Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Native American Portrait with Jan Schoonover

Jan and I just finished up the latest project in the Sculptured Leather Art Lesson Series. Lesson #6 will be a Native American portrait. Jan decided that this picture looks really nice with the natural leather color, so there will be no coloring on this one. Jan's turned out really nice, as usual. I think mine would have turned out better if I'd have had a little more time to work on the detail. While we were waiting for putty to dry, Jan went over the the things he teaches in a hairing class. Tomorrow before I head back for home we're going to go over the steps for creating several different types of horns and antlers. The hair and horns lesson is one of the classes scheduled for the Dimensions in Leather conference coming up in Australia in July.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mountain Lion lesson now available

Lesson #4 in the Sculptured Leather Art Lesson Series with Jan Schoonover is now available for purchase from  the Badlands Leather Art website. In this lesson, Jan teaches all the steps to make a realistic,  3 dimensional portrait of a mountain lion. This ended up being the longest lesson so far but I didn't want to leave anything out. There are several   techniques used to create the different lengths of hair on the lion along with embossing, coloring, and finally, how to add whiskers.

I'll get to work on the next lesson (an eagle) soon and try to have it out before the end of the year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another partnership project

This project began when I saw a pattern in the Great Book of Tattoo Designs by Lora S. Irish. She has a buffalo pattern in the book and the way it was drawn, the hair on the buffalo reminded me of feathers. I liked the idea, so I decided to go ahead and carve a buffalo with feathers instead of hair. The first picture I did was painted and framed and made it's way to a couple of  leather shows. The judges at the first show it went to commented that the hair on the buffalo looked more like feathers. Um...... that's what I was going for!

When I finished the carving, I had a request to show how I did it, so I carved another one and wrote it up as a lesson on I decided instead of finishing the second one myself, it might be fun to get some other people involved in the project. One of my friends suggested that adding some buffalo flying might show that I really did intend for the hair to look like feathers. I asked Kathy Flanagan if she would like to add to the background of my carving and she agreed to give it a try. She carved a buffalo calf laying in  a nest (where else would a winged baby buffalo hang out?) and a small buffalo flying in the background.

After she returned the picture to me, I asked Clay Miller if he would like to add something to the project. He agreed, and drew up a Sheridan style corner pattern and carved it. Thanks Kathy and Clay for playing along. I think projects like this are pretty fun. So this is where the project stands now. The next step is to see if I can find someone interested in coloring it cuz I don't want to attempt it myself. If it gets finished in time, I'm thinking of offering for the raffle at the IFOLG show next fall in Albuquerque, NM.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lesson #5, will be a bald eagle

November is going to be a busy month. Deer season will take up the first three weekends, then our oldest son Dusty will be coming home for Thanksgiving. That won't leave any time for me to go to Billings so I went this past weekend to get started on the next lesson (even though I'm only half through with lesson #4). Jan decided to do a bald eagle for the next lesson. He did his first eagle back in 1996 before he had taken a class with Robb Barr. His first eagle was done with the plug embossing method that Al Stohlman taught. After Jan learned about leather dust and cutting the leather loose from the background, he could get a lot more 3-D effect. This lesson will teach how Jan creates feather texture along with embossing and coloring the eagle. Here's a photo of the eagle picture I created with Jan this weekend. There is still a little touch up work that needs to be done and a few things I'd do different on the next one, but I was really happy with the way it turned out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hot snot on a silver platter

"One minute you're hot snot on a  silver platter, the next minute you're a cold booger on a paper plate."

My son Jake made that comment in a conversation last weekend with Stacy and I.

The  International Federation of Leather Guilds  held their 44th annual show last weekend in St Louis, MO. I didn't get to go to the show this year. I have only had the chance to go to one of these shows, Denver in 2005. I've been sending pieces to the show each year since. This year I entered the grizzly bear picture that Jan taught me how to do last spring and the bugling elk that Kathy Flanagan and I did as a partnership project. Both of these projects took first place ribbons at the show and the bear also took a ribbon for best of category. After the show was over, my friend Kate Dubiel posted a message on Facebook saying "this week you're hot snot".  Well if I was "hot snot" this week, I was in good company!  Kate took a first place with her game board at the show. Kathy took a couple more ribbons in the masters class. Several other friends also took ribbons at the show. Paul and Rosa Zalesak of Leather Wranglers posted  a bunch of pictures on Facebook from the show. Stacy and I are planning on being at the show next year in Albuquerque, NM.

