Freeman finds comfort, therapy in crafting unique stuffed horsesWritten by Gayle Smith
When Barb Freeman goes to a trade show, she arrives with a carload of horses – stuffed ones that is. Her trade show displays are filled with large and small horses with every type of outfit she can make. Some are designed for cowboys and cowgirls, while other horses sport fun, vibrant dresses.
At Horses Galore and More, Freeman has a horse that will appeal to everyone.
Freeman’s first horse doll took shape 25 years ago as her small daughters sat under her sewing table and played. Sewing has always appealed to Freeman, who started making items when she was just 12.
“I started out making gifts for my family,” she says. “Then, friends would ask me to make something for them. It blossomed from there.”
Over the years, sewing was a good fit for the military wife, whose husband was gone for periods of time.
“I work full-time now, so making the horses is good therapy for me. My husband has passed away, so it gives me something to look forward to in the evenings,” she says.
Personalizing the pattern
Freeman uses a McCall’s pattern she purchased 28 years ago to make the horse dolls.
“I have tweaked the pattern and changed it to create different sizes,” she explains. “I have also changed the hair on the horses and the dress styles. I recycle old blue jeans to make the boys’ outfits and use several different types of fabrics for the girls’. There are no two alike.”
One horse takes her about four hours to make from start to finish.
Freeman is also licensed to use the Wyoming bucking horse logo on the outfits of her horses, and she has found those to be her best sellers.
“I can hardly keep those in stock,” she says.
It is also her favorite doll to make.
Although it’s more difficult to sew, Freeman uses leather-type and vinyl-feel fabrics for some of the clothing for the horses.
“I like using different fabrics because it differentiates them from each other,” she says. “I like to come up with new ideas and different yarns for the mane and tail to make them look different.”
Although many of the horses have a western theme, some are made from fun, little-girl type fabrics for children and adults who aren’t into the western way of life.
Wyoming ag business
Horses are big business in Wyoming, and Freeman feels her horses are an ideal item for her to make and sell. She sells the horse dolls through word-of-mouth, rodeos, horse events and trade shows.
She also attends a few craft fairs in Douglas and Casper. Depending upon which craft shows she plans to attend, Freeman makes other animal dolls to sell, like moose and lambs.
The crafter also donates horses to each trade show she attends and to several charities and youth groups. Amongst those are the College National Rodeo Finals, the Intercollegiate National Rodeo Fund for injured rodeo athletes, Toys for Tots and Make-A-Wish.
Because of the military, Freeman says she has horses all over the world.
“We lived in Germany for awhile,” she explains. “We also lived in Kansas and Texas. Because we moved around a lot, I have horses everywhere.”
She also sold several horses and lambs during the Sheep Dog Trials in Kaycee.
“The judges were from New Zealand, and their wives were buying them to send back home,” she says.
The small business has been a great supplement to her income, in addition to being something she enjoys.
“It gives me something to do in the evenings,” she says. “It is also fun because I never know how they are going to look when they are done.”
Beadwork proves relaxing, provides new business venture for SimmsWritten by Gayle Smith
Casper – It all starts with some microscopic beads, heavy-duty thread, a loom and an idea. Several days later, it is a work of art. For Kailey Simms, it is relaxing to create unique beadwork gifts for clients, family and friends.
Like most young women, Simms’ interest in beadwork stemmed from a desire for a one-of-a-kind item that was too expensive for her to buy.
“It all started because I really wanted a beaded belt,” Simms says of her venture into beadwork three years ago.
“I loved how those belts look. I thought they were just gorgeous, but I didn’t want to spend $300 to $500 to get one,” she says.
A trip to Hobby Lobby produced some beads and a loom, and she went home and taught herself the craft.
“I never took any formal training, it was just mostly a lot of trial and error. When I would get stuck, I would look things up on the internet and YouTube until I figured it out on my own,” she explained.
Simms started out big.
“My first project was that belt I wanted so much,” she says. “When I finished it, the beads were a little bit wobbly and it wasn’t perfect, but it saved me a lot of money, and I’m so proud of it.”
In the last three years, she has made phenomenal progress with her work. Now she makes bracelets, hatbands, headbands and belts for clients, family and friends. She can also make horse tack, like beaded bridles and headstalls.
Starting a business
To market her designs, Simms started a small company, Double Twisted K Beadwork, which can be found on Facebook.
“Most of my work comes from word-of-mouth or from my Facebook page. I don’t market it anyplace, but I am in the process of building a website,” she says.
Simms develops her intriguing designs from things she sees that inspire her.
“Some of my best ideas came from my geometry class,” she recalls. “I like how the shapes and patterns all work together.”
