Saddle Shop Life

“Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey Book Review

I have another book review this week and if you are interested in Daily Rituals then this book is for you.  Have you ever wondered how artists work?  What routines and disciplines do successful artists put into place to insure that they are as productive as they can be each and every day?

Daily Rituals by Mason CurreyIn “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey, he catalogs the daily routines and rituals of many successful artists from past and present.  We get a glimpse into their lives and how they maintained a consistent and productive work schedule despite the pressures of normal daily life.

I have to be honest, I have listened to this book probably six times on Audible while working in my shop.  I tend to listen to a lot of books during the workday.  I get bored easily just listening to music, so Audible is a very important part of my sanity throughout the hours and hours of working alone in the shop tapping away on leather.

Oh sure, Freddy is there with me the majority of the time but he listens to his music in his headphones and doesn’t waste time chattering away the day with me… although I enjoy being able to focus on my chores, I do miss conversation at times.

“Daily Rituals” is a book that I feel is a must read (or listen) and doing so more than once is quite enlightening.  This book is basically a collection of short tellings of famous artists and their daily routines for achieving the great success that we know them for.

From writers, painters, physicists, actors and all types in between throughout the 19th and 20th century, Mason does a fantastic job of taking us into the daily rituals and discipline of these artists and creatives.  I bought this book in 2015 and the first time I listened to it I knew that I would have to listen again just to consume all the information.

If you are the type of creative that geeks out on other creators’ routines and daily rituals then consider adding this book to your “To Read” list.

Within this book, are stories of quirky superstitions, obsessive compulsion, drunkenness, and down right debauchery. 

  • There are are artists that maintained a very mundane morning ritual of very little excitement, despite their accolades and fame.
  • There are others who lived on the verge of homelessness and bankruptcy.
  • One or two that commited suicide.
  • One that maintained a 40 marriage with the same woman, all while having multiple affairs with both women and men.
  • As well as one that maintained a household in the suburbs with her husband and children and only wrote while the kids were at school and her husband at work.

The thing that I found most interesting in these stories of success was how differing these daily rituals were from artist to artist.

  • Not all used drugs and alcohol.
  • Not all were torchered souls using their art to express their turmoil.
  • Nor did all of them think of their gift in their art as an anointed gift from God that they were called to lay upon the world.

The main idea to me that rang true through all of these depictions was that no matter the art or how it is to be created, the artist must create an environment and daily routine that allows for that art to flourish.

The majority of people that I speak with usually have a very romantic view of the artist archetype.  And usually that view could very well contain some of the above attributes.  This makes for fantastic movies about them when they are dead and gone, but this is not  the case among the majority of artists.

There are many artists that battle demons in order to create the art that they want to express.  They work hard to redirect this energy into the production of art that is truly a part of them.  I don’t feel that this is only a cross to bear by the artist, I believe that all humans deal with this in all types of work and careers.

Those within this book were able to create fantastic collections of work within their lifetimes despite their sometimes tragic routines and rituals.  This is the amazing part.  These were not the ones who were only creative because of their routines, they were the ones who surprisingly made it work despite these routines.

As you read this book, think about how much greater or more profound their works would have been without these hindrances.

“You are not artistic, creative or different because of your anxiety, depression or addictions… you are these wonderful things despite them.” 

-anonymous

We all have things keeping us from our creations.  It may be resistance, fear, addiction, ADHD, PTSD, putting kids through college, or just a 12 pack iced down in the cooler.  We don’t always win against these adversaries but we can always begin again tomorrow and continue pushing forward.  Some days we win and some days we don’t, but that’s okay and just part of the journey.

In my book review of “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, I found a similar tie in as I found in this book.  These Professional Artists had to put rituals and routines in place in their lives to combat Resistance (whatever their Resistance was) on a daily basis.  Doing the work was all that mattered… every day.

