Tuesday, January 7, 2014

6 months, oh dear.....

That's how long it's been since I posted last, I am a bad blogger!

Truth be told I do find it easier updating the facebook page and that seems to be gaining in popularity by the day, so thank you if you're following me on there. 

I may as well start this year's blogging by reviewing 2013. I didn't make a vast amount of tack, and all were sets made for customers. Pieces completed this year included:

A racing bridle,

a side-saddle set,

a draught horse presentation set,

a cross country set,

a racing saddle with breastplate,

a simple hunt bridle, and last but not least,

a jumping saddle

Which is about the same as last year, equivalent to 5 sets of tack. But whilst I am slightly disappointed that I can't seem to manage any more than this, I am exceptionally please about the quality. I really am producing the best ever tack that my hands have ever created and seem to be able to carry that through to all styles and scales. 

A lot happened during 2013 on a more personal level, including a trip back to the UK, the death of a close relative and issues of inheritance, and the best part which was the decision to start a family. That last one means that as of April 2014, our family will grow and I will be a mummy! We are really excited about this new phase of our lives and so far my pregnancy has gone really well. We found out just before Christmas that we are expecting a girl and I've found it quite hard to stop myself buying too many pink things! Meanwhile I am intending to keep working as long as possible, which means I am often tired, possibly grumpy, and for the next two months, very hot. We are well into the Australian summer now and so to escape the heat we are off on a 'babymoon' next week to cooler Tasmania with a few days in Melbourne thrown in.

I currently have 3 orders on the books which are a side-saddle set, a lower level dressage bridle, and a dressage set which was my Down Under Nationals donation. I'm intending to get all of these finished by March at the latest, to leave myself free to enjoy being a mum without any pressures of tack making for a while. Now I am being stern about this, so please don't ask if my books are open, they are not. Time will tell once the baby arrives if I am able to find some spare moments to make things. But they will likely be sales pieces or pieces for my own collection. 

Now I'm also selling a fair few models to create space in the studio/nursery, and have/will be advertising them on MH$P, facebook and various other places. I may even try the odd one on here but I don't think my readership is large enough to support sales unfortunately. Otherwise they're going into boxes and who knows when they'll next see light of day!

Hope you enjoyed reading about my year, and also hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Completed Side Saddle Set

For once I've actually made a set relatively swiftly!! But knowing a set of tack will be shown at NAN on a beautiful custom that you'll soon be the proud owner of is very good motivation. This set was made to fit a Salinero custom but I think it looks good on my Hazel resin, Valkyrie, painted by Sheila Bishop. This was actually the first time I've ever tacked Valkyrie up, and she looks very smart despite the unplaited mane. I've been reading up and she could get away with depicting an Autumn hunting scene - apparently horses don't have to be plaited for Autumn hunting. 

90% of the leather in this set is kangaroo, from Packer Direct here in Australia. It is the bookbinding leather and required no skiving except at buckles etc. Hardware is all gold/brass coloured which really sets this havana colour off nicely. The panel is covered in linen, and the breastplate centre and sandwich case are lined with real sheepskin. I also developed a new pattern for this set including a new tree design with riveted fixed and leaping heads for durability and longevity. They are slightly flexible depending on the type of rider used. I also made a hunting crop with a braided leather leash complete with the standard red thong. Enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Recessed Stirrup Bars - Part 2

So this is the next stage of the saddle making process. I have made the flaps and attached them to the tree. The cut-out on the flap just exposes the stirrup bar which has been trimmed to an appropriate length. This rather blurry photo illustrates the position of the bar relative to the flap:

And a much more in focus top view shows how the front of the tree is used to secure the flaps. 

Once the jockey skirt has then been glued into position, a pin is positioned at the front of the jockey skirt so it goes through the jockey, the flap, the tree, and in the case of normal saddles, the lower flap. I use an older awl and a hammer to make a hole as the brass tree is very stiff, and then insert a bent pin which then gets trimmed and covered with a piece of leather to keep is secure on the underside.

Next shots show the completed saddle, including foam panels;

And hey presto, finished! This is my new design mono-flap cross country saddle made to fit Rayvin Brewer's Murdock resin. I will actually be taking delivery of a lovely painted Murdock soon - I'll be sure to show you pics when he arrives as I haven't seen many other painted Murdocks around.

So far I'm working on several different sets at once but I will complete this series about stirrup bars. The third and final part will be published when I get around to making the stirrup leathers.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tack Journal

This year I am trying out a new way of recording what I make and how I make it. I'm going back to basics and writing everything down in a journal. The first few pages contain handy reference material such as my price list, supply websites and reference websites. Then there is an index of projects contained within the journal. This journal so far contains three entries, none of which are yet finished: draft presentation harness, cross country set and a sidesaddle set. I allow a few pages for each project and all the basic info is on the front page. The two photos show the front pages for two of the sets. I will print out any reference photos provided to me, or found by me, and write down any important requests and measurements for the intended model.

For the first time, I will be properly documenting how long each set takes me to make. For example today I worked on the cross country set for 45 minutes. Normally I would forget about small sessions like that but I think over a whole set those little sessions all add up.

I have never managed to persevere with a proper catalogue of my tack or indeed a numbering system. Many pieces have the month and year on them but once it's left my hands all I sometimes have are a few photos. Each of the entries above will have one photo at least of the finished set so that I can refer back to it easily. That way I'll easily be able to recall any particular details or techniques I may have used. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recessed Stirrup Bars - Part 1

Figuring out the best way to attach stirrup leathers to a saddle is one of the biggest challenges when you're trying to teach yourself how to make miniature tack. I briefly touched on this when I wrote about developing my new tree-making technique. Now that I have been using that technique for a while I am still very pleased with this technique as I think it gives the most realistic and accurate effect. My stirrup leathers and the way they attach to the saddle is just like real life, in that you can pull the top of the leather down to adjust using a buckle, and the stirrup leather can be slipped off the back of the stirrup bar in an 'emergency'. But they are still very secure. Recessed bars mean that there is less bulk under the riders leg, and I have found that this was the hardest thing to get right.

