Make Mine Mohair

”Pop Wagner displaying his famous Pop Cinches. Photo by Carillon Rose Meadows

BY DORIS DALEY

“Make mine mohair.”

There’s no doubt in Pop Wagner’s mind that’s what horses everywhere would say if you asked them what kind of cinches they prefer.

Horseman, traditional master weaver, and renowned folk musician, Wagner offers a five-hour seminar in mohair cinch weaving from which participants go home with a new, 100 percent mohair cinch for their horse and the skills and knowledge to make more. Pop himself learned from renowned Arkansas cinch maker Darin Alexander and has been teaching others for several years on custom-designed looms. In October, when his life as a musician brings him on a rare performance tour to Alberta, he’ll be offering his seminar to 8-10 students in the Turner Valley area.

Why would anyone – pleasure rider to equine clinician – spend $150 to $500 on a mohair cinch when a $50 job from the local tack store keeps a saddle in place?  Two simple reasons according to Pop: function and artistry. “Mohair is one of the strongest natural fibers on earth,” he explains from his Minnesota home .  “Unlike cotton, it won’t stretch over time. Wool is not as strong, and synthetic fibers retain dirt and grit to the point where it’s like putting sand paper on a horse’s belly.  In contrast, with use, the back of a mohair cinch felts to a soft, smooth finish.  It wicks sweat and moisture away from the horse and needs very little cleaning.” In fact, when asked how he cleans and maintains his mohair cinches, one Wyoming cowboy answered, “I just ride through a river now and then.”

Whether you make your own cinch or not, beware of commercial varieties that are not always what the advertiser wants you to believe. Many “mohair” cinches are actually

a blend of mohair, cotton, wool and synthetic fibers. And don’t get Pop started on the “Contains 100% Mohair” labels. If the whole story were told, the label might say “contains  some 100% mohair. …Oh and by the way, also contains some 100% cotton, some 100% wool and a nice dose of  100% acrylic yarn.”

And then there’s the aesthetics. A cinch is barely seen when in use.  But it is an essential part of cowboy gear that can be enjoyed and appreciated for its beautiful design and construction as well as its function.  Pop teaches many designs including some born of the Navajo cinch making tradition.  Like bridles, halters, hatbands, lead ropes and saddles, the sky’s the limit when it comes to intricate designs for cinches. Pop himself incorporates his designs in other useful items: belts, guitar straps, hat bands, watch fobs and key chains. Participants in his five-hour seminar will complete a cinch in the traditional diamond-and-bar pattern.

“In the late 1800s,” says Pop, “a saddle from the Sears catalog sold for $40 and a mohair cinch for $4. A good saddle now costs $3,000 to $5,000 or even more. If inflation acts equally, then a $300 hand crafted mohair cinch in 2013 is right in line.”

Folk music fans, cowboy poetry fans and listeners to NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion will know Pop for his long, rich musical career that has taken him to 44 states and 11 countries. An art major in college, a horse owner and rider, and a gifted teacher of traditional cowboy arts, Pop’s cinch-making class is a rare opportunity to learn from a master. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chorus of “Good Bye Ol’ Paint” thrown in for free.

Pop Cinch, vaquero.
Photo by Pop Wagner.

Pop Wagner’s five-hour seminar on mohair cinch making takes place Oct. 29 at Turner Valley, Alberta. Participants may register directly on Pop’s website: www.popwagner.com or for more info call 612-817-5898 or email popwagner@mac.com

Pop Cinch, double-packer style.
Photo by Pop Wagner.

Mohair Cinches

by Pop Wagner

I tend to favor mohair

For saddle girths and cinches.

It’s strong, sheds dirt, wicks moisture,

It never chaffes or pinches.

Over time the back felts in

‘Til smooth as a baby’s bottom.

It’s luxury for horses,

Mules too, if you’ve got’em.

You can have your neoprene

And cotton, that’ll stretch of course.

Acrylics harbor dirt and grit

So I’ll put mohair on my horse.

Artisans of the West – Heather Baumgartner

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue.