“The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

 

A Review of the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

resistanceThis is a review of the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.  Pressfield has written many books in both the fiction and nonfiction space with one of his most successful being “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

I am an avid reader of nonfiction books specifically directed at business and development.  I came across “The War of Art” last year and consumed it first in audio form while working in my shop.  After listening to the book multiple times and gaining great insight every time, I have added this book to my list of “Must Reads” for anyone wanting to succeed in their business and personal life.

If you are a creative in any field, this book will bring to the surface those things we all do that sabotage our focus and productivity.  Whether your gifts and talents are put to use as a hobby or they are the sole form of revenue for your household, using these talents in a way that the universe calls for you to do is not something you can ignore.  What Pressfield calls “Resistance” sets up shop in our lives with a sole purpose to keep you from that which your guts tell you has to be done to be complete and happy.

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Do You have Projects You Procrastinate On?

img_1011Have you ever found yourself working happily on the project that you are most excited about only to have a voice in your head reminding you of that one job you put off for way too long?  Those projects you procrastinate on consistently? That one job that you set on the bench in the corner of your shop and feel it staring at you throughout the day?  In your mind you know that you need to just put down what you are doing and get it done so you can get back to what you love.  But as the days, weeks, or maybe even months continue to cycle by, you make an honest attempt to convince yourself that you will do it “tomorrow.”

 This is procrastination, resistance, or simply lying to yourself.  We all do this from time to time, but for some of us this can become a chronic disease among the best of craftsman.  We work so hard to improve our skills and talents, that we tend to put off the types of work that don’t add value to our skill set.  In an attempt to be good stewards in our business and remain financially responsible, we take these jobs because of our lack of confidence in our true passion.  We tend to look at these jobs as a necessary evil because it must be a sin to turn down work.  So we end up taking the project on, knowing in our minds that we don’t want to do them and in turn putting them off to the point that the customer is upset.  And we ourselves are upset for having to do them.

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MakerCast Podcast Interview

Do you listen to Podcast at all?  Since we, as craftsmen, spend a lot of time alone in our shops working on projects, I find it great to listen to podcast and audio books for either learning or just entertainment.  These days with our smartphones, this is easier than ever before.  No more listening to the same six songs on the radio all day played over and over.

Recently I came across a fantastic podcast that I think you would enjoy.  The podcast is called MakerCast and on this show Jon Berard interviews makers in all types of industries.  Within the interviews, I find useful information and ways at looking at my business from talented fellow craftsmen.  Its also interesting to learn how they ended up in their careers and how many of our stories can have many similarities.

I was fortunate enough recently to be a guest on Jon’s show and I really enjoyed the experience.  This was my first experience in being interviewed for an audience to listen to and Jon was a fantastic host.

If you are interested in hearing my interview, or would like to subscribe to MakerCast and hear the many other great interviews that he has produced on his show follow the link below and see what you think.

DonG

What’s New with Us

This year has been amazing, and we want to thank all our customers who have helped to make 2015 so great.  The shop has been through many changes over the last few years and the patience of our customers is appreciated more than you will ever know.  We have come a long way and more changes are still to come over the next few years. Continue reading

My Antiquing Process

So your belt is tooled, dyed, painted and oiled.  Now all we have to do is antique it and we are ready to line and stitch it!  This is the point at which many craftsmen new to leatherwork will make a few mistakes.  I hope that my process helps you to clear up this step.  You certainly do not have to antique your belt but I feel like the antique really helps to make the tooling stand out and gives added tone and depth.

The first thing that most people new to leatherwork miss is that the belt must be sealed with a resist before applying the antique.  Whether you are using the paste antique or the gel, a barrier is needed so that the overall color and tone of the belt is not changed.  The antique is not meant to change the color of the leather, its main purpose is to fill any cuts, impressions, and background texture to highlight and shadow the depth of the tooling.  This is why I get the final color of the belt with oil before this step; because once the belt is sealed I can’t get oil into the leather if I want it darker.

