Again, Welcome and thanks for stopping in!
Feel free to take a look around and please drop back by when you are in the neighborhood...
With a growing assortment of fiber, color, and product options, construction of new pages will be ongoing and full of discoveries in cordage that may surprise you...
Prepare to see 'new' designs inspired by the early horsehair saddle cinches like those sold by Visalia Stock Saddle Company back in the late 1800's.
Today the angora goat fiber, mohair, is used by many working cowboy's and trail riders because of it's breathability, minimal shrink/stretch (when yarns of the cord are consistently twisted) contributing to the durability and comfort for the horse. Oh, and it is quite washable too! Actually, some cowboys in drier climates cite the observation that mohair seems to repel dirt. In principle this is mostly true. Since angora goats have a slick hair for 'fur', the dirt will not cling easily. In fact, when the fiber has been dipped in dye as cinch cord, the very outside fibers filtered out the dye. Even though dye molecules are so small, the cord could be slightly untwisted to reveal the original fiber color. With such ability, keeping a mohair cinch clean is rather simple. As the folks in dry climates suggest, you can let the cinch dry and then shake it out. Another way would be to spray the cinch off with a hose, but this could force grit into the fibers if the cinch cord is lying loosely. The best recommendation I have heard thus far, comes from back country horseman, Paul Evenson in Missoula, Montana. As he points out,"We spend weeks on the wilderness and can not afford to have an of our pack animals sored." He goes on to explain, "by rinsing the mohair cinch, after each use, in a tub or pail of water, or even a slow running stream, gravity helps pull the dirt out of the fiber." Mr. Evenson spoke of hanging the cinch to dry and how the rinsing may help reduce the salty sweat content which rodents often find attractive to chew on.
The New England cord manufacturer we have preferred through the years, has been known for decades to produce the most consistent quality cinch cord anywhere in the world. The facility began in the early 1840's and has been able to make 100% mohair yarns and cord since it's early days. Due to the varying lengths of time it takes to get finished cord from them, we have acquired a smaller yarns in 100% mohair and 96% mohair/4% wool to begin producing our own, more refined cord with an increased number of custom possibilities.
It seems prudent to share a simple way to keep destructive bugs at bay is to keep some cedar shavings close to the cord when not in use. This would also apply to the newer alpaca fiber, which besides sharing most of the mohair qualities, is said to be even stronger than mohair and exhibits a unique property where water beads up on it rather than soaking in. Since alpaca fiber can be considerably softer than mohair and has been graded into twenty two distinct shades, of naturally occurring colors, it will likely be finding its way into a number of places which mohair had enjoyed top pick.
Historically, the western cinch began with use of horsehair and popularized by the Vaqueros of the Southwest. Even today, traditional cowboys are sticking to horsehair and mohair cinches because of there time-tested value and longevity. No doubt, the natural look and traditional designs are part of the attraction with care for the horse being of greatest importance.
Due to the difficulty of cleaning and potential soring of horses, we advise folks to avoid blended cord, especially those with synthetic fibers. Also worth noting: while the term 100% Mohair can be appreciated in princple, is not quite accurate, after all, the cleanest cord available does contain the occasional feather or plant material which made it through the process and likely will have no adverse impact on man or beast. However, we want to be reasonably accurate in presentation and thus use the 99.9% mohair as recommended by long-time rope-maker John Ruggles of Connecticut. Since mid 2009, we became aware of the Federal Trade Commission's fiber tollerance which allows for 3% variance of unintentional fiber introduction but is very clear that other fibers, even less than 3% by weight, can not be intentionally introduced without specific disclosure. Another observation to consider is that due to the popularity of mohair, many marketing promotions have pushed the word 'mohair' without providing details of how much is actually in the cord (or if, as seems to be the case in some cinches, they might really be trying to say it is 'mohair' color rather than fiber). In the early days of my design work while mohair cord was beginning to re-emerge and unavailable in colors I used other fibers, for the purpose of development and for using as wall hangings, some of the items pictured on this site have been made with rayon fiber. In keeping with an educational perspective, most images will have descriptions associated with them.
To see a full color image of hand-knotted ropes presented in the December 2004 issue of Equine Journal go here
As a professional photographer Mr. Alexander has conducted multi-media slide presentaions in several parts of South Korea, as well as the states of Idaho and Wyoming.
In the fall of 2000 Mr. Alexander accepted an instructor of Photography position in Vermont. The move placed him closer proximity to much of the rope making history which is found in the New England area. While trying to develop more color options for projects, the understanding of custom production and cost of materials began to increase. For example, getting a number of pounds of fiber processed into yarn cost two to three times the cost of completed mohair cinch cord... the price for the yarn did not include the fiber or turning it into cordage.
In 2005 Alexander's educational presentation schedule continued to expand with several locations in New England and yearly events in Wyoming. All the while he worked landscaping, grounds keeping, and doing apartment renovations with occasional work at a railroad museum and farm sitting for friends who raise Golden retrievers and bred Belgian horses. Late in the summer he began providing information about cinches and accepted an invitation to teach folks at a location in Arkansas. The allotted time provided, got the ball rolling, with an agreement to return in November to help them get the cinch department going through the winter. By spring 2006 the emphasis seemed to settle on building stock items along side the growing number of custom orders. Educational presentations were continued on a limited basis by Mr. Alexander who personally communicated the ArtCords educational side and even promoted the products he'd designed for the other company. Alexander eventually agreed to the 'option' of working from home on a piece-rate basis. Within days the word was,"no more work at present" and was laid off along with others.
Mr. Alexander finalized set up of his own business in Arkansas by early November of 2006, closing out the Vermont business location. In December Alexander began helping plan for set-up of cinch production at a boarding school in NW Arkansas, several hours away from the previous folks. Travel to a variety of locations to connect with potential customers and deliver completed cinches, Mr. Alexander began pinning down details for progressive training of the students similar to how he had learned in Idaho. The students picked up on things quite well and expressed growing interest. However, between student schedule challenges, supply delays and pressure to lower the quality by use of blends or synthetics, Alexander decided to step away from the standard cinch market and focus on quality by mostly providing custom creations. Darin and Elaine decided on a July wedding in and attended a subsequent family reunion in Kentucky, a new studio and office was located shortly thereafter. The happy couple are continuing to settle in and are proceeding with the prayerful expectation that 'all things work together for good' and are excited about the progress, though a snails pace at times, toward quality training and new products that will be valued by folks of all ages.
More Specifics About ArtCords Materials and Designer
"...a three fold cord is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:12
ArtCords.com Copyright © 2000 - 2010 by ArtCords, LLC/Darin Alexander
an Cinch Maker & Fiber Arts Educator
all rights reserved