We enjoyed our participation in the Western Design Conference in Jackson, Wyoming this month. One of the best parts of the show is meeting the artists and learning about their work. I took the opportunity to interview just a few on the last day of the show, so I could share their stories here on our blog.
Chris Chapman of Chapman Design Inc., is a leather artist living and working in Colorado. She has been a furniture maker for over 20 years. Chris says “I’ve always been a maker of things. When I was 5 years old my Scottish Grandfather gave me an antique sewing machine. . . . I began making historical clothing at 19.” Chris has travelled to Scottland and seen the land her ancestors lived on and worked from. This inspires many of the pieces she creates.
The leather bonding Chris works into her furniture is a style unique to her design. It’s done by building up layers of leather, then the raised pieces are wrapped and bonded, creating a relief of the image she is portraying. These images incorporate the historical styles of Classic Western, Native American, and Black Forest into many of Chris’s pieces.
This Scottish Chest has 400-500 hours of Chapman’s time alone in it, and another 100 hours from local artisans in the woodworking, ironwork and silversmithing trades. Many of her tools are homemade to create the look she is after. She also uses traditional saddle stamping tools.
Chris is a certified Verterinary Technician and says anatomy and physiology studies have added to the detail seen in the animals she includes in her leather designs; horses, deer and birds are just a few.
Interviewing Chris about the work she does taught me that she is very committed to her art, her love of history and animals, and the freedom of working in her craft to make a living. It was an honor to meet her, and get a close up look at the beautiful work her hands create.
The show this year was encouraging and inspirational, as well as just plain fun.
Mike did a beautiful job of designing and finishing our Vintage Rustic light sconce. It is a heavy gauged copper, glass and mica wall sconce in the Craftsman style. The warm colors of the glass are framed by hand hammered copper bands and set off by the soft glow of silver mica insets. This light is one we can imagine in a set, lining the walls of a home theater, softly lighting a hallway, or welcoming visitors as an entry light in a covered area.
It measures 28″ high with a 12″ width at the top and tapering to 9 1/2″ at the bottom, but it could be duplicated in a smaller form.
We juried this piece and were situated with a couple of other lighting pieces that were equally beautiful; a stained glass and wood floor lamp and an antler chandelier. We would like to suggest that the conference include a lighting category in the future; there are so many options for materials.
We connected with old friends and made new ones at this conference, found ourselves awed each day by something new we experienced in the talent at the show, and admired the skills of so many artisans and craftsmen. Mike’s wheels are already turning on the next project he will design if we return next year.
We enjoyed our stay with friends from our desert, who summer in Jackson-their long time home. And who wouldn’t find this view refreshing?
Has your summer inspired new ideas for home décor projects you’re ready to begin? Please tell us about them in the comments below.
We use antlers and skulls from cattle and buffalo to create focal points and frame artwork.
Symbols of the enduring hard edges of a rough environment. Reminders of the resiliency of the inhabitants.
Next month, from September 4-7, will mark the 22nd annual Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and we will be participating artists there. We look forward to seeing the incredible pieces of art that represent the West-old and new.
What is your favorite piece of Western Art? Do you mix it up with other styles in your home? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks.
The things we collect. Mike and I love all things old and rusty. The things that bring us a connection with the past- ours and our culture’s. A friend recognized that obsession in us, and gave Mike a really cool Barbed Wire collection.
The tags on the collection say the collector was Phil Smith, of the California Barbed Wire collectors Association, and the display was part of a challenge from TheAmerican Barbed Wire Journal titled- “1868-1968- 100 Years of barbed wire.”
The back of the label reads, “It’s been said that the most important factors in the taming of the West were barbed wire, the six shooter, and the windmill. There are over 1000 known types of barbed wire with a story behind every fence. Why don’t you see how many 18″ lengths you can collect to keep abreast of the phenominal wire collecting hobby.” The American Barbed Wire Journal.
This collection is varied, from old pieces of wood mounted to the wire, to plastic wrapped with most likely, aluminum barbs. It’s mounted on a piece of carpet and easily stored. But who would want to store such a work of art? We’ve got to find a place to display this collection. It needs to hang up away from little hands and curious K9s. These barbs are serious. Some of them 1/2 inch long. I’m wondering if they were intended to keep cattle in or predators out? Maybe both.
I’ve worked with barbed wire before to create wreaths. It isn’t easy to shape or gather so I can imagine the struggle a rancher would have had stretching this very sharp wire on fence posts for miles on end. Both of my Grandfathers were just such ranchers and I wrote about one of them here. The West was and still is a rugged and wild place. It takes perseverance to stick out the cold winters and the long scorching summers. This barbed wire collection is a reminder that someone believed the challenge was worth it.
