Monday, March 20, 2023

Progress Report 1: Meet the Eight


Progress is being made on my long term tack-like project of the next book.  It is definitely slow going, ... no surprise there!, ... but, indeed, things are progressing.  Particularly on Malaguena's bridle (above, on Fancy) I am well past the half way mark.  I've been here once before, writing my first book in 1998.  (Twice if you count 2016 and the pdf-ing of the Guide.)  Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately (!), like so many of my greatest pieces, this one is running away with itself.  My book is getting bigger and bigger, more grandiosely ambitious, by the day.  I am very grateful to my incredibly understanding sponsor of a spouse.  Like Jagger, I can't complain,... but sometimes I still do.

Belatedly it has dawned on me I could put out progress reports.  Shouldn't you all at least see the eight pieces, when one of the goals of the book is to spread their fame near and far?  to broadcast them as widely as possible?  to make them more available...?  Advertising!  I'd had no problem posting pictures of the drafting table on FB!  Here's one of those:

You can see the actual tack, in this case April's Hackamore, lying on the drafting board.  I could follow the precedent of the 20 Mule Harness progress reports, except I'm not going to aim for every week, (it's been somewhere around 32 weeks already).  I decided to just put up 8 pictures of the eight pieces of headgear.

Seventeen pix later,... (!) ... I'd discovered I hadn't processed some of those photos; I didn't know where (or when) some of them were;  I found others I'd totally forgotten; and, in one case, I'd never photo'd the piece at all, even after 12 years -- !!!  Well, thank heavens the weather has finally been so nice today.  I hustled Rinker and his hackamore out onto the deck and shot him.  He's still wearing it, looking dazed, ... as well he might.

Here are the eight headgear pieces in order, or, at least, in the current plan of order.  Ricky's Bridle is first.  This piece is based on the full scale bridle of (the real) Ricky Rocker. 

I think it's the easiest of the 8 to make.  It features slit braid cheekstraps and browband.  Here's my Sheila, named Gold Dust, wearing it and a matching saddle [by Terry Newberry].  While the book should have saddle-applicable braiding instructions in it, like Spanish Edge Lacing, it is not a book about saddles per se.

Second is Duke's Hackamore, the perfect training Bosal Hack.  His is straightforward working stuff:  the Fiador and Hackamore knots.  His bosal is even more primitive than the one in the Guide.

Thirdly, and what I'm working on now, is Malaguena's Braided Rawhide Bridle.  This piece has thrown me for a loop.  I've been involved since last fall trying to get up to speed with all that this piece represents.  Its consequences are enormous.  Rendering down instructions for it has been like writing a miniature book within a book.  I'm hoping that afterwards, I can move faster on the others, since all of them, in one way or another, use techniques and skills first introduced with it.  Malaguena's has definitely been taking the lion's share of my time and effort.

Malaguena wearing her bridle
Some of these photos will be in the book; others, not.

Picking myself up off the floor after that overwhelming effort, I suspect the Peach Rose bridle will be next.  Although it is simpler than Malaguena's, it has to come after hers.  It was made in 2004, and will explore alternate materials (read: embroidery floss instead of artificial sinew).

Here is a photo of Tissarn herself which I had totally overlooked.  It was taken on the back deck during springtime,... you can tell from the flowering tree.  How desperately we are all longing for spring,...!  The saddle is also called the Peach Rose, TSII #446, built in 2008.

For those of you who are curious about where I got this name, Tissarn, the answer is Richard Adams' novel Shardik.  It's a place name, a town on the river Telthearna.  Although some of his names are borderline bad puns, others are incredibly beautiful and well worth pinching for a horse.

Moving on to the fifth piece, we are back in the world of hackamores.  Indeed all the remaining four are hackamores:  three bosals and one mechanical hack.  This one is called April's Hackamore and it's the one I hadn't processed the pix of just yet.

Just to be confusing, this horse is not April.  I no longer own April.  This is Kiopo Quitamancha who is standing in for her, ... they had that lovely color of apricot dun in common, and both are Indian Ponies.

The sixth piece is the famous Fancy's Hackamore,  already thoroughly blogged about in 2015.  What you see here is the original, which was unfortunately lost that year, starting the whole saga of posts about it.

