My vision for the new saddle
My vision in regards to the saddle that I propose building for the Western Folklife Center - a saddle that brings into perspective the time frame of the curatorial endeavor underway at the Western Folklife Center. Thus far the collection has been built from living contemporary makers with a modernized viewpoint or application of their skills. That is great, and also to be expected, but the epic story of the West that we gather to celebrate takes place from the earliest times of cattle on the western plains to the modern and contemporary cowboy of today. Although I am not known as one of the makers who delves into the re-creation of vintage items, I see it as an opportunity to let the creative juices flow. The Western Folklife Center has offered me an open canvas, if you will, to paint and create my own masterpiece, to express my skills as a saddler/silversmith in whatever way I think suits the project best.
This may be my jumping off place from many of my peers. Since I feel that far too many good craftsmen take this as an opportunity to recreate everything that can be seen in an old catalogue cut, hence they have let a previous saddler be their designer, and very little true artistry comes about in a copy/paste format or approach.
I chose to approach the design stage in a different way, I have looked over many photos and catalogue cuts and compiled a list of attributes that are indicators of a) an era, b) a geographic style, c) a functional pre-disposition, and d) a complexity rating.
a) This would point even a neophyte to an era when we may have seen the saddle on display.
b) This will take the viewer deeper, knowing that not all styles are the same in a given time frame, each having its unique geographical cult or group of followers.
c) Another trait that lends to educating the viewer as to types of gear and cut of saddle are sometimes the dictates of the geography they are found in. PS- I have no way to explain Texas.
d) Purely a selfish rating system, in it we are laying out a set of benchmarks for sub-group categories like stamping and complexity, silver work and its complexity etc. Once assembled we can make up a list of the attributes that we need to achieve beyond that list, and a list which will fully and honestly challenge us as a maker to build. This is not to be confused as a list of what my contemporaries have done, but rather a listing of saddles that have been done by makers long since deceased.
We have chosen a saddle that would be indicative of the Californios around the mid 1870s. The styles at the time of the Alta-California vaquero were flamboyant. We felt that this style of saddle offered the most diverse canvas on which to work. We intend to follow the pattern of size and shape as it pertains to pure function alone, but from that point we have no dictates when it comes to developing a carving pattern or building the silver. From the basic outline or form, we will add the pieces according to importance in showing our skills and how they aesthetically fit into the entire and final view.
The saddle should be a showcase for the craftsmen, and not showcase an era. So the carving will unlikely be one that you would come to expect from Jeremiah. The silver likewise will be different from that which we have all seen before. We will endeavor to make something with a "little twist" so as not to be confused with efforts from the past. Being a handmade tree maker, we can attain any look and any mount of refinement required to lend pleasing and artistically conducive lines to the tree and hence the saddle that follows over top of it.