Western saddle blanket weaving
Bonnie Chase began spinning and dyeing yarn and weaving more than thirty years ago while living on a ranch in Washington State. She received formal training in weaving from the Oregon School of Arts and Crafts and the Damascus Pioneer Craft School in Oregon. When she moved to Cedarville, California, a ranching community in the high desert of Modoc County, she found the local sheep industry in jeopardy so she worked to develop a market for her high quality yarn and woven wool saddle blankets. She purchased wool from local ranchers and put her spinning and weaving skills to use to serve the ranching community and keep her traditional art form alive.
Saddle blankets are essential equipment for ranchers and wool blankets are the best type of saddle blankets for horses because the natural fibers allow the horse’s skin to breathe. Traditionally, cowboys used hand-woven wool saddle blankets personalized with their brands, names or favorite designs. Bonnie takes raw fleece from local Churro sheep and processes it into yarn. In addition to using the natural colors of the sheep, she dyes some of her yarn with California native plants such as mountain mahogany root, sage and black walnut. She then uses this yarn to weave her saddle blankets. Originally saddle blankets were woven using a simple latch-hook roving technique, but now more complicated weaving techniques have evolved and Bonnie uses a multi-harness technique. Each blanket takes three or four months to complete.
In 2005, Bonnie was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Linda Hussa. Bonnie taught Linda, a Churro sheep rancher, to process her sheep’s wool into yarn, to color it with natural dyes, and to weave durable saddle blankets that can be used by the local community.
Rug raffled at Modoc County Fair to benefit Rotary Scholarship Fund, Cedar, California, August 2005
Rugs and saddle blankets on display at working studio and showroom of Warner Mountain Weavers, Cedarville, California
Rugs and saddle blankets on display at Trailing of the Sheep, Hailey, Idaho, October 2005
Rugs and saddle blankets on display at Black Sheep Gathering, Eugene, Oregon, June 2005
Alliance for California Traditional Arts’ Apprenticeship Program Master Artist, 2004-2005
Artist-in-Residence at Black Mountain Weavers, Point Reyes Station, CA, 1986-2000
Private Instruction at Warner Mountain Weavers, 6 students, 2000 – present
Teaching and mentorships
Creates commissioned art work
Offers educational presentations to schools or community organizations
Participate in exhibitions
Offers works for sale
Assists in planning arts events
Serves as a cultural consultant