Heather Baumgartner may have grown up in the heart of Saskatchewan’s prairie metropolis of Regina, but she always dreamt of becoming a cowgirl.

Heather Baumgartner

Spruce Grove, Alberta
Leather Crafter

Heather Baumgartner may have grown up in the heart of Saskatchewan’s prairie metropolis of Regina, but she always dreamt of becoming a cowgirl.

“From as early as I can remember, I was drawing horses and began riding with friends in high school.  It wasn’t until years later – in the early 90’s – that I got my first horse and began showing. It was the start of both my show career and my interest in the artistry of the leather craft,” says the striking craftswoman from Spruce Grove, Alberta.

The seed of Baumgartner’s burgeoning chap and leather crafting business really got started many years ago with a young girl who loved to sew.

In her home studio Baumgartner surrounds herself with western artistry and gains inspiration from both western artisans and the style of today’s fashion.

“As a kid I would sew my own clothes, and later in life I even made a few dress shirts for my husband. Then, about 15 years ago, a fellow down the road needed someone to sew chaps – so I built a few sets of basic chaps for his leather shop – it wasn’t until about four years ago that I decided to take up the artistry of leather making and focused on honing my skills in leather carving.”

From a small Tandy Leather Christmas gift, a number of classes with Ed Collard at the local leather shop and a few trips to classes to Wyoming and Arizona artisan workshops, Baumgartner taught herself the fundamentals. Then, with the help of folks like Don Butler, Andy Stevens, Doug Krause, Bob Park, Steve Mecum and local artisan Peter Swales, she started to refine her skills as a leather maker and established HB Leather on the farm she and her husband Darren own near Spruce Grove, Alberta.

“The biggest challenge is establishing a unique pattern – I like to design pieces that are both stylish and comfortable for the rider.”

In her humble way, she credits her fellow horsepeople for the flourishing demand for her chaps and leatherwork.

“Of course, the business grew from our connection to the performance horse industry. After a dozen years of showing cow horses, reiners and some ranch cutting horses you get to know some great people. It is through those connections and friendships that I’ve been able to continue to grow the business.”

In her humble way, she credits her fellow horsepeople for the flourishing demand for her chaps and leatherwork.

In her home studio Baumgartner surrounds herself with western artistry and gains inspiration from both western artisans and the style of today’s fashion.

“The biggest challenge is establishing a unique pattern – I like to design pieces that are both stylish and comfortable for the rider.”

One of her favourite styles is the use of “finger carving” that she’s worked into both the front and back of many chaps.

Studying the work of Sheridan-style leather makers from years past, testing her designs with countless drawings, and a lot of “test” leather pieces later she’s worked in a few favourites, such as incorporating a daisy into a few designs – “that received a lot of positive buzz!” One of her favourite styles is the use of “finger carving” that she’s worked into both the front and back of many chaps.

~ Ingrid Schulz

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to have the opportunity to showcase a piece of Heather’s work at the Western Horse Review booth this week at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer. Be sure to come by and view our selection of western artisans work at the booth.

Artisans of the West – Dale Clearwater

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue.

Clearwater combines experience and style to the traditional craft horsemanship gear

Dale Clearwater

Hanley, Saskatchewan
Rawhide Braider

 The means of a cowboy created by a cowboy. Not only is Dale Clearwater a talented horse trainer and professional showman, but he’s also a renaissance craftsman.

Alongside his busy horse training business at Justabouta Ranch in Hanley Saskatchewan, Clearwater designs and creates traditional vaquero styled hackamores and romal reins.

Decorative and functional, Clearwater’s rawhide braiding exhibits that this cowboy has an innate talent under the surface. However, if not for the loss of a priceless piece of gear, Clearwater said he might never have been inspired to develop his creative talents.

“My mom bought a nice Jack Shepherd quirt. It was fancy. I used to have it on my saddle. I went through the bush one day and I lost it. I thought she would be pretty disappointed, so I bought some braiding books to build another one.”

In the years following, Clearwater said he began studying the talents of braiders such as Bryan Neubert and Luis Ortega. With a bit of ingenuity, he tied in his job as a working cowboy to his budding craftsmanship.

