Diane West Jewelry & Art turns 10 this month, and while throwing a big old party in the downtown Durango gallery space is still not the best idea, there is a special display of two Skyhorse Saddles, made by the wife and husband team of Lisa and Loren Skyhorse, set up to help mark the occasion.
When West opened the gallery in March 2011, she had been in Durango for 10 years. The space became a place to not only display jewelry and art from other artists, but to show off hers as well.
“I moved here in 2000 and taught myself jewelry making soon after arriving. I completely fell in love with metalwork and held a number of different jobs to support myself while learning the trade,” she said. “It was the stones that inspired me, and my work remains dedicated to the simple beauty of color, clean lines and contour. Much of my work now is focused on wedding rings, which I find rewarding as I get to work closely with couples and feel honored to make pieces of such significance.
“My vision for the gallery was to put together a collection of jewelry and art in all price ranges with artists that spanned from emerging to very accomplished. I sought after work that was innovative, inspired and hopeful. We had, and still have, an amazing group of local artists who are a joy to work with.”
West first met the Skyhorses socially, and it wasn’t long before they started taking about working together, Lisa said.
“The gallery is very eclectic and modern,” Loren said. “She came out to our house and saw the magnitude of our work and then we sort of broached the subject of ‘would you like to show a couple in your gallery?’”
The Skyhorses have been making saddles for the better part of 50 years. The two make their pieces by hand, and pride themselves on the fact that out of more than a thousand saddles, no two have ever been the same.
One of the saddles at the gallery was made for the movie poster for “Zorro” – and it’s truly a work of art. It was handcarved by Lisa and features silver braiding done by Loren (more than 330 feet of fine silver lacing, which translates into 28 feet of completed braid). The buckles and conchos are solid sterling silver and there’s even a little bit of 14K gold overlay thrown in for good measure.
For the Skyhorses, their saddles serve a dual purpose as pieces of art worthy of display, and as saddles that can actually be used.
“It’s functional art,” Lisa said. “Our saddles, even though they are Western and they are very traditionally built, are very contemporary.”
“We do start with the concept of art. I think the original inspiration on every piece is art first and then make sure it’s a functional saddle,” Loren said. “Lisa’s really a fabulous artist, and what’s interesting about our work is we have never had a catalog ... we’ve always met every client, there have been over a thousand of them. We’ve said to every client, ‘what do you want to ride? We will build it for you.’”
Along with the “Zorro” saddle, the Skyhorses have had other saddles find their way into famous hands.
“I think our most recent well-known piece was we built a saddle for Shania Twain, which she rode in her farewell tour,” Lisa said. “Her on our saddle was part of her concert. That was really fun because it was a very kind of wild – it had red fringe with stars on it – it was a very fun project.”
The saddle is currently housed in the Country Western Music Hall of Fame, Loren said.
For West, being able to maintain a presence downtown for a decade can be chalked up to a few factors – and a little luck.
“There are four things that have kept us in business for the past 10 years: Personal determination, amazing client support, an incredibly talented group of artists and great employees,” West said. “Of course, with any small business there is a good dose of luck that is required. I have made a number of mistakes over the years, and am grateful that for the most part my clients, artists and employees have been forgiving.”
And, she added, Durango is her home.
“Durango is an incredible community,” she said. “There may be other places that my business would do better in, but I can think of no place I would rather be.”