Congratulations to everyone who was "hot snot" this week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brown Trout lesson is now available

I wanted to let everyone here know that lesson #3 in the Sculptured Leather Art lesson series with Jan Schoonover is now available from the Badlands Leather Art website. This lesson is a little different than the first two. Instead of hairing techniques, this one will teach you how to create scales and fins. As in all the lessons in this series, each step will have complete  instructions along with color photos to guide you from start to finish. 

I've begun working on lesson #4 but haven't gotten very far yet. As I mentioned in a previous post, the next lesson will be a mountain lion. I'll try and have it finished by the middle of November. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A busy week off

I had a week off of work, so I spent it catching up on some leather projects. First off, I spent 3 days in Billings with Jan working on lesson #4 in our series of extreme embossed projects. This lesson will cover carving, embossing and coloring a mountain lion. We had hoped that by taking 3 days to do this one, the pace would be a little easier. As it turned out, we ended up working till 9 Thursday and Friday and till 5 on Saturday. We had a little problem with our embossing putty the first day. We had heard that all the boot and saddlemakers were starting to switch over to Petronio's brand rubber cement because of it's strength and fast drying properties. We found out that when it's mixed with leather dust to make putty, it does dry very quickly on the surface, but once it forms a scab on top, it doesn't dry underneath. We waited 2 hours and the putty hadn't even started to dry in the middle. We ended up scraping all the putty out and mixing up a new batch using Barge brand rubber cement. Even with the set back, we ended up finishing up the project on schedule on Saturday.

I spent most of Sunday and Monday finishing up a pair of chinks that my son Jake took an order for. If we're going to do more of these, we really need to get  a sewing machine that works for more than punching holes. It was my first time sewing an inlay into anything and my first time cutting fringe. Overall though, we were pretty happy with how they turned out. Good thing because we both have chaps started for ourselves that need to get finished up one of these days.

And finally, today I finished up the Brown trout lesson, #3 in the series. I'll send it off to Jan in the morning to let him check it out and see if there are any changes he wants made. Then as soon as I hear back from him, I'll get it to Kate and have her put it up on the website and make it available to those of you that have been waiting. Tomorrow it's back to work at my real job.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Latest addition to my leather art collection

Over the last several years I’ve been building a collection of leather art from  artist's whose work I admire. The latest addition to my collection is a piece from Paul Burnett. I’ve been a fan of Paul’s work for a long time. Paul is an amazing artist and teacher. He was the first recipient of the Al Stohlman award. You can see more of Paul’s work at the gallery section of his Painting Cow website. Paul does such a variety of different things with leather it’s hard to choose a favorite, but  his eagle head might have to be my choice. The lessons Paul writes are some of the best instructional material you will find anywhere. On his website,  you can sign up for his free lessons  or order his detailed home study courses,  publications, and kits. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase a variety of feather jewelry carved out of leather and colored to look real.

Finished Tom Beecham ODL Cover piece Photo Shop Modified3 (1)

The  piece that Paul created for me was based on a painting by Tom Beecham that was featured on a past  cover of an Outdoor Life magazine. Paul carved and colored it with his usual amazing attention to detail. It’s a great piece of art and I am proud to have a piece of his work to add to my collection. THANKS Paul!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some more new tools

Earlier this year I posted some pictures of the tooling on an old saddle that belonged to my great grandfather. I am planning on making a saddle similar to this one sometime (I really thought I'd have it started by now). When I mentioned that I would need some new tools to recreate the tooling designs, a couple of my friends offered to help me out.  I showed pictures of the tools that Clay Miller sent to me in an earlier post.  Another friend, Carl Breidenich said he would also like to see if he could make me the tools I needed. I met  Carl on the internet a few years ago and we've helped each other fill in some missing spots in our Craftool collections. Carl also modifies tools to make new designs out of old tools. That's what he did for me. He took a couple Craftool stamping tools and changed the faces of the tools completely. The tools he made work really well. Thanks to my good friends, I've now got the tools I need to tool the designs on my saddle  project. All I need now is some time!

