This Wyoming gallery teaches appreciation of Western craftsmanship through hands-on experience.
In the building space that once housed Gambles hardware store in downtown Cody, Wyoming, you can still hear the high-pitched whine of a table saw and see sawdust flying. But now the line isn’t to buy tools: It’s to watch artisans at work. “Our mission is to keep the older traditions alive,” says Kristin Bonk Fong, executive director of By Western Hands, the newly opened museum and exhibition space.
“To support artists in the traditional crafts — woodworkers, metal workers, leather tooling, blacksmithing, and hand-appliquéd and hand-beaded things, from footstools to wearable garments.” By Western Hands is primarily a museum. Some of its prized displays include a two-story log dollhouse filled with miniature furnishings painstakingly handcrafted by 30 craftspeople, and the Switchback Ranch Award Collection of Western Functional Art, which represents Western furniture, ironwork, leather work, and couture created between 1994 and 2009. It’s also a gallery exhibition and retail space for the more than three dozen artists who make up the guild behind the nonprofit. And it’s a creative space, where woodworking, silver-engraving, and leather-tooling classes can be held. “By Western Hands exists to teach people how the things in the gallery and museum were made so they can appreciate the skill level that goes along with these trades,” Fong says. bywesternhands.org