What Might Be The Best Way To Teach And Mentor New Saddle Makers?
Posted 28 November 2007 - 10:55 AM
In the November Western Horseman there was an article on the Severe Brothers and how Duff had learned braiding from Luis Ortega. It said "He could sit and watch Ortega braid till his heart was content, but he couldn't ask any questions". This got me thinking about saddle makers and something I, in my mind, think of as "the old cowboy way". I didn't grow up in the cowboy culture and it still strikes me as odd that, as much as their word and their handshake were as good as a signed legal deal, and as much as they had barn raisings and helped out in times of disaster etc. etc., they wouldn't help someone else learn. Kids and newcomers were expected to observe and figure things out for themselves, even if it meant they got hurt. Asking a question seems to have been almost akin to an insult at times. Secrets, especially in the saddle trade, were jealously guarded and often taken to the grave. And, if you were lucky enough, and you had stood up to the hard knocks well enough that you proved yourself in some unspoken fashion, someone might take pity on you and actually tell you or show you something. At least, that is how it appears to me to have been.
Having worked for a couple of ranchers who held to this philosophy I know that it still exists to a certain extent in the ranching world. I would think it still exists in the saddle making industry. I believe things have opened up immensely in the last twenty years, especially in the last ten or so. But I was wondering - do any of you still find that you have to "prove yourselves" somehow in order to be on the receiving end of good information? What do you think is, or seems to be, necessary before someone will teach you? Those of you who have come up through "the old cowboy way",do you see any value in it? And looking to the future, what might be the best way to teach and mentor new saddle makers, encouraging them to go for top quality without disparaging where they currently are, yet not wasting your time either?
Lots of questions. Curious about what the answers might be...
Posted 28 November 2007 - 11:14 AM
Posted 28 November 2007 - 01:17 PM
I would probably wager that due to books, videos, classes, and a more open attitude, there are more individual saddlemakers on some level than ever before. Saddlemaking has followed leathercrafting (and all crafts for that matter), and moved from a vocation to a hobby. Until the mid 50s and 60s most people were making a living at their "job", not going home from a job to make a wallet, belt, or saddle. The information explosion in the last 20 years has accelerated that.
Twentysome years ago, I had some free time one winter. I learned to handsew my own repairs, stamp a little, and watched over some guys' shoulders as they built saddles and did repairs in a shop. I didn't ask too many questions, but did learn from what they shared. Some water under the bridge since then, and some mangled leather. As time progressed I got more into it, and have only had one or two guys flat refuse to help me. Some guys feel threatened with sharing, and some guys feel like they are passing on what they were taught. Some do it willingly, and others paid for their education with time and/or money. You can't expect to learn everything for free, nor should it be closed and carried to the grave either. The answer is somewhere in the middle. This is not unique to saddlemaking - horse trainers, silversmiths, knitters, quilters, fishermen, and golfers all do it too.
There is a difference to some guys with questions being distracting or questioning the conventional wisdom, and a sincere quest for "I don't know, and if I don't get it soon, everything that builds on my ignorance is too much". As an example for saddle week at Sheridan. I was there last year, as was Mike Craw, David Morris, and Go2Tex, maybe some others. The first year was 60 guys in chairs sitting for 10 hours daily or so watching of 5 people making a saddle. The next year was reportedly a little freer with getting a closer look. The year I went, I didn't know what to expect. First morning we were sitting there. Two hours later, nothing was being done on saddles, one guy was asking a lot questions, and I was thinking " Five hundred dollars for this, shut up already, and let them get on with it!" I realized that I was learning more from his questions than watching a guy cover a horn at that point. Ok, Bruce - patience. They kept it going, did build the saddle in three days and some change. We spent the time getting up and standing around whoever was doing the most interesting thing to us at the time. I spent more time with flat feet than a flat butt. A lot of questions with the instructors, probably learned as much again from each other, and shared a lot of philosophy of life - "Don't weaken NOW!"
Biggest things I see are the books videos, and classes available. People who never would have thought of building a saddle can make a stab at it. There are fulltime big-time saddlemakers and the guy who will make two. If he makes two better ones because of something that someone helped him out with - that's as good as it gets.
