By Anie Wayman-Trujillo
Glancing at the hand tooled leather, intricately crafted knives, detailed bits and spurs, hitched horse hair and other handcrafted works of art on display at the Trappings of the American West show and sale, it does not take long for one to understand that this is no ordinary art show. As it is often said that art can imitate life, the handcrafted saddles, hats, musical instruments and other gear, along with photography, sculpture and expressive fine art that is being exhibited, is set up to personify the tradition of the cowboy way of life and embodies the cowboy craftsmanship that speaks of the complex story and legacy of our American West.
A production by the Dry Creek Arts Fellowship hosted at Desert Caballeros Western Museum, the show was conceptualized in 1985 by co-founders, Joe Beeler, Kurt Markus, Dan Daggett and Dale Harwood. The purpose of this one-of-a-kind show, as stated in the show’s catalog, is to “acknowledge cowboy craftsmanship by showcasing the artistic talent,” explains Jody Beeler, president of Dry Creek. “It is fine and functional art,” said Linda Stedman, executive director of Dry Creek. “All of the pieces in the exhibit and sale are handcrafted, contemporary works that have a common thread with the American West and were created and made within the last year.”
For the 2019 show, over 74 artists from 14 states have come together to present and sell the tools of their trades. All juried artists, they are chosen for their outstanding skills in their field. Four of these prestigious artists also call Wickenburg their home.
Carson Thomas, a second-generation saddle-maker and resident of Wickenburg since 1960, is well known throughout Wickenburg and the art world for creating his signature 23 half-scale saddles that tell a story of the American West.
Exhibiting with Dry Creek Art Fellowship since 2014, this year Thomas has added two bronze sculptured saddles that share the same detailed beauty and expression as his leather saddles.
Hat maker Jimmie Harrison has been located in Wickenburg for seven years and is the proprietor of Double H Custom Hat Company. A member of Dry Creek for over 24 years, what attracted Harrison originally to the fellowship and shows was the fact that “everything must be custom made and represents Western Art.” Each hat exhibited in this year’s display can take up to 36 hours to create and is unique in design as the person who wears them.
Newcomer to Dry Creek this year is bladesmith and Wickenburg resident Mike Tyre. An Army veteran and full-time knife-maker for the past 15 years, Tyre has taken an essential part of a cowboy’s tool of the trade and forged the metal, wood, gold and semi-precious stones into intricate knives that are as beautiful as they are functional.
Recently earning his Journeyman Smith status from the American Bladesmith Society, Tyre also promotes his craft by teaching knife-making classes.
Saddle maker and leather worker, Bruce Meier rounds out the list of artists from Wickenburg. Exhibiting his wares in the trappings show since 1999, Bruce first went to see the show prior to exhibiting and was impressed with varied cowboy “tools of the trade.”
“Everything is so diverse and exquisite,” he said, “and the caliber of the work from my contemporaries is always so impressive to see.”
This year Meier has included a handmade pair of chinks and purse for display and sale. Don’t miss this opportunity to peruse and purchase some of the most unique and fascinating tributes to the American cowboy at the trappings show and sale.
Art work will be on display in the main gallery of the museum until Dec 1.