Swivel knife holster

Kathy Flanagan is a master leather artist and teacher from Conifer, Colorado. She has written several articles for the Leather Crafters and Saddlers Journal most recently a mini series on how to carve horses. She has taught classes at the Sheridan and Wickenburg shows. She has also taught at many of the IFoLG shows, Tandy stores, and does numerous classes around Colorado. This fall at the federation show in St Louis, Kathy will be teaching a class on how to make a swivel knife holster. When I was in Rapid City with Kathy last month, she gave me one of these holsters that she is making and it's the coolest thing! The carving is great, the coloring is great, it even has my initials on it. Thanks Kathy for the great gift! Anyone heading to the St Louis show should consider taking Kathy's class. She's a great teacher and a fun person to hang out with.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A trip to the Black Hills

Last weekend, Stacy and I  traveled down to South Dakota where I had been asked to help judge the leather craft at the Central States Fair with my good friend Kathy Flanagan. We arrived in Rapid City a little early so I got to do a little shopping at the Tandy store there and met the new manager. Then when Kathy and her daughter Sheena arrived, we headed straight over to the fair grounds for the judging. Just a couple years ago, there were 3 leather entries in the fair, this year there were 53. We spent the next several hours going over each item, trying to point out what was done well,  what could use improvement, and deciding what ribbons each entry should receive.  Sheena was a big help writing down all our comments. By the time we had finished, we were the only ones left in the room. It must be easier to judge wine and food :o)   There was a lot of really nice leather work displayed in this show. The Dakota Territory Leather Guild should be proud of the job they did with this show.

We got to spend the rest of the weekend wandering around the Black Hills. Saturday morning we took a trip to Bear Country. Bear Country is always a fun place to go. I'm not sure there is anyplace you can see so many animals up close. It was close to 100 degrees there, even early in the morning so the animals weren't doing much but laying around and panting, but it was still fun to see them all.

In the afternoon, we ran back over to the fair for a little bit, then went to Hill City and took a ride on the 1880's train. The train runs from Hill City to Keystone and back and is a relaxing way to spend a few hours enjoying the scenery.

After the train ride, we made a quick trip through Needles Highway and Custer State Park. On our way through the park, we got to see a herd of big horn rams right beside the road.
We wanted to get to tunnels on Iron Mountain Road  before dark. This is a really cool road with 3 tunnels and several cools bridges. The tunnels are located so that when you are driving through them, you can see Mt Rushmore through the tunnel.

We barely made it to the tunnels before dark, so we didn't get a chance to take any good pictures, but here's one from a previous trip. From here, we continued on to Mt Rushmore to see the faces on the mountain lighted up.

Then it was back to Rapid for a late supper. On Sunday, we drove the Nemo road through more of the beautiful Black Hills to Deadwood. We've been wanting to see Kevin Costner's Tatanka center for a couple years but never got through there when it was open. We spent a couple hours there learning about bison and the Lakota indians. They've got a HUGE statue of indians on horses chasing bison over a buffalo jump that is pretty awesome.
By the time we were through there, it was early afternoon and time for all of us to head for home. It was a fun trip just like all our trips to SD have been.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gone Fishin

I spent the weekend "fishing"  in Billings with Jan Schoonover.  Not trying to catch them, but learning how to carve them. On this trip, we worked on a Brown Trout picture. I've never done an embossed fish before so this was new to me and it was a fun lesson. I learned some new  techniques that will be in the next lesson in our series. Once again, it was a marathon session on Saturday getting the carving, texturing and embossing done. It's a pretty good challenge trying to keep up with Jan along with taking notes and pictures for the lesson, but somehow it always works out. I also had to make a quick run over to Montana Leather to pick up a few things. We called it a day around 7 on Saturday (a long day since I had to be up at 3:30 in the morning to get to Billings by 9). On Sunday we did the touch up work on the picture and Jan painted his fish. There is quite a bit of coloring involved in this project but Jan makes it look easy. I didn't color mine as I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything that needed to go into the lesson. I'll color mine when things slow down around here. This coming weekend, Stacy and I are headed to Rapid City where Kathy Flanagan and I are judging the leather work in the Central States Fair on Friday. Then we are going to just hang around in the Black Hills with Kathy for a couple days. That's going to be a lot of fun!

Here's a picture of Jan's completed trout.

