I had the opportunity to build my first saddle in January of 2004. Rex Cook, a saddle maker from Dickinson, ND offered to help me with this project. I had been working with leather for many years, and ridding horses even longer, but had no idea what all was involved with making a saddle. I met with Rex for a period of 2 weeks, working both in his shop and then at home. This saddle was a rough out on a 15" association tree.
My next attempt at a saddle was using the instructions from Al and Ann Stohlman's Encyclopedia of Saddlemaking series of books. This saddle had a small amount of tooling with a rough out seat.
In the spring of 2005 Rex and I recieved a grant from the North Dakota Council for the Arts through thier Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. This program helps masters in a field help pass on thier knowledge to a willing apprentice. Through this program, I worked on my first fully carved saddle. We also attempted a padded inlaid seat, a first for both Rex and me. We got some tips on this from another local saddle maker, Dave Uhrlacher. Carving is what I enjoy most about working with leather, so this saddle was a really fun project for me.
Taking what I had learned on the last saddle with Rex, I decided to try one on my own. This time I decided to try a Wade style tree, a stright up cantle with a hidden stitch, turned stirrup leathers and add some silver.
In early 2006, Rex and I got another grant from the ND Council for the Arts. This time we decided to try an old time saddle based on an old worn out saddle someone had given Rex. This one presented a lot of different techniques from the others we had done including a sam stagg style rigging.
© 2007 Badlands Leather Art, Clay Banyai, ND, USA
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