Spider Teller: master maker of saddles | NevadaAppeal.com

Spider Teller: master maker of saddles

PETER THOMPSON

As anyone who has ever spent a long day on horseback can attest, saddle making is a craft, art, trade and even science.

Shoshone master artist Spider Teller came to the Nevada State Museum Saturday for an afternoon demonstration of the fine art of making hand-tooled leather saddles.

The program, part of a series of American Indian presentations to complement the long-term “Under One Sky” exhibit was co-sponsored by the Nevada Arts Council.

Spider Teller was raised in Owyhee and worked on ranches around Tonopah and in Idaho. He studied saddle-making in the early 1970s, and over time, his designs have become extremely refined. Spider Teller stamps his intricate floral patterns freehand into the soft leather while it is damp then uses hand tools to create intricate, ornate patterns.

“A good saddle should be as comfortable as a good bucket seat in a car,” he says.

Spider Teller is a decorated Vietnam veteran who lives in Gardnerville. Because he raises horses and has spent many hours in the saddle, Spider Teller takes pride in knowing his hand-tooled saddles are not merely artistic – they are functional and comfortable.

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Unlike many assembly line-produced saddles, Spider Teller uses the best quality materials, thinking of things other saddlemakers overlook, including half-holes on the buckles for a perfect fit.

“The horse feels you when you’re sitting in the saddle,” he says. “He can tell if you’re comfortable – he can read your posture.”

From the saddle tree to the finished product, Spider Teller’s saddles are completely hand-crafted, each taking about six weeks to complete.

But details don’t come cheap. The sample saddles he had on display run around $3,000.

Spider Teller can be reached at 265-2198.

Contact reporter Peter Thompson at pthompson@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.