Fellowships 2021

The vision I have for my everyday life in my shop/studio is to make beautiful and functional leather items for folks who enjoy high quality craftsmanship and artistry. I am one of a diminishing number of full-time saddlemakers in North America. I believe that there is an urgent and critical need to tell the story of the West. This story was once prominent in our culture, but I have come to see that it is now a counter-cultural movement that values hard work, creativity, hands-on problem solving, patience, and fortitude. In order for these arts to survive and thrive, we need more folks making deeper investment into the value and meaning of the use and enjoyment of functional art in their daily lives. I am sharing my story of the cowboy life, careful craftsmanship, and artistic refinement with thousands of my social media followers. I bring folks into my world to see what it takes to embark on a journey of improving the function and artistry of my work.

Twenty-one years ago, I became a founding member of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, a nonprofit that is dedicated to preserving and promoting the cowboy trades. Through our annual show at the National Cowboy Museum (Oklahoma City), we seek to educate other artists/craftsmen, horsemen (and women!), and collectors on where we can take our trades. My vision is to lead by example by showing what I do through the work as well as maintaining a teaching schedule. I believe we can change our culture in a positive way, one beautiful piece at a time, one happy customer at a time, and one student at a time. I have found myself (perhaps not by design) in volunteer leadership roles of this counter-cultural movement that celebrates the significance of elegant and beautiful leather pieces.

I think that it is vital that we incorporate higher levels of artistic excellence in what many consider a purely utilitarian tool. It is through our artistry that we are able to lure more folks into our camp since it is through art that we engage people emotionally. They then become subscribers of a new ethos, and become loyal fans when they realize their lives are enriched by the concept of ‘living with art’…and one of the best ways to live with art, is to use it.

My goal is to make the world a better, brighter place by telling this story with joy and passion through my work as an artist, craftsman, teacher, facilitator, lecturer, and friend.

Cary Schwarz