What do you collect to keep the history of your little slice of the planet alive, and how do you display it? Please share it in the comments below.
Part of being a maker is being asked to “Make this work again”. Repairing broken artwork is scary, whether it’s glass, metal or wood. Undoing is always risky, and there is the pressing chance that the repair will not be successful. Then what? Start from scratch? Well sometimes that would be the easier way.
There is the essence of the art to preserve, the uniqueness to keep in perspective. Usually there is a measure of strengthening; shoring up to work into the project. And it is especially difficult if it is someone else’s art we’ve been asked to repair.
Sometimes a customer believes that since the repair is only a small part of the project- it should go quickly and therefore, cost should be minimal. As anyone knows who has taken something apart and put it back together, the time factor is huge and should be considered. If it really was as easy as pie, “you wouldn’t be bringing it to us for repair, would you?”
Most people really are aware of the difficulty and are patient, and willing to pay for the time involved. I recreated a piece for some friends that gave me new motivation when it was finished. They had purchased a beautiful gemstone inlaid globe in a copper stand. It was damaged in shipping and they asked if I could reproduce the shattered compass point. It was a huge challenge but one that lifted my confidence when it was done. They were happy and I learned some new math skills in the process- a win for both of us.
My workbench is full, right now, of pieces I’ve been asked to repair, and that seems to be the time my mind soars with new ideas I would like to undertake. But nevertheless; I must get to those restorations. They can be the test of a persevering spirit, a resolute challenge.
And when they are finished . . . Oh the sigh of relief.
Do you have repair projects of your own that you have been putting off? How do you motivate yourself to get crackin’? Tell us about them in the comments below.
These pieces of copper art all have a different process of development, from design to finish. Some are created using separate pieces of copper with different textures, and some are single pieces with a unique story of their own to convey.
Collectively, they make up a vibrant and intriguing accent to the area. This is also the case with much of the art I have been noticing in our Health Care facility while I wait for a family member being treated there.
This resin sculpture was created by local artists 3form, Darin Harker, and PMI. It is calming and mesmerizing. The other end of the space has an orange sculpture of similar structure that is vivid and invigorating.
At the elevator entrance there is a triptych of glass and Amber Onyx. This work reflects the desert canyons around us with its simplicity and natural wonder.
Outside the window where I write as I wait, giant wind-sculptures by Whitaker Studios move ever so subtly in the almost nonexistent breeze. The beauty of these sculptures captures my attention each time I encounter one of them.
Numerous photos of slot canyons, wildlife and nature hang on many walls in our public places, but I believe it is the sculptural art that is beginning to catch my eye.
Seeing the collections Mike creates for our clients has made me more aware of the public art I experience in my everyday life. Who created it? Does it calm me or energize me? Would I like to see it hanging in my home?
How do you feel about the art you encounter in your world? Tell us about it in the comments below.
And I believe we have found a pot of gold, or rust or maybe the spoils of a bygone era.
I was privileged to spend some time with friends helping to clean up their summer property. The piles of metal that can’t be used to maintain their outbuildings will make perfect additions to Mike’s artwork.
And throwing them in the dump would be so wasteful.
I breathed in the dust and pulled stickers from my shoes, I rubbed my sore muscles in the afternoon sun and knew I had found something that would make Mike smile.
I told my friends of the quirky lighting Mike has created from sleds and wheels, and knew their cast off pieces would find new life in his creative hands. I told them how I used to complain about the piles in the yard, until I saw the beautiful art work he creates from those time warped- weather stained pieces. I’m much more patient now.
And here I am enjoying the hunt and savoring the reveal I’ll share with him when I get home in the morning.
Do you have treasures you plan to make into something beautiful? What does it take to get you motivated to create with them? Please let us know in the comments below. . . Thanks.
For all of our math loving family and friends out there (you know who you are . . .) we’ve had several orders and inquiries this past week for our “Perfect Little Square“ steel light sconces. They’re lighting up homes across the country with their simplicity and uniquely versatile design.
Mike makes them with a plain-rustic patina to add a touch of simple to walls and accent areas . . .
He makes them corrugated in either a horizontal or vertical direction-reminiscent of a beautiful old tin roof . . .
And he even makes them with a hand cut moon or stars and silver mica insets, for a touch of whimsy.
Simple is often better, and the versatility of these lights makes them easy to decorate with. One client combined the lights on their fireplace wall for a punch of character and style.
These lights are also beautiful in copper with its warmth and appeal.
Steel or copper, texture or pattern, there’s a charm to these lights that is causing them to fly off the workbench. (Hmmmm . . . maybe wings would make an interesting motif!?)
What would you like to see customized in the little squares? Please tell us in the comments below.