Hopefully you can see how the detail and complexity of the pieces is increasing.  We shall see if I am really up to carrying out this ever-more-audacious dream of not just documenting them but instructing how to replicate them!

Seventh in line is Tissarn's Mechanical Hackamore.  This truly lovely piece just happens to be my favorite of all the 8.  Indeed it is my favorite headgear piece of all I've ever made.  Viewing it now, I shudder at the thought that I haven't even started the braided buttons chapter yet!  There were some serious baulks to doing this book:  I didn't know how to pass on something I'd learned from the full scale braiders and then practiced and refined for decades.  However, at least one baulk is gone:  I'm finally ready to try.  Drawing up Malaguena's has actually been a relief:  there was a way forward, even if it is convoluted and rabbit-holey.  Yet writing up button formulae is only half of what's left.  I've still got to explain how to follow them and what they mean.

This lovely piece, uniquely for my tack, traveled to Europe during construction (a family trip in fall 2007) and then further traveled to FL in December.  It was finally finished in January of 2008.  This is just about the most beautiful pair of Romal Reins I own.  The decoration in the middle of the shanks is just that:  ornamentation.

Here's a photo that probably won't be in the book, but which shows the entire piece.  The hackamore on the left was sold to Jennifer Buxton.  The right is Tissarn's Mech Hack.
The color is a bit better in this photograph.
The last of the 8 pieces is Rinker's Hackamore.  The earliest picture I can find is this one, showing the bosal and the mecate (left).  The bosal was made first, in 2007 (replacing an earlier one);  the fabulous mecate was made in 2009.   Someone in the hobby said it reminded them of Anasazi art, and the name stuck.  I have blogged about this black-and-white mecate in May of 2014. 
The black and red bosal was inspired by a magazine clipping showing a full scale one.  In 2011, I looked at the bosal and the Anasazi and said I needed a headstall to tie the two together.  Thus was created one of my favorite Bosal Hacks, initially known as the Anasazi and only later, after Rinker was born (2015), given to him and referred to by his name.

Clearly I needed to do this research!  My Braid Scrapbooks show only part of it.  Here's the last two shots of Rinker's for today.  Ignore the way the horsehair tassels have been aged into bending all funny;  some got wet, dried that way and I haven't yet been able to fluff them up again.
I need to explain that browband concho.  I made it myself from Argentium and solder.

The title of the book will be "Advanced Braidwork for the Model Horse."  I don't know when it will be done, but I'm having a blast working through the challenges.  The satisfaction is deep.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Chincoteague Pony Pins, plus Unicorns

 A most pleasant premium has arrived:  Chincoteague Pony pins sold to benefit the Sea To Bay model horse show!  There are a total of 4 pin designs to choose from.  In addition to the two you see here (the mare and foal count as one pin), there is also a lying down pinto foal and a cantering chestnut filly.   Difficult choices!  I'm going to include a link to their order page later in this post;  I believe these pins are still available.

I'm not sure how I first became aware of these little cuties.  On my FaceBook?  On the Model Horse Sticker Swap and Shop FB group?  Around the second week in January, Jeanette was messaging me with "I thought you collected pins."  [Jeanette Eby, hostess of Sea To Bay]  Somehow she didn't explain;  and since I was on the road at the time, I couldn't make purchases.  It wouldn't've helped if I could've;  the notice, when I saw it, was only for gauging interest.  The seller was trying to collect advance commitments.  Yet these pins instantly intrigued me.  Mink and Breyer are not the only sources of lovely enamels.  It took some hard thought, but I made my choices and committed to a future order.

All these pins carried a freshness and clarity that seemed to blow straight off the Atlantic.  They are small -- the walking mare here is only an inch and a quarter in length;  the pinto filly is an inch high.   Their prices were equally small:  Each equine was only $12.  The mare and foal were $25. 

To someone used to Mink's beautifully detailed horses, these might seem abstract.  But therein lies their artful charm.  I find them refreshing.  Their conformation is correct, their colors true to the ponies.  Each one recognizes an actual Chincoteague Pony.  As pins, I found them well made, with crisp edges and rich gold and silver metal -- gold for the black and chestnuts, silver for the white & red pinto.  There was something appealing here -- a wild beauty, for a good cause.

