What is Sheridan Style Carving?
Nailing that question down into a precise definition is a difficult task. You will get almost as many definitions as the number of people you ask, but in general, it is both a leather carving technique and a style of pattern. The style of pattern typically features a floral pattern that flows in a series of overlapping or interlaced circles. This flow tends to capture the eye and draw the attention to the details of the carving. Sheridan Style Carving gets its name from the city of Sheridan, Wyoming, where saddle makers and leather craftsmen have been developing this unique art for several decades. This style of leather carving began to rapidly grow in popularity, first across North America and now around the world, when in 1993 a leather workers trade show was held in Sheridan. This show became an annual event and today has many attendees from different corners of the globe. When these avid leather craftsmen converged on Sheridan, they were exposed to the artistry of the saddle makers in the region. The term, Sheridan Style Carving was born to describe the unique leather working style that they saw. Following is an excerpt from the forward to the book, Sheridan Style Carving by Bill Gardner and Clint Fay, which gives you a little more information about the development of this style of carving. This book is a great resource for anyone interested in Sheridan Style Carving.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in hand-tooled leatherwork. Old saddles, riding gear and leather goods used by cattlemen and women over the past century have suddenly captured the attention of collectors and historians worldwide. Leather carving styles have developed over the years in various regions of the country, and the indigenous floral style is often the quickest and most effective means of categorizing a piece of leather work. The recognizable forms and underlying character that make the Sheridan Style identifiable are found in the works of the men showcased in the book Sheridan Style Carving. The quality and application of these floral carving styles vary greatly but the Sheridan Style developed by Don King, Bill Gardner and several of the craftsmen who worked with them is worthy of praise and examination. It has had a substantial influence on the leather workers all over the world through the latter part of the twentieth century.
My best guess is that the “Sheridan Style” (as we loosely define it) was sparked back in the mid-fifties when Don King began work on the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association trophy saddles. If you look closely at the saddles, you will notice small but significant changes in the overall character of his past leather carvings. Don has always given credit to those who have influenced him most, and feels that his work stems from the foundation of many good leather workers of the past. A few of the men that were influential to Don's floral carving at the early time were: Rudy Mudra, Cliff Ketchum, Lloyd Davis and John Ernst.
There have been several other leather carvers who have had a great deal to do with the continuation and development of the Sheridan Style floral carving. They are Chester Hape, Johnny Rawlings, Ray Arthin, Ed Jackson, Jim Jackson, Bill King, Clinton Fay, Don Butler and John King. These are the men that have worked on a steady basis, shaping and molding their own directions with their floral carving, having been heavily influenced by the demands and high standards Don King set so many years ago. The number of leather workers and saddle makers who have adopted the Sheridan Style of carving floral patterns is now so great that it makes it impossible to mention all the names of those who continue to influence and develop the Sheridan Style.
Sheridan Style Carving by Bob Likewise with Bill Gardner and Clinton Fay. From the forward by James F. Jackson.