Monday, April 26, 2010

Toolers of the Cowibbean

The Calumet Area Leather Guild held the annual spring show this past weekend in Michigan City, Indiana. I entered a couple of my leather projects in the show. One was the bugling elk that I carved and Kathy Flanagan painted. It took first place in the partnership class in the masters division of the show.

My other entry was my grizzly bear. When I mailed the pictures to the show, the bear ended up falling out of the frame and getting scratched up. I was going to pull it out of the competition but Brent Howard (president of the CALG) really wanted it in the show, scratches and all. It ended up taking first place, best of catagory and best of show in the advanced division. I owe Brent a BIG thank you for insisting that I allow it in the show. This is my first ever best of show and I'm pretty happy!

The little pirate statue is the best of show trophy and was made by Roz "the dragon lady" Kaohn. Roz has her very own style when it comes to leather art and she comes up with the most unique ideas.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh give me a home....

Where the buffalo roam

Where the deer.....

and the antelope play....

Stacy and I spent the morning in Custer State Park in South Dakota today. We went out really early, before it clouded up and started to snow. The animals must have known something was coming and they were out every where we went.

I think this bighorn sheep ewe would have crawled right in the car with Stacy if we'd have opened the door.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ups and downs

In the past few days there's been some really good stuff going on, and some not so great stuff. Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4:30 (not so good) but it was the start of another trip to Billings for another class with Jan Schoonover. It was a beautiful day for a 300 mile drive across North Dakota and Montana. When I left home, I could just make out the shapes of a herd of mule deer grazing in our hayfields. By the time I got to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it was light enough to see several large herds of buffalo and elk grazing close to the interstate. I stopped to take a few pictures, but they didn't turn out all that great. After I got going again, there were more elk in a draw that would have made really great pictures, but I figured I couldn't stop every half mile or I'd never get there. There were also wild horses, deer and turkeys out grazing on the new shoots of green grass that are just starting to grow. Made getting up that early feel a little more worth it. The farther west I went, the greener it got. Montana is just pretty most any time I drive through it with all it's different landscapes, river bottoms, badlands, rim rock hills, the foot hills of the mountains off in the distance. Another really nice thing about Montana, there wasn't any wind. I'm surprised North Dakota hasn't blown right off the map these past couple weeks!

I arrived at Jan's house around 10:30 in the morning. Our project for the weekend was a pronghorn antelope. I've done an antelope with Jan before, but we are working on a project together and this is the first step. I was busy taking pictures and notes AND trying to keep up, but kept falling behind. We ended up working until about 8:30 Saturday evening. We got all the carving, hairing and most of the embossing embossing finished up.
Here's how my antelope looked at the end of the first day. On Sunday we finished up the putty in the scars and behind the horns, did some touch up work and painted our antelope. Well, Jan painted his and I watched, taking lots of pictures and notes. I always fall behind during the painting so I wanted to just watch what he was doing. When he was finished, he said "now it's your turn". I did start on mine, but I kept noticing there were some things about my antelope I didn't like so Jan showed me how to fix them. That's the really nice part about a class like that. Jan has done so many of these, he knows how to fix most any mistake. I'll try and get my painting finished one of these days.

Here's what Jan's antelope looks like finished, and mine not finished :o)

Last time I was at Jan's, he tried to sell me a picture he had done a couple years ago of two wolves. It's a really nice picture. Stacy and I both like it a lot, but it was a large picture and we just don't have a place for it. So this time when I was there, Jan offered to sell me a smaller version of the same picture. This is one he did back in 1997 and had hanging in his workshop. So now I have a new addition to my collection.

So all of that went pretty well. Then I get an email from Brent Howard last night telling me my grizzly bear didn't fare so well on his trip to the show in Indiana this coming weekend. I've had a pretty sick feeling in my stomach ever since. I thought I had it packed well enough to withstand anything the post office could throw at it, but I guess I underestimated them. Somehow the picture came loose from the frame and the nails on the back of the frame scratched up the front of the picture. Brent sent me some pictures of it, and it's not terrible, but it's not good either. Hopefully I'll be able fix it again when it gets back home.

Okay, that's it for now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why buy real leather?

I know, it doesn't look all that great anymore, but I made this belt around 1980. It was the first ranger style belt I ever made. I never cared for the tooling pattern that much, and the buckle really doesn't fit, but I've been wearing it as an everyday work belt for the last 20 years or so in all the elements that mother nature can throw at it. The tooling is just about worn off in places and a couple of the stitches holding the billets on wore through about a year ago, but it still does it's job just fine. I gave it a coat of Skidmore's Leather Dressing yesterday and replaced the stitching on the billets and it's probably got several more years in it. How many of those $5 belts from Wally World are gonna hold up like that?