She also has a beading program on her computer to help finalize her designs, and determine which colors look best together.
Most of the beadwork is custom, so Simms’ customers also give her some input into what they would like.
“Because it is expensive, customers usually want me to make something unique and something that is designed just for them,” she says. “As I make these items, I really enjoy seeing my clients’ personalities come out in the patterns.”
Although she hasn’t been commissioned for a really unique item, Simms has made some items with very unique patterns.
“I had a friend who requested a belt in eight different colors of beads,” she recalled. “I thought it looked a little wild, but it had an intricate design. It was actually pretty neat when I finished it.”
These belts can take anywhere from three days to a week to finish, depending on how complex the pattern is.
“Beadwork is very time consuming and tedious, and lots of people ask me how I can stand to do it, but I have found that I really enjoy it,” she comments.
Simms works with a local leather worker, Lee of 37 Custom Leather in Casper, who does the tooling and carving on the belts after she finishes the beadwork.
“The belts look really nice when he is done,” she says.
A look to the future
While she’s continually working on new projects, Simms is also finishing up an education degree through Western Governor’s University and substitute teaching full-time. Eventually, she hopes to become an elementary school teacher.
Because of her love for children, Simms readily contributes to children’s causes. Two of her more recent projects were belts for Fight Like a Kid, and the Make a Wish Foundation.
“Two amazing kids who are fighting cancer had a rodeo put on for them, and I was asked to make two very special belts for these children,” she says. “The best part is that I was able to do this at no cost. It is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and I was very honored to be asked to do it.”
Kailey Simms of Double Twisted K Beadwork recently wed Cody Simms, who is also a craftsman.
Cody enjoys welding and makes horseshoe tables in his spare time. These tables are a unique design that he would construct alongside his grandfather, Melvin Simms.
“His grandfather taught him to weld, and they would build these tables together. It is a project that is near and dear to his heart,” Kailey said.
Cody also makes different types of frames from barn wood. In their own home, he made a custom frame around their television. The frames can also be used for mirrors and pictures.
With the unique talents of this couple, they hope to one day open a small store in Casper, where they make their home.
“It is a dream of ours to open a store where we can sell the things we make,” Kailey says.
Wyoming's Whiskey: Kirby distillery releases first of its productWritten by Saige Albert
“It has been a wild and wonderful few days for Wyoming Whiskey,” said the company in a press release. “From the response of Wyoming’s retailers to our first offering, to the 3,000-plus folks who came to Kirby to the kind words we received from every corner of the state.”
With owners Brad and Kate Mead, Master Distiller Steve Nally, his wife and Director of Tourism and Public Relations Donna Nally, founder and Chief Operating Officer David DeFazio and Governor Matt Mead present at the event, along with numerous other dignitaries, the excited crowd shared in Wyoming Whiskey’s groundbreaking day.
“There is one question I want to answer now that I have been asked more times than I care to count,” commented DeFazio. “Number one – it’s good, and number two – it’s ready.”
Governor Mead agreed, saying, “I work very hard in the office trying to figure out policy position on this or that, and I travel across Wyoming. More often than not, the first question people asked me wasn’t, ‘What are you doing on healthcare?’ it was, ‘When is the whiskey going to be done?’”
Mead offered congratulations to Brad and Kate, also noting that the fine product represents Wyoming.
“What makes it special in my mind is that this is truly a Wyoming story,” he explained. “It takes guts to say we are going to start a product that has never been made, we are going to do it in the town of Kirby, and we are going to persevere.”
Mead continued, “Brad, Kate and David, you’ve had guts, and guts goes into every bottle of Wyoming Whiskey. This has been an amazing team story.”
When they decided to distill bourbon whiskey in Wyoming, Brad notes that they had two requirements in mind – it had to be premium product, and it had to be a Wyoming product.
They invited Bourbon Hall of Famer Steve Nally from Kentucky as master distiller for the project, and Brad mentioned, “We got one of the very best.”
“It was important to us that, at the end of the day, this be considered Wyoming’s Whiskey,” he said.
Kate added, “Steve and Donna have helped us fulfill our dream of creating a really great whiskey.”
“When David called and asked if we were interested in coming to Wyoming to make bourbon, I though he was pulling a prank,” said Donna. “We are very honored to be here today.”
“This all came about because two people had a vision, and they said we can do something that has never been done here before,” Steve commented. “They are modern pioneers.”
Steve added that, through the process, support from Wyoming’s citizen, towns and government has been overwhelming.
Donna continued, noting that while her accent gives away that she is a Kentuckian, “Today, Steve and I both feel that we are definitely Wyomingites. We could not have done what we are doing in making the best bourbon in the world without the support of all of you folks from Wyoming.”