And here is a picture of my trout, without any color yet.  Stacy really likes the picture without any color so I will probably end up doing another one so I can have one colored, and one natural. 
Jan and I talked about ways to try and get more feedback on the lessons we are putting out. We'd love to get comments, questions and pictures of people's projects. In order to encourage people to send us pictures of the projects they make from these lessons, we are thinking of having a contest. We haven't worked out the details yet, but what we are thinking of is picking one picture of a completed project from each lesson and that person will receive a free lesson.  I'll post the details on this as soon as we work them out. 

I'll try and have the Brown Trout lesson finished up by mid September. It looks like the next lesson on the list will be a mountain lion, and after that, possibly a buffalo. If things work out, we'd like to get both of those done yet this year. 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Black Bear lesson with Jan Schoonover is now available

The second lesson in the Sculptured Leather Art Lesson series with Jan Schoonover is now available on the Badlands Leather Art website.  This lesson includes 40 pages of detailed instructions and  140 color photographs on  carving, hairing, embossing and coloring  the  black bear.  

We are now accepting checks or money orders as optional payment methods for those of you that don't care to use Pay Pal. We are also offering the lesson on  DVD for people who would rather not have to download it. This should be helpful for people still using a dial up internet connection. The will be an additional $5 charge to get the lesson on DVD to cover additional costs including packaging and shipping.

I'd really like to get feedback on these lessons so that I can make future lessons as useful as possible. Let me know what you think! The next lesson in the series will be a brown trout. I'll head back to Billings in the next couple weeks to get started on it. I am planning on having it ready by the end of September.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cleaning some things off my bench

I've usually got several different things started on my carving bench at one time, and sometimes a couple  in the refrigerator too. This weekend  I decided to see if I could finish up a few things. The first was a cell phone case that my son wanted. We started on this  last weekend. He wanted a phone case that would protect his phone at his new job. He's always got ideas of what he wants and what he doesn't want so it took us some brain storming to get his ideas into something we could actually build. This case gives the phone two layers of leather covering both the front and back of the phone. He didn't want a snap closure so we went through several ideas before coming up with kind of a slot and tab closure. This thing was not a lot of fun to sew up! The case should last a lot longer than most of his phones do.

The next project was to paint the bear from the last lesson with Jan. Jan said this one was quick and easy to paint. I had my doubts, but he was right. I like it a lot better than the first black bear I did with him. I may have to repaint that one too.
(I've tried and tried but I can't get a decent picture of this bear!)

And finally, I decided to finish up the antelope picture. I added some tall grass in the foreground, and did the backgrounding on the picture. I think they are both ready for frames now.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New tools for an old pattern

In an older post, I showed some patterns off of an old saddle I am hoping to replicate. I mentioned that I didn't have some of the tools needed to stamp these patterns. A couple of my friends stepped up and offered to try and make some tools for me. I have some pretty neat friends!! Last Friday I received a package in the mail from Clay Miller, aka Bert. In it were three meander stamps that he had made. Clay acquired the tools that Billy Wooters used when he was making tools. When I asked Bert what I owed him, he told me "they are the first stamps I have ever made so if I become famous they could be priceless LOL..on the other hand if I make lots of them and no one buys them they will be worthless...LOL".  

Judging by Bert's carving, and how he ran the Tandy store in Rapid City, I would bet on him making darn nice tools and I'm proud to have the first ones.  Thanks Bert!!

Here's a practice piece I stamped up to see how they compared to the pattern on the old saddle. I like the look and I'm getting pretty excited to get started on this saddle. If there were only more days in the week!

Black bear lesson will be available soon

I finished  up writing the lesson on the black bear this weekend and mailed a copy of it to Jan today. If he doesn't find anything  major that needs to be changed, the lesson should be available by the end of this week or early next week. I received some pretty good feedback from the people that purchased the first lesson and I really appreciate it. I also got some suggestions on what people would like to see changed or added to future lessons. The second  lesson will include large pictures of what the project should look like at the end of each section. We really want these lessons to be as complete and easy to follow as possible so that anyone who purchases them will be able to follow them and end up with a project they are happy with. As soon as Jan gives me the okay, I'll get this one up on the website.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Figuring out tooling patterns

