with.  It turned out beastly hard to get all that mass through the bead.  At model scales, Roby's two beads became one.
I made the wooden bead from a bamboo skewer from a Chinese restaurant, by the way -- bamboo polishes up in scale better than most woods.
I did research to find how the jaw strap attached - and then chucked it and just cut a larger strap to hold a slit.  The full scale Roby hackamore had used a jaw strap, to keep the cheekstraps away from the eyes.
And there you have it:  I'd switched horses in midstream and hadn't realized it.
True North, aka Ichabad Crane, aka Dry The Sea, was truly a much bigger horse.
There wasn't going to be enough room for the mecate.
I should have known.

On a different subject,
Why did this encounter, unusual but not rare, inspire me so?  I've seen other riders while we were out birdwatching.  I've got the whole world of Internet images to draw upon.  I've got years of experience as to what training hackamores look like (which was of great use when it came to buckling down to this piece).  Perhaps it was the wooden beads, obviously an easy way out of tying those bothersome fiador knots -- they looked so cute.  Perhaps it was the color of the mecate; I'd never before made one with gray.  Perhaps it was the stunning beauty of the hobbles combined with the headgear -- I'd never before seen braided connectors used to hang hobbles with, let alone matching colored ones.  (In the paragraph, 'banded' means "having contrasting braided interweave rings.")  Duh.

Perhaps it was the beauty of the horse.  She was a stunner, a blue roan with a patchy snowflake hip blanket and plenty of spots.  Spirited, barely under control, young (of course), great conformation.  Perhaps it was the friendliness of the rider; she let me approach and pet and gawk.  There was a second rider, on a pale palomino, but these two merely threw the App into relief.  Geo and I had been noting the tracks of two shod horses on the dirt road and knew they were ahead of us, but only chance had caused them to turn around before we did.  The moment I saw them I transitioned from the birder's best public-relations (you have to evolve this if you birdwatch long enough) to the heart of the tackmaker, well knowing what I was seeing.  "Rosie" the mare rolled her eyes at me.  The rider, however, complimented my hat three times.  : )
Image from California Classics via Google

Why would a supposedly-Trad-scale model horse be so large?  One might as well ask why one's artistic work expands when one's spirit does.  This isn't the place for such weighty questions.  I'll settle for measuring Dry The Sea.  He appears to be 6  5/8" at the withers, which translates to <oh, this is shocking!  My math works out at very close to 1:9:  1:9.05 !!>
<Try it yourself:  Divide 6.625 into 60, the inches of a fifteen-hand horse>

I'm supposed to be deciding whether to make another bosal, bigger this time, for the horse I've so clearly let sweep me away.  Spluttering -- there's water in my seas yet -- I can only say this will take more time.  I want to be working on mecates right now, and I've started.  I'm pleased to say I dyed some thread last night, and this is what it looked like:
Just that amount of thread perfectly used up the dropperful of rubbing alcohol I'd started with.  No leftovers.  I like the imperfect effect of home-dyeing; I think it much more natural, more true to real horsehair, in this case gray horsehair.
Stay tuned while I spin.  Mecates usually take a week, but we'll just see what happens.