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Western Gear Lander hosts first art show

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Lander – The Lander Art Center’s first Western Gear Show opened on Aug. 10. Seventeen artists from around the U.S., the majority from the Rocky Mountain West, are exhibiting their work for the six-week show.
    “This is the first show of this type that we have supported,” says Lisa Hueneke, Lander Art Center Director. “It’s great to be supporting the art of western gear as many of these artists are from Fremont County.”
    Crafts exhibited include leather tooling, rawhide braiding, silver engraving, horsehair hitching and wool weaving. Some of the displayed items are for sale, while others are examples of gear that can be ordered.
    The Lander Art Center’s show is a great way to familiarize people with the different types of mediums used to make western gear. Richard Gould of Lander, a Lander Art Center board member and horsehair hitcher, was instrumental in developing the show and connecting with gear makers over the past six months.
    Gould will be again holding horsehair hitching classes through the Art Center in the spring of 2013. Some of his past students, Becky Shepard and her daughter Milissa Denevan had hitched pieces entered in the show.
    “This bridle is the largest piece of I have completed,” says Shepard of Lander. “It took me six months and now I’m not sure I want to use it on my horse! Though my next project will be to make a matching breast collar.”
    Shepard began hitching by trying things with her own horse’s hair before taking classes from Gould through the Art Center two years ago. The Western Gear Show is Shepard’s first art show, though she participated in the Wyoming Women in Ag show last December.
    “I find keeping the pattern aligned and smooth is the hardest part,” Shepard says. “I like to hitch as it makes tack flashy, but it is also durable. I color my horse hair with everything from beet juice to artificial dyes.”
    Shepard’s daughter, Milissa Denevan, now resides in Tennessee and continues to hitch. She recently had the U.S. Army approve her hitched hatbands as part of the official uniform of the cavalry unit stationed at Fort Campbell.
Winning exhibits
    Community members Bill Yankee and Doc Stockton judged the Western Gear Show.
    Mike Alley placed first with his rawhide reins, Cache Morse of Ironcreek Leatherworks in Lake Forest, Wash. took second place with elk skin chinks and Leane Linnell of Riverton came in third place for her mohair cinch.
    Linnell began braiding mohair cinches this spring after taking a cinch making class with Pop Wagner of Minnesota, who was hosted by Central Wyoming College and the Wyoming Arts Council in Dubois.
    “I have a friend who makes cinches and sparked my interest in it,” Linnell explains. “I just loved the class, and the first cinch I made is the one I entered in the gear show.
Beginning to braid
    “I actually braided the cinch in the show for my gelding. I’m anxious for the show to end, so I can go riding with my new cinch!”
    It takes Linnell about six hours to braid a cinch. Linnell is seeking to grow her business and is accepting orders for custom cinches according to size and hardware preference.
    “I enjoy doing the cinches as you can weave them in lots of colors and patterns with people’s brands and initials included,” Linnell says. “They are a nice useable gift, not something you have to dust or vacuum.”
    Mohair is a natural fiber, and Linnell says horses respond to it better than synthetic materials. Sometimes horses’ behavioral problems are resolved through using the softer fiber.
    Linnell has also been horsehair hitching for five years and entered a hat band and over-and-under strap in the show. Her mohair cinch includes a shoofly that she hitched. She views cinch making as a progression in her craft and is excited to combine hitching and mohair braiding.
    “I think it is awesome to highlight the craftsmanship of this type of art,” Hueneke says. “It is really interesting that these artists are connected to their work not only through the materials, but also through how they are using the gear they create.”
    The Western Gear Show will be open until Sept. 15 and is available for viewing during the Lander Art Center’s business hours Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Gould is planning to hold horsehair hitching classes through the Art Center in spring 2013. The Lander Art Center is a non-profit organization established in 200, and provides community and youth art classes, artist studio space and hosts rotating art shows.
    Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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