This year at Safari Club International there will be a couple of new artists amongst the crowd. Lisa and Loren Skyhorse are in the booth next to us and we are collaborating on several pieces. They are skilled leather artists that specialize in beautiful saddles. Each of their saddles are custom made to meet the need of the horse and rider. As artists who love working with their clients, we can really appreciate what the Skyhorses do for their clients. A saddle is a very personal accessory to the equestrian sport. It joins the horse with it’s rider and each time they unite it is important that this indispensable piece of equipment is well made and designed to represent the style and taste of the rider. Their saddles include intricate leather carving and silver accents.
As well as saddles, the Skyhorse’s do plenty of other projects with their leather work all the way from personal hand bags to architectural designs. We have been talking with Lisa and Loren over the past few months and have come up with a collaborative idea for a rocking chair and some home decor. Make sure to come by and see it at this year’s Safari Club International show in Reno, Nevada, January 26th-29th. Our booth number is 3302-3401. We will also be displaying a beautiful saddle and saddle horse that we collaborated on in November of 2010. We have a few photos of the saddle below.
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Every year after all the holiday rush is over we start looking forward to our next project for Safari Club International in Reno, NV, Jan. 26th-29th. We try and make our biggest pieces for this show because it is for people that are looking for big game. One of the tables we made for SCI sold to Wayne Newton.
This year we are making a 10′ alligator juniper table but we’re especially excited about this one because we are going with a deeper tone for the inlays. There are going to be three main inlays that I really think are going to turn some heads. The center piece of the whole table is this beautifully book-matched geode stone. When we have it put into the table it is going to span 16 inches! We have an idea that we are going to do underneath this inlay. That’s right, underneath! It will be a dual-layered inlay. Something we’ve never seen nor done before. The two outside inlays promise to be complimentary in beauty to the centerpiece. We’ll be posting pictures of the finished table in a week or two.
Make sure to come by and see us in Reno! Our booth number is 3302,3401.
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Many people ask questions about the wood we use so I would like to answer a few of the common questions. There are many types of juniper all over the world. The variety we use is called alligator juniper. It grows almost exclusively in Southern New Mexico, Northern Arizona, and Northern Mexico along the Mogollon Rim. It is a protected tree and can only be cut in New Mexico (where we cut ours) if it is completely dead. It gets its name from the bark which looks like alligator skin.
We only use dead-standing wood (totally dead tree that is upright) for our furniture. The wood that is harvested for us has been dead for approximately 20 years or more. This ensures that it is completely dead and also well cured and stable.
The whole process is very eco-friendly. Every piece is carried to our vehicle in order not to scar the forest floor by dragging logs across it. We cannot take our vehicles off the road. Because of the size of the trees this means we must slab the logs in the forest.
The area the trees grow is in a high altitude and very dry. The trees grow extremely slow. One time we set our 9 year old son to counting the rings. He came back to us and said that it would take too long but he counted one inch in several places and the count was between 50-60 rings per inch so the tree was approximately 1500 years old. Smart kid!
Alligators are extremely resilient having a resin that insects do not like and rarely infest. They survive many forest fires and strong winds. If a tree burns on one side it will continue to grow on the other side which can make determining its age very difficult. They estimate one 14 foot diameter tree to be from 3000-6000 years old. I read about a tree in AZ which is 27′ 4″ diameter but there was no age estimate given. Their age and environment give the wood amazing character and beauty. We love the fact that when a table is made from this wood their owners get a view of history that few people have ever seen.
If you are interested in more information Wikipedia was a good source. For example I learned that the Native Americans used the juniper berries for a female contraceptive. I never knew that!
Dead Standing Juniper
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If you are buying custom furniture from a furniture store you may get to choose the style, the type of wood, and the fabric. If you want a piece of custom furniture which is a piece of art as well as functional, the rules change. There are many more choices and things to consider.
1: Research the artist and company!
Find out who they are and where they show their furniture. Art shows and galleries? Or the back of their pick-up?! Today, anyone can build a good website, so make sure you are dealing with a respected artist. What awards, if any, have they won? How long have they been in business? Do they have a showroom or gallery where you could view their furniture if you chose to? You don’t want to find out too late that they have imported the furniture from Mexico or Asia. A good artist’s name will also appear in magazine articles, newspapers, blogs, etc.
2: Research the product and ask lots of questions!
In our career we have noticed that the producer is counting on the consumer to not know the difference and to not ask. For example, no one suspects the turquoise in their furniture to be plastic. However, sometimes it is. Green plastic can look just like real turquoise. If you’re buying a $3,200 coffee table with turquoise inlays you better ask the question before you put that pen down. Ask about the leather, the wood, the stones, and don’t forget to ask where it was made (We’ve got a lot of “copy cats” in Mexico). Find out how the wood is cured especially if you are buying slab live-edge furniture. If the wood has been cut green, it WILL crack if not cured correctly and completely.
