Friday, January 31, 2014

Revisiting Rev, the resin edition

Another one of my hobby goals for 2014 is to get some of my unpainted resins into the hands of finishwork artists.  The first one to go will be my Rev portrait, created from a Maggie Bennett Cooper body and a Peter Stone Arabian head.
I started this guy last Spring and made a lot of progress in a short amount of time.  The head is securely attached to the body and the resculpted area on the neck is nice and smooth.  However, normal prepping aside, there are three big areas that need to be addressed before I send him off to Tennessee.  These are his ears, his tail and his mane.  
The ears look okay from the side, but are weirdly narrow and pointy when viewed head on.  I tried to shape them with epoxy, but that didn't go very well. 
So...  I cut them off! 
I then used Laura Skillern's method to make some new ears out of epoxy. 
While those were drying, I moved on to the broken tail.  I carefully chipped out the crack,
filled the gap with baking soda and super glue, 
and covered it up with a layer of epoxy.
Then--because I was feeling fancy--I decided to add a pinwheel!
The new mane is loosely based on another Laura Skillern tutorial.  I created it with a combination of embroidery floss and epoxy.
After everything had cured, I played around with the ears.  The real Rev is a cheerful guy, and his ears are usually pointed forward. 
Despite that, I think I'm going to point them backwards.
For some reason, this look is really working for me! 
It's been a fun day working with epoxy instead of leather.  I'm going to give myself the rest of the weekend to finish this guy, and then it's back to tack!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Goal met

Ok, they're not all done.  They still need a little bit of clean up and shaping, not to mention stirrups and leathers and girths.  Still, it's obvious that I've met my monthly quota.
Woo hoo!  I get to spend the rest of the day making something for myself!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hump day

I got the kids off to school this morning and went right to work in the studio.
The next couple hours were spent detailing the flaps.  This includes skiving, sealing, finishing the edges, stitch-marking, and adding the stirrup leather keepers and d-rings.
My shoulder was hurting by the time I finished all that, so I decided a physical and mental health break was in order.  
 After a good ride on Mystyc, I was ready to assemble the padded flaps, add billets and stirrup bars and attach the seat and flap section.
That's more than enough work for one day.  There's still a lot left to do, of course, but I'm over the hump.  Tomorrow should be a lot easier!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Back in the saddle

One of my goals for 2014 is to make at least one, and preferably two, saddles every month.  

That seems like a completely reasonable objective, but January is nearly over and the only saddle I've made is Marci's sawbuck.  I suppose that counts, but I'd really like to do better.

So....
Even in the best of times, hunching over a saddle for hours on end can cause neck and shoulder pain.  Since my left collarbone and shoulder still aren't one hundred percent, I'm having to take a lot of breaks.  This photo represents two days worth of work!  

Hopefully things will start to move a little quicker soon.  After all, the end of the month is nearly here, and I have a quota to make!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Revisiting Rev

Some version of this famous George Morris meme shows up on my Facebook page nearly every other day.
There was no chance of me getting back on Rev after our accident.  As soon as I hit the ground I knew that my collarbone was broken.  I went straight from the ring to the emergency room.  

By the time I was ready to ride again, Rev had left Kenlyn.  Although I was happy for him, I couldn't help but wish that I'd been able to sit on him one more time.  After so many happy miles together, it seemed wrong that our last ride was one that put me in the hospital.

Fortunately, I got the chance for a do-over.  

Rev's new people called yesterday with a few questions about his training.  One thing led to another, and today, I drove out to Morrison, Colorado to see Rev in his new home.
I saw him as soon as I drove up.  He was out in the field with a bunch of his buddies, and I wondered if he'd come to me when I called his name.
"Rev-ah-noooooo!" 
Never a doubt. 
We spent some time getting reacquainted before Karen and Grace arrived.
  Then it was right onto the trailer... 
and across the highway to Bear Creek Lake Park
They asked me to ride him first, and I was more than happy to oblige.   
I put him through his paces, explaining everything I was doing.  He was a little stiff and resistant, but not bad considering. 
And I can't stress this enough:  It felt awesome to be sitting on him again.
After I was done, Grace climbed aboard.  He tried all his tricks with her.  He wouldn't stay on the rail.  He jigged.  He ran through her hands at the trot.  He fussed with his mouth and pulled the reins through her hands.
Despite that, Grace was completely unintimidated.   
She stayed loose and relaxed and listened when I explained how to do a half-halt.  Rev responded nicely, and by the time we were done, they were communicating much better.
I think they're going to be a great team. 
Today was such a good day.  It did my heart good to spend time with Rev, both in and out of the saddle.  His new people are wonderful, and I'm confident he will be happy with them.  It's a happy ending all around.  Hurray!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Packing it in