Every once in a while, I drag out parts of the old saddle I intend to try and replicate and try and figure out how the tooling on it was done. This saddle is probably around 80 years old or more, so the tooling on it is quite different than most modern day saddles. This weekend I was working on the skirts. The leather was old and dried up and the patterns were fairly hard to make out. I cleaned the parts up with lots of water and an old toothbrush (Jake was kind of worried it was his).  Once most of the dirt and grime was off of them, I set them on a towel on the cement floor. I placed a heavy board over them and set severl 5 gallon containers of water on top of the board. Once they dried, they are fairly flat again. Then I applied a heavy coat of Skidmore's Leather Dressing on the parts to keep them pliable. Once they were flat and dry, the tooling patterns are a little easier to see. The top picture shows the border design around a lot of the saddle. I'm going to have to try and find a meander stamp similar to the one used here. I don't have anything like it. The second picture shows a flower design that was tooled into the center of the basket weave on the skirts. I think I've figured out how he did that.

The first step was to draw a circle with a pair of dividers. I then reset the divider and made another circle about 1/8 inch larger around the first circle. Next  I used a small veiner and make a border inside the circle. The points where the veiner impressions come together are used as spacers for the next step. 

A smooth veiner was used to create the flower petals. One tip of the veiner is set in the center of the other veiner impressions, the other tip of the veiner was aimed towards the center point of the flower. I went around the flower making each of the right side impressions first.

Then go back and make the left side impressions.

A stop tool was used where the impressions come together at the bottom.

A pear shader was used to give some depth to the petals and a flower center was stamped in the  middle.

To finish it off, a border stamp was used around the outside of the border.

While I was working on the first pattern,  I had an idea for a second flower. It might be fun to play with this and see how many other variations could be done.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Congratulations to Rex Cook

On June 26, 2010, Rex Cook was inducted into the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame.  Rex taught me how to build saddles a few years ago. He's spent all of his life working with cattle, horses and leather. Congratulations Rex!

To read more about what's new at the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame, check out the Cowboy Chronicle

Born on his parents homestead north of Sentinel Butte in 1928, Rex Cook has come to personify the quintessential “renaissance man”. He broke his first horse at the age of 12 and bought a little bit of ranch land when he was just 14, while working for his neighbor. After graduating high school, he started teaching with an emergency teaching certificate at the Goldsberry country school, situated 45 miles north of Medora.

He entered in the calf-roping and wild horse race contests in his first rodeo that same year—and also announced the rodeo! The course was set: he’d divide his time between rodeo arenas and corrals and schoolhouses. To pay his way through college, he mastered the art of saddle-making. To date, he’s created over 100 saddles and was honored to demonstrate his craft on the state capitol grounds during the 1989 centennial celebration.

After a stint in the Marine Corps Reserve and a hitch with the U.S. Army in Japan, Cook returned to Dickinson and began a career within the Dickinson Public Schools. He also spent a stint as manager of the Dik-ota Clay Products Company.

All the while, he maintained a steady interest in horsemanship and rodeos. He rode, trained and sold cutting horses and promoted team roping as a rodeo event. Along with Tex Appledoorn, he produced the1958-59 ND Team Roping Championship in Belfield. Merle Aus and Jim Jefferies were two of his team-roping partners. 

His knowledge and expertise were conveyed to scores of Dickinson State College students during the 20 years he taught horsemanship classes. Cook also traveled to the Iowa State Fair to co-teach horse training clinics. He judged countless horse shows throughout the tri-state area and as far away as North Carolina.

Cook is a member of the North Dakota and National Cutting Horse associations, and is a past member of the NDRA, AQHA, U.S. Team Roping Association and Wrangler Roping Association. During the 2007 Dickinson’s Roughrider Days Rodeo, Cook was presented with the Rodeo-Rancher of the Year Award.

At present, he serves on the boards of the North Dakota Council on the Arts and the Theodore Roosevelt Nature & History Association. He and his wife, Ann, also an educator, raised two children and continue to reside in Dickinson.

In the Arts and Entertainment Division, two were nominated, one was selected.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Carving pattern for next saddle

This picture shows the seat from  the old saddle I am going to try and replicate. The saddle had sat in an old garage here  on the ranch for as long as I can remember. It was in really bad shape, leather all dried out and chewed on by rodents, part missing, etc. I took it all apart and started cleaning up the pieces, hoping to be able to get some carving patterns off of them. I started with the seat. I soaked it down really well, then worked in saddle soap and scrubbed it with an old toothbrush. It actually cleaned up well enough to see the tooling fairly well.