“We are putting out an excellent product,” said Steve. “Here’s to Wyoming.”
One group of tasters, Doug Weatherly and Jacque Hanson from Lincoln, Neb., and Mike and Lenore Weatherley of North Platte, Neb. travelled all night to attend the event.
“I became a whiskey baron two years ago when I found out they were doing this,” commented Doug at the event. “I drink Jack Daniels, and I wanted a whiskey that was closer to me.”
“I really like it,” he added of the Wyoming’s first bourbon product.
While tasters from across Wyoming and surrounding states agreed that Wyoming Whiskey is a top-notch product, Whiskycast reviewer Mark Gillespie attended the launch event and awarded the product a 95.
“The nose is smooth with notes of fresh baked wheat bread, fresh cut saw dust, orange peel and subtle touches of black cherry and vanilla,” Gillespie noted. “The taste is mouth filling and smooth. There’s a mild cinnamon note with no bite and notes of dried orange peel and honey.”
Gillespie continued. “The finish is long, smooth and dry with mild orange peel, vanilla and oak sawdust.”
Maybe the most notable comments by Gillespie came when he said, “It is one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted, and I’m scoring Wyoming Whiskey a 95.”
While Wyoming Whiskey is largely sold out across the state, and the next batch due to be bottled “when it’s ready,” according to Steve, Wyoming will continue to anticipate more of its high-quality bourbon product.
Western art: CFD Art Show and Sale returnsWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – In its 33rd year, the Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) Western Art Show and Sale has once again held another event to raise funds for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
“We started the art show in 1981 as a fundraiser for the museum,” says April Jones, a member of the art show committee. “There were six people who started the committee, and we didn’t think we’d make any money that year.”
After a $13 profit in their first year, Jones notes, “It just took off.”
In their first 32 years, the Western Art Show and Sale has raised over $2 million for the CFD Old West Museum.
A wide selection of artists are hand-picked to showcase their work at the event.
“Converging on the CFD Old West Museum like cowboys to the rodeo arena, the artists celebrate the West’s frontier past, its culture, its magnificent scenery and the western way of life through their impressive works of art,” reads the museum’s website.
Jones works specifically with the artists for the event and says, “We travel a lot in selecting our artists.”
For the first show, the committee contacted the Cowboy Artists of America organization and visited many shows to talk to western artists.
“We knew a lot of the artists personally,” says Jones of committee members, “and that group helped to get us started.”
Their first show featured work from 30 artists. The 2013 show incorporates work from nearly 60 artists, though Jones notes that as many as 67 artists have been invited to participate in the event.
“Growing in popularity every year, the CFD Western Art Show and Sale attracts artists from Nebraska to California and Montana to Arizona who all share the same passion – a love for the great American West and its heritage,” says the CFD Old West Museum website.
Rather than a typical art auction, the CFD Western Art Show and Sale aims to raise funds without undervaluing the artwork.
Prices are listed on each piece, and anyone interested in purchasing the work puts their name in a bucket to be drawn.
“We draw for our winners. The first name drawn has first choice of whether they want the piece or not. They have 15 minutes to decide whether they want it,” explains Jones. “If the first turns it down or doesn’t respond in the 15 minutes, it goes to the second name drawn.”
The CFD Western Art Show and Sale was held on July 18 this year and boasted 272 pieces of artwork for sale.
“We have everything from bronze sculptures, oil paintings, acrylic paintings, watercolors, alabaster, Navajo weavings and wood carvings,” Jones notes. “We have good variety in our pieces.”
Twelve artists in the 2013 show call Wyoming their home, including Steven Devenyns of Cody, D. Michael Thomas of Buffalo, Bruce Graham of Buffalo, Curt Theobald of Pine Bluffs, Laurie Lee of Powell, Denney NeVille of Byron, Mike Beeman of Cheyenne, Jerry Palen of Saratoga, Robin Laws of Cheyenne, Carol Swinney of Casper, Gale Jones Sundell of Cheyenne and Ann Hanson of Shell.
Though the art will be sold on July 18, all sold and unsold pieces remain on display throughout the entirety of CFD.
“The Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale is one of the most respected and prestigious western art exhibitions in the Rocky Mountain Region,” said Jim Hearne, chairman of the Western Art Show and Sale Committee. “There isn’t a better place to see how the everyday life of the cowboy, the lives of Native Americans and the great American West and its wildlife make an impression on these outstanding artists.”
Hearne notes that visiting CFD isn’t complete without visiting the museum to experience both the exhibits and works of art on display.
On top of producing the CFD Western Art Show and Sale, the committee also produces a commemorative poster and limited edition print from the previous year’s show. Only 500 copies of the print are produced.
