Saturday, February 27, 2010

This week

It's been kind of a busy week. It started out with Monday being my birthday. I got to celebrate by pouring concrete in the morning and hanging sheet rock in the afternoon at work. The concrete didn't set up very quickly so I didn't get home from work until around 8:30 in the evening. Stacy made up for a not so fun day with a really yummy steak on the grill and a new swivel knife from Paul and Rosa at Leather Wranglers.

Here's a picture of my new black knife along side my old(er) purple knife. The new knife has a really thin 1/8th inch angle blade. I'm looking forward to trying it out when I start over on that tiny picture project from Silva (the last attempt got taken over by some really nasty mold!) I think I've mentioned it before but I'll do it again, cuz this is my blog and I can :o) Paul and Rosa are a couple of the nicest people you're ever gonna meet anywhere, and Paul makes a really nice swivel knife. The colors are fun too. My new one is called Badlands Black. Kinda fitting, don't ya think?? If you haven't checked out the "featured artists" page on their website you should. They have a lot of great leather carvers featured there. It's been awhile since I've checked it out and see that my good friend Kathy Flanagan is on there now too. Kathy does some awesome carving, guess that's why they added her there.

I've also been spending some time this week working on ordering a couple saddle trees from Rod and Denise Nikkel. It's been a learning experience for me. On all the other saddles I've made, I had Rex order the trees for me, or I just used a stock tree from Bowden Saddle Tree company. For the saddles Jake and I are planning on making, we've decided we'd like a top of the line tree, and from what I've heard, Rod and Denise make those. They have a LOT of information on saddle trees, measurements and saddle fit on their website and Jake and I have spent a lot of time studying it. We also ordered the Dennis Lane Horseback Measuring System. The measuring card system arrived just in time for me to get our horses back's measured before I leave for Billings tomorrow. I had a chance to use the cards yesterday and it was really interesting. They were easy to use and it was kind of fun. Figuring out what kind of tree to order has been really intimidating for me in the past but I think with these cards it will be a lot easier. I talked with Rod on the phone today and it sounds like he now has all the info he needs to start working on our trees. He walked me through some of what he does and it was really nice to talk to him. I've known Denise for a while now through, but this was the first time I've talked to Rod. They are another really nice couple and I'm looking forward to working with them.

Tomorrow I'll be headed out for Billings, MT for my 2 week class with Jan Schoonover. I'm really looking forward to that but I'm really going to miss Stacy and my kids. It'll be the longest time I've ever been away from them. Stacy is planning on meeting me in Billings next weekend and that will help. I'll try and post my progress on my project with Jan here on my blog at least every couple days.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jake's belt finished

Here's a couple pictures of Jake's finished belt. I think it turned out really well for a first belt. I don't know that I could have done much better. The basket stamp is from Hidecrafter's pro series and the border stamp is a Hackbarth. Finish is oil, neat lac, medium brown antique and tan kote. Then we gave it a coat of Skidmore's Leather Cream. Best of all, it fits!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jake starts a belt

A couple days ago Jake said he needed a new belt so I took out a side of belt leather and told him to go for it. We cut out a strap long enough to make 2 belts in case he wanted to practice. He found a basketweave stamp he liked and started practicing on a left over piece of the strap. Then he went on a started on his first belt. I dug out my copy of Jeff Mosby's basketweave tutorial (you can find it here 0n the PSLAC website) It wasn't long and he had completed the first strap and had done a better job on it than I did on my first one for sure. The impressions weren't real deep and sharp so we decided to case the other strap and stick it in the fridge until he had time to work on it. Tonight he finished up the stamping on the second one and it's looking really good. I might just have to see if I can get him to make me a new belt. I hate making belts! Here's a picture of him stamping away. The cat is there for moral support I think. I'll post a picture of the belt once it's finished.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Some old stuff

I was cleaning up my workshop today and when I got all the way to the bottom of the pile of stuff on my bench, I found a computer disk. I had no idea what was on it so I popped it in and took a look. There were over a thousand pictures I had taken from classes, shows, and old work I had done from as much as 15 years ago.

This first picture is of several checkbook covers, a wallet and a small notebook. Back in 1994 when our kids were little, Stacy got a job at a local convenience store in town. She worked evenings so when the kids went to bed, I dug out my leather tools and started carving checkbooks. In the 3-4 hours a night that I was alone I could stamp out a checkbook cover. Then the next night I could put one together. By the time I got tired of checkbook covers, I had 25 in a box. I sold a few of these over the next several years, gave some away as gifts and donated a few to charity benefits. The small notebook is one I carried around in my pickup for a long time. The wallet was my first attempt at anything close to Sheridan style carving. It was an entry for a contest held by the International Internet Leather Guild back when I was a member.