Now what I see as some problem areas. Materials and tools. With more guys making saddles on some level, there are choke points. Tools have changed. Some are better than they used to be, some are worse, and some aren't made anymore. Some guys need a rack of tools, and if you watch Bruce Cheaney's videos, a pocket knife, strop, hammer, and some pipe nipples and fittings to make a drawdown about do it for him. Some of the not-made-anymores show up on ebay, estate auctions, and Bob Douglas' tables. There only so many of these oldies that are out there, and more guys wanting/needing them.
Same with materials. As an example, I guess we don't need to tell anyone there is a shortage of handmakers of trees. Some of these customers riding grandpa's old saddle want a new one. Ideally we would all like to stick Dennis' cards on their horse, call up Rod/Ric/Bill/Ben/whoever and order one and have it in a few months. Real life, not everyone can do that, and the guys looking for trees need to know whose would work better, even if not ideal. Even the basest current production tree might be an improvement over what these customers are riding now. Since we all have different backgrounds, expectations for ourselves, customer economics, and customer expectations, there can't be a single right answer. Hopefully we can be pointed to some closer choices.
I have had some good people help me with telephone questions, going to their shop, classes/books/videos/DVDs, and the sharing here. I have paid for some of it, some has been free, and all is appreciated.
"the windshield's bigger than the mirror, somewhere west of Laramie" - Dave Stamey
Leather Work and Leather Tools - www.brucejohnsonleather.com
Posted 28 November 2007 - 01:32 PM
I recently was visiting a saddlemaker who has been in the business alot of years and apprenticed with a couple of the old saddleries while they were still operating. We talked about the topic of saddlemakers sharing information freely nowdays and how that compared to the way it used to be. One of the primary reasons saddlemakers were so secretive about their skills is because of the dog eat dog environment they existed in. In the early days especially during the depression when jobs were scarce, a saddlemaker maintained his job and was able to feed his family by protecting his skills from others competing for his job. This saddlemaker I was visiting mentioned that large saddleries would often have one large water bin for wetting leather and if a saddlemaker at one end of the bench had to wet leather, every other saddlemaker would stop what they were doing and cover their work till the person had wet their leather and returned to their station. I imagine that saddlemaking isn't the only trade that people needed to hide their knowledge and skills to survive.
Nowdays, a good saddlemaker can do fairly well in this business if the quality of their work is good. As they gain experience and their work becomes more refined, they are selling much more than a good saddle... they are selling their name and reputation. When your skills are such that people want to buy your reputation, you are no longer competing with other saddlemakers for your customers and it becomes easier to share some of your knowledge when you have a year or more of orders in the books. In one of your previous threads about what to charge a potential student, someone made the comment about sharing your skills with a student who in turn undercuts you in the market. I'm sure you and Rod realize as much as any good treemaker that between the two of you, there is a maximum number of trees you can make in a year; because of the quality of your trees and your reputation, this puts you in the unique position of not being able to meet the demand of everyone who wants one of your trees. Your customers are willing to wait for one of your trees for as long as you tell them they have to wait because of the quality of of your work and in the case of new customers, because of your reputation. . I personally don't think someone new to treemaking would affect your business at all even if their prices were half of what you charge. This is not to say you shouldn't charge someone for your time and knowledge if you were to train them in the whole process, but if someone who had been building trees for a number a years and already had a grasp on the fundamentals came to you to ask about a specific cantle pattern or wanting to learn a new way of shaping wood, you might view this differently than the person with no skills who wants everything from you. The same is true in saddlemaking.
As far as having to "prove yourself", I think this exists but it might not be as blunt as it sounds. I remember the first few saddles I made, I took to a number of good saddlemakers for critiquing and hoped to learn a few tricks of the trade. Most of these saddlemakers were gracious enough to give me their comments on my work, but beyond that I really wasn't learning any actual skills. I don't think this was because they were being secretive with their skills, it has more to do with not knowing who someone is and what they are trying to accomplish. Over the years I met these same saddlemakers at shows or in different places and as my own work improved and these saddlemakers started to recognize me, they were much more willing to share different ways of doing things with me. I remember reading that when Dale Harwood was just starting out he would go to saddleshops and engage different saddlemakers in conversation about fishing and hunting and then try and bring the conversation around to saddlemaking whereby he could learn something. In the end he had learned everything there was to learn about fishing and hunting, and a little bit about saddlemaking. Perhaps this is the modern equivalent of an apprenticeship.
