Monday, August 15, 2011

The real "About Me" information....

Well hello cyber-world!  This is my first post to my first blog...bear with me here.  What do people normally post?  I don't know, so I'm going to start and tell you a little about me.

My name is Erika Palmquist, and I've created the model horse tack making shop called Fox Valley Tack.  I've been a long time collector of Breyers, yet I didn't know the model horse showing world even existed until 2005 which is when I officially began making tack.  A couple years after I graduated from college, I had some extra free time after work that I wanted to fill with a hobby.  I was online one night trying to think of some new hobbies to get started in, and I accidentally came across some random photos of custom tack and artist resins.  What a neat idea, I didn't realize people did this kind of thing!  I had no idea what a resin was, but they were so beautiful.  Anyway, after further investigation I found out about live showing and I've been hooked ever since.

Below is a picture of my Arabian gelding Savage...well, formerly mine.  We had lots of fun in 4H and in local open shows, so I draw from my experiences with him for the tack I make today.  I no longer own horses, but I do have a dog that I show.  That's a whole different ballgame!  Dewey, my Boston Terrier, just earned his Beginner Novice A AKC title (not that exciting since it's just an optional obedience title, but we did just start showing a couple months ago -- summer of 2011).  We're working our way towards a Novice A obedience title, and hopefully a Rally Novice title at the same time. 

When I was little, my mom used to make me Breyer play saddles.  She had bought a Breyer english saddle at a toy shop in Boulder, CO when we were vising family out there (which I thought was just awesome because I'd never seen any saddles at the toy stores here).  That shop always had a good selection of limited edition models that my aunt would send to us, but when the saddle broke not too long into having it, my mom said it was too expensive to keep re-purchasing.  So, my mom, being the crafty lady she is, went and got herself some leather & tools from a local leather shop, and she got to work making me play saddles.  She dismantled my Breyer saddle to see how it was made, and actually hers came out much better.  She would make saddles, and I would make little bridles & halters out of whatever materials she had.  Lots of fun!  It wasn't until I went to the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, WI with my mom (I was probably about 10 at that time so that makes this sometime around 1990-91), that I got introduced to actual LSQ tack.  Rio Rondo had a booth there, the one and only time I remember seeing Rio Rondo there, and they had this western saddle on display....it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen!  We bought some fine leather, a pewter bit, and we were on our way.  For those of you who don't know, Rio Rondo (www.riorondo.com) has been a long-standing tack making supply company.  They are a great place to get whatever you need. 

I kept my Rio Rondo stuff for years, in fact I still have some of the leather I bought from them that long ago...yes I like to keep things maybe a little too long.  Of course, all of this was before the internet so I just thought that this company sold parts for people like my mom who just want to make playscale tack.  I didn't realize they actually showed it.  Anyway, back to present-ish time...

I had no idea what was going on until 2005 when I really discovered this whole hobby.  I was in awe of the great miniature stuff people were able to make, so I decided to give it a try myself.  Before I began, I picked up a book on saddlemaking.  It was a fairly inexpensive paperback from Amazon ("To Handmake a Saddle", by John Harry & J.H.L. Shields).  It walked you through patterns, assembly, etc.  You have to decide what you can & can't do in miniature scale, but it's a good starting point.  My first saddle was constructed as close to the exact instructions as possible, which I have since modified because all the hand-stitching is just a little too much to do for every saddle I make.  I was happy with it at the time (now, I can see tons of room for improvement), and it wound up taking 3rd at my first live show.  I showed it on a Breyer Strapless with a broken tail...tail broke completely off on my way to the show.  DOH!  But it did beat out other sets, so to me that was proof that I could make saddles good enough to show if it did that well on a broken horse.  I've tried different formulas for successful saddle making, and I think I've come up with some basics not mentioned in the book that work for me.  One tip, soda can saddle trees if you're just starting out...beats the cost of cast english trees, and you can still make a perfectly acceptable LSQ saddle.  

I don't think of myself as a top tackmaker, but what I do create does very well at live shows.  I've only taken on a handful of commissions, so I still pretty much just make tack for myself.  I can confidently say that my tack is LSQ, and most of what I make either NAN-Q's right away or at least in a couple shows.  Oddly enough, I don't think I've been to a live show in almost 3 years!  My tackmaking has slowed down a bit due to a few things in real life -- a house remodel, a dog I'm training & showing, and the guitar I'm learning (spend more time playing that than I do making saddles).  Oh well, lots of interests :)

That's about all I have to say for now.  If you got this far reading, thank you for doing so!  I appreciate the interest in my work.  I only take commissions if I feel like I have the time, but it never hurts to ask if you're interested.  Have a nice day! 

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