I didn't  know how easy it would be to copy the carving pattern off of the old leather, but someone suggested trying to do a rubbing. I had my doubts, but it worked fairly well. The pattern showed up in the rubbing very faintly, but by putting it on my light box, I could trace over the lines.

The pattern  has quite  large flowers and leaves seen on  many older style saddles. One of the things  I found interesting on this old pattern is the double line border on the flowers. There is also some interesting use of tools on the carving that I will try and replicate when I carve the new parts. I'll post more patterns as I get them copied off the old leather.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chap tops with color

Here's something new I started working on over the weekend. Jake was making a pair of chaps and while I was going through patterns and sides of chap leather, I decided to work on a pair myself. It was kind of fun to get back to carving something that I am really comfortable doing, carving oak leaves. The oak leaf/basketweave pattern is similar to one I used on one of my saddles. Just for something different, I decided to add some fall colors to the leaves.

I colored the leaves with Tandy's eco flow dyes. I really like how these dyes work and how easily the colors blend. I also used them for the background. As soon as I was done with the coloring, I oiled the whole piece with neatsfoot oil. That was a little scary as I didn't know how the oil would work with the dye, but it was fine. After letting the oil soak in for about an hour, I added a couple coats of Neat Lac as a sealer. Let that dry for about 10 minutes and then added a coat of Fiebing's medium brown antique paste. Then for a final finish, a coat of Tan Kote. I know most people would have taken a lot more time to do the coloring process, but I get really impatient when it comes to the coloring. The results were pretty much what I had in mind when I started, so I was pretty happy. The fun part for me is done. Not sure when I'll get around to sewing them up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black bear for Lesson #2

Here's Jan's completed  black bear from last weekend. This is a bear pattern that Jan first did back in 1999 and entered in the IFOLG show in Denver where it took best of show. When things slow down around here, I'll start working on writing up the lesson. It's amazing how fast Jan can get one of these projects finished in the marathon sessions we do for these lessons. We worked close to 12 hours on the bear on Saturday, then finished up the embossing Sunday morning.  Jan colored his in the afternoon. I just watched, asked questions, and took a lot of notes and pictures of the coloring process. I'll probably write up the lesson before I do the coloring on mine.

It's been a long week!  Monday night it rained a LOT!!  We started to get some water in the basement and ended up spending most of the night trying to clean up the mess. Finally got to bed around 4:30 AM and was back up at 6:30 to head to town for a new sump pump. After a full day at work, Stacy and I went out for her birthday supper in town. That was the best part of the day!  I still don't think we've caught up on our sleep.

Jan wanted me to let everyone know that he's available to teach lessons one on one in his home in Billings, MT or he'll travel to teach classes. If he has to travel very far, he needs a minimum of 10 students and a 2 days class will run about $185 per person.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tornado in Billings

I spent the weekend in Billings with Jan Schoonover, working on a black bear project for the next lesson in our series. We finished up around 3:30 and then I had to do some quick shopping before I headed for home. Once that was done, I went to fill the car up with gas. As I was going into the station, a man sitting outside asked me if I had been watching those clouds. He said he was pretty sure they were going to turn into a tornado. By the time I came back out, the storm sirens were going off.  Most of the clouds were off to the west and I was headed east so I decided to take off. I called Stacy and was telling her about the strange clouds when a funnel cloud dropped out of the sky. It was off to the north of the interstate maybe a half mile. Most of the cars and trucks on the road were pulling over to watch and take pictures. I decided to just keep going. I could see the funnel cloud for a few miles as I was driving, but I couldn't tell that it had touched down. I stayed ahead of the storm most of the way home, but passed through several bouts of heavy rain and lightning. When I got back to Belfield, my daughter was at the gas station and she told me it was a good thing I had left when I did because a tornado had gone through Billings. That's when I first learned that it had caused some major damage. When I got home, Stacy showed me several videos on the computer people had taken of the storm and the wreckage. The Metra park where most of the damage was done isn't all that far from where Jan and Alice live. I just got off the phone with Jan and he said they didn't receive any damage, but did get 2 1/2 inches of rain and some small hail. Thankfully, there were no reports of serious injuries.  You can see more about the storm that went through Billings here.