The artist's name is Isabelle Pardew, of Hummingbird Circle Studios.  Here is the order page for the Chincoteague Pony pins, and much other Chincoteague Pony artwork as well!
Here they are next to a couple of my Mink Dancing Horses.  This gives you an idea of their true size:
but who says little horses aren't just as appreciated!  This may be as close as I come to collecting minis and micros...!  We shall see, ...

In the meantime, the latest Imperial Unicorn arrived right alongside the Chincoteagues.

This is Azuriel, "Copper" of the metallic Imperials.  The edge metal is copper and so are all the rims.  With this pin I learned that the eyes of this series are often solid metal.  The screen-printed dapples are a delicate feature in an otherwise solid-colored animal.  Yet, typical of Mink's Unicorns, the mane and tail are incredibly bouffant, giving this pin great character.  

Here is my collection of every Unicorn pin Mink has produced so far:  Two originals, two Celestials and three Imperials.
My camera has made the Moon Mystashani into a golden morsel, but she is really silver.  I confess the Celestials are always going to be my favorites.  Still, the two oldest, the original Unicorn 1 and II, have a strong power of their own.  They came out by themselves, with no precedent, driven by who knows how much daring and desperation!  I am very glad to have them.  They paved the way for so much and so many to follow.
Of the three Imperials, each one is different.  Anuksamet, with her Bismuth rainbow coloring, is certainly striking;  while Mishkazelle (Rose Gold) is my top choice for glitter (unfortunately not shown well in this photo).  Azuriel, then, celebrates only copper.  But it is a very pure metal, and that royal blue background compliments it gloriously.

Translating the Imperials into pins is hard work.  I hope I can continue to be lucky enough to snag each of these beauties as they make their way into the world.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Queenie's 1st Harness

 I swear I didn't realize, when I was choosing these photos, that they were taken 40 years ago, down to the month.  But on the backs it clearly shows:  2-83.  (Where does the time go??!!)   I wanted to revisit this oldest TSII draft harness, which I remember with great fondness (not counting the truly primordial strap-goods outfits I made for my dapple grey Clydes -- more on those later!).  I apologize for perpetual slowness in blogging, so sorry.  I found and scanned 4 photographs of this old harness and then went and scanned the Scrapbook page about it, with its 2 more.  I have always loved this mare, one of my earliest Special Runs.  Her name is Queenie.

According to her registry card, Queenie arrived in July of 1979.  This was only a month after I'd officially opened my mail-order tack shop, the Timaru Star II.  Back then, Breyer was just venturing into the waters of Special Runs.  The models were available through the mail from select dealers.  You wrote a letter, enclosed a check and snail-mailed your missive off into the void -- Bentley's was the dealer for this particular horse.  The living hands of the Post Offal network carried your order, and the awareness that Chicago was 3 days away from Boulder was common knowledge.  (I have a memory of talking to Peter Stone at some live show in the early 80s, asking for the dapple grey Clyde Foal, to go with the Stallion and Mare.  Needless to say, that foal appeared -- !  though not in the numbers we would have preferred.  Queenie has her baby still.)

I don't have much explanation for why these photos are such different colors, though I've tried hard with PhotoShop to bring them into the 21st C.  I do know this reddish concrete is the south-facing foundation of my Boulder CO home.  The dead grass supports the evidence it was February,... it's a slight mystery why there wasn't any snow.

The hames, tugs, large gold buckles and harness brasses found on this ancestral harness were all imported from England, manufactured by Lenham Pottery.  At the time I was not importing them myself, but getting them from suppliers who did;  Cheryl Albelson's Heather Hills Miniatures was one such.  I knew of no American company who made these things.  The ribbons I did myself, using thin wire.  The cart was also a sort of import;  it was made by the German toy company Steha.  It had appeared in our local toy store with a flocked bay horse on rollers and a fantastic riveted plastic harness -- a lure irresistible to me.  Bagging that cart took me what felt like a year of saving, planning and begging my parents for a supreme gift.  I still have it -- though over the years both shafts broke and I mended them with sheet metal splints and lots of string wrappings.  The green pinstripes, faintly visible, I put on myself with drafting-class graphic tape.

