Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions

Well, I'd planned to do a whole post about hobby goals for 2009, but it's just not happening. The kids and I went to see Marley and Me today. My poor old Abbie dog has had a rough week and the sad ending hit a bit too close to home. We were all in tears when we left the theater and this evening has been a series of serious conversations about death and dogs. I am emotionally exhausted and since the kids are planning to stay up until midnight, I'm preparing to be physically worn out as well!So I've decided to limit myself to discussing my number one hobby goal for the year, and that is to step outside of my comfort zone. I do not want to make 34 English saddles in 2009. I want to make at least one Western saddle and a sidesaddle of some sort and a Mexican saddle and a Portuguese saddle and... Well, you get the picture!
I have made some of these things before, but none recently and I think I could do a much better job now. So 'round about June, if I have not posted pictures of something other than an English saddle or a harness, please do send me a link to this posting!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Random collection picture

This is by far my most successful original finish show horse. He is a Mosaic which was Breyer's first Connoisseur model. He was released in 2001 as a 350 piece edition and his paintjob was designed by Tom Bainbridge. I named mine High Lonesome.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Model year in review

Today's newspaper was chock full of Best of 2008 lists--best national moment, best movies, best music, best tv, best books... It's the same every year and I admit that I always enjoy those lists. Since 2008 has been such a good year for Braymere Custom Saddlery, I thought I'd compose a list of my own. So without further ado, here is my personal 2008 top ten model horse hobby best list.

1. More time. Although I've been making tack for a long time, it's just been within the last year that I've really been able to treat my little hobby like a business. Having both kids in school full time makes a huge difference. It's so much easier to make a work schedule and stick to it when the childfree time comes at regular and predictable intervals.

2. Improved quality. Having more time to spend on tack does more than just increase output. I've spent a lot of that time reworking saddle patterns and rethinking how I put things together. Not all my experiments have been successful, but I feel confident in saying that the overall quality of my work has improved in the last twelve months. I'm much happier with the construction of my padded flaps and I think I've licked the worst of issues I've had with the shape of the seat section.
3. Recognition. Without a doubt one of the highlights of my year was being asked to donate to the 2008 NAN auction. I made an upper level dressage set that was part of a package that also included a customized Depeche resin by Jennifer Irwin (now Scott) and a doll by Jane Schneider. Unfortunately our set did not meet its reserve but I was still honored to be invited and hope to be asked again this year!
4. Showring success for my customers. I know that performance showing is about more than just the tack, but I am still so pleased to see my work out there winning in showring across the country.

5. Quality before quantity. I did not buy very many models this year. In fact, I think I may have purchased just one painted resin. I traded for a handful of others, but still there were a lot fewer new faces than in previous years. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it's just the opposite. By focusing on quality rather than quantity I was able to end up with the kind of models I've always wanted to own--like that Valor painted by Carol Williams!

6. Buying paintwork. I resisted it for years, but I'm finally ready to admit that I won't ever find the time to paint all the project horses myself. I used some of the money (and trade credits) I didn't spend on models and bought paintwork instead. I tried to choose a few up and coming artists whose work is not yet commanding the big bucks and I must say I'm very pleased with the results.

7. Thinning the herd. When I was nine years old my mother told me I had too many Breyers and she wasn't going to buy them for me anymore. I did not agree with her then, but some thirty years later I can no longer deny it. I have too many horses. I'm attached to most of the customs and resins, but there are a lot of older, common OF's still hanging around that I've started to rehome. A few went to a friend rebuilding a childhood collection, others went to a different friend's horse crazy daughter. A couple more were donated to various shows and associations. It's a bit difficult deciding which ones have to go, but once it's done, I'm mostly relieved. I need the space and I feel good about giving them to someone who will appreciate them.8. Greater hobby involvement. I entered four model horse shows in 2008. That's up from three in 2007 and two in 2006. I also donated several tack sets to various live shows both here in Colorado and elsewhere. I count many hobbyists among my closest friends, and really feel a part of the greater hobby community.

9. Free saddle raffle. I've wanted to have some kind of customer appreciation event for years and was delighted that 2008 was the year I went from thinking about it to actually doing it. I think I was as excited about the raffle results as both the winners!