The resist I use, or sealer, is Feibings’ Tan-Kote Finish.  This finish is not a lacquer finish like NeatLac or WyoSheen, which would lift a lot of any paint work off the belt.  If you are finishing a belt that doesn’t have any paint applied then these finishes are great to use.  But if the belt has a lot of paint then it’s best to stay away from these finishes and use the Tan-Kote.  I apply a liberal amount of Tan-Kote on the belt and work to make sure it’s even and doesn’t have streaks.  Now I let this dry really well, at least an hour or so.

Once the finish is dry, the belt is ready for the antique to be applied.  I use square pads cut from scrap sheepskin to apply all my finishes… keep a pile of these cut so they are ready for any finishing task.  I use the Feibings Antique Paste, and the color I prefer is the Dark Brown.  They make a few different colors and they are all fantastic but the dark brown is my go to color for the look I prefer on my products.  You can put a dollop of paste on a small square of plywood which allows you to wipe up as little or as much paste as you need with the sheepskin square during application.  You want to apply the paste liberally to the belt and work it into the tooling in circular motions to be sure and get it into all the cracks and crevices being sure to not leave any areas missed by the antique.  Do this to the entire belt.  It will appear to onlookers that you have gone mad and you are ruining a perfectly good belt, but stay calm and keep working it around.  Here is where differences vary, some say to leave it for a few minutes before cleaning… I say once you’re sure that it’s worked in well, then take a clean pad and begin wiping the excess paste off the belt.  The goal here is to attempt to get as much of the paste off the belt as possible.  You want to be somewhat gentle as to not burnish the grain of the leather but you want to clean it well with clean pads until you’re satisfied that you got it all.  All that should be left is what is down in bevel lines, background texture, decorative cuts, etc.

My final step is to take a magic towel (This is a towel that is used to wipe hands after oiling, antiquing, cleaning machines, wiping knives after sharpening, spilling coffee, etc.) or any soft hand towel, and gently buff the belt to further polish any residual antique and revive any lost luster from the resist coat of finish.  Don’t go crazy here, as previously mentioned, we don’t want to burnish the grain of the leather but we do want it clean of excess antique.

Now turn the belt over and look at the back… see that mess?  If you would have lined the belt before the finish steps, then your belt liner would look like that… I don’t care how clean you think you can be, antique takes no prisoners.

This post is an excerpt from out eBooklet “Custom Belt Design and Layout” we posted a couple of weeks ago.  We will soon have more of these eBooklets available walking you through the step and processes I use in the shop in creating our custom pieces.  If you are interested in purchasing this eBooklet then click the link below and download a PDF copy today!

Custom Belt eBooklet $5 Download
Custom Belt eBooklet
$5 Download

*I apologize for the lack of photos in this post… fast and furious this morning and Freddy is cracking the whip!  I will try and snag some pics during my day and post them in a followup post!  

My Leather Floral Tooling Process

When it comes to actually stamping out the floral design, every leather tooler is different in their approach.  To me, the main thing that sets a productive tooler apart from the competition is all in their process.  As with any goal or project, the main thing to focus on is devising a plan and executing the plan with great focus and uninturupted deligence.  This is almost impossible if you are taking time to decide which tool to use next, or worse yet trying to find the tool you need next.  I am a firm believer that any task or project involves a certain set of rules and a certain workflow that, once decided upon and followed, lead to high productivity and a cleaner product when completed.  Each and every product has a certain workflow that works best for the environment and the craftsman making the product.  The following is the workflow that I use when tooling the majority of my patterns.

When I begin any floral tooling job, and once my artwork is designed and carved in, I begin with under cutting all small curves within the pattern.  I make it a point, anytime I pick up a tool, to go through the entire pattern performing that tool’s task anywhere I can before putting it down and grabbing another tool. This rule holds true no matter the size of the tooling pattern.  If you will get into this habit then your overall tooling time will decrease greatly.  A lot of time is wasted switching tools or like i said before… searching for the tool you need.  If you have it in your hand, do all you can with it before moving to the next one.  Tooling is about focus, and staying focused on the tasks lead to a completed piece of art.