3: Use your computer to get exactly what you want and COMMUNICATE!
If you want to find exactly what you want you really don’t need to go any farther than your computer. This is where you can do some research and find out where your furniture is really coming from and what the value is.
Online stores can be a great tool for you and the artist. If they are using high-resolution images, inspect the wood and details close-up. If you browse through the artist’s website you can often find out exactly what they can do and then use their descriptions to describe exactly what you want. “Rustic” can mean many different things so make sure you are on the same page with the builder. If our customer is not sure or not clear we will blog pictures as we build to be sure they are delighted with the project we are building.
4: Keep all documents with custom jobs.
This might be a no-brainier, but still warrants a mention. A classic mistake in an order is the dimensions. For example, you need some chairs but the seat of the chair needs to be at 18 inches or less so that your knees don’t bang into the table. If you have an e-mail that has that description you’ll want to bring that up when you get your 20 inch high chair and don’t want to pay for the shipping. Find out what the guarantees and return polices are and get them put into writing.
5: Use a “Blanket Shipper”
Most furniture stores use freight companies. The quote below from “The Consumerist” is startling!
“40% of freight delivered using any trucking company arrives damaged in-box. That means 2 out of 5 people will have to reorder their freight a second time (total process taking 42 business days- 2 months). 4 out of 25 will have to order a third time (total process taking 63 business days- 3 months).” http://consumerist.com/2007/02/20-online-furniture-buying-tips-from-an-industry-insider.html
With a blanket shipper the furniture is not crated and stacked and loaded and unloaded, but rather wrapped with blankets, secured using straps, and usually left in the same spot it is packed into until unloading. A crater will drop the box on your driveway (often literally!). Good Luck! A blanket shipper will carry your furniture into your home and place it where ever you ask them to. (Be aware: They may charge extra for stairs.) We have found blanket shippers to usually cost less than craters probably because a crate does not need to be built. It may take a little longer to find one that is going in the right direction but it takes a lot less time that it would if there is damage to your furniture.
Find out the policies of your company if there is any damage. We have occasionally needed to fly out to fix a slightly damaged piece. It costs us less and is much quicker than shipping the piece back to us.
6. Don’t forget to ask about maintenance.
An oil finish is the easiest to repair. Minor scratches will disappear with a good quality furniture oil. If the worst happens, most repairs to an oil finish can be completed in minutes. Really!
(Our most extreme example) One of our customers had a bear break through their dining room window and claw his way across their table. The repairs only took Andy about an hour.
A varnish or plastic resin finish will have to be stripped and refinished to repair. The shinier the varnish the more any scratches will show up.
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During the last show that we went to my dad and mom met up with a couple named Lorin and Lisa Skyhorse. They are skilled saddle makers that have turned their craft into an art. After talking over some ideas, Andy and the Skyhorses came up with a few collaborative ideas that we’ve been excited to get to work on.
The first idea is a wooden saddle tree carved and sculpted by Andy with hand carved leather work and vintage silver from the Skyhorses. Its debut will be at the Cowboy Christmas show in Las Vegas Nevada December 2nd-11th.
Both Andy and the Skyhorses are using materials that they have been saving for something special. Andy selected a piece of wood that works perfectly for the cantle of the saddle tree. This particular piece of alligator juniper has been waiting for this saddle for over ten years. This well-cured juniper complements the leather that the Skyhorses have selected and hand-carved. Their silver has been waiting for over 40 years for this project. It is old Mexican style, with silver scroll work cut out and overlaid on silver backing. We feel greatly honored to be a part of this experience!
We’ve posted a sneak peek of our part. Let us know what you think by commenting in the box below.
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It was a beautiful time of year to be in Sedona. The weather was beautiful and the people hospitable. Sedona Arts Festival was a first time show for us so we were very exited to be awarded first prize for Wood Art. We hope to be able to turn the glory back to God because he is the one that has made such beautiful wood that we get to work with every day. It’s easy to see his glory in the rings of the junipers revealing their ages of up to two thousand years old. As we use the redwood, once considered unusable because of it’s curls and burls, we think of how amazing it is that they could be buried as land-fill for a hundred years and still be usable for beautiful tables. From the wood to the semiprecious stones God created it all and we are thankful for a chance to see it.
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We are very excited to be going to the Sedona Arts Festival this week-end. It has been a while since we have done a show in Arizona. When we first started doing shows most of them were in the “Grand Canyon State” and we loved doing business with our neighboring state. If you are in the Sedona area be sure to come visit us. This is the last show we will be doing until December at the Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas NV.
Sedona Arts Festival
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This piece of Redwood Burl has natural places where we have inlaid stones and copper that match the holes and knots. Our client requested a European mount inlay of an elk with marble and copper making up the design.
This piece is no exception to the beauty that God has designed before we even had the wood, stones, or metals.
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