10. Blog. Way back when, I used to keep a journal and write lots of long letters. Time passed and life got really busy. Somehow I forgot that I really do enjoy writing. So glad I've remembered! I may not be able to maintain near daily updates, but I do expect to keep posting to this blog for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Alive and well

Hope everyone had as nice a Christmas as I did. My parents in law have come and gone and the visit was a big success, messy house and all. The boys were pleased with all their gifts,especially since they had their Papa to help them figure out the electronic toys.
Dinner was delicious for both humans and dogs. Abbie really enjoyed her edible card.Of course the best part of the holiday was spending time with family. Too bad most of us couldn't keep our eyes open in the pictures!
My big Christmas gift was a new-to-me laptop which I am slowly figuring out. It arrived just in the the nick of time as someone seems to have downloaded a virus on to my trusty old desktop. I am reasonably optimistic my husband will be able to restore my saved files and pictures, but that is the main reason this blog has been quiet for the last couple days.

I'll get back to talking about model horses tomorrow--I promise!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday stress

I feel like the guy on the couch...Thankfully, this will all be over soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

House keeping notes from a kitchen table tackmaker

If you spill leather dye on the counter, it can be removed with cleanser and elbow grease. However, if you spill dye on your linoleum floor, it's going to be there forever.
Maybe if I put the dog bowl on that spot, no one will notice...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stallion tack

In hand stallion tack circa 1991and 2006. I wonder what improvements there will be in another 15 years?

Thanks to Karen Gerhardt for the second photo!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Santa scares me!

OK, that's not me in the picture but right now I am feeling much like Ryan did when he was first plunked down on Santa's lap--unhappy and overwhelmed. I really want to enjoy the holiday season, but I admit that a large part of me would be happy to hit the fast forward button and skip over the next couple weeks. There are a lot of reasons for this. I don't like shopping and I especially don't like shopping when the stores and roads are so crowded. Thankfully, I was able to order most of the kids' gifts online but there are still a few stocking stuffers that will require going to a store. I keep putting that trip off and I know it's only going to get worse...

It doesn't help that it's cold. Winter weather wasn't a problem for me the first time I moved here. In fact, I think snow was half the reason this California girl chose to attend a Colorado college. However, that was a long time ago. The cold does bother me now, and it seems that the older I am, the worse it gets. These cold winter days with their early sunsets wear me down. I know I would feel better if I was outdoors riding a horse or walking my dogs, but it's just too darned cold.

Of course staying inside reminds me that my house is a mess. This is not unusual and would not be a problem except that my in laws are coming for their first visit in five years. I really, really, really don't want them to see it like this. I don't mind admitting that I'm a lousy housekeeper, but it's a whole different matter having people come and see the mess for themselves. I do like my inlaws and I believe Chloe when she tells me that she's coming to visit the people and not the house. Still, I feel anxious about it.

Tack production has been at a standstill for more than a week. I've sat down several times to work on various projects, but it just isn't happening. Tack making requires time and focus and I can't seem to find enough of either. I am also about a month behind on email. If you've sent an inquiry about my tack, I am so sorry and I will answer eventually--I promise!

It's not all bad, though. The kids are out of school now and it's hard to not catch a bit of their excitement. We decorated the tree today and we've made a few silly little holiday projects like this.It's certainly not as interesting as a saddle, but still kind of fun!

The mailman delivered a big box today. The kids were sure it would be presents for them, but instead it was a pretty new pony for Mama.This is the new Orgulhoso resin sculpted by Dagmar Anderson. I don't usually get horsey things for Christmas, and in fact, this is part of a tack trade rather than a present. Still, he feels like a Christmas pony. Isn't he pretty? I think I'm going to tie a big red bow around his neck and put him under the Christmas tree. Maybe that will help my holiday mood!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Random collection picture

This is Alejandro X, an original finish Breyer Leandro resin.See, there are some Kathleen Moody horses I like!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More turtle Arab

I may be a fast tack maker but I'm a sloooow customizer. Usually it's years between the time I start a project and its eventual completion. Of course that's assuming I ever do finish it. There are a few horses buried deep in my body box that will probably never again see the light of day...

