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MailTribune.com
  • Engraver gives style to cowboy gear

    As a rancher herself, Eastern Oregon's Amy Raymond knows use will tarnish her artistry over time
  • When Amy Raymond engraves a pair of silver spurs or a buckle, she knows the intricate design may soon disappear under layers of mud and manure. The Helix engraver works in a shop that looks out over acres of farm and ranch land. She and her husband Ryan live and work on a sixth-generation cattle ranch.
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  • When Amy Raymond engraves a pair of silver spurs or a buckle, she knows the intricate design may soon disappear under layers of mud and manure. The Helix engraver works in a shop that looks out over acres of farm and ranch land. She and her husband Ryan live and work on a sixth-generation cattle ranch.
    Before heading to her shop each day, the 32-year-old gets her two sons off to school and feeds a menagerie of animals (five bulls, six riding horses, two brood mares and several dogs). Some days, she breaks from engraving to drive a group of cows from one pasture to another. When her sons, Pace, 8, and Colter, 6, get off the school bus, her engraving day is done.
    The flexibility is one reason Raymond chose engraving 10 years ago as a way to mix ranch life with a creative endeavor.
    "I wanted to work with my hands," she said, "but be able to drop everything to help with the cows or pick my kids up at school if I needed to."
    Raymond considered leather work, but finally settled on metalsmithing and engraving. She worked the phones to locate someone to teach her the trade and found Travis Stringer in Baker City. Later, she connected with other mentors such as Montana "maker" Diane Scalese and Jim Baltzor of Athena, who taught her to build spurs and bits.
    Raymond's work takes steady hands and good vision. She often uses a special microscope to enlarge her view while making the tiniest of cuts. She transfers patterns onto the metal surfaces by shrinking hand-drawn designs down to size, attaching them to the surface and brushing the paper with acetone to transfer the lines onto the metal.
    Most days find the engraver deeply into her craft. Her old Welsh corgi Moses, a 21st birthday present from her husband, sleeps at her feet as she works. The tools of her trade surround her — an army of gravers, hammers, rasps, dot punches, buffer, band saw, grinder, drill press, sheets of metal and coils of wire. The music coming from her CD player depends on her mood, but she leans country. The music doesn't cover squawks of the occasional chicken wandering by in the yard.
    The result of her concentration is a beautiful array of spurs, bits, buckles, jewelry and other items, all bearing intricate and exact cuts and sometimes inlaid with other metals such as copper.
    The silversmith specializes in spurs and bits, but doesn't limit herself. A couple of years ago, she collaborated with Scalese and Helix leather worker Robin Severe to create a sterling silver dice cup. Raymond engraved the cup, while Severe made the hand-scrolled leather lining. Scalese added a pair of dice with dots made of garnets.
    The engraver stays busy. Someone putting in an order today might have to wait until June for the finished product. With so many horses and cowboys here, she is baffled that more western-style engravers don't move to this area. There are about 400 makers in Texas alone, she said, and only a handful in the Northwest, with few competitions.
    Raymond organized the Bit, Spur and Silversmith Show two years ago to attract competition between engravers from all over the country. The show is part of the Cattle Barons weekend, May 9-10, at the Pendleton Convention Center and Round-Up Grounds.
    "My goal was to bring makers this way," Raymond said.
    Much of what Raymond produces is for working cowboys. She isn't fazed by the fact that her spurs, buckles and bits get exposed to the elements. She picked up a pair of mud-covered spurs from her bench. They belonged to a Pilot Rock horse trainer who had given them a workout.
    "He wears these every day, all day long," she said. "He walks in the gravel and the rocks."
    That's all good with Raymond.
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