Fast forward to 2001. I got the pattern for this picture out of one of the kid's coloring books. I think they got the book from a national park we had visited.

This next picture is of a sunflower. I think the idea for the design came from an old Doodle Page. It was colored with acrylic paints and is one of the first carvings I was ever pretty pleased at how the coloring turned out. The thing that made this project memorable to me is that when I posted a picture of it on the internet, I got an email response from Peter Main complementing me on the coloring. He also sent me a couple sketches to show me how I could improve the pattern. I printed out that email and keep it next to the pattern in my folder. Peter has helped me with a couple patterns since that time and I am really grateful that he has taken the time to help me improve my work.

I gave this picture to my mom and it hangs in her house.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Upcoming projects

I've got a couple projects coming up that I'm really excited about. The first is a class I'm going to be taking with Jan Schoonover. Jan has offered to teach me how he created his amazing grizzly bear. I think this is the project is the definition of "Extreme embossing". Several years ago this picture on the World Leather Debut in Sheridan, Wy. I'll be traveling to Billings, MT and spending 2 weeks with Jan in March learning the secrets to how he created this work of art. I'm really excited and honored that he has chosen me to be the person he wants to pass this on too.

I'm also in the planning stages of another big project. My son has recently decided that he wants to learn how to make a saddle. We've decided to apply for a grant from the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program from the North Dakota Council for the Arts for funding for the materials he will need to build a saddle. It's kind of "iffy" as to whether we'll be approved or not, but even if we aren't, we are going to go ahead with the project. Jake would like to make an old time saddle similar to the last one I made myself in this apprenticeship program. We are in the process of trying to figure out what kind of tree we will need to order. We are going to be ordering the tree for this project from Rod and Denise Nikkel from Valleyview, AB, Canada. Rod and Denise have a lot of info on their saddle trees on their website and we are studying it trying to learn as much as we can, and we are going to be asking a lot of questions. We have also ordered The Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System for Measuring Ridden Horses to help us determine how to order a tree that will fit our horses properly. I am really looking forward to working with Jake on this project and I think I am going to learn a lot at the same time. I've decided that while he is making his first saddle, I am going to be building a saddle too. I've got an old worn out saddle here that belonged to my great grandfather and I've decided that I am going to try and build a saddle that will replicate that one. That saddle was made by a now defunct local saddle shop called Sentinel Butte Saddlery. I am going to have a tree made that will be as similar to the old one as possible. I have most of the old leather from that saddle so I will try and replicate the pieces. I'll also try and replicate the carving patterns from those pieces of leather. I think it will be really fun to try and recreate a piece of history that belonged to the man that homesteaded the ranch that we live on over 100 years ago.

I've also got some other smaller projects to work on so it should be a really busy leather year!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Carving on the mountain lion is finished (I think)

I had Friday off this week so I spent most of the day working on finishing up the mountain lion carving. I was having a lot of trouble with the grass and the background. In the pattern, Robb had the background in between the grass colored in black and it looked pretty nice like that. I thought that to get the same effect, I'd use a checkered backgrounder for the parts between the grass blades and more of a matting backgrounder around the lion. I piddled around with the checkered background for what seemed like days and finally decided to give up on it. Instead I used the matting backgrounder (294) on the whole picture. By going over the checkered background with the other one, it left that part a couple shades darker and I like that look. If I ever do this picture again there are some things I'd probably change. I'd like the blades of grass to be a little wider and maybe fewer. I think that would make the carving go a lot quicker and also make the grass blades a lot easier to lift and shape. I didn't apply sealer to this picture yet because that would limit Kate in her options in coloring it. I am really interested to see how the grass blades look once they are shaped though. I know Kate is going to do some great stuff with this picture.

I had hoped to have a chance to work on Silva's pattern again this weekend, but other things got in the way. I ended up spending Saturday helping a neighbor work cattle until well after dark. I had promised to do a post a couple how-to's on so I worked on those today. The first was on how I did the hair on an elk I carved a few years ago. Here's the original picture I worked from, and the leather carving I created from the picture.

The second how-to was a demo on how to carve a feather. Leather feathers are a good way to use up smaller scraps of leather. They are fairly simple to make and can look quite realistic when painted. Here's the sample I made for the demo (it's not been painted yet).