I think there is value in "the old cowboy way" of learning; it's an effective way of bringing people into the trade. Because learning the correct skills is so drawn out, it helps moderate the number of good saddlemakers in the industry. Instead of college type courses putting out 100 new saddlemakers each year, you might have twenty new people trying to learn how to make saddles... mainly because the other 80 couldn't find anyone to teach them how to get started. Of the twenty who try and learn, there might be a handfull who have some talent and enough perseverance to perfect the skills needed to make a living. This maintains a market where good saddlemakers can flourish without the worry of hundreds of new guys trying to undercut them.
just my two cents worth....
just read Bruce's post and mention of questioning conventional wisdom. In the last couple of years I have had a few people come visit me trying to learn a little about saddlemaking. Although I am not an old timer or completely stuck in my ways, I find it irritating as hell when someone with little or no experience comes to me and starts suggesting I use a drill to sew my cantle bindings or some sort of new factory tree. I can't imagine some of the crap the older, more experienced saddlemakers have listened to over the years... would certainly turn you off sharing your skills.
Edited by D.A. Kabatoff, 28 November 2007 - 01:47 PM.
Posted 28 November 2007 - 02:55 PM
I like reading and talking this stuff. Good points, and just a little clarification. My questioning conventional wisdom is a little tongue-in-cheek. I am not real old, but am kind of a student of history, and have read and seen examples through the years. The individual sadldemaker is probably a pretty recent phenomenon. In the glory days, the shops produced the higher caliber saddles - Visalia, Hamley, Porters, and such. Hard to name many individually made saddles stamped with a makers name from that era with the same weight as a shop saddle. Saddlemakers may have moved around, but when they built saddles it was mostly in a shop, with the shop's name on it. The shops (production saddleries) lived on their reputations and tried for the best employees, best materials, and generally put out a better product. The guys buying from them were serious horseman, and demanded it. Saddle were also sold by Sears, Montgomery Wards, and other in lower quality, but the buyers and sellers knew it.
When leisure time came in, and horses became a hobby and recreation, so did factory saddles. Horse were not used as hard, and saddles became a price point item rather than materials, workmanship, and quality first. It opened the door for the individual maker to cater to the market that wanted quality. That is where the guys we look up to now developed their name and reputation. The roles became reversed, and the production saddles became second fiddle to the individual maker. Unfortunately for many of the customers and new makers today, Circle Y, TexTan, and Billy Cook are the yardsticks. New people are taking up horse activities - team roping, barrel racing, cutting. Pay enough and buy a good horse, have them trained, lessons form the trainer, and go after it. These are the guys riding the trees "with room to round up into", shallow cut Arizona bars, fiberglass strainer seats, embossed tooling, running stitched bindings, and the like. These have been around long enough, they are now accepted as the norm, and good technique by some. For a lot of the new makers, that is all they have seen, and is accepted as conventional wisdom.
Personally I think the best thing to happen in the last few years was for a reasonbly popular "name" production maker to sell out to Equibrand. They raised the price to $2500, farmed some of the work to Brazil or someplace, and put out a lower quality product. Makes it easier for the guy who is starting out to justify raising the base enough to make something back and get experience. These middle ground guys are not a threat to the upper level makers, and I doubt Equibrand is particularly worried either. But they are the guys who the new tools, shows, and resources are pointed at. Dale Harwood, Jeremiah Watt, and others didn't make those DVDs to sell to Don Butler, Troy West, and Chuck Stormes, there is a middle market segment that wasn't there 10 years ago. That is where a lot of us are coming from. Whether we will go on, become fulltime and hit the upper 20% or make two for ourselves and quit, time will tell.
