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Artisans

Inspired by chuckwagon traditions, cowboy cook Tom Perini has made an art out of preparing simple foods the old-fashioned way. That’s what draws people from around the world to his rural Texas ranch to taste a bit of Western heritage.

He can’t remember how many paintings he’s done, but he thinks he’s painted pictures of horses in 28 states, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. And he for sure remembers that he has painted some horses two or even three times. “I’d paint a picture for the owner of a horse, and then when the horse sold, the new owner would want one. And if the horse sold again, sometimes the next owner would want one,” Orren Mixer laughs.

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World-famous Severe Brothers Saddlery, a family-operated outfit in Pendleton, Oregon, was started by brothers Duff and Bill Severe in 1955. Today, the next generation of Severe brother, Robin and Randy, carry on their father and uncle's saddlemaking traditions, while adding a few touches of their own.

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A one-of-a-kind mentoring program helps ensure the future of the gearmaking arts.

It’s never been easy to earn a living as a maker of custom working tack. Young artisans invest years studying their crafts, pursuing every available educational opportunity, from apprenticeships to the reverse engineering of finished gear. Once they enter the business, these craftsmen face the harsh realities of professions defined by painstaking work, impatient customers, and often razor-thin profit margins.

Bitmakers Greg Darnall and Ernie Marsh agree there’s nothing wrong with using vintage or antique spade bits. The market for the better-made bits by known makers has exploded in recent years. And a person might find that his prized Guadalupe Garcia, Raphael Gutierrez or Al Tietjen bit has become too valuable to use on a regular basis.