I first encountered Kathleen Bond in the early 1990s in the flyers of Hartland Collectables. She had made their saddles and tack. At the time only Breyer had sold mass-produced saddles to go with their model horses, so another company's efforts were very intriguing. Hartland's tack offerings were quite beautiful, densely tooled and nicely detailed compared to Breyer's. They were more expensive, but it was the incredible detail of the tooling that really set them apart. These saddles, mass-produced though they obviously were, all had the stamp of quality about them... the unifying vision of a single artist.
I never did manage to purchase any Hartland tack directly, but a few years later I was starting my own Kathleen Bond saddle collection. Note that none of these blankets were hers (they were all supplied by me later). I never collected bridles by her.
Having been in the model horse hobby for 39 years, I forgive myself if I get Carol Howard and Kathleen Bond a little mixed up. They were of similar age and both were very talented artists. Both made model horse tack over a long period of time. Both of these women never made it over the digital divide; they belonged to the mail order years. I met and spoke with both of them. And yeah, my memory tells me they looked kind of alike: both were heavy, dark haired and dark eyed.
Carol Howard lived in Arizona and made every kind of model tack: English, Western, Silver Parade, Peruvian, Harness, Sidesaddle and more. She made all her own bits from wire and solder and supplied other model tackmakers with them for many years. She designed and drew carousel horse pictures and published them in Carousel News & Trader. Carol sculpted model horses; Kathleen did not (that I know of). Carol did not, so far as I know, make belts or purses, let alone full scale saddles. Carol rarely travelled and I believe she stayed in Sierra Vista until she died (2018).
Kathleen Bond made only one kind of model tack: Western Saddles. She made them with great attention to the principles of mass production, and did it in a way I've never seen any other model tackmaker do. Her initial investment must have been huge, but her method resulted in one person's being able to produce what must have been thousands of detailed pieces. Kathleen Bond saddles can all be distinguished by their tooling, which isn't tooling at all but embossing (stamping without cutting the surface).
I should add that the breastcollar on the Prairie Rose saddle was done by me in an attempt to match her style, as this saddle was not originally equipped with a breastcollar.
Eleanor's saddle, TSII #423.
Kathleen later told me she personally knew Bruce Grant. I have letters from her discussing her tricks of the trade. If you could stand her style of conversation she was a good friend. In a hobby full of individualistic artists, she stands out in my memory: intensely self-absorbed, slow of speech, yet so talented, so single-minded. She was a fount of history about leather braiding and tooling, and (I think) contributed to the Leather Worker's Journal. She taught me how to do braided-rawhide stars. Kathleen gave me a five-pound marble tooling block (I had told her the year before how I used Masonite) which I still use today.
Here is a black and silver full-scale saddle of hers:
As I said at the beginning, I was fortunate enough to be recently given photos of yet another beautiful saddle by this Ohioan. There are saddles and there are saddles, but this one was like a portrait of the artist's soul.
If it weren't for a certain much-too-long-anticipated book, finally getting underway and slowly being written and drawn ... ... or for another much-too-long-awaited model saddle, with bits and pieces of it already done... ... I would be making this pictorial saddle in miniature sooner. Let's just say that after a year of wandering far afield looking for inspirational pieces, I finally found one. The TSII is still alive and producing.
Kathleen Bond's leather work is timeless, whether or not she is still producing. She had the most universally admired artistic vision -- her work was collected all over the world. Two years ago (2016) I found out she had even planned ahead for her own tombstone. I was sent a picture. Incredibly, the stone is in the shape and form of a fully-carved Western Saddle.
But it had only the birth date on it.
Bond. Kathleen Bond!!