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Design Inspiration: Living the West

Cayuse Western Americana

+ Written by Alisan Peters
+ Photography by Latham Jenkins

Mary Schmitt’s interest in the antiques of the American West took a somewhat circuitous route to the gallery she opened in downtown Jackson in 1997. As a young girl in the Netherlands, she grew up outside The Hague while her father worked in international business.

Mary Schmitt

That experience was the perfect jumping-off point for a degree in international relations, from which she eventually established a career in the marketing of high-tech products. “But those products were highly disposable,” she points out. She realized she was more intently drawn to things that had permanence, things that lasted. “I had a deep affection for horses, and was always impressed with the artistry and durability of saddles, so I began to study two of the last great horse cultures in the world: the Old West’s cowboys and Native Americans. Everything about those lifestyles was interesting to me.”

Her keen eye helped her accumulate an astonishing collection of the West’s Americana, from beadworks and textiles, spurs and saddles, vintage art and old ranch furnishings. “You know,” she says, “a 100-year-old saddle is still as beautiful as the day it was made.”

1. Silver Saddle

Made by master Edward H. Bohlin, circa 1940. Often produced for Hollywood notables and movie stars, these saddles transcend function and are considered high art, often selling in the five-figure range.

2. Western Art

Cayuse sources vintage art that represents the region and the West, as with these paintings by listed Wyoming artists Conrad Schwiering (1916–1986) and Raphael Lillywhite (1891–1958).

Saddle

Collection

3. Angora Chaps

Also known as “woolies,” these were used by cowboys in dry, cold climates like the Northern Rockies. Their exotic appearance was also well suited to Wild West shows and rodeos, where they were found in bright colors to add to the general exuberance. These “batwing”-style woolies are rare and were made by famed saddle maker C.P. Shipley.

4. Native American Art

Cayuse has an excellent collection of early, authentic Native American items, including both the Blackfoot child’s tipi and this Nez Perce dress from the late 1800s. Cayuse specializes in cultures west of the Mississippi and those of the Pacific Northwest.

5. Navajo Weavings

From earlier pieces made for wearing and home use, to transitional weavings and classic trading post examples, Cayuse has a great selection of these vibrant art forms that are suitable for display on a wall or floor.

 

6. Vintage Turquoise and Buckles

Exquisite wearable art by Navajo, Pueblo and Western silversmiths from the late 1800s to mid- century. Cayuse also acquires today’s collectible pieces from a select group of contemporary artisans, including Clint Orms, Susan Adams, Jack Walker and others.

Turquoise

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