The Turtle Arab, however, looks like it might be a rare exception this rule. No matter how many times I put her back on the project shelf, she keeps finding her way upstairs. I have so many other things I should be working on. My in laws will be here next week and the house is still a mess. I haven't finished my Christmas shopping and I still need to wrap the presents I have bought. I really should not be wasting time on a plastic horse, so of course that's exactly what I've been doing.

She's looking better, though!
Aside from the new neck, there's been a sex change, a tail removal and a butt reduction. I'm tried to give her more substance through the heart girth by adding to both her topline and underline.
So far I'm pleased with the way this is going. There is still a lot of work to do (especially on that hind end), but she looks prettier to me now than she did in her OF state. Since I still own every model I've ever customized, that's what matters to me the most.

Now if I could just stop thinking of her as "the Turtle Arab"! Poor girl, at this rate she is doomed to be named Bint Tyrtyll or Tyrtyllina or something equally ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking back--DKL 2008

I went to four model horse shows in 2008. Three were specialty shows in Heather Roell's Redline Revival series. The fourth was the Devilish Kokopelli Live which is held in Golden, Colorado every May. This is probably the biggest live show in our area and it's one of my favorites. Heather and Teresa do a really good job of bringing in judges from other areas and the classlist is huge with ten different divisions. It's the total opposite of a specialty show!

This year, though, I almost skipped it. I was going through a little bit of hobby burnout and just didn't feel up to making the effort. I missed the deadline for a reduced "early bird" entry fee and figured that was that. However, a scribe position opened up at the last minute and I had a change of heart. So glad I did! I didn't show performance, since scribing keeps you far too busy for that. Instead I just concentrated on helping my judge, putting my horses on the table and having a nice, low-key time.

I did not take nearly as many pictures as I usually do, but here are a few that are worth sharing. Of course, I always have to start with a picture of my messy table.This Donna Chaney Clydesdale resin has been painted to represent an American Cream Draft.A lovely Lynn Fraley Koko resin.This is a Scarlet resin customized and painted by Stephanie Michaud, who is one of the hobby's premier oil artists.This cantankerous mule is a Lynn Fraley Tuesday resin.Shazaam resin sculpted by Carol Herden. I really like her mules and would love to own one someday.The mustang class was especially competitive. This Bosco resin is an excellent example of Sheila Anderson's very detailed finishwork. I really like the way she paints roans.There were several Stormwatch resins in attendance. This wild pintaloosa was painted by Cindy Williams.Another Stormwatch, this one from Stephanie Michaud's studio. I believe his name is Dokken. I took a lot of photos of this one.
That face!
Even though I was really busy with showing and scribing, I did find time to wander over to the performance ring every now and again. I really like this team roping set-up by Lu Heater.
Lu is really good at the details. I like the horn wrap on the steer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dagmar's polo pony

I don't get many orders for classic sized tack which is unfortunate as I really enjoy working in that scale. It's small enough that there is a marked time saving on the really tedious cutting and prep stages, but it's not so small that I have to sacrifice any of my usual detail. This is a picture of a classic scale saddle I made in 2007 for Dagmar Anderson. Dagmar is a talented painter and sculptor (http://www.dagmarhorseart.com/) and she's also a fine tackmaker in her own right. Look at the bridle, martingale, breastplate and draw reins--those are her work, not mine. She also took the photograph!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Turtle Arab

It's really cold. We had record setting low temperatures yesterday and so far today has been more of the same. My older son has caught his brother's eye infection so he's home from school. He's contagious, but he feels fine. He's just bored. It's too cold to play outside. There's nothing interesting to watch on tv. He doesn't want to read a book or draw. Apparently today has been so boring that he is looking forward to going back to school tomorrow.

I have so far stifled the urge to tell him what my father always used to tell me, that is "only boring people get bored." Oh, I hated it when he said that, but I do think that Ryan needs to learn to amuse himself. I already have enough responsibilities and do not need to add entertaining Ryan to my list. However, I don't mind trying to involve him in some of my projects.

Since he usually likes anything that involves tools, that PS Arab who was standing on my unpainted shelf yesterday became today's together project. We decided that we did not like the neck so out came the hacksaw. You should have heard Ryan cackling his mad scientist laugh as the neck went bye-bye!

