This thread has been so popular and there are so many good questions! It's exciting! Everyone's questions are SO good that I don't want the post to get lost, so I've given it it's own page! Questions (and answers) will now be added to http://dreamflitedesign.blogspot.com/p/frequently-asked-questions.html. You can't post comments on that page, so direct them here! I'll be notified by email when a new comment is posted, so I won't miss a thing.
I realized the other day that I've never talked about me much. Well, I have, but mostly what's going on and not about how I got started in the hobby. A couple of questions have popped up in the comments recently, so I'll answer those and anything else that comes to mind! If there's anything you want to know, add it to the comments and I'll update this post with an answer.
What made you start making tack in such a small scale? is it very fiddly? (From Sophie)
In a nutshell: because Stablemates were easy to afford on my weekly allowance, and so were the supplies to make tack for them! As to being fiddly, I suppose you could say that it is. I don't have trouble with it (often) but I'm the one who makes it and, after much practice, I know the best way to put it on and get it to behave. The amount of trouble you have with it could vary depending on a lot of factors, but I try to design each piece to be as easy as possible to use.
I have read that some people use Gum Tragacanth (spelling?) to help smooth leather. I was wondering if you've ever tried it, and how it works in such a small scale. (From Mackenzie)
I got some gum tragacanth (yes, you spelled it right!) in my last dye order, right before I had to tear my studio down. I haven't had a chance to use it very much, but I'm excited to try it again! It seems to be most useful for taming the fuzzies that sometimes come with skivving, but I thin the leather down so much that I don't usually have that issue. However, it also gives body to leather and that will probably be my primary use for it.
So what is your history and experience with real horses? Is experience with real tack one of your main reference points? Or do you have many other reference sources that you use? (From Shoestringstables)
I'd say it's equal parts experience and research. I've ridden western and english and I have a decent working knowledge of how the tack looks and functions, but I read a lot about how saddles should fit and why they're made the way they are for particular disciplines. Especially when working out a new pattern, I use a lot of photo references. I've loved horses forever and ridden off and on for most of my (admittedly short thus far) life. Right now I don't have a horse or access to one, but I don't have the time to devote to one either. I'm willing to wait until the timing is right to pursue it.
Will you ever do a tutorial for western saddles? (From Christine)
I estimate a lot more when making a western saddle, and while I have patterns for most of it the size and shape of the tree changes with almost every saddle. The lack of consistency and the multiple steps involved in the tree make it hard to translate everything to a tutorial that would turn out nicely for the average tutorial user. I'm not exactly happy with some of the techniques I'm using right now, even if they "work", so until I get it figured out a western tutorial is on hold.
Do you use a saddle tree when you make a western saddle? Thanks! (From Kristian)
I make a three-part structure from scrap leather: the swells, the seat, and the cantle. The seat and cantle are glued together to form the back part of the "tree" and covered with suede or what have you. The swells are attached separately. I've tried cast resin trees and wasn't happy with the shape or fit. You can use aluminum (from a pop can, for instance), but it tends to bend oddly. I've thought about sculpting a tree, but I'm not sure what kind of success I'd have with it.
Do you make the stirrups adjustable or just to a fixed length - e.g. to a specific rider? (From ordinarylittleart)
It's pretty hard to combine bulk-free adjustability AND durability in Stablemate scale. To be small enough to eliminate bulk, wire used for buckles or a tension adjusting system and the stirrup leathers wouldn't hold up long. Instead, I try to keep the length of stirrup leathers in scale with the horse and saddle. Breyer's riders are too small for almost every model ever issued, so I don't use them to gauge stirrup length. I line the bottom of the stirrup up with the horse's barrel and use it as the starting point, but there's a lot of eyeballing and doing whatever "right". If requested, I'm happy to fit stirrups to a particular rider and I keep one of every Breyer issued rider in the body box.
How often do you work on tack?
As often as possible! I usually get at least a little bit of work in every day when my studio is up. Tack making is (normally!) very relaxing for me, and I enjoy the time I spend in the studio.
How long does it take you to finish a saddle and bridle?
I've estimated it at 8 to 12 hours, depending on the intricacy of the saddle. I can finish a regular english saddle and plain snaffle bridle in a day of steady work.
When did you start making tack?
I started selling my tack in 2006, but I was making tack long before that. I had a Breyer barn for my carpet herd, but couldn't afford the Breyer accessories. I spent a lot of time lusting after the tack and equipment in the box catalogs and eventually translated that into my own creations. I started out with fake leather from garage sale purses, a glue gun, and floral wire. I've come a long way since then!
What do you do outside of the hobby?
I'm a part-time college student, working towards an art degree. I also have a job at a local printing company as a graphic designer and jack of all trades. I freelance in graphic design, photography, and any other artsy jobs that come my way. I've painted everything from tractors to buildings recently, and have played photographer on occasion for the local paper. I love old movies, the X Files, fantasy/sci fi/mysteries, and I read voraciously. I have a very bossy, opinionated grey cat that lives in the house and a quirky, insane black cat that lives outside. Grey is grey and black is black, and never the twain shall meet, or else I'd have a cat fight to end all cat fights on my hands!
Will your remodel EVER be finished?
It took us an entire year to get started on the remodel after we put the new windows in. Right now, it feels like it will take another year to move me back into my room. Actually, though, the busiest part of our summer is almost over and in another week or two we should have some more progress. Everything should be finished by the time the raffle ends. I'm tempted to set up a temporary work space in the kitchen until then!
So, any other questions? Fire away, and I'll do my best to answer them!
And, because every post needs a picture...here's a shot from a past NAN, courtesy of Mandy Hood. It's too cool when the rosette is bigger than the horse!