I am on another forum that deals with boot making. I will probably not make boots but they are really philosophical and I like to follow them - traditional back to the 1600s or to 2007 depending. But they are in much the same condition as us. There are 2 week schools, DVDs, forums, classes, and such. They are handmaking a product, and having foreign factory competition. There are not the numbers of new young people coming into the trade to make $3000 custom boots, but there are the midlevel makers learning from the high end. It is middle-aged hobby or retirement age guys mostly. Celastic and some man mades are viewed as "conventional". a real parallel.
"the windshield's bigger than the mirror, somewhere west of Laramie" - Dave Stamey
Leather Work and Leather Tools - www.brucejohnsonleather.com
Posted 28 November 2007 - 04:04 PM
thanks for the insight, very interesting and accurate. I understand where you are coming from because I come from a similar situation... my original goal was not to become a saddlemaker... just make myself a saddle and maybe a couple more. Things changed somwhere along the line and I realized I enjoyed saddlemaking and wanted to improve. Everyone has their own goal where saddlemaking is concerned and as you say time will tell who stays and who goes and for what reasons.
I find coventional wisdom interesting because I think there are generation gaps involved. My grandfather's generation was one that accepted coventional wisdom with either blind faith or a smack to the back of the head and which ever it was, they ended up learning the way things were done. I think I'm part of a generation of people who don't act on blind faith and tend to question conventional wisdom... trying to find out for myself the best way to do something may encompass trying several methods (including the best way) before I decide how I will do something. This said, there is still some of the old generation in me which probably comes from a kick in the ass when I screwed up... I have a blind respect for previous generations and what they accomplished and I tend to listen when they talk. I have visited a number of really good saddlemakers over the years whose opinions I highly respect but it wasn't until the last couple of years that I had the opportunity to watch some of the absolute best saddlemakers in North America work. Seeing how they use their tools efficiently, effortlessly, and produce the finest work possible really takes away any lingering doubt about their being a better way to do something or a better tool for the job. It makes you realize your own shortcomings and that perhaps we are a little too quick to look for an easier way or an easier tool instead of putting in our time and learning the conventional wisdom. Perhaps this doesn't apply in the same way to someone who only wants to make one or two saddles, but on the other hand, why would someone who is highly skilled in saddlemaking want to share their knowledge with somebody who's not serious about the craft?
As an example, I used to hate skiving leather when I started and tried every tool imaginable to make it easier. When I skived a leather seat strainer for a ground seat, I'd get out my potatoe peeler and a half hour later I'd have shavings covering half my bench, the floor, the hall and every nook and cranny of my shop...seemed easier and I wondered why the heck anyone would use a round knife. It wasn't until a number of years later that I gave thought to my logic when I saw someone who was highly skilled with a roundknife do the same job in under ten minutes with only a handful of shavings. It was enough for me to put away the potatoe peeler and learn to use a round knife properly... this included learning how to sharpen and maintain the knife. It's now a number of years later and I find it highly amusing when I see someone else trying to find a better way to skive leather
My point to all this rambling is that when I went to visit a saddlemaker to try and learn something, I didn't have the audacity to suggest to them that a potato peeler was a better way to skive leather or a pizza cutter was a better way to cut their hides. I sat there with my mouth shut and listened. It was probably the old-school parenting that guided my correct assesment that highly skilled people don't need or want some green behind the ears wannabe trying to show them a better way to do something. I think I am still open to new ideas, it's how they are presented that determines whether or not I give them my consideration.
hope we aren't hijacking your thread Denise, this stuff seems to fit in with what you are asking.
Edited by D.A. Kabatoff, 28 November 2007 - 04:05 PM.
Posted 28 November 2007 - 05:13 PM
Posted 28 November 2007 - 10:48 PM
Over the course of the week, my teacher told me how his father and grandfather had almost never told him how to do something, until they'd watched him struggle with it for hours on end, just to show him the correct (and often easy) way of accomplishing his task. I said that'd probably tick me off so bad I'd quit and raise hogs. He laughed and said "That's why I went in the military." Fortunately (especially for me), he came back, and continued his education at his family's shop.