I'll make another post soon on the black bear project Jan and I worked on while I was there.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finally finished painting my antelope

Since I didn't go to Billings last weekend to start the bear lesson, I took some time to finish up the painting on the antelope we did for the first lesson. It seems like I really need to be in the mood to paint if I want it to turn out. I had done some painting on it before, but felt the shading needed more work. I decided to use some of the tips Jan had given me when we painted the grizzly, and I felt like they really worked well in this. The tips were fairly simple, darker shades in the shadows and lighter shades for the highlights give more depth and shape to a painted project. I am pretty happy with how this turned out. I haven't sealed the picture yet as I still think I'd like to add some background scenery to the picture, but I haven't decided what yet. Here's how it looks now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lesson #2 postponed

I was supposed to be in Billings this weekend working on the black bear lesson with Jan, but he called last night to tell me he had taken a fall and broke a rib. He was in quite a bit of pain but in good spirits. He asked if we could put off starting the lesson until next week or the week after. He is very disappointed in having to put it off, but I think everyone will understand. Next weekend is Stacy and my anniversary and we were planning to do something together to celebrate but we aren't sure exactly what yet. So right now the plan is to start the bear lesson on the weekend of the 19th and 20th. The week after that Jan is headed to Pennsylvania to teach a class on embossing a wolf head.

After spending a couple days crawling around on rafters this week, I was looking forward to a weekend of sitting safely in front of a bench pounding on leather. I guess I never thought much about how falling down in your shop could break a bone too. Still, it's not nearly as scary as balancing on a 2x4, swinging a hammer at a nail while staring at the ground 30 feet below.

Being I was home for the weekend, Jake and I worked with the young horses again today. We rode them both in a bigger pen and they are coming along really well. They learn quickly and seem to enjoy being ridden. We're planning on another session tomorrow. The weather has been almost perfect here this past week for being outside. We are thinking of a taking a hike tomorrow morning to take some pictures in the badlands. I'm not sure when the last time was that they have been so green. We might do a little work on our saddles tomorrow too if we have some time.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Not a lot of time for leather working

I haven't posted anything new on here in a while. It's been kind of busy here at our house the last few weeks. My son Jake graduated from high school a little over a week ago. A lot of my family came up to attend graduation and spend a little time with us. My oldest son Dusty was here for 2 weeks. It was great having him home again. We haven't seen him very many times since he moved to Salt Lake City where he's been living and working the last couple years. My parents, my sister and my younger brother and his kids were also here for a few days. It was nice to see all of them too!

Our weather has finally gotten nice which brings yard work along with it. I haven't been doing much in the way of leather work, but I did manage to make Dusty a plain black belt while he was here, and since the first one ended up being a little too small, Jake now has one too :o) The are both talking about wanting ranger style belts too, so there may be some more belts to make. We haven't gotten very much farther on the saddle projects either. We did cut out Jake's stirrup leathers (again). We realized after cutting the first ones that they should have been longer if he wants them laced instead of having buckles. They are now hanging from the basement ceiling with weights to take the stretch out of them.

We did finally get a chance to start working with our new horses. On Sunday evening we got on both Biscuit and Buttercup for the first time and were pleasantly surprised at how well that went. No rodeo!! They both seem to be pretty quick learners. Jake took a few pictures while I was saddling the horses and a couple close ups that I asked him to take.

One that turned out really neat was a close up of an eye. You can actually see him taking the picture in the reflection, along with some of the corral in the background. I'm thinking that will go into the "someday I might have to try this on leather" file. It might be a while cuz that list is getting pretty long. I'll also be starting on a new lesson with Jan Schoonover pretty soon. This one will be a black bear. I've done that one before, so the class will be a nice refresher for me, and I can really concentrate on getting pictures and notes taken. We sold a few of the antelope lessons and the people that have bought them seemed really pleased. I'm looking forward to seeing pictures of their projects using the lessons.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sculptured Leather Art Lesson #1 now available

I'd like to announce it here first. The first lesson in the Sculptured Leather Art series is now available on my website. This lesson will teach you Jan Schoonover's techniques on how to carve, emboss and color a pronghorn antelope. The lesson includes a tracing pattern, list of materials and tools needed, and complete instructions with text and color pictures (over 120 of them!).