Ryan laughed even harder when I put the head into the neck hole. He said "You need to put a picture of that on your Blog." I agreed that it was blogworthy so here's a look at poor little turtle Arab peaking out from his shell.
Of course, I couldn't leave him like that for long. Here he is with a temporary wire and foil neck. I think the general length and shape look ok, but I posted some pictures on Model Horse Blab hoping that some of the talented people there will help me fix any mistakes I might not be seeing.
It's easy to change things at this stage, so feel free to critique away--I will not be offended!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My unpainted horse shelves

Hazel and First Impression are spoken for, but the rest of these ponies will be looking for painters in 2009. I have no idea how I got so many project horses.
I think they're breeding!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A little more about me

I don't have a website for my tack business. I never have. Probably I should, but I just can't seem to find the time or interest to get that done. And honestly, at this point I don't need to have one. I have more business than I can handle, and even though I'm a fast worker, it's been more than four years since I didn't have an order backlog.

However, it hasn't always been like this. When I first started selling tack online, I was a complete unknown in the hobby and I spent a lot of time convincing people to take a chance on me and my work. One of the ways I did that, was to tell the prospective buyer all about my real world tack experience. Since that experience was, in fact, rather impressive, I had a pretty good degree of success with this strategy. Eventually, though, as I built a reputation within the hobby, I stopped telling people about my background. It seemed more relevant to talk about my tack and how it was doing in live show rings across the country.

Still, I do think it's worth mentioning that I spent some eight years working in the tack industry. The first and most interesting part of that time involved a big truck and an even bigger trailer.For five years in the early to mid 1990's I lived on the Hunter/Jumper show circuit, setting up shop alongside the showrings of big A shows all over the Southeastern United States.
"My" store may have been just forty feet long, but it had more inventory than many local tack shops, both in quantity and quality. We definitely catered to a high end clientele. Everything we carried with us was the "good stuff".
I carried all these displays in and out every day for years. My dog Abbie was raised on the circuit and for a time she really was one of the famous show dogs. I'm quite sure more people knew her name than mine!
And here's a picture of me, sitting on the mobile shop steps enjoying the view with one of my bosses' boxers. I'm sitting next to a stitching horse that was used for repairing tack. One of my only regrets about this time in my life, is that I didn't learn how to do more tack repairs. I did a few, but honestly, I was afraid that if I showed more interest, I'd end up doing all the repair work on top of my other duties.
This is what the few from the steps looked like more often than not. We usually tried to set up next to the main hunter ring, although there were some shows that put us next to the jumper ring which I really loved. If you had asked me early on to pick a favorite hunter, this horse would have been my choice. Sadly, his $700,000 price tag put him well out of my price range. He was sold to an amateur in California and I never saw him again after that first year.My boss did have two very nice Amateur Owner hunters that often travelled with us. This is CC, who my favorite of the two. I didn't show them, of course, but I did ride them a lot on non show days. My favorite place to ride was the Kentucky Horse Park cross country course.
One last picture of me on "my" truck. This was my daily driver while I was on the road. I do miss the horse shows sometimes, but I do not miss the driving!I wasn't part of the model horse hobby during this time. I'd buy maybe one or two OF models a year and I did keep up my subscription to The Hobby Horse News, but that was as far as it went. However, I think in the back of my mind, I was always knew I'd go back to the models someday, and when I did, I was going to learn how to make tack that really looked like the real thing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Numbers

No wonder I'm tired! I just totalled up my saddle and harness output for the year and it's pretty impressive. I may not be the best tack maker working in the hobby right now, but I'm probably the most prolific.
I made thirty four saddles this year--thirty three of which were of the "English" persuasion. Half of that number was huntseat saddles--ten of which were regular traditional sized, three were traditional pony size, three classic, and one Pebbles. I also made eight dressage saddles (four traditional, two traditional pony, one classic and one Pebbles) and eight saddleseat saddles (five traditional, two traditional pony, and one Pebbles). The lone non-English saddle was part of Tiffany's pony sized Endurance set.I also made four complete racing sets, four harnesses (one pleasure, two fine, one marathon) and four packing sets. I did not count up bridles, halters, boots, breastcollars and various other accessories, but there were a lot of them!
And finally, here's the statistic that impresses my mother the most: In 2008, my tack went to hobbyists in six countries--the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Ireland. I bet she never saw that coming when she bought me my first Breyer all those years ago!