Master artisans work together to perpetuate the craftsmanship of the West.
The artisan members of By Western Hands demonstrate quality workmanship within American West functional art — objects crafted equally for their utilitarian use and aesthetics. Based out of its gallery in Cody, Wyoming, the group seeks to educate, conserve, and perpetuate the legacy of Western design and craftsmanship.
And the accomplished members make fabulous works that are exemplars of functional art and the fruit of years and thousands of hours of practice.
“It’s not just about a table, chair, or sofa,” says Graham Jackson, a By Western Hands board member. “There are many types of unique Western functional art. Our focus is to preserve its craftsmanship and to teach the necessary skills, so we don’t lose the art.”
By Western Hands resulted from the highly successful Western Design Conference and Cody High Style annual exhibitions. Artisans hail from the Great Plains to Washington state’s Cascade Mountains. They craft with wood, steel, silver, bone, wool, leather, and stone. Their creations foster pleasure: a well-turned knife balanced in the hand; a live-edge table sanded to polish smooth; a saddle shaped for ultimate horse and rider comfort; and an ottoman crafted to become an heirloom. To a person, they are all masters of their crafts, and, yet, they value their membership for its fellowship and collaborative learning opportunities.
To be a master is to be a lifelong learner. We talked with some of the artisans of By Western Hands about inspiration and craftsmanship.
Beaded Skull Artist, Tennessee
Upholstered Furniture Designer, Oregon
Wood Artist, Colorado
Architectural Blacksmith, Montana
Furniture Maker, New Mexico
Bit and Spur Maker and Lovell, Wyoming
Photography: (cover image) Appliqued and embroidered footrests accented with nailheads by Anne Beard, image courtesy Dale Degabrielle
From the July 2021 issue.