These lessons will be in the form of PDF files, downloadable to your computer. Cost for the lessons in this series will be $25 USD and payment can be made through Paypal. I'd really appreciate feedback on these lessons from anyone that purchases them. I also welcome any questions you might have.

We'll start working on the second lesson in the series in early June and plan on having it available around July 15th. Lesson #2 will be on a black bear.

For those of you attending the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade show this week in Sheridan, Jan will have a printed copy of the lesson at his booth available for viewing. I've made a few revisions since he got his copy, but it will still give you a pretty good idea of what is contained in the lessons.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rex Cook nominated for ND Cowboy Hall of Fame

I just found out that Rex Cook, who taught me how to build saddles, has been nominated for induction to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Leaders of Ranching and Rodeo Division. Nominees selected will be inducted into the hall of fame June 26th, 2010.

You can read more about the nominees at the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame website. There was also an article about Rex's nomination on page 5 of the May issue of the Prairie Arts Newsletter

Congratulations Rex on your nomination and good luck in the selection process!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Coming soon!

Back in the middle of April, I went to Billings and took a class with Jan Schoonover on how to create an embossed pronghorn antelope. I had taken this same class a few years ago, but this time we had an agenda. Jan and I are going to put together a series of lessons geared at teaching the techniques he has developed over the years to create his extreme embossed leather pictures.

Since taking that class, I have been working at writing up the first lesson in the series. For some reason, I was having some trouble getting started on this one. Last weekend I decided to try it the way I've written lessons in the past. I started carving a new antelope project and just wrote as I was going. It didn't take long to get into the swing of it, and I got past the writers block I was having. Thursday it rained and snowed all day and Friday it snowed on and off, so I had both days off from work. I spent then both days working on the lesson, and it's just about finished. It just needs a little more proof reading by new eyes to pick out any errors I might have made. I printed out a copy of what it looks like right now and mailed it to Jan. He wanted to have a copy to show people in his booth in Sheridan in a couple weeks. Our plans right now are to make these lessons available as PDF files downloadable off the internet. To keep the cost down, we'd like to not have to print them out, but I haven't ruled that out completely yet. As soon as we get things set up on my website to start selling the lessons, I'll make an announcement. Hopefully it wont be too far in the future. Once we get things going, we'd like to be able to offer a new lesson every 6-8 weeks. It'll mean a lot of trips to Billings for me in the next couple of years, but it's a project I'm really excited to be part of.

Each lesson will contain fully illustrated instructions for completing a new project. The first lesson has 32 pages of instructions that cover the tooling, hairing, embossing and coloring processes, including over 120 color photographs. Hopefully I didn't leave anything out :o)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Saddle trees arrived, and what's new.

Our saddle trees arrived Saturday from Rod and Denise Nikkel. They look great. I'm excited to get started on them, but not as excited as Jake is. He started on his Sunday afternoon! I've got a dozen things to finish up before I can get started on mine and there just isn't enough time in a day.

We started working on a new building last week and it's a lot closer to home. I wont miss the 3 hour a day drive that we have been doing since last fall. That should give me some more time to get things done. The lady we are working for now had to horses in the corral that she decided Jake could have, so add more things to the to-do list. Both horses are 3 year olds and just halter broke. If it's nice out on Sunday, we'll probably have a rodeo here!

I've been writing up a lesson on the antelope class that I took a few weeks ago with Jan Schoonover. I'd really like to get this finished up, but it's taking longer than I expected it to. I didn't realize how many pictures I took at this class, but I didn't want to leave anything out. Jan would like to have a copy of the lesson available to show people at his booth in Sheridan. Kate Dubiel is helping me re-do my website and add some features so that we can offer the lesson (and future ones) for sale as downloadable PDF files. I still haven't finished the coloring on my antelope from the class, and I started carving another one as I was writing the lesson to help me get past some issues I was having with writer's block. I have a partially finished bear that could use a lot more attention too!!!

My grizzly bear and elk arrived home from the show in Indiana. I was kind of nervous to see what he looked like after his trip, but the damage wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. The scratches are pretty minor and I think I can fix them up pretty easily. The best of show trophy that Roz made is really neat. I'll have to take a picture of it one of these days. Roz comes up with some of the most imaginative ideas I've ever seen.

We'll that's it for this update. Have a great week everyone.

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.