It took longer than I'd planned, but Marci's packing set is finally finished.
I'd thought that I was nearly done once the saddle and harness were complete, but I'd forgotten how involved the panniers were.
So many straps and buckles! 
One last picture before the mule and the dog go to Oregon and the packing set goes to Massachusetts.  I allow myself a moment to enjoy my work...
then it's on to the next!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Model donkeys

I have been a donkey fan ever since the first time I read Brighty of the Grand Canyon.  Not surprisingly, there are a number of model donkeys in my collection.  The oldest are Breyer's Brighty and his longtime sidekick, Ichabod.  I've owned this pair for more than thirty years!
Bitsy Brayer is a North Light donkey foal...
and Hattie is a Hagen Renaker donkey foal.  I think both of these babies need mamas!
Bitesize is a customized Breyer companion donkey.  He was one of my favorite performance models when I returned to live showing.  Unfortunately, time has not been kind.  You can't see it in this photo, but he has a fair amount of paint damage and really needs a new coat of paint.
Moving on to resins,  this is Gimme S'more.  He is a Sarah Minkiewicz Breunig Brownie resin and one of my most successful show models.  He won a Top Ten for his first owner at NAN 2009 and was Reserve National Champion for me in 2011.
This pretty jenny is a Michelle Belisle-Locke Cricket resin that was also painted by Michelle.  Her name is MN Bonnie.
Last--and perhaps least--is this stripped and slightly customized HA Jonathan resin by Renate Van Der Graaff.  He's been hanging out on my nekkid resin shelf for years.  Maybe someday he'll actually get finished...
I would love to adopt a donkey from the Longhopes Donkey Shelter someday, but until that's possible, I'll have to be content with the plastic, resin and china donkeys on my shelf.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Timing is everything

In a perfect world, I'd finish old orders before starting new ones.  Sometimes, however, that's just not possible.  Danielle's draft harness is by far the oldest order on my schedule, but it remains on hold while I wait for some of the necessary hardware to come off backorder. 

On the other hand, Marci's packing set has jumped to the head of the line, mostly because the mule it needs to fit is about to set off on a cross country jaunt with Erin.  There's no telling when he'll be back, so I decided it would be best to get this finished before he leaves.
As you can see, the prepping marathon has paid off.  All that carefully skived lace drapes beautifully over the mule's haunches.  There's no sticky wax here--the secret to well-fitting harness is all in the prep.
With the exception of the cinch buckles, every buckle on the harness is a photo-etched Rio Rondo buckle with added tongues and rollers.  In addition to looking nice, the rollers actually serve two functions--they make the harness easier to adjust and protect the leather from the hard edges of the buckles. 
Bronc style halters are very popular right now, so I decided to add one to the set.  
I still need to make finish the panniers and make a lead rope, but as of right now, this set is very nearly complete.  Hopefully, I'll get it in the mail tomorrow, and then I can go back to working on the older orders again!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I get an oompa-loompa

Pack harnesses aren't particularly hard to make, but like most strappy items, they require an inordinate amount of prep work.  Over the course of the last two days, I've skived a couple yards of lace, cleaned and assembled fifteen tongue buckles with rollers, punched hundreds of holes and created twenty five keepers.  Although essential, this prep-work is boring and exhausting, and I often wish I had an assistant--or perhaps an Oompa-Loompa?--to  help me with these mind-numbing stages.

One of the last things I worked on today was the double cinch.  As usual, I started by forming some jump rings into a nice D shape.  Also as usual, I found myself contemplating that little gap along the bottom bar.  It's offset enough that the tongue probably won't work itself out of position, but really, it should be soldered shut. 

And that thought is painful because I do not like soldering and I am so sick of buckles.
Then it hits me:  I'm not the only one in the house who knows how to use a soldering iron.   
Ryan is a robot building fool, and his soldering skills surpassed mine a long time ago.  I asked him if he could close these buckles for me, and he jumped into action. 
Success! 
Success times four! 
I can not even begin to tell you how nice it was to have someone else do this particular job for me.  The cinch is finished, and I didn't have to do it all
After all these years, I finally have an Oompa-Loompa!  I'm never going to have to solder anything again!