Cowboy silversmith: Montana native creates intricate tack with functionality at the forefront
Artist – a word not often used to describe a man who tends to cattle from sunup to sundown. No, we don’t see many cowboys picking up a paint brush or spending hours each day in a recording studio.
They simply don’t have time, with livestock to tend to and hay to cut. In this case, however, artist, seems to be the only word which can be used to describe someone like Lane Cremer.
Make no mistake, the 27-year-old spends his days working on his family’s ranch in southcentral Montana, but after hours, he can be found in his shop, engraving a bit or hammering away on a set of spurs.
Lane says he built his first set of spurs in 2012 in college while going through the horseshoeing program at Northwest College in Powell.
He had to take a blacksmithing class and for the final project, students were told to build something, he chose to make spurs out of an old rasp.
“They were pretty crude,” Lane says with a laugh. “I got them done and showed them to a few friends, that’s when a buddy of mine asked me to build him a set. So I did.”
He continues, “Then another friend asked me to build him a set as well, then another, then another. Pretty soon, I had 10 or 15 people wanting a set of spurs.”
Lane says he didn’t think anything of it at the time, he just thought it would be an easy way to make a little money in college. However, he says each pair of spurs kept getting better than the last.
“I was enjoying seeing the progress I made. Somewhere during that time, I decided I would pursue bit and spur making,” Lane says.
Expanding the craft
After a few dozen sets of spurs, Lane decided to up his game.
“I’ve always been fascinated with metal working in general. When I decided to actually pursue it, I wanted to make more than just spurs. I made my first 50 sets of spurs out of rasps, but frankly, I just got bored with making rasp spurs,” Lane continues. “I wanted to get into embellishing the spurs with silver and engraving. The spur making soon turned into bit making, which then turned into learning how to engrave and inlay silver.”
Fast forward to present day, Lane is well versed in creating modern yet rugged pieces for cattlemen and women alike and is the owner of LC Bit and Spur.
“I primarily build bits and spurs in the California style. Which usually involves more embellishment and more intricate work,” Lane explains.
Lane notes he mainly works with wire inlays and high relief engraving. Whereas the old Garcia’s, or similar bits one might see, are made with inlay panels of silver on the cheeks and are primarily created by basic, bright-cut engraving.
The style of inlaying and engraving Lane does is not traditional – he more-so follows the firearms engraving style.
Although he’s got a handful of award-winning pieces to be proud of, Lane humbly admits he is still learning and always will be.
“The more someone works at something, the better they’re going to get at it,” he says. “I’m semi-self-taught. I don’t know that there’s really such a thing as self-taught anymore, seeing all the resources on the internet, and I did take a couple of classes here and there on engraving and design – but pretty much everything I’ve learned is through trial and error.”
“I would say there were a lot of errors in the beginning, but I still have errors every day,” Lane states.
A great example of continuous learning is one of Lane’s newer ventures: knife making.
“I just really enjoy working with metal, and I’m always wanting to try new things. Knife making was one of those things that I hadn’t tried yet,” Lane says.
Lane adds he made a few knives about four years ago but strayed away from it. Within the past year, however, he’s gotten back to sharpening his blades and takes it more seriously than before.
“Knife making is kind of an art form in-and-of-itself,” Lane says. “It’s different, but in the same wheelhouse of working with metal.”
For his style, Lane focuses on building practical knives.
“I just like to make good, solid using knives,” Lane says. “I make a lot of hunting knives; I’ve also become really intrigued by Damascus steel and making more and more Damascus blades. I’d really like to try to make a Damascus bit or set of spurs sometime as well.”
Functionality is key
Practicality and every day usage pieces seem to be a theme for Lane, as he said functionality is his number one priority in bit and spur making as well.
“I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about engraving and embellishments, and making things look ‘fancy.’ But if that set of spurs or that bit does not function properly then it’s not worth much to me or the customer for that matter,” he says.
To offer some advice to fresh, just-starting-out silversmiths, Lane says to focus on the details.
“If I could go back to the beginning, I’d tell my younger self to pay more attention to detail,” he says. “For one, an artist can never pay too much attention. If we don’t spend very much time on a piece, the finished piece is going to reflect that – it’s going to look like there wasn’t much time spent on it.”
Another bit of advice he offers was to draw as often as possible.
“Paper is cheap — draw, draw, draw. Silver, on the other hand, is not cheap – don’t screw it up,” Lane says.
In conclusion, Lane once again stresses the importance of functionality as his selling point.
“I just want to continue building the most functional piece that will last. I want to see my bits in horses’ mouths and spurs on cowboys’ feet for 25 or 30 years after I’ve made that piece. I want that person to be just as satisfied then as the first day they got it,” he says.
Although he humbly admitted he’s a regular man, toying around in his shop, Lane Cremer is, without a doubt, an artist.
An artist who not only wants to wow his customers with the beauty of his pieces but give them something that could be used every day and passed down for generations.
LC Bit and Spurs can be contacted via Facebook or on Instagram @lane_cremer to order LC bits, spurs, pieces of jewelry or knives.
Mayzie Purviance is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.