Oregon Folklife Network

Jack Armstrong

2016-2017 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Rawhide Braiding

2016-2017 Apprentice: JC Sykes

Contact Information

E-mail: jackarmstrong04@gmail.com

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Rawhide braiding has been around since mankind’s beginning. It has evolved from necessity to functioning art. I began braiding 20 years ago and still enjoy it today. I enjoy teaching this tradition to ensure it is not a dying art.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

I first learned to braid with nylon when I couldn't afford to purchase braided gear. Traveling around the northwest working on ranches, I had opportunity to learn different techniques from different cowboys. I have also attended several workshops all across the US trying to better my craft.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

The ranching tradition has deep roots in Lake County. Using braided rawhide gear as tools to both train horses and perform tasks in the ranching industry, doing a cowboy’s job on a day to day basis has been ongoing for many centuries. In the beginning, rawhide braiding was very basic and crude and in the last 100 years it has evolved. It is still useful in a similar fashion but more artistic. Years ago, most braiders used nothing more than a pocket knife and a block of wood for a guide to cut all of their strings. Currently, more modern, precise, and adjustable tools have been designed and created that cut finer and more consistent strings, which has led to more intricately braided products. Although the materials and the practices have not necessarily changed, they have been improved upon with smaller and finer strings and the ability to dye the rawhide has introduced the capability to create pleasing color patterns. This has resulted in elevating this age-old tradition into a more modern art form.

Artist Biography

I moved from Southern California to Oregon as a young child and lived on a small family cattle and horse ranch in Klamath Falls. After high school I traveled across Idaho, Nevada and California working on a variety of horse and cattle ranches. As a result of my travels, I found my wife and we had two children and decided to move back to Oregon and put down roots and raise our family. By making a living as a working cowboy most of my life, I have not only built the gear that I use on a day-to-day basis performing my job, but I have also had the privilege of producing items that other working cowboys are able to utilize on a daily basis in their employment, which is very rewarding to me on a personal level.

Experience/Honors

2015, Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, Art Show, Working gear: First place, “16 Strand Rawhide Quirt”

2016, Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, Art Show—Winner

Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, Emerging Artists competition, Mesa, AZ.

Presentation on Rawhide Braiding, Vaquero Show, Santa Ynez, CA.