Duff Severe (1919-2004)

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Collection of Duff Severe Salesman Sample-Size Display Saddles
Important collection of four Duff Severe salesman sample size display saddles. True half-scale saddles by the contemporary American master braider, leather tooler and saddlemaker. Four models are represented, complete with custom stands and lighted display case. All from the 1980s exhibition of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Provenance: From the Severe family.

a) Form Fitter - the classic Hamley saddle favored by rodeo cowboys. 6 3/4" seat and 2 1/4" cantle, natural rawhide braided borders and horn wrap. 7 1/2" sweeping swells, engraved silver slotted conchos. Numbered 2427 on the back of the cantle. 
b) American Bronc - oak leaf tooling, rope edged cantle and gullet, leather rosettes under the 6 strings and tooled leather covered oxbow stirrups. 7 1/2" seat and 2 1/2" cantle. Numbered 2415. 
c) Roper - black dyed rawhide borders and star designs. Rings attached with engraved silver conchos for the strings. 7 1/2" seat, low Cheyenne roll cantle. Numbered 2418. 
d) Old Mexican – two-tone saddle with floral carving in brown over a dyed red stippled background. Natural rawhide braided borders, full double rigged. Rope edges gullet and cantle. 6 1/2" seat. Numbered 2423. 

Lot 132, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - January 20, 2017, Mesa, AZ.
Sold $26,550

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Hide and Rawhide Braided Bottles/Decanters by Duff Severe

A truly unique set of 8 decorative bottles, covered in hair-on hide and braided rawhide, by the one and only, Duff Severe. 

The tooled leather title plaque inside the custom wood display case reads: "These bottles are covered with the scrotums of / each of the North American big game animals:  / Deer - Caribou - Antelope - Bighorn Sheep / Elk - Moose - Buffalo - Mt. Goat / The braiding work is genuine rawhide; hand-cut, / hand-colored, and hand-braided, requiring / over 600 hours of concentrated hand-crafting." The Severe Brothers cartouche appears on either side of the tooled plaque.
 
Each bottle has unique braiding patterns and colors, with dyed rawhide interwoven with natural colors. The Big Horn Sheep bottle alone has 23 separate rings of braided buttons along the body. The hair-on hides are natural. Each bottle has a leather nameplate identifying the animal; a separate leather title plate refers to them as "Liquor Decanters". The bottles range in size from 8 3/4" to 13" tall. They are in as-new condition, and have been well cared for and protected from fading or wear. Complete with their original lighted wood showcase, 16" tall x 48" wide x 12" deep, lined in cream colored leather. Glass sliding doors on the front. (images of the showcase are available online).
 
Provenance: From the Severe family.

Lot 133, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - January 20, 2017, Mesa, AZ.
Sold $4,425


Duff Severe is known throughout the world as a master leather worker. He was a world renowned saddler, especially known for his work in perfecting rodeo contest Bronc Saddles. A majority of World Champions, from Casey Tibbs to the present, have ridden saddles made by Duff Severe of Pendleton, Oregon.

During World War II, Duff served in the Navy and was stationed in the San Francisco Bay area, not far from the saddle shop of Luis Ortega. Duff spent his free time watching Ortega work, then returning to the base to practice what he observed Ortega doing. In 1946, he apprenticed himself to the Hamley Saddle Company, where he spent 10 years learning his trade before going into business with his brother Bill, who had also worked at Hamley. Bill learned to build the trees, and Duff specialized in making the saddle on the tree.

Host and proprietor of the Severe Brothers "Hotel de Cowpunch" since 1948, this friend of the rodeo cowboy hosted hundreds of cowboys, from champions to rookies, at no cost, and occasionally was known to join in some good cowboy music on an old Martin guitar.

In 1982, Duff was one of the 15 original master craftsmen named National Heritage Fellows by the National Endowment for the Arts, marking him as one of "America's Living Treasures." His leather and rawhide art has been exhibited and has traveled with the Smithsonian Institution Exhibition more times than any other artist in his field.

In 1991, Duff was featured in National Geographic Magazine and TV "Explorer" articles on his life and leather achievements.

In 1992, Duff was inducted into the Pendleton Round-Up Hall of Fame. His efforts and influence on behalf of cowboys and rodeo, as well as many years dedication to producing fine trophy saddles, inspired this honor.

Duff Severe passed away in 2004 at the age of 84. He received a National Heritage Award for his unique artistry in making utilitarian and miniature saddles. He and his brother Bill both have saddles in the Smithsonian Institution’s collection; and both passed on the tradition and their skills to their sons and nephews who now run the saddlery.

Sources: www.severebrothers.com; www.rexburgstandardjournal.com; www.arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/duff-severe

If you are interested in Duff Severe and his work, there are a number of great resources on the Internet. Of particular interest is the website for the Master of Traditional Arts, which focuses on the work of recipients of the National Heritage Fellowship: www.mastersoftraditionalarts.org. Included in their profile of Duff Severe are wonderful sound recordings of Duff, both interviews and speeches, in which he discusses his life and his craft. 

Vintage Miniature California Saddle

Circa late 19th century, this lovely and enchanting, floral carved mini-masterwork measures only 14” x 8” and features a decoratively stitched 6 1/2" inlaid full-seat, bold Main & Winchester style California raised floral carving with a restored rich russet vintage patina and a gullet and cantle trimmed with nickel plated brass mountings.  The rawhide strings are twist-braided and 100% original as is everything else except the finish, the wood stirrups and straps that were reconstructed by Bill Heisman, founding member of the Traditional Cowboy Artists and a known stickler for historical detail.  Overall an exceptional piece that would make a worthy addition to the finest miniature or salesman sample saddle collection.  

Lot 264, Brian Lebel's Mesa Auction - January 21, 2017
Sold $6,490