Now of course, I was paying this gentleman and not apprenticing, per se. But he was straight up about everything in the business, how he did whatever I wanted to know, prices, ups and downs, etc. He taught me more in the couple weeks I was there than I'd learned decades of self taught learning or observing from others. Even after he knew I'd bought land just down the road from him, and could some day be a competitor (not likely, 'less the Lord blesses me with a lot more talent).
There's a lot to be said for being quiet and learning with your eyes and your experience. There's also a lot to be said for a darn good teacher, in any subject. I think some folks can't (or think they can't) teach by explaining, and prefer you to just watch. Some others teach just fine.
Posted 01 December 2007 - 05:44 PM
My own thinking seems to fit with what you all are saying; that it is most important to have the right attitude toward learning. That starts with the attitude of being respectful of the teacher, including not asking questions if they don't want you to. Maybe that was part of "the old cowboy way" in that in is often only when we are humbled by failure on our own that we are willing to listen to someone else, so they let the "young guys" have it rough in order to develop that respect and true desire to learn before they would offer them any help. The problem with that way is that some people have that respect and desire without the hard knocks, and how do you know who they are? It might show up in that someone really willing to learn will be attentive to everything and will listen to the teacher. (You don't learn a lot when you are talking, especially if your questions/attitude cause the teacher to clam up.) I know we can learn from everyone (even if it what not to do) but we don't have to swallow and accept everything presented to us without evaluating it and deciding if it fits us. However when we do disagree on something, how we deal with that says more about who we are than how much we know. I think as we gain experience in our trade and life we learn the qualities (skills, personalities, ability and willingness to teach) in the people we want to spend our time listening to. And probably the teachers (any of us at some level) learn by experience the qualities in the people they want to spend their time teaching as well.
It makes sense that you need to have a base of knowledge of some sort before you can learn more in any area. Sometimes it takes some experience to learn that "conventional wisdom" can be right, and that is back to "the old cowboy way" of not helping till a person has that base. Some people still need to figure out that they could learn a lot if they didn't already know so much. But some people who don't have that base are seriously trying to get it, and questions along the line of "What about this idea?" may not be the result of arrogance and looking for short cuts. It may be sheer ignorance, where a helping word or two could go a long way to building up a "newbies" knowledge base to where they know more of what they need to know. Being told "If you don't know already, I'm not going to tell you" is not helpful (to which any husband of a crying wife can attest).
Bruce said, "You can't expect to learn everything for free, nor should it be closed and carried to the grave either. The answer is somewhere in the middle." Good point. I think that part of the desire for the knowledge is seen in the willingness to pay for it. No, I sure don't think that every "tip and trick" that one maker shows another should have a monetary value attached. Sharing information between people is the basis of this whole forum, and it is fantastic what is going on here. I would like to see a whole lot more of it going on in the world of saddles as a whole. But to expect to be given (ie. to feel like it is owed to you just because you for asked it) information that another has worked years to acquire and perfect shows arrogance and disrespect to the teacher. Putting a value on your information will weed out most of the people who aren't serious and who don't have either the respect or the desire to really learn. It will also weed out some that have the "right" qualities but who don't have the cash in hand. If the student is willing to pay, then whether the teacher chooses to charge or give is up to them.
Conversely, if the teacher is charging for information, then they need to teach all the information they are being paid for. The old trick of providing an old family recipe but leaving out an ingredient just is not right/fair. Russ's teacher showed true integrity when he gave Russ what he was being paid for, even knowing that Russ could become a "competitor". And Russ showed it by being up front at the beginning. By doing so, they created a relationship that doesn't sound too competitive to me. If you respect someone who has done good to you, you don't stab them in the back. And that goes both ways.