With under cutting, I recommend having a small, medium and large in order to be able to take care of virtually any size tight curve.  Undercuts are great and keep you from trying to fit a square beveler into a curved line.  I work my way up from small to large when it comes to tool order when undercutting.

After all the undercutting is completed, I move to my crowners.  This is not a tool that is mandatory, but I find them to be a great time saver and they keep my scalloped rounded and clean.  These work much better than beveling around them with a tiny beveler.  These are a one tap tool for the most part and I keep a small and large, these two sizes will handle most any scallop that I need.  I will also use the large one on the tips of any vinework that has its tips exposed and not under a border or other vine.

When all this is complete, I now move on to my beveling.  I use a small, medium and large checkered beveler and I run them from large to small.  I first bevel all the long lines with my largest beveler going through the pattern to bevel as much as I can with this tool.  Don’t force this tool into spots!  If the tool is too big for the line you are trying to bevel then skip it… We will have a chance to bevel that after we are done with all the long lines.  This will be the longest spot in the tooling process depending on the pattern.  This is where time is made because you have one tool to focus on and your running through line by line without regard for what you can’t bevel with this tool… just stay focused and bevel long lines.

Now all the long lines are beveled and you are ready to grab the medium beveler and proceed to working on any lines that were too small for the large beveler.  Same rule applies here, if it won’t fit skip it and wait till you have the small beveler in your hand.  This step goes much faster as you have already beveled the majority of the lines in the last step.  After completing this, I take my small beveler and clean up any small spots I couldn’t get before with the other two bevelers.

The next tool you will use is your bargrounders or whatever background tool you choose to use.  At this point all the lines should be beveled, making the background easy to determine.

When all the backgrounding is completed, now I use my thumbprint on all my flowers, leaves, and vinework.  This is where the detail work begins within the pattern.  The tools you use here is completely up to you.  The point is that now is where your pattern will start to take shape.  I also use my leaf liner where needed at this point.

After thumbprinting, or pear shading, you are ready for any fine detail stamping.  This step depends a lot on the style of the pattern that you are tooling.  Below is an example of the accent tools I selected for this pattern but you can incorporate any tools you like for this phase.  Take your time here and have fun… this is the decorative stage.

When you are satisfied with your stamping work within the pattern, now is the time to embelish with the final decorative cuts using your swivel knife.  Again, this is decorative so have fun and use this oppurtunity to work on your swivel knife mechanics.  Decorative knife cuts are the best training for overall proficiency in using the swivel knife.

Once the decorative cuts are completed the pattern is complete.  At this point, I will sometimes go back and undercut the pattern again just to relift the petals of leaves and flowers.  This step is optional and completely up to you and the final pattern.  If it looks good, leave it.

As I mentioned before, this is my process for tooling and yours may be different.  The main point to focus on is that in order to become more efficient in your stamping while maintaining quality you must have a system that you can work from no matter the pattern.  Tooling is like a dance and as long as you can go from one tool to the next smoothly, you will become faster and faster per piece.

 

Spacing holes quickly!

When it comes to punching holes for headstalls, tie straps, billets, or any other strap good you may be making, how do you layout your hole spacing?  Most people get the tap measure out and measure and mark each hole so they will be perfectly placed appropriately.  This is a fine way to do it if complete accuracy is mandatory.  If you are more focused on productive use of your time than perfection of hole spacing, try this method for both time and accuracy!

For the first hole use three fingers as your spacing from the tip to place your first hole.  On tie straps, I usually do a full hand width.

After making the first hole, I will use one finger width as my spacing for the rest of the holes.

Place your finger just past the first hole and use your finger as a guide for placement of the next hole.  Continue this for for each hole after.  On tie straps I use four fingers as my spacing.

This is a great time saver and unless you loose a finger in the middle of this,  your holes should be perfectly spaced.