“I rode community pasture for awhile. A cow would die out in the pasture, I’d get my knife out and skin it then take the hide off and make rawhide out of it.” He notes that nowadays he purchases his rawhide from a Texas distributor, knowing it is chemically cleaned and has a refined quality.

For Clearwater, having the ability to design and create the proper feel to his own hackamores and romal reins allows for several training advantages.

Riding in hackamore he said, is all feel. “The horses have to get off a really soft touch, more of a signal rather than a pressure.”

Because of this sensitive feel he is developing in his horses, he has designed several styles of bosals. Clearwater’s hackamores offer variations in heel knot sizes (for weight) and cores (for suppleness). Clearwater uses old reata’s or poly ropes as cores and feels he can get a nice feel from them. The bodies are braided around the cores and can be made of either braided latigo leather or rawhide. With his collection of hackamores, Clearwater said he has the option of going to a horse and creating the feel he needs.

Like the vaqueros that originally devised this fine style of equipment, Clearwater’s horsemanship and cowboy lifestyle has inspired him to produce master quality for the modern professional horseman.

~ Deanna Buschert

See more about Dale Clearwater at Justabouta Ranch

Artisans of the West – Jan Daley

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue.
 

Back home, with a studio window that faces the western hills, Daley draws inspiration from her surroundings on the ranch.

Jan Daley

Granum, Alberta
Silversmith

Jan Daley is a relative newcomer to the business of being an artisan, with her Juniper Creek sign hanging just a scant two years. Yet the craft didn’t emerge as an epiphany of middle age, but more like a coming of age for a long-harboured passion.

A freehand native etch wrist cuff.

“From a wee girl I’ve always had an interest in metal, wood, and stone and all the artistic avenues I’ve explored through my life have absolutely led to this right here, right now. About 25 years ago I picked up some goldsmithing textbooks and not understanding a word they held, they were set aside. Perhaps the timing wasn’t right. A few years ago I ran across those books and away I went. Fortunately, everything has fallen into place and each of the other artistic avenues has played a contributing factor.”

An oxidized flower concho.

Jan and her husband Mark Daley are deeply immersed in the ranching community. If you were to drive into the foothills of Southwestern Alberta west of Granum and into their ranch, you would most likely find her helping out on the family ranch or in the practice pen working her cutting horse. Her father, Kerm Stav, was the first cutting horse champion of Canada and she’s carried on the torch, with a fierce competitive edge in the same sport.

Combining silver with such natural elements as stone, wood, bone and horsehair she creates pieces that compliment both contemporary and western lifestyles.

Back home, with a studio window that faces the western hills, Daley draws inspiration from her surroundings on the ranch. Combining silver with such natural elements as stone, wood, bone and horsehair she creates pieces that compliment both contemporary and western lifestyles.

Camelite lattice garden wrist cuff.

A ranch gal for all of her life she carries a strong opinion on what western culture means.

“We could spend days talking about this one. It’s keeping your promise on a handshake, which, unfortunately seems to be fading.  It’s respecting and getting to know your neighbour as you would have them respect and get to know you. When people offer to help its because they really want to help, don’t deny them. It’s long days in the field whether on horseback or on tractor. It’s sleep-deprived stormy days and nights calving cows. But when the heat from the sun starts to inject its power into the spring days, it’s hearing the cows rip the new blades of grass as their calves lay soaking up the rays. It’s a newborn colt finding its first legs. It’s the joy and pride of watching the next generations carry on the western tradition.”

Ribbon rock scarf slide.

See more of Jan Daley’s work at Juniper Creek.

~ Ingrid Schulz

Art, Whisky & Cake Contest

A few weeks ago we announced the Art, Whisky & Cake Contest. It was your chance to nominate an up-and-coming artist as Alberta Whisky Cake’s newest Unbridled Spirit selection. It’s been fun working with the Whisky Baker, Kamla McGonigal, and her company’s mission of promoting the western culture, especially in light of the recent flooding devastation in Alberta. The theme fits beautifully with the “unfolding the real West” mission statement of Western Horse Review, and besides, who could resist partnering with such an enthusiastic entrepreneur as Kam.

