Jesse Smith Master Saddle Maker

I didn’t want all of February to get by without making a post.  So today I want to take advantage of leap day to post about a very talented saddle maker and one of my main influences, Jesse Smith.

The video below was filed more than a decade ago but Jesse is still at work making saddles and other leather goods.  Jesse is a master saddle maker who has made hundreds of saddles over his career and is responsible for training dozens and dozens of aspiring saddle makers over the years.

While I am not a saddle maker (I would love to make one someday though!) Jesse did teach me much of the basics of floral carving when I was starting out and I learned the style of floral carving I make, called the Northwest Style of floral carving, from him.  I owe a lot of my style and success to Jesse.

Veg tan leather carving
Floral carving in leather.

This is an example of my own carving in the Northwest Style of floral carving.  

In many ways saddle making is the pinnacle of leather work.  It involves all the techniques for solid construction of a working leather item and must withstand the elements.  It can incorporate the highest forms of leather art in the carvings and decorations that adorn the saddle.  It also is an important piece of safety equipment as both the rider’s and the horse’s health and safety can depend on how well it functions.  It really brings all the skills and techniques of leather work into one project.

Jesse has spent a lifetime developing his skills and knowledge, and he has always been happy to share that knowledge with others. He has been a teacher for many years and has influenced some of the best makers in our field.  I am very thankful to have had him as a teacher and to call him a friend.