Sunday, January 30, 2011

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program

It's once again time to apply for grants to the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program through the ND Council for the Arts. Each year this program allows master craft persons to pass on their knowledge and skills to apprentices wishing to learn traditional skills. Grants are available for up to $2500. Over the years, grants have been made available to artists in the following crafts: Dakotah storytelling, Vietnamese embroidery, Czech Easter egg decorating, Armenian copper bas relief work, blacksmithing, saddle construction, German-Russian willow basketry, Hidatsa quillwork, Sudanese music, Norwegian Hardanger embroidery.  For more information on the program, follow these links. 

I've had the opportunity to participate in this programs as an apprentice twice in the past. Both times, I was learning saddle making skills from a local saddle maker, Rex Cook. Rex has participated many times in the program helping eager apprentices learn the art of making a saddle. Rex now serves on the Board of Directors of the ND Council for the Arts and just this past year was inducted into the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Several other states have similar programs to the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. You can find out what your state may offer by doing a Google search.  

Below are the saddles that I made through this program  under the supervision of Rex Cook.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

DIL flyer

Peter Main just sent out this flyer for the Dimensions in Leather Conference

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dimensions in Leather

Cherryl sent out a newsletter yesterday for Dimensions in Leather, introducing me as a substitute teacher for Jan Schooonover at this years conference. . The website for Dimensions in Leather was updated last week too. I guess it's official now.  I remember how  substitute teachers got treated back when I was in school, and  I'm trying not to let that make me too nervous.

One of the classes for the conference is on hairing and feathering techniques. Jan usually teaches how to carve several different horns and antlers in this class along with the hair and feathers. I've been practicing different portions of each class to see how much time they will take and if there are things I need to spend more time on. Here's a picture of the horns and antlers.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lesson #5, the Bald Eagle is now available

Announcing the release of lesson #5 of the Sculptured Leather Art Lesson Series with Jan Schoonover. This latest lesson covers the  carving, coloring and embossing of a Bald Eagle. One of the main focuses of the lesson will be carving and cutting feathers. There are many different sizes and shapes of feathers on the eagle and Jan teaches the different techniques he uses to create each of them.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Eagle Eye

In the last post, the last picture was of an eagle eye. There was (at least) one major mistake in the carving of the eye because I mis-traced the pattern. The tear duct on the eagle ended up being about 3 times larger than it should have been. Since I was just practicing, I went ahead and finished up the piece. I also left the piece as a flat carving as I was using it as an  entry in a coaster carving challenge on One of the main things Jan always impresses on me is to pay attention to detail.
Sunday afternoon  I had a chance to carve the eagle eye again, tracing it correctly and doing some embossing on the carving. You can see in the new picture the difference embossing makes. In the first carving you could tell I was trying to carve an eagle. In this new picture, by using the techniques Jan has taught me, you can start to see the fierceness in the bird's eye. One of the things Jan pointed out to me when we were doing the eagle lesson is that the eye of a song bird  is on the side of the face while   the eyes on birds of prey face forward. By making a cut under the brow ridge and pushing the ridge out, you  get a lot of depth to that area. Then by stamping down in front of the eye, and raising the back side of the eye, the eye starts to look forward. These little changes to the flat carving make a big difference and that's why I really enjoy extreme embossing!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


One of the classes Jan Schoonover teaches focuses on carving realistic looking eyes. I've always wanted to take the class but it never seems to work out for me. I should have been the first class I ever took from him, and it almost led to me never having taken any. Why? Well, one summer many years ago we decided to go to Billings to spend a weekend  and do some shopping. One place I wanted to go since I had never been there before was Montana Leather Company. It's a cool store and they carry a lot of great leather and leather supplies. When I was up at the counter getting ready to check out, there was a flier for Jan's class they were going to hold the next weekend. I asked about signing up. The girl behind the counter told me I didn't have to sign up, just show up next Saturday morning. Well, the next weekend I got up at 3 in the morning to make the trip back to Billings and be there by 8 for the class. It was a long trip, early in the morning, but I was excited. When I got to Montana Leather I was confused when there was nobody in the parking lot. I went to the door and it said they didn't open on Saturday until 9. Okay, I must have misunderstood. So I sat and waited until 9. Still nobody in the parking lot except for the person who unlocked the door. When I asked about the class I was told it was cancelled because nobody had signed up. What!!! I drove 320 miles and they aren't having a class! Needless to say I was upset and swore to myself I'd never do business with that place again. Well, a year or so later Jan agreed to teach a class in Mandan, ND at Interstate Western Works, a store owned by Chip Liebel who is a very talented leather carver herself. I decided to take a chance and sign up for the class. In that class we carved a bighorn ram, my first embossed leather project and I was thrilled with how it turned out. My leather carving took a turn in a new direction and that ended up being the first of many classes with Jan. I even forgave Montana Leather Company and do a lot of business with them these days (although I'm still a little miffed that I drove 650 miles that day many years ago to find out the class was cancelled).  Okay, where's this all going? Well, a few weeks ago I received an email from Cherryl McIntyre. Cherryl puts on the Dimensions in Leather conference in Brisbane, Australia every other year.  Jan Schoonover was scheduled to teach at the conference to be held in July this year. Well, Jan has been having some minor health problems and he was concerned that he may not be able to teach 6 days of classes, so he decided to back out of going to Australia. He had been looking forward to the trip for a whole year and was pretty disappointed about not being able to go, but didn't want to disappoint his students either if his health prevented him from being able to teach. Jan told Cherryl that she should contact me and see if I would go in his place to teach his classes. After talking with Jan, talking with Cherryl, talking with my wife, we decided we'd go to Australia. It's someplace I've always wanted to see and this is a great opportunity for me. So you've followed my ramblings this far and you are still wondering, "where the heck is this going?".  Well, one of the classes scheduled for the conference in Australia is Jan's eye class. I've still never taking the class and now I'm supposed to be teaching it! On my last trip to Billings, Jan gave me  a couple different sheets of eye patterns and told me to pick the one I'd like to teach. In the last couple days I decided to go ahead and try to carve a few of the patterns on his sheets. So here are a few of the eyes I did. The patterns he gave me  basically just show the eyes and a little detail around them. I free handed in more of the heads on most of them so parts of them aren't really in proportion or anatomically correct, but I got a pretty good idea of what I am going to be doing. I also found out that if you don't pay attention when you are tracing a pattern and it move on you, you get a really mis-shaped eagle eye. I went ahead and carved and colored it anyway since it was  a practice piece anyway. So finally, here's some eyes.