Check back here for the original post, but the gist of the contest is that each Alberta Whisky Cake comes with an exclusive AWC Unbridled Spirits certificate, which can be presented directly to a select list of AWC artists to receive $35 off of your purchase price, on an individual piece of art valued at $100 or more. Viewers were charged with nominating their favorite artists to be the next Unbridled Spirit. These artists are folks who are involved heavily in the arts, and have not yet become renowned or rewarded for their exceptional dedication to their creative work.

Kam was charged with choosing three finalists, and via this post and Facebook, you get to determine one final Unbridled Spirit winner.

When she wasn’t testing out new recipes in her kitchen, Kam poured over all the nominations and began to make her choices. I could tell she was having a difficult time; given all the amazing talent that had been dished up, choosing three finalists was going to be difficult.

Sometime during the process she wondered in an e-mail to me. . . ” if I should just go with using ALL of these (love them all!)”

No, Kam, you have to choose three. Those are the rules.

So, she did. She picked three artists, and I’m going to show you a piece of each of their work here. In the comment section, go ahead and vote on your favorite. The bonus: all original nominations notes and all votes will go into a hat and we’ll draw a winner for an Alberta Whisky Cake.

I suppose I can’t really vote, but if I could, I would be all over this for that reason alone.

Meet the finalists:

Take Your Eight and Shove It by Karen Coe.

Karen Coe is a Lethbridge, Alberta artist who recently received the distinction of having two of her pieces juried into the prestigious Calgary Stampede Art Auction.

Ranch Branding by Julia Palmer.

Julia Palmer is a photographer and rancher who lives in southern Alberta. Her subject matter is primarily cattle, cowboys and the changing seasons.

Between Classes by Heather Gessell.

Heather Gessell is a fine artist from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with a focus on pets, horses and vintage cars.

There you have it, three talented western artists. Vote for your favorite in the comment section below and be entered to win an Alberta Whisky Cake!

Artisans of the West – Beth Broomfield

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue.

Beth Broomfield happened upon her craft when she decided to try her hand at making herself a turquoise necklace.

Beth Broomfield

Nanton, Alberta
Jewelry Maker

Beth Broomfield happened upon her craft when she decided to try her hand at making herself a turquoise necklace, outfitted with a concho off of an old belt of her Grandmother’s as a pendant. Broomfield sported her new necklace around town and ended up taking orders for three more just like it.

In 2009, Broomfield placed her first order from a supplier in Texas. A few weeks later she ran into Bernie and Marg Brown, owners of Boot Hill in Okotoks, Alberta. Marg fell in love with Broomfield’s hand-made cross necklace and decided to buy a few pieces to sell in the store. The following Saturday she called to order more.

Broomfield’s signature piece is her cross necklace. “I couldn’t tell you how many I have made, but they continue to sell. I keep thinking I want to do something different, but crosses are symbolic in western jewelry and since I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, I’ll continue to build crosses.”

Broomfield is never without her notepad. “I would love to see more of my design sketchbook come to life. It’s loaded with designs I’ve done for home decor, clothing and even tack. I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel with my designs, but I’m passionate about western style and it would be a dream come true for me to see Sunny Go West as a brand people recognized.”

~ Deanna Beckley

 

Sunny Go West

(find on Facebook)

The Art, Cake & Whisky Contest

It took Alberta baker Kamla McGonigal four years to perfect her recipe. The fourth generation Calgary native wanted to use whisky, locally distilled from grain at nearby farms as one of the main ingredients in her delectable cakes. Finally after countless hours over an oven, McGonigal developed one of the best tasting and most unique baked-goods available to those with discerning palates – the Alberta Whisky Cake (AWC).

Which is exactly why we picked her as one of our Artisans of the West (in the food category) in the March issue.

But on June 20, disaster struck Alberta Whisky Cake when High River flooded.