They're all grown up!

Last night was the high school prom. It's hard to believe my kids are all grown up. Jake will be graduating in about a month, Jessi is a junior. Dusty will be 22 next month and just moved into his very own apartment in Salt Lake City. All three of them are really great kids and we couldn't be prouder of them!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's getting green in ND

Well, it's not as green outside yet in ND as some things are here in the leather shop. Bonnie asked how my little horsey project was going a few days ago. I found my last attempt at it on my bench today buried under some other stuff. I didn't realize I had left it there in a plastic bag. OOPS!! It sure is a pretty shade of green. This is the second time that has happened on this project. I guess next time I start on it, I need to stick with it until I'm done. I am going to give it (at least) one more try. I'm just not ready to admit to Silva that this is out of my league yet. Hint to self, when you put it in a plastic bag, put it in the fridge!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Back in the shop

Well I finally made it back into the leather shop. It's been about 3 weeks since I got home from Billings and today was the first day I've had the time and the ambition to work on something. I cut out a piece of leather so that I could start on another grizzly bear. I want to do another one on my own to see if I remember what Jan taught me. I've got lots of pictures and some notes to follow. I got the pattern traced, cut, beveled and over half of the hairing done and it's all coming back to me fairly well. I am seeing places where I could have taken better notes, so I'll be adding to them as I go. Hoping to get a little more done today unless I decide to go for a ride with Jake, or a drive with Stacy. Looks like it's going to be another really pretty spring day outside.

I had a message from Denise Nikkel a few days ago giving me a progress report on my saddle tree order. Rod had them done "in the wood" and they were getting coats of varnish. It sounded like the rawhiding might get started this weekend. Rod and Denise have been really great to work with. Rod called me when I placed my order and went over everything to make sure we were both on the same page. That helped me out quite a bit since this is the first custom tree order I've ever made. Rod seems like a really nice guy and we talked about a lot of things besides the saddle trees. It was interesting to learn a little about his background and where they live up in Canada. Then once they actually started working on the trees, Denise called me one day to talk about some changes. There were some things that they thought might not look quite right trying to replicate a really old style tree to fit on a more modern horse. They had some ideas as to how to fix this problem and wanted to make sure I was okay with the changes. Having that communication going encourages me that this project is going to turn out really well. It was fun talking to Denise too. We've known each other for a couple years through the forum on, but this was the first time we've actually talked, and we talked about a lot of things. Rod and Denise are going to have a booth this year at the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show in Sheridan. I wont be able to make the show this year because Jake is graduating from high school that weekend, but I hope some time in the future I get the chance to meet them in person. Check out their website, .

And while I'm plugging websites, check out my friend Kate Dubiel's new business website, Studio 2-Dawgs. Kate's website design business is a year old now (but her experience is a lot longer than that!), and she's finally had time to get her own website up and running.

Okay, time to go see how the bear is doing. Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Conversation with Bob Beard

I called Bob Beard Monday evening to order some tools that I'm going to need sometime in the future. Bob makes (in my opinion) the nicest leather tools you can get anywhere. I first met Bob when I took a class with him the first time I went to the show in Sheridan. I really like Bob's style of leather carving, and his classes are a lot of fun. Even if he didn't teach anything, it's worth going, just to hear all Bob's stories.
Bob just returned home from the 3rd annual extreme leather workshop. He's got quite a busy travel schedule planned for the coming year. That's part of the reason that he's about 13 months out on new tool orders.
Bob is going to be headed to the spring show in Michigan City, Indiana. Then he'll be off to the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show in Sheridan, WY in May. This summer he plans to do classes in LA and Washington. Later this fall Bob will be headed to the International Federation of Leather Guilds show in St Louis, MO and the Boot and Saddle Makers Roundup in Wichita Falls, TX. If you get a chance to make it to any of these events, be sure to stop by and see Bob.

During our conversation, Bob informed me that Rhea Trevino of Trevino Leathers in the Black Hills of SD had passed away last week. Stacy and I met Rhea last spring at the show in Sherdian. Rhea was a really nice guy and we spent most of an hour talking to him. He was wearing one of the really cool vests that he made at his shop. It was sad to hear that Rhea is gone, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Check out Bob Beard's website, for examples of his work, info on classes he teaches, lessons, 0r to find out more about the great leather carving tools he makes.