The American West is the home of art produced for it's beauty and as utilitarian objects. You can't think of the 'West' without thinking of silver, leatherwork and spurs. These items are produced by artist/craftspeople continuing a long tradition, both in traditional styles and modern pieces.
Silver work has long been a part of this tradition. Coming to the American West from the south, through Mexico, silversmiths have evolved a truly 'American' style. The conchos, spurs, saddles and gear of the 'cowboy' is often embellished with this artwork produced by skilled craftspeople.
It would be impossible to work the range without a good saddle and equipment. Saddlemakers and leather workers combine the utilitarian aspects of their products with the beauty that fits the land. Each leather carver develops his own style based on what he has learned and seen others produce. A fine saddle, belt or wallet is a piece of art individual to the artist.
Blacksmiths literally forged the west. Most spur and bit makers started as blacksmiths and turned their hands to spurs and bits as a way of increasing their income. To look at a finely crafted pair of spurs, with their silver embellishments is to see a fine piece of American Art.
The craftspeople that carry on these Traditional Western Fine Crafts are a slowly dwindling number as technology takes their place, but there will always be a place in the collective American Heart for the craftspeople that carry on these traditions of the American West.
Musings by Bruce Carter, Owner/Curator of Tallgrass Art Gallery