I still don't, and probably never will, understand the attitude of never telling your secrets. I can see "not throwing your pearls before swine"; in other words, making sure that the person you give your valuable time and information to will treat it with respect, even if they don't decide to use it for themselves (which they hopefully will). But being so afraid that someone will hurt you with your information that you conceal it from everyone? I prefer "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Thinking about the guys who all covered their work when their felllow craftsmen walked past: Can you imagine the quality of work they could have put out if they had collaborated, and how much further ahead the industry would be today? Their working environment would have been much better, and their company would have put out better saddles, which means the profit could rise too. Yes, maybe there would have been a bad apple in the bunch, but overall, the lower stress levels and higher productivity would probably have offset any damage that one guy could do. Maybe it is idealistic, and I hope I never end up in such an environment that I will need to put my theories into action, but it just makes more sense that we get farther if we work together.
Bruce, what you say about the industry makes a lot of sense. There will always be piles of low quality production saddles. And there will always be a few "upper end" makers who make relatively few saddles. Even with all the good information available today, I still wonder what is the best way to help these "midlevel makers" see the benefit in some of the good "conventional wisdom", or even understand that it is out there? I think Darcy has hit on a key one:
Posted 01 December 2010 - 09:15 AM
I'm new here, a horse owner, and owner of a custom made Wade saddle for myself. I will just interject a couple of thoughts that may not even be relevant, but there ya go ....
On the original topic, I kind of liken it to art. If you're a master saddlemaker, you are an artist. No one will EVER do your art exactly as you do, though the very basics may be similar. The concept will always come from your own mind, as any artist knows. So a competition in that way seems silly. Do you see oil painting aritsts hiding away how to basically oil paint so that no one can compete with them? What each individual does with any specific information is really up to them, and will only reflect back on you, the teacher, if they either do it poorly (without good enough instruction) or well enough to someday be considered an artist in their own right. Even if the student only turns out to be a moderately decent one, still a reflection. Maybe that as well was part of the secrecy; teachers didn't think they could impart the info well enough to help turn out a new gen of good makers?
on another note, though there are MANY wonderfully crafted saddles out there from creative makers, there are a finite amount of people who can AFFORD an art made saddle. I am NOT one of those LOL I had a moderately talented saddler make mine for a price I could afford. It's not everything I could want, but it's good enough. I think there's more room for a moderately talented person in a working art form than a master anymore, sad to say.
That said, I hope that anyone who has a passion for what they do can feel joy in sharing what they do and how they do. No one will ever be just like you and have your ideas.
Posted 01 December 2010 - 03:33 PM
For my take on this topic, I will and have "gave" some info out over the years, I have not "sold" it nor do I plan on selling it in the future. I am very carfull of who I "give" my teaching to, for a couple reasons, the first being that I have spent over 20 years of blood, sweat, and tears learning this craft and art. Therefore my knowlede has a value to it, I don't want to sell that knowledge but I am damn carefull to whom I give it to. I have had guys come into my shop and only have a visit, then sometime down the road I hear about them telling thier customers that they have had instruction from me, that's the last they will see of my shop. I have also had some people coming into my shop because they say they want to learn, then they spend all day telling me how to build a saddle, again no need for them to come back either. So I need to be very carfull when I choose someone to teach, because the info has value and my time has value, after all I am not a hobby maker this is how I make my living. I do not worry about them being competion as I like competion, it makes me a better saddle maker buecause I have to be to stay in business.
So, I have to read the "want to be" student before I start giving away info and spending my time with them istead of working on my orders. this can be difficult to do in a short period of time, I think the best route a new maker can do is first cultivate a friendship with a maker and then try start the learning process, instead of showing up thinking you have the right to be taught.
I think this may be why some makers arn't very willing to teach new students as it can be a waste of their time and knowlege when they should be working to pay their mortage. It is their knowlege that has value to it so they need to be carefull of whom they give it to. Just my two cents worth on the topic.
ps; I think in this day and age it is as easy as it has ever been to learn the craft and art of saddle making, this forum and others are great to learn from, there are some great dvd's out there, and there are so many websites from great saddle makers, you can look at these sites and learn so much from that alone. And there is so many hobby maker and profesional one man shops out there that you can befiend and learn from, no big closed doot shops like in the past. Unfortunatly there just are not any shops big enough now days to aprentice under like there was in years gone by, so an appenticeship may be pretty hard to find now.
Edited by steve mason, 01 December 2010 - 03:40 PM.