This year’s limited edition print is “High Country Oasis” by Powell artist Laurie Lee. The commemorative poster features Steven Lang’s “Out of the Gate.”
Wyoming Whiskey announces native bourbon will debut in December 2012Written by Saige Albert
Wyoming Whiskey will be released at a marketed as an 88 proof bourbon whiskey, and DeFazio says, “It will be nothing like any bourbon drinker has tasted before.”
The flavor in the whiskey
“It has a lot of vanilla and caramel flavor. It has a sweet fruity bit, and sometimes I get a bit of a nutty taste in it, also,” says Wyoming Whiskey Master Distiller Steve Nally.
“It was amazing, the maturity of the product this year over the two-year-old,” commented DeFazio. “When you see our product released this December, it will be incredible.”
“We’re looking for something that has a pleasant, smooth taste to it,” Nally adds. “The longer it stays in, it starts to pick up a wood flavor that mellows the alcohol.”
“Steve Nally gives our product instant credibility,” says DeFazio of the company’s master distiller.
Nally retired in 2003 from Maker’s Mark in Kentucky after 15 years as master distiller at the company. He was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame and decided to move to Wyoming for the opportunity to distill his own product.
“It was the chance of a lifetime to start a product from the ground up – developing the recipe, securing all the grains and seeing the building going up,” says Nally. “I just couldn’t pass it up.”
Aging bourbon whiskey
“Steve likens the aging process to chili making,” explains DeFazio. “When you make chili, you want to get it as hot as you can. Then you turn it down to a simmer, and it turns out great.”
He continues that whiskey barrels start at the top of the warehouse, and by the third summer, the barrels are moved to the bottom ricks of the warehouse, where they mellow and refine.
Nally adds, “We put the product in the new barrels. As it heats in the summer, it expands into the wood. When it contracts in colder weather, it pulls back out, and that’s how it gets all of its color and flavor.”
Because each season contributes one cycle, the whiskey takes many years to age properly.
“The first year, you get very little improvement. The product is pretty rough and pretty harsh,” explains Nally. “The second year we saw it start to round out and start to mellow a bit.”
“Really, I’ve seen more improvement in the third year than any,” he continues. “It’s starting to pick up a lot of the wood taste, and the caramels and vanilla start to be more predominant.”
Nally also adds that the alcohol after-taste and burn start to disappear, but that takes time.
After three years, Nally has decided the whiskey will be ready by next December.
“By the time we release this fall, there will be another full season, and the way it has progressed so far, one more year will take that after burn away,” says Nally. “It will leave you with a nice taste.”
DeFazio says that now, they are purchasing bottling equipment and preparing to bottle the product for December.
“We will release the image of the bottle and label once it is finalized,” says DeFazio. “It will be a round bottle – no fancy shape or design – but it will reflect the core quality.”
“We will have a solid bottle that, if you slide it down the bar and it happens to fall, it might not break,” he elaborates. “Something that feels good in hand and is straightforward with no frills or bells and whistles. We believe the bottle to be tough.”
Since the conception of Wyoming Whiskey, the distillery has filled over 3,000 barrels, with that number increasing by 30 barrels a week.
Currently, the operation has three warehouses. Warehouses A and B, with 1,750-barrel capacity and 2,250-barrel capacity, respectively, are filled, and Warehouse C began to fill at the beginning of February.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hope the consumer thinks it’s good, also,” says Nally. “The enthusiasm has been so overwhelming. Everyone in the state has been behind us.”
Wyoming Whiskey will only be sold in-state for the first year or two, because of limited product availability, but then will distribute to other areas.
Whiskey the Wyoming way
“We’re trying to do basic premium quality product, and we started out with the guideline that this will be a Wyoming product,” says Wyoming Whiskey Master Distiller Steve Nally. “Everything we use in the product we get from Wyoming.”
All grains are raised in Wyoming and are secured through contracts with area growers, and even the water is hauled from an aquifer near Hyattville.
“We are hauling water 40 miles one way,” adds Nally. “They are in the process of hooking up a line to delivery that limestone-filtered water to us.”
Because the limestone filtration system near the surface purifies ground water, Nally says it is important for good whiskey.
“Most limestone deposits in the area are about 10,000 feet below ground,” explains Nally. “As water comes up past the limestone, it picks up minerals, sulfurs and irons. By the time we can get to it, we can’t use it.”
The limestone deposit near Manderson is much closer to the surface, which provides very pure water that is free of iron.
“Iron is detrimental because it turn the product black,” comments Nally. “As far as most of the industry in Kentucky is concerned, we are using one of the purest forms of water we can use.”