This is a picture Kamla sent me on June 24. The shot is of 3rd Ave. The Cakery Bakery, which had been producing Kamla’s cakes, is located on the far left of the photo – it is completely ruined and will have to be refurbished, replaced with new equipment etc. Most of AWC’s  inventory of packaging/printing/labels were stored at the bakery and also destroyed. In addition, Highwood Distillery, which supplied the all-important whisky ingredient, also incurred flood damage.

At that time, Kamla didn’t know when she would be able to supply AWCs again. She had a few dozen in storage, most of which she later donated to a flood fundraising effort. It seemed Alberta was completely out of stock of the unique Alberta Whisky Cakes.

But Kamla is a passionate soul – and determined to get the cakes back into production.

On July 13th, she posted on Alberta Whisky Cakes Facebook page:

“Good morning. I’m headed to the Millarville Farmers Market for the last time this season, with the last of my inventory (until Cakery Bakery is back up & Highwood Distillers rye whisky available again). The kindest thing I can do right now is get AWC bigger & better than ever before – people REALLY want JOBS, not handouts.” ~ Kam

Her farm, west of High River, has a healthy beautiful crop of canola (an important ingredient in the cake) nearly ready to be harvested, and it turns out the Cakery Bakery was covered by insurance, and a rebuilding is in process. It will take 2 to 3 months, and in the meantime, Kamla is using the time to tweak the current product and invent new versions of it. Look for perhaps a fruitcake version, or even, gluten-free in the future of AWC.

One of the unique aspects of the Alberta Whisky Cake is that each comes with an exclusive AWC Unbridled Spirits certificate. This certificate can be presented directly to a select list of AWC artists to receive $35 off of your purchase price, on an individual piece of art valued at $100 or more. These artists are local people who are involved heavily in the arts, and have not yet become renowned or rewarded for their exceptional dedication to their creative work.

Past recipients have included such artists such as Whitney Wilkie – Whittie Girl Leathers (www.whittiegirlleathers.com)

Or, Jane Romanishko – Jane Romanishko (www.janeromanishko.com)

And Neville Palmer – Reflective Eye Photography (www.reflectiveeye.com)

Now the Whisky Baker and Western Horse Review have knotted their tendrils of love for western art and culture together to come up with the Art, Whisky and Cake Contest.

Kamla needs an emerging western artist to showcase when her new set of post-flood AWC’s begin rolling off the production line in a few months and she’s inviting Screen Doors & Saddles and Western Horse Review readers to put forth nominations of your choice.

In the comment section below simply state your nomination of a Canadian emerging western artist. Include the name and if possible, website url, of the artist and a simple line or two detailing why you’d like to nominate this individual. From all of the nominations, Kamla will make a selection of three finalists. These three finalists will be profiled here on Screen Doors & Saddles and on Western Horse Review Facebook and viewers will have the opportunity to vote and ultimately, choose the next AWC Artist!

In addition, we’ll do a random draw from all of the nominations, and the winner will receive an Alberta Whisky Cake, compliments of Kam. I’m sure it will be one of the first cakes to be pulled from the Cakery Bakery’s ovens once they are up and running again.

It’s possible we might be dubbing the first few as “celebration cakes.” For in a small way, we hope this contest symbolizes the hope we extend toward the people of High River and surrounding areas, many of whom have lost so much and are still struggling, and foster feelings of a brighter future!

As Kamla says, “out of hope comes clarity, energy, focus & optimism!” So, go ahead and nominate your favorite up-and-coming western artist in the comment section below. We’re counting on your support and feedback for this contest.

Artisans of the West – Richard Brooks

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue 

Richard Brooks

 
Cayley, Alberta
Silversmith & Bit Maker
 

Richard Brooks has dedicated a good part of his life to learning the art of silversmithing. Only in the last seven years has he had the luxury of being able to carry out his passion full-time.

A set of authentic Richard Brooks spurs is a lifetime gift.

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do! My grandfather (Roy Brooks) was a silversmith and bit and spur maker from Cochrane. I used to sit and watch him in his shop when I was kid.”

Sterling men’s band. 14kt white gold ladies ring set. With .72ct diamond.