I am pretty sure these two photos were taken on the south lawn of our Boulder house.   I can just barely remember the evergreens in the background. 

There were other harnesses being made at this time;  Queenie's did not exist in a vacuum.  I was making Fine and Pleasure Harness, and I'd gotten hold of another cart, made by Ken and Pam Messman, in c. 1979.  But Queenie's was the first complete Draft harness that I made and kept.   On hers I mastered the padded collar;  it was sewn out of very thin leather and stuffed with sheep's wool.  The bells, visible in the center of the saddle, were what is called 'camel bells,' hung from a wire frame.  I must have gotten those in an early (if not my first) trip to the Tucson Gem Show. 

In February of 1983 the Timaru Star II model tack shop had been a going concern for almost 5 years, and I'd learned how to make harness.  Still, draft harness was a big challenge.  Alongside silver Parade sets, they were the most expensive pieces on the pricelist.  These photos were taken on the front planter.  
Dipping into my first Harness Scrapbook, I find evidence that this cart was in my possession as early as c. 1976.  I copied the Steha harness with a riveted one made out of suede purse leather in c. 1977.  A year later I had a good black lace harness, with a folded leather collar,  on a PAS, with the same wooden cart.  This draft harness was, indeed, my first;  the label on its page tells all:

"Queenie's Harness -- a landmark.  Probably made over the winter of 1982-1983.  Photo dated 2-83.  Brasses from Cheryl Abelson;  buckles and hames gotten through Liz Bouras.  The chest drop, saddle, collar & backdrop are still in existence --- 1992"

Here's a close up:

Hopefully in the future I can share more pages from this Scrapbook.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

More Mink Loot, & Etc.


Of all the many subjects I could blog on -- book work, Florida canoe trips, early TSII harness -- more Mink loot is the simplest, and always fun to boot!   Honestly, I think it's because there's only a few pictures that I'm choosing them -- time seems in short supply this month -- but there's a wide variety of art here.  As ever, a Mink order amazes me with its beauty and inspiration, and this time there's some of her Zazzle product as well.  The 'etc' refers to a news paragraph and couple of pix down at the bottom, after all the pins.  This seems to be a pattern here, so bear with me.

Here's the opening shot (yes that was a pun):

Two Minkiewicz purple padded envelopes, a flat box that happens to be a t-shirt from Spain, and a large yellow envelope with my Zazzle order of placemats for both self and friend.  I'd better explain that the (Draco Ideas) t-shirt is for the wargamer in the house (they really are nice t-shirts, I have some, and they're cheap!), and we'll leave it at that.

Spread out together:

This is the first time I've ordered placemats from Mink's Zazzle.  A dear friend wanted some of the Christmas ones, and I decided to horn in on the order since I'd always wanted one myself.  They are amazingly colorful and plenty big.  I was a little surprised by how thin they are:

but the image is printed on both sides.  They are glossy and smooth, and just how thick do placemats have to be, anyway?  As an added surprise, the image on the back of the one for me was different from the front.

This caused a moment of disorientation, but it was mercifully brief.  Moving on to the pins, I knew one was Dakkaar the Black Pegasus, and the other -- oh joy! -- was my PinUltimate Sale package.  I had decided to invest in these lovelies as trade bait.  Note to Sarah:  You do know that "penultimate" means "next to last,"--??   So this can't really be the last time you pull off such a sale, eh...?  hint, hint,... !

I was very pleased with my luck-of-the-draw.  An Ad Astra!  A purple Runequine -- Talisman 1 no less.  And oh boy, to my almost-shocked amazement, the Manchado Cave Pony -- the very one I'd made myself pass up when I could only buy two, -- but which had been a particularly close third place for me, (behind the Appaloosa and the Rose Grey).  I'd known all along there was a risk of getting one I'd want to keep,... and here it was.

The Quagga sticker was delightfully welcome.  That is a design I've loved -- I think it is very stylish, a classic and timeless Mink.  A glitter sticker, the dragonlike seahorse (hippicanthus, facing downwards) joins my collection.  In traditional recycling fashion, I even saved the PinUltimate sticker on the package... it's hard to outgrow my 1970s training.