I start by marking up the tree with permanent marker. The black dot in the photo above represents the level that my bar will sit. I use the pattern for the skirt to make sure that the bar will sit about half way down the skirt, so there will be enough skirt leather to cover the bar and stirrup buckle, but it isn't so high up that you can't access it.

I use a dremel with a 3/64" diameter drill bit to drill the holes. This is the right size for my silver wire which is 1mm diameter. I use silver coated wire as it is strong yet malleable. I thread about 3-4mm through and then crimp the wire using pliers. I then use my mini anvil and my jewellers hammer to gently hammer the wire until it squashed flat and almost flush with the brass tree, as seen below.

By doing this, the wire is effectively locked into position. I also flatten the wire along the length of the bar a little, again to cut down any bulk. Then the bars get trimmed a little, not to their final length as I will do a final trim when the skirt gets put on. I want to make sure it's long enough so that the stirrup leather is unlikely to slip of during normal use, but not so long that you can't get the leather onto the end of it.

The completed metal tree with finished stirrup bars.

The next instalment will look at the next stages and how the bars look when the flaps and skirts are introduced.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shelf Shots

I think I have turned a corner this weekend. We had some bad news about a close family member recently which has caused some stress and anxiety. We have been debating when to go back to the UK to visit and trying to juggle timings with work etc. These things always serve to make us reassess life and realise what is important to us. Work has been pretty stressful over the last 6 months or so. Sometimes it just takes a little jolt to make us realise work is not the most important thing in life. We must also make time to do the things we love and spend time with the people we love. I've been pretty good at spending time with Andy, my partner, he does not appear to be neglected! But actually making time for doing the things I love has taken a real back seat. I have been focussing more on the things I think I should be doing, like cleaning, cooking, going to the gym etc. 

So, I managed to finish an order for some Equorum tack yesterday. No photos quite yet as I haven't got the stirrups yet. Then I started in earnest on Rayvin's cross country set. I've made good progress on the tree, and documented that process which will form another blog post soon. I have also decided to start a journal documenting all the tack I make. So far my documentation has been pretty bad. The occasional photo and just a few quick notes in my order book. I'll talk about this a bit more in my next blog post.

Meanwhile here's some lighter stuff!

I've had a few ponies arrived recently who deserve a mention on here. This is not all of the horses that ave arrived over the last few months, just the ones that were out and asking to be photographed!

First off is this Calliope resin and PF Hez Jazi resin Arab colt both painted by Alice Jez. These guys have been owed to me for a long time but due to my various worldwide moves, name changes and lost emails it has taken 5 years for us to be united! I wasn't a massive Arab fan 5 years ago and I'm really not one now. So he'll be up for sale, let me know if you're interested!

There are a few newbies in this shot who I haven't introduced yet. Starting at the front we have an adorable Equorum Donkey who doesn't have a name yet (any ideas??). His mane is the softest thing imaginable and he has such a lovely expression. Behind him to the right is my Rose Reiner named Cloudbreak painted by Sandra Hottinger. His paintwork is just breathtaking and looks awesome tacked up. Next to him is Hunnypenny, an Oktopussy resin painted by Tiffany Purdy. She is totally awesome too and replaces my First Impression resin who I sold over east. The two guys on the left are both Eberl Warmbloods, a Roy resin called Rudyard at the front painted by Heather Bullach, and a Wico resin named Copernicus at the very back painted by Sherry Clayton. Standing models like these aren't the most versatile in terms of performance but I just love these sculptures, they represent the type of horse I would love to own in the real world!

Back to latex, and this is the new Equorum Shire Horse mould. He is wearing a bridle by Corinne Ensor which I had for quite a while. He doesn't have a name yet either. Love his feathers!

This is not really showing a new horse (except the champagne Equorum Icelandic on the right), but some new dressage planters made by Kim Haymond (Table Top Studios). They are modelled on the Olympic arena planters but in a red theme rather than purple. I am really impressed by the quality and can recommend Kim's work all day long.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Little Update

I managed to finish an order last week, yey!! This is Heather's race bridle to fit her Kittydiddit resin. I have been way too slow getting this done for her but was somewhat relieved when she told me she hasn't painted the resin yet. It's nice working with people on similar time wavelengths!

I cracked open the latex again for the rubber reins. It's starting to go off but my supply is about 3 or 4 years old so I'll try and replace it soon if I can find a supply in Australia....

I have just put in several hardware orders for my upcoming projects, as I always feel happier when my stocks are replenished. I always include a few random bits and other parts in my orders in case they inspire me make additional items. Usually that doesn't work and I just end up with a small box full of random bits!

Here's a pic of the back of our house in Kalgoorlie. The lawn is looking greener than it ever has since we moved in 15 months ago, which is good as I've worked very hard on it. The french doors are great apart from the fact they don't have a fly screen so we end up with flys and mozzies inside the house. We're in the hottest part of the year right now which isn't conducive to tack making, but I have my little studio in one of the rooms that gets the sun in the morning but cools off by evening. I just have to be careful not to leave any leather items (or models) in the path of the sun as it can bleach things very quickly. The cheekpiece of the bridle above got caught out for less than one day and it was almost natural coloured again!

Other news is I am hosting a house live show next month. It won't be a big show with a handful of entrants and proxy showers, but I expect it will be fun and laid back. The rosettes are on order and all I have to do now is print out results sheets, placing certificates and do the DUN paperwork.