Those early childhood memories spawned a love for creating good quality, highly functional and innately beautiful products that can be marketed to collectors and working cowboys alike.

“One of my challenges is keeping the artistic side in balance with the functional side of my stuff. No matter how fancy they are, the have to work properly as well.”

Inspired by the old California-style bits, spurs and silverwork, every piece that comes out of Brooks’ shop is nothing short of stunning.

Inspired by the old California-style bits, spurs and silverwork, every piece that comes out of Brooks’ shop is nothing short of stunning. Custom orders for silver and rings are about two or three weeks delivery, whereas bits and spurs stand at about two months wait time. Everything is thought out and executed with precision in a Richard Brooks piece. The rein chains with his bridle bits are original and hand crafted, the saddle silver that he creates adds exponentially to the value of the saddle it is mounted on, his spurs are balanced and solid.

See more of Richard Brooks work online at his Facebook page, R Brooks Bits & Silver.

~ Dainya Sapergia

Artisans of the West – Scott Hardy

Scott Hardy, of Longview, Alberta is one of Canada’s most renowned silversmiths and founding member of the Traditional Cowboys Arts Association.

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue 

Hardy’s designs push the limits of his craft, but he stays true to the tradition of the art of silversmithing.

Some of the most fateful things happen in the most unlikely ways. For Traditional Cowboys Arts Association (TCAA) silversmith Scott Hardy, it all started with an advertisement in the paper.

“I had cowboyed in the mountains, shoed horses for years and welded, all trying to find a way to make a living so Leslie (Scott’s wife) and I could buy some land to raise cattle and horses. I came across an ad for a Continuing Education course at Mount Royal University in Calgary for beginning silversmithing. After completing the night course, I started creating pieces for family and friends in my basement and in 1981, I opened my silver shop.”

Now, over 30 years later, the rest is, indeed, history. Although he doesn’t travel to trade shows to exhibit and sell his work, he does attend the Traditional Cowboys Arts Association Exhibition and Sale held at the National Cowboy & Western Museum in Oklahoma City every October. Hardy’s work is displayed in a handful of galleries, and as with all artists that grow with the times, he gets a fair amount of traffic through his website.

Hardy’s pieces are all works of art, with a lead time of 2-3 months for each order.

“I am a founding member of the TCAA. Their mission statement is simple – the TCAA is dedicated to preserving and promoting the skills of saddle making, bit and spur making, silversmithing and rawhide braiding and the role of these traditional crafts in representing the cowboy culture of the North American West. Over the years, we have taught over 300 craftspeople in workshops, personally mentored over 235 craftspeople, have given out over $70,000 in scholarships and now host an Emerging Artist Competition and a fellowship. But the most important learning tool we have is our annual Exhibition and Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum every October. For this event, our members are required to bring their best works, creating pieces that push their artistic and technical abilities further than ever before.

This is important for many reasons; it inspires artists and craftspeople to move ahead with their own work and show the public buyers and collectors what can be achieved. It also makes the TCAA members strive each year to expand their abilities, which flows through to their everyday work. For me personally it has opened a world of knowledge. Western silversmithing is my passion, pleasure and profession.”

A founding member of the TCAA, Hardy’s work goes above and beyond what would be expected of a bit and spur maker.

After such a lengthy career in the industry, Hardy’s biggest challenge now is time. Although he is happy with his work, he humbly adds that he still feels he has a lot to learn and accomplish. Regardless, he feels a passion for what he does.

“Silver work always fascinated me. Growing up, there were always a lot of buckles and horse gear around, but what really amazed me was a silver tea service set my great Grandma had brought from England. It was hard to believe a person had created those pieces. It is important to carry on this art because it is the culture of the West; the equipment we use, the way we embellish them, the buckles we wear were all created in the North American West. They came from cultures all over the world, brought here and morphed into what worked best for us. The North American West, the way we work stock, the areas we cover in that work is truly unique in the world. We should be proud of that!”

See more of Scott Hardy’s work at www.scotthardy.com.

~ story by Dainya Sapergia