Beautiful to behold, the functional art created by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association carries high meaning.
Members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association are not only passionate about quality craftsmanship that lasts a lifetime, but they also take pride in the functional gear they create and want to share their knowledge with emerging artisans and the public. There’s no better place to visit with the craftsmen and learn about their work and resources than the Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition & Sale on display through January 5, 2020, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
During opening weekend of the 21st-annual show on October 4-5, TCAA members unveiled 35 pieces of handcrafted work in the disciplines of saddlemaking, silversmithing, rawhide braiding, and bit- and spurmaking.
“As makers, we spend nearly 365 days a year in solitary confinement in our shops,” says TCAA past president Wilson Capron. “This is the place for us to take our wares and be rewarded for our efforts and education.”
More than 150 people attended opening weekend festivities, which included a preview party, autograph session, special museum exhibit tours with members, artist discussions of the stories behind their showpieces, and a fixed price sale and banquet.
Of the 35 pieces in the show, 27 have sold, exceeding $275,000 in sales.
The highest selling piece at $35,450 was a saddle made by Cary Schwarz of Salmon, Idaho, which not only featured detailed floral carving with an antiqued finish, but also pyrography, or the burning of illustrations into the leather. The second highest-selling piece was a silver plate titled Cool Morning, by silversmith Beau Compton of Tombstone, Arizona, which brought $27,500.
Each piece in the show has a story behind the idea and creation, including a hand-forged curb bit by Wilson Capron of Christoval, Texas, and Colorado saddlemaker John Willemsma’s saddle that is a tribute to the women who rode wild horses.
Rather than giving awards to its members during the show, TCAA believes in recognizing makers who are dedicated to furthering their education and improving their craftsmanship through TCAA programs. Each January during Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction in Mesa, Arizona, the TCAA holds its Emerging Artists Competition, rotating disciplines each year.
This year’s competition focused on rawhide braiding and the winner, Graeme Quisenberry of Queen Creek, Arizona. Quisenberry accepted his honor during the banquet. Two fellowship winners, silversmith Matt Litz of Iowa Park, Texas, and saddlemaker Janneman Pienaar of Ellensburg, Washington, both accepted scholarships to travel to the shops of TCAA members to hone their skills.