When Craft Becomes Art

Categories: 2021 November-December Issue.

Author, playwright, and critic Anthony Burgess once said, “Art begins with craft, and there is no art until the craft has been mastered.” Since men like Russell and Remington started coming West more than 150 years ago, paint and clay have depicted the life of the North American cowboy and his surroundings. However, in the shadows was another breed of artist: the saddle maker, rawhide braider, silversmith, and bit and spur maker. This work was rarely recognized as a work of art by anyone other than the working cowboy.

The pieces in the annual Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA) Exhibition and Sale, which is hosted each fall by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, are examples of both craft and art. Each work is a brilliantly made, one-of-a-kind tool of the cowboy’s trade, expertly engineered for unmatched functionality. But each piece also represents for its maker an artistic journey that begins, as all such journeys do, with inspiration—that spontaneous recognition of a story that needs telling.

Read the full article in the November/December 2021 issue.

The Longhorn saddle, Troy West, Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition & Sale 2021