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Richard L. Sherer

Harness makers and saddlers are part of my family's history dating back to the New England Colonies. My great uncle was a professional harness maker in the early 1900's, and my grandfather and great grandfathers built harness and shoes on their farms in Ohio. I have used several of their tools in the 60 plus years that I have been building saddles. I began my apprenticeship when I was 15. From 1959 to 1965, I studied under four Porter saddle makers in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Working in the saddle shops allowed me to continue my education. After completing my doctorate in 1969, I pursued a dual career as a research\exploration geologist and as a part-time custom saddle maker. Sherer Custom Saddles, Inc. was established in 1973 and I decided to pursue my artwork full time in 1990.

My saddles received twelve first place awards at the CSMA Custom Saddle Shows from 1992 to 1999, and in 1994 I received the Cowboy Leather Carver of the Year award. In 1997 I was selected by other saddlemakers as one of the top thirty custom saddlemakers in North America. My leather artwork has been exhibited at the major cowboy art\gear shows in Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho and Texas. I am the author of Horseman's Handbook of Western Saddles and over two hundred articles on the art and business of leatherwork. I am a founding member of the Colorado Saddlemakers Association, Inc., and I served as Secretary-Treasurer from 1991 to 2003.

Today my work goes beyond the saddles and horse gear of a typical western saddle maker. I design chaps and custom bridles for English riders. I restore antique saddles, and I approach this work as historical archeology. I build contemporary and historic reproduction gun leathers, and I use exotic leathers to make personal leather goods. I work with raised and formed silver, which I hand engrave.

A visit to my studio is like stepping back 100 years in time, yet it is one of the best-equipped custom saddle and silver shops in the West. One of my sewing machines has the same design as those sent out to the British Colonies for harness and saddlery work. An 1887 hand-cranked harness creaser is used to make contemporary dress belts. Nineteenth Century American and European hand tools dominate the workbenches.

My leatherwork blends influence from both sides of my brain. The functionality of a piece requires that it be "engineered" to withstand wear and tear. The lines of a piece, the carved ornamentation, the use of precious metals, and a wide choice of leathers open many avenues for artistic expression. Every day is a new challenge.

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The School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University Article
The School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University Article

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