Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cowgirl Shepherd...In the Leather Shop

I am blessed, there is no doubt.  I've been fortunate to get to know a great horse trainer and leather worker, and am thankful to call him my friend.  He's taught me many things over the years, and recently he's taken me under his wing and helped me learn a little about leather work.  

Concentrating on the saddle

Horsemen know what they want in a saddle because they spend their days earning a living in them.  Talented, crafty sorts turn out beautiful works of art.  I can attest to the fact that once you've watched one being built, you'll never question the cost on a custom crafted saddle again.  NEVER.

Fitting the leather over the rawhide tree

It starts with a rawhide covered wood tree.  Don't let the salesman fool you into believing that fiberglass is better.  It's cheaper.  It's lighter.  But it's not better.  Wood and rawhide move with your horse, and they'll outlast the fiberglass, too.

Leather is cut from a heavy weight hide.  Heavy hides cost more.  Heavy hides, obviously, weigh more.  Heavy hides last longer.  Much longer.  Skirts and pommel pieces, jockeys, cantles, and fenders.  The list goes on.  Lots of leather, lots of cutting.  Lots of piecing together.  Nails and glue and lacing.  

Tools of the Trade

Depending on the saddle and customer, different designs are stamped or tooled into the leather.  This takes some planning and a lot of pounding.  The leather is wetted prior to working with it so that the impression will be deep enough to last.

The finished product

In the end, a beautiful piece of western art has been created to last many decades.

Would that I were able to create a saddle.  For now, I'm working on smaller projects.  Some are simple, yet functional, like split leather reins.  Others are a little more complicated, like the trophy headstall below.

But what I've really been enjoying are the little leather hand bags I've been working on.  Each one is hand cut, with hand cut and stamped leather handles.  Some are dolled up with pretty conchos, like this brindle bag.

I think my favorite bag to date is the leather and hair on hide bag with it's hand painted western floral design.

Yes, indeed, when I'm not out photographing something, I believe the leather shop is my favorite place to be (well, aside from on the back of a horse, of course!)

Happy Trails!