Posted 02 December 2010 - 02:20 AM
Posted 02 December 2010 - 06:40 PM
I agree with all posts on this topic.
I think- "saddlemaking and leatherworking sense" , love and enhusiasm for this handcraft - this is a way .
Will be allways a many others persons wanting to learn "leather job" , and they known that they must get own experience which will be better and helpfull to him than old mentor advices. Unfortunately lot of time and years is needs for it from them
I have over 20 years long way in leatherwork behind me too
Cca 70 years ago in my country was interesting and good assortment system for it. Master craftsman recieved a few young boys like apprentices. Apprenticeship was 10 years long. During this timeline young follower step by step teached handcraft, too business strategy and he worked for master craftsman in his shop and participate on his profits . Not all of apprentices pass out, but those that finished ,recieved vocational certificate from master craftsman. Afterward he can go off and with master certificate started his personal firm
..........i think , finished only the best and enhusiast handsrafters..good handcrafters... like our ancestors
Is good have a mentor.......but is VERY important..... REMAIN
i hope do you understand me? English isnīt my native language
Posted 08 February 2011 - 05:27 PM
Being a very young saddle maker, I'm 25 and I've only been building an my own for a year now, any time I had the chance to learn I took full advantage of it. Also the people that gave me these oppourtunities could see that I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the craft. I think there is a problem with my generation. Everything is so easily achieved, they have had everything given to them and can't put out an honest effort. They don't have a passion for work, they just want the money and as much as they can get , even if they have no experience. When I was "apprenticing" I work for room and board and was alowed to build some gear for myself, I loved every second of it. I spent the first month building stirrup leathers for bronc saddles, bronc halters and lacing stirrups. Most people my age would have become frustated that they were not learning anything, but I learned everyday and every spare second I had I would watch them build saddles. I worked there when they needed help on and off for 2 years and never built a saddle but I had been allowed to sew certain parts and stamp and carve parts of them. A few months later I was breaking colts with another man that built a few saddles a year ( He broke between 70 and 100 colts a year). He had a tree that had been started then torn back apart because a customer changed his mind. As a trade for work I took that tree and some leather and started building a saddle. When I completed it I took it back to the first man I had worked for and he critqued it but said that he wished that he would have been able to build his first one that nice. I told him "Well I learned everything from you." He said " well you must pay attention well because you never made one here."
I guess what I'm saying is that ability does not out weigh desire. I was blessed to have decent ability that could be improved and a huge amount of desire, but thats what is lacking in the world today. If I could only disassociate myself from "my generation".
YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO WORK FOR WHAT YOU WANT!
Posted 10 February 2011 - 04:35 PM
I think this is a great topic and one that I find really interesting because it does apply to me being someone trying to become a better saddlemaker and just starting out. Having read the previous posts by Darc, Bruce, Steve etc it has been enlighting to see how the other side of the coin thinks and feels about providing help and information to young guys starting out in the business. In the past I have found it hard to ask for help not because I feel that I build good saddles and don't need the help but rather that it is intimdating sometimes to ask established saddlemakes questions because i feel that it is a stupid question that I should know the answer to or they are just to busy and I don't want to be wasting their time. Case in point I was lucky enough to have a vist with Chuck Stormes and I think the second question out of my mouth was "Where do you get your trees?" I have read through Chucks website probably a dozen times prior to meeting him and I know exactly where he gets his trees from. He builds them! Felt like a real Donkey after that but he was really helpfule, gave me lots of good information on my saddle that I had built and told me how to make it better and for that I am very grateful because he didn't need to help me but did because I had asked him for some help.
The point that I am trying to make is that if you are just starting out some of the best help you can get can sometimes be in asking the question and trying to open up the lines of communication with someone that is more experienced than you. I am still not as good as I should be about calling or seeking help from others but it has been one of the better tools that I have found to try and improve my saddlemaking abilities.
Also I am planning on taking your advive Darc and am planning on trying to build a Wade to enter in the Kamloops festival next year to try and get a critique on my saddle and spend a weekend trying to gather up as much information from the other guys as I can.
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