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The late 1970s found this artist working for wages in a holster shop in Twin Falls, Idaho. This first experience as a professional reinforced his early training of taking the time to get the job done right. He believes speed can foul a project. In the early 1980s, the theme was consistent as he attended a trade school for saddlemaking, in Spokane, Washington. Since then, Schwarz has diligently studied the mechanics of saddlemaking, while continuing to polish his already ample artistic talent. He credits Ray Holes Saddle Company, "Chas" Weldon, Dale Harwood, and more recently Chuck Stormes, as having a great influence on his development as a saddlemaker.
Often times what is learned has not been so much a certain technique to be applied, but a way of thinking. Schwarz has noted the folks doing great work have successfully sorted out the attitudes that free artisans to be creative and produce the work. Schwarz says, "I believe the best saddles made are those that successfully blend function and art." He stays in contact with the using end of his saddles especially during the summer on the family ranch at Kilgore, Idaho.
Whether packing salt, roping, and doctoring cattle or designing a new flower for a carving pattern on a saddle, his versatility is apparent. He maintains no file of standard flower stamping; each saddle is assigned something new. He simply picks up a piece of leather and a stylus and begins free-hand drawing the flower pattern onto its surface, not unlike a painter at his canvas with brush in hand.
Schwarz says he has found great value in always returning to the basics, revisiting the fertile ground of the past, remembering the God who makes up who we are, honoring traditions, and keeping function paramount in his work. Fundamental, as well, is his family life, wife Rose, three children Sara, T.J. and Sadie, all of whom add an important measure of balance and vitality to his vocation.
His work has been exhibited at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Sun Valley, Idaho, the "Gathering of Gear" exhibit at Elko, Nevada's Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the "Trappings of the West" in Flagstaff, Arizona, "Trappings of Texas" in Alpine, and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame inaugural TCAA show in 1999.
Copyright 2005 American Saddle Makers Association, Inc.