The Ad Astra and the Talisman pin will be up for trade.  I am looking for Bastian and Trinka, early Dancing Horses pins.  I also have a Runicorn (gold/blue) and a Sammy for trade or sale.

The Talisman horse has glitter in 3 of the 4 tiny green circles.  You can't see them in the photo, but trust me they're there.   Only the head has none,... maybe because I haven't looked closely enough.

The final pin to be looked at, of course, is Dakkaar, he whom we have waited for since last June.  I swear sometimes I might be buying these pins just so I can try to photograph them!  No, that's not the only reason, but it sure is fun to try.  Dakkaar was particularly challenging because of his color.  Any light that brought out his feathers also risked reflecting in great washout fashion.  I'm not sure how I succeeded.  I do know it took multiple tries.  The first try wasn't too bad.  It got his offside wing:

That blue on his face is not an eye, but a star.  My second try netted the near wing a wee bit better.

This is slow going.  Somehow my third shot stretched out his off wing.  Even distorted, the image is fabulous, unforgettable.  The star really looks like an eye here.

In finale, I'm happiest with my fourth shot.

He is really a remarkable pin.  Thank you, Sarah; and praise to the manufacturer too.  I will always love these.


In other news:

I haven't joined NaMo / InMo, not publicly anyway;  but I have been using the energy and ideas for my own purposes.  Ever since returning from Florida I have been frantic to resume work on my next book.  ("Advanced Braidwork for the Model Horse.")  It took a couple weeks to clear off the decks (I was busy organizing and saving over 1700 emails, for one thing).  Finally a few days ago I started again. 

 The book itself is a braid, combining drawing, text and photographs.  It attempts to cover, in exhausting detail, the construction and techniques of 8 pieces of braided headgear, made by the TSII across 32 years (1984 to 2016).  I'm already worrying about not being done when I hope, which is now November of this year, the 25th anniversary of the Guide to Making Model Horse Tack.  This dream, so long held, is taking precedence over any horse, even Coney Eye the beautiful!  In a way, this reflects the very first NaMoPaiMo for me, in 2017, when I was making a Parade blanket during the month.   I succeeded then, feeling very daring.  This time around I'm happy just to be working on the book at all,...  I finished a Plate (full page drawing) the other day,...  and I'm always happy to see the gorgeous horses that are born during the event.  Yes, I am watching!  Cheers and encouragement for all involved, in whatever way they can be!

We will finish with a single peek at my latest Florida trip.  This is Caxambas, my new Chadwick, surveying his domain down in Collier-Seminole State Park, standing on the prow of the canoe.  He's wearing Fancy's Hackamore, ... one of the 8.

A lot of pictures and movies were taken of our 5 paddle trips last month.  Here's hoping for time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Smoke Alarm Story


Image taken from Google
In the course of our vacations sometimes extraordinary things happen, and I spend hours writing them up.  By hand, on paper!  This particular one was written up in the middle of the night.  When you read it, you'll know why.  

"Room 133   Studio 6, Ocala FL

"2301.19  [January 19, 2023]  11:40pm  Just had one of the strangest adventures in my whole hotel life--!!!!  At about 11:25 (not sure), the room fire alarm started to squeal.  Just 1 peep, but there's no mistaking that sound!!!!  Then again! -- and again!  and again:  ringing peeps, 30 sec. apart.

I was sleeping without earplugs, and woke fully at once:  I don't think I was asleep [in the first place].  The pattern of separate shrieks instead of a continuous bleating was ominous:  it meant the battery was low -- and (if my own smoke-alarms were any guide) the thing would soon degenerate to total screams, continuous.       I smelled no smoke, nor any other strange smell.  The Medify [air filter] was about 8' away.... could that have any impact....??                  ......George [my husband] was still asleep!!  As he is now, poor sweet lamb,..... This is one time when I really am grateful he snores so much,......
... I realized it was our own fire detector.  Terror:  we were keeping everyone up.  In a panic of bravery I got out of bed, dug out the little flashlight from my pants pocket, opened the sliding panel on the detector & took out the batteries  !!!! !!! !!            ------- AND IT STILL SQUEALED -------
Image from Google
This was beyond anything I'd ever heard of.  "KIDDE" built for reals, for war.  There was a button in the center of the device, the only button available.  It had words, raised plastic, on both sides of the button.  Of course this meant that one side (the longer sentence) was upside down.  It is amazing what you can make yourself do in the middle of the night in a strange hotel room, half dressed, by flashlight & on tip toe, with a smoke alarm screaming every 30 seconds.
The shorter sentence said  PUSH TO HUSH.
The longer sentence said  PUSH TO TEST WEEKLY.
So, then,  I tried pushing the button.         My first attempt brought a short burst of 1-seond squeals, about 5 of them;  & then it went back to every 30 seconds.  I concluded I hadn't pushed hard enough, or long enough.
My second attempt was sufficiently long + hard enough to shut it up had it been functioning normally.  Which it wasn't.  I should have realized that, but I didn't.  The device went on peeping, albeit with fainter squeals;  George went on snoring;  and I went over and looked hard at the telephone.          And there it was:   FRONT DESK DIAL 0.              I have never been so glad of old fashioned technology.

 Thinking on one's feet is something one learns to do after 30 years of marriage to George Young.  It is an underappreciated skill by the world,....  but not by him.  😁    After that call, I pulled on my pants (the upper 1/2 already was covered in a buttoned hugshirt, courtesy this place's lack of any blankets) [oh yes & my mask] and slipped out into the hall, which was brightly lit.  I was waiting for "someone," a handyman.

And the world changed.

Image from Google

Voices from behind the opposite door were not smoke-alarmed guests, but arguing bitchy females.  Smoke there now was, but it was the faint stink of stale cigarettes, familiar the world over.  It was night outside.  Worried as I was, there is nonetheless a sweet safety & nostalgia being up at night waiting to be rescued.  I [felt I] was back at CSU in college:  This was familiar ground.

He came sooner than I expected, a youngish Mexican with just the right anxious smile, wearing (I think) a cap (?),  a sign not of servility so much as a badge of authority.  En Rapport.   There can be nothing fundamentally awry when 2 determined people both want the same thing & it is within the reach & knowledge of at least one of them.  Quietly, expertly, he produced an enormous bunch of keys & we slipped into the room;  and he twisted and took down the entire peeping thing, unplugged it & carried it away.  I gave him the batteries and thanked him as best I could.          [His was] another underappreciated skill.

George didn't wake up until 1/2 hr later, at 12:30.  I told him everything was O.K., & he went back to sleep,...  and now I should.
How can we be better allies with so resourceful a class of nations?"

Image from Google

Afterwords:  (January 25).  Note how typing has a different rhythm than handwriting.
I left a large tip at the front desk for the handyman.  The problem here was I couldn't identify him; I hadn't seen his name (or else paid no attention to it), silly me.  The desk clerk and I got it down to two out of three.  Whoever gets it can surely use it.
The lobby of that particular Studio 6 had a bronze model horse on the desk!  a knockoff of the Hartland 9" Saddlebred.  (Under my breath:  I know you!  Sculpted by Alvar Backstrand!)(Later: fact-checking:  Roger Williams sculpted that horse;  Alvar "readied the original metal sculptures for mold-making." [Gail Fitch])  The lobby had an enormous triple-panel painting of horses behind the desk, at least 30 feet up.  Not til now did I make the connection with Ocala.

Next time this happens, I shall know to twist off the detector and unplug it from behind.  There was a smaller plug attachment along its wire umbilicus.      I shan't belabour you with our other family tale of how someone set off the fire alarm in the middle of the night in a Wyoming hotel out of personal spite  (!!!!)  and George and I took that opportunity to go out birding on the prairie at the absolute crack of dawn.  That was a Super 8, in the Before Times, probably early 20teens.
The 'better allies' quote comes from Mares In Black.  Thank you Jackie!  & Heather. 
This makes twice on our [January] trip when we were saved, absolutely saved, by hotel employees.  The first time was my fault [a wrong reservation], but this second time was not.  The two saviours were from opposite ends of the spectrum of hotel employees, but nonetheless saved our bacon.  I can't decide if this is because we're getting older or the world is getting more stressed out, or what.  Of all arts to practice in